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Michael Curtiz
John Garfield, Patricia Neal, Phyllis Thaxter
Writing Credits:
Ranald MacDougall

An otherwise moral captain of a charter boat becomes financially strapped and is drawn into illegal activities in order to keep up payments on his boat.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English LPCM Monaural

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 8/8/2017

• Interview with Biographer/Historian Alan K. Rode
• “Fluid Style” Video Essay
• Interview with Actor’s Daughter Julie Garfield
• Excerpt from 1962 Today Show
&bull. Trailer
• Booklet


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The Breaking Point: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1950)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 9, 2017)

Famed director Michael Curtiz takes on an Ernest Hemingway tale via 1950’s The Breaking Point. In Southern California, Harry Morgan (John Garfield) captains a charter boat but finds it tough to make ends meet.

As such, Morgan agrees to take on illicit operations, and one passenger (Ralph Dumke) stiffs him. This leads Harry into interactions with lawyer FR Duncan (Wallace Ford) and sexy blonde Leona Charles (Patricia Neale) that send Morgan into a spiral that may threaten his marriage to wife Lucy (Phyllis Thaxter).

As noted above, Point adapts Hemingway. Not noted, however, is that Point reworks Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, a story that received a cinematic exploration a mere six years earlier via a Bogart/Bacall effort.

Geez – people complain about too many remakes today! A second version of Have Not only six years after the original seems like a strange idea.

That said, I didn’t love Have Not - I thought it worked pretty well but it didn’t dazzle me. This meant I felt Point had room to improve upon its cinematic predecessor.

Even with its drawbacks, I prefer the 1944 film, largely due to its cast. In particular, Lauren Bacall ripped up the screen in a way no one here can rival.

To be fair, though, the two movies seem surprisingly dissimilar. Point hews closer to Hemingway’s novel, whereas Have Not acted more like a Casablanca remake with a loose Hemingway influence.

That means Have Not offered more intrigue and romance, whereas Point feels more like a domestic drama. It spends a lot of time on the prospective love triangle among Harry, Lucy and Leona, with elements related to Harry’s business struggles strewn along as well.

The two sides don’t coalesce especially well, as Point feels unsure of which avenue to pursue. Does it want to concentrate on intrigue connected to Harry’s illicit activities or does it want to explore stresses placed on the marriage? The filmmakers never seem clear about this, so both sides suffer.

The actors mostly seem fine, though Neal never comes across as particularly right as the default “femme fatale”. She just appears rather plain-looking and she doesn’t give much sizzle to the part.

None of this makes Point a bad movie, as its character drmaa keeps us reasonably involved. However, its lack of narrative clarity and purpose means it struggles to stick together in a positive manner.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The Breaking Point appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer gave us a very good reproduction of the film.

Sharpness appeared tight and distinctive most of the time. A smidgen of softness occurred, though I suspect these instances came from the source photography – some stock shots also came with problems. Nonetheless, definition was fine most of the time. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred.

Despite the film’s advanced age, source flaws were non-existent outside of those occasional stock shots. As such, this was a clean presentation. A good layer of grain appeared, so I didn’t suspect significant noise reduction.

Contrast was strong, as the movie consistently maintained a nice silver tone. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows were smooth and well-defined. Overall, this was a pleasing presentation.

While not in the same league as the picture, the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Point also worked well. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source.

Effects were similarly modest but they showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 67-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

As we shift to supplements, we go to an interview with biographer/historian Alan K. Rode. In this 21-minute, 16-second piece, Rode discusses the career of director Michael Curtiz as well as aspects of the Breaking Point production. Rode offers such a good overview that I wish he’d done a full commentary.

Next comes On John Garfield, a 16-minute, 41-second reel with the actor’s daughter Julie. She covers her father’s life and career in this efficient interview.

A video essay entitled Fluid Style lasts nine minutes, 59 seconds and offers work from filmmakers Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos. The program looks at Curtiz’s cinematic approach and gives us an informative examination of the topic.

From a December 1962 episode of Today, Ernest Hemingway’s House goes for four minutes, 51 seconds. Shot after the author’s death, we get a tour of his artifacts in this interesting look behind the scenes.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a booklet. It gives us photos, credits and an essay from critic Stephanie Zacharek. The booklet concludes the set on a positive note.

With The Breaking Point, we find a mediocre adaptation of a Hemingway novel. While the movie remains consistently watchable, it fails to turn into anything especially memorable or meaningful. The Blu-ray presents pretty good picture and audio as well as a decent compilation of bonus materials. Point seems ordinary to me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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