Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton, Harry Caesar, John Steadman, Charles Tyner, Mike Henry, Jim Nicholson, Bernadette Peters
Albert S. Ruddy (story), Tracy Keenan Wynn
It's Survival of the Fiercest ... and Funniest.
In Robert Aldrich's crowd-pleasing classic, Burt Reynolds stars as convict Paul Crewe, a former football player doing time in a prison controlled by two authoritarian sports fanatics, warden Hazen (Eddie Albert) and captain Knauer (Ed Lauter). When Crewe sees that the guards have a top-notch football team, he takes it upon himself to form a squad with his fellow dispirited inmates. As the prisoners come together, galvanized by the chance to challenge the guards, they begin to experience a sense of purpose and solidarity - and Hazen doesn't like it. With the Penitentiary Bowl approaching, Hazen pressures Crewe to throw the big game. Crewe must choose between his own freedom and supporting the newfound dignity of his convict teammates.
Runtime: 121 min.
Release Date: 5/10/2005
• Audio Commentary with Actor Burt Reynolds and Writer/Producer Albert S. Ruddy
• “Doing Time on The Longest Yard” Featurette
• “Unleashing the Mean Machine” Featurette
• Exclusive Look: The Longest Yard (2005)
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Longest Yard: Lockdown Edition (1974)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 5, 2005)
Just in time to promote the big-budget summer blockbuster remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, we get a DVD release for the original 1974 version of The Longest Yard. A project from the era in which Burt Reynolds ruled the box office, Yard introduces us to former pro football player Paul Crewe (Reynolds). Now a drunken has-been Crewe steals his rich girlfriend Melissa’s (Anitra Ford) car and drives it into the bay.
Not surprisingly, this gets him in trouble with the law, and the authorities arrest him. This occurs after he resists arrest and assaults the officers, so Crewe ends up at Citrus State Prison. Captain Knauer (Ed Lauter) runs the prison semi-pro football team and threatens Crewe to resist the requests of Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert) to get involved with it. Crewe follows these orders, but things change when he goes through various pains associated with duty and abuses at the hands of Knauer and others.
When Crewe advises the warden that his team needs a tune-up game, Hazen orders the beleaguered inmate to form a squad made up of convicts. Crewe resists but accepts because it may mean early parole. Crewe runs into some obstacles but slowly puts together his team, and he takes on former Giants star Nate Scarboro (Michael Conrad) as his coach. The movie follows the assembly and training of Crewe’s crew of misfits and losers as they work toward a seemingly impossible goal: a win over the guards.
I always thought The Longest Yard offered a cool idea for a movie, and maybe the remake will live up to that potential. Unfortunately, the original suffers from many more problems than successes.
The main issue comes from the awkwardness with which it tells its story. Yard may be the worst edited movie I’ve ever seen. It jumps from one scene to another in a rough manner, as it’ll go from one shot to the next with little logic. Truly, a lot of the cuts made very little sense, as we’d split from one sequence to see something unrelated. Then it’d vanish and we’d be back where we began. This become disconcerting as the movie went down so many unconnected paths.
The story itself remains intriguing, but the manner it gets explored on screen doesn’t work. With the film’s languid pacing, it takes all sorts of time to set up characters and situations that don’t pay off in the end. Take the Shokner character, for example. The movie builds him as a psycho killer and then it does almost nothing with him. Other supporting roles receive similarly abrupt dismissals.
I suppose this all goes back to the editing again, as the movie seems to have been cut at random. Yeah, the story goes from point “A” to point “B” in an acceptable manner, but it never flows. Instead, it jumps and stutters as it fails to move along smoothly.
Reynolds acts as the film’s sole redeeming quality. Actually, that’s not true, as a few of the supporting actors add life to their parts, and it’s cool to see real-life pros like Ray Nitschke and Joe Kapp on the screen. Eddie Albert is badly cast against type, as he still seems too nice to be the sadistic warden. Otherwise, the supporting roles add minor spark to the experience.
This remains Reynolds’ baby, though, and he manages to almost make it work. He brings a nicely cynical comedic energy to Crewe that suits the flick. Granted, his - and the movie’s - attitude towards women wouldn’t sit well with today’s audience, but outside of that anachronism, he creates a convincing and magnetic personality.
