All the King's Men
Release Date(s)1949 (March 10, 2014)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D+
All the King’s Men is based on the 1946 Robert Penn Warren novel of the same name and tells the story of the rise and fall of political heavyweight Willie Stark (based on the exploits of former governor of Louisiana Huey P. Long) through the eyes of those closest to him. It was also adapted into another film in 2006, but the original remains a hard-nosed noir-ish take on the political corruption genre as a whole.
Looking back today, Robert Rossen’s film (which he also wrote) could have been a lot different. It would most likely not have been a failure if it had been, but probably more perfunctory in nature if it had. You can tell very easily, especially during some of the film’s montages, that a lot of footage was shot for the film. In fact, the original first cut of the film ran nearly 4 hours long. It’s a credit to editors Al Clark and Harry Cohn for finding the film’s structure and making it more coherent. Cohn, in particular, was brought in specifically to fix the film’s running time, but funny enough at the insistence of the director and the not the studio. Cohn was instructed by the director to cut each scene in half, a process that some editors have referred to as “getting into the scene late and getting out early.” It speeds the film’s pace up as a consequence and makes it more compelling to watch. It really should be a textbook example of how to assemble a film with time constraints in mind and still getting to the main point.
Despite its structure, All the King’s Men is praised mostly for its performances. After all, it won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (as well as Best Picture). Broderick Crawford masterfully portrays a sweet and honest man who becomes consumed by his own desires and lust for power. Mercedes McCambridge, who portrays Stark’s assistant (and will most likely be familiar to fans of The Exorcist), also delivers a fine performance. Because of the pace of the film and the nature of how it was cut together, both the acting and the cinematography could have been looked over. It’s easy to get caught up in it. It feels a lot more modern in that regard. There are hardly any static shots to be found in the film because the camera is always on the move. And for all of its clever camera work and tight editing, it’s still a terrific drama, one that never bores and never strays far from its main subject.
Twilight Time’s limited release of All the King’s Men on Blu-ray sports quite an excellent video presentation. For a film of its vintage, I guess I sort of expected it to appear a little more on the blemished side. But that couldn’t be any further for the truth. The transfer features a very impressive looking set of images, with an extremely healthy grain structure. Blacks are quite deep and both contrast and brightness are perfect. Everything is very clean and clear, with almost no distractions. Astute viewers will notice some extremely mild flicker during daytime scenes, as well as a slight loss in quality during the film’s many opticals. These are a part of the fabric of the film though, and for me personally, don’t really count when speaking about the transfer’s quality. The film’s soundtrack is presented in its original mono in a lossless English DTS-HD track. There’s not really much to speak of though. It’s a fine soundtrack with excellent clarity. The dialogue is very clear and the film’s score is very pleasant. The soundtrack does show its age, but as presented, it’s terrific. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
The extras are pretty slim. There’s an isolated audio track for the film’s score (present in stereo DTS-HD), the film’s original theatrical trailer (although I think it might be the film’s re-release trailer instead), a scroll-through of Twilight Time’s current catalogue, and an insert booklet with an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo.
It’s also important to mention that this release is limited to only 3,000 copies, and as of this writing, is still available, so snatch it up while you can. If you’re a fan of classic film and you’ve been waiting for a high definition release of All the King’s Men and aren’t worried too much about extras, then this release should please you pretty well. The price tag is a bit steep and the availability of the title is a bit disheartening, but as is, it’s a very good release.
- Tim Salmons