Unfortunately, the poor storytelling drowns The Longest Yard. A really muddled piece of work, it often jolted me with its awkward editing and nonexistent transitions. The film manifests occasional amusement but never congeals and becomes a coherent piece of work.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+
The Longest Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the movie often looked quite good, the transfer left a general impression of mediocrity.
Many of the problems related to sharpness. Quite a few shots came across as fairly soft and ill-defined, partially due to some noticeable edge enhancement. Much of the film seemed pretty accurate, but the fuzzy shots created distractions. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, however, and source flaws were reasonably minor. A fair amount of grain appeared at times, and I also noticed occasional marks, specks, and blotches.
Colors varied but usually were acceptable. The film manifested a few vivid scenes, though those stayed in the minority. In general, the hues looked a bit messy and faded, but not badly so, and they seemed reasonably concise. Blacks were similar. Though they lacked great richness, they demonstrated passable darkness. Low-light shots could be a bit dim, though they were never too tough to discern. Occasionally Yard offered very nice visuals, especially during the swamp scenes. Otherwise it was too erratic to muster a mark above a “C+”.
Similar thoughts greeted the mediocre monaural soundtrack of The Longest Yard. On the positive side, percussive elements sounded quite good, as they presented surprisingly tight and effective bass. The rest of the score tended to come across as slightly feeble and shrill, however. Effects lacked much range. They veered toward the brittle side of things and could become a bit distorted during louder scenes.
Speech showed some edginess and was never more than passable. Lines were intelligible but lacked much life or definition. This was an average track for a movie from 1974.
Referred to as the “Lockdown Edition”, this DVD of Yard packs a few extras. We open with an audio commentary from actor Burt Reynolds and writer/producer Albert S. Ruddy. Both men sit together for this amiable running, screen-specific piece. Largely anecdotal in nature, the pair discuss troubles bringing the movie to the screen even with Ruddy’s clout as the producer of The Godfather, casting and the use of real football players, locations and sets, and various story issues.
Mostly all this acts as an excuse for Reynolds to chat about the shoot and tell us stories. He does so well and helps make this a charming and enjoyable conversation. At times the pair simply narrate the flick, and dead air becomes a moderate problem, especially during the film’s second half; the guys run out of steam as they progress. Nonetheless, I find this to be a likable little piece.
Next we find a pair of featurettes. Doing Time on The Longest Yard runs 11 minutes and 37 seconds and includes the usual allotment of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Ruddy, Reynolds, Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Silver, USA Today Sports Weekly columnist Howard Balzer, ESPN the Magazine columnist Bill Simmons, and actor James Hampton.
We learn a little about the movie’s influences, picking a cast and crew, forming the Crewe character, and some elements of shooting the film. Unfortunately, the featurette lacks much coherency as it bops from one issue to another. The sportswriters appear for no reason other than to praise the movie, and none of the stories from Ruddy, Reynolds or Hampton tell us much. The featurette drags and lacks more than a couple of decent details.
Unleashing the Mean Machine goes for 11 minutes as it presents remarks from Silver, Simmons, Ruddy, Reynolds, Balzer, Hampton, and football players Kassim Osgood, Doug Flutie and Tim Dwight. They discuss shooting in Georgia and at the prison, working with the players, the football sequences, and the remake. “Machine” repeats some information from the commentary, but it stands as much more useful than “Time”. It gets into the shooting of the football pieces well and tosses in tidbits about dirty tactics among other elements. It gives us a decent little look at these scenes.
For a preview of the remake, we head to the three-minute and 37-second Exclusive Look: The Longest Yard (2005). This includes statements from Reynolds, sportscaster Chris Berman, actors Chris Rock, Nelly, Michael Irvin, and Bill Romanowski. If you expect this to be a simple promotional piece, you expect correctly. It’s an advertisement and nothing more.
In addition to the movie’s trailer, the DVD opens with a few ads. We get previews for the 2005 version of The Longest Yard, Coach Carter, MacGyver, and Tommy Boy.
With its intriguing presence, The Longest Yard had a lot of potential to be something special. Despite the best efforts of Burt Reynolds and the rest of the cast, though, the movie never prospers. Some of the worst editing I’ve ever seen mars the storytelling and makes this a fairly incoherent tale. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio along with some average extras. I like the chummy commentary but none of the other components seem particularly engaging. There’s just nothing here to make either the movie or the DVD stand out from the crowd, so I can’t recommend this lackluster package.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4615 Stars
| Number of Votes: 26