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Mr. Majestyk (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Mr. Majestyk (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: December 7th, 2021.
    Director: Richard Fleischer
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Paul Koslo, Al Lettieri
    Year: 1974
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    Mr. Majestyk - Movie Review:

    Directed by Richard Fleischer in 1974, Mr. Majestyk stars Charles Bronson in one of his most iconic roles, that of a simple watermelon famer named Vince Majestyk. He's a former soldier, did a tour of duty in Vietnam, but these days he just wants to run his farm and live the quiet life. While tending to his fields one day, a scruffy looking man named Bobby Kopas (Paul Koslo) approaches him and tries to talk him into hiring some of his men to help out. Vince isn't interested, after all he's got his own crew and doesn't need Bobby's guys, but Bobby keeps pushing him. The two men eventually wind up in scrap when Bobby pulls a gun. This lands Vince in the slammer for a little stint, because the cops don't believe his side of the story.

    Shortly after, Majestyk is shipped off to prison, riding in the transport bus alongside a mafia hitman named Frank Renda (Al Lettieri). The bus crashes on the way to the prison and Majestyk could escape but instead he stops Renda from doing just that. He basically kidnaps Renda, assuming that if he brings him back to the cops then this will clear his name. After all, he only wants to get back to his farm in time to harvest his crop. Majestyk doesn't know how well connected Renda is though, and soon enough he's not only on his bad side but having to deal with Kopas and a whole lot of corrupt local police officers as well. Majestyk isn't going to just sit back and take it though…

    Written by Elmore Leonard and originally intended as a vehicle for Clint Eastwood, Mr. Majestyk might sound a little hokey but for a movie that revolves around such an unlikely hero as a melon farmer, it plays quite well as a straight up underdog story. Bronson, looking every bit the world weary sort he's been cast as in the picture, uses his 'strong, silent type' personality to great effect here, communicating as much with his body language and eye movements as he does with scripted dialogue (there are shades of his work in Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West in his work here). He completely looks the part and his take on the character suits it pretty much perfectly. Koslo and Lettieri are also quite good as the bad guys in the picture, but this is pretty much Bronson's show and everyone else in the film takes a back seat to him.

    Leonard's story stays effectively grounded in a realistic environment we can believe. There are no super heroics here and while there is obviously some gun play, don't expect to see anyone leaping through the air with twin .45's blasting away. Even the violence in the film, and there's quite a bit of it, feels like it could happen. Things would get a little nuttier in Bronson's filmography a few years after this was made, the success of Death Wish (also released in 1974) spurring plenty of sequels, with the notorious Death Wish 3 standing out as a high point in regards to over the top action but the more reigned in approach here is definitely an asset to the film. Fleischer shoots all of this on location, giving the film a welcome feel of authenticity. Majestyk's crew all look like they've really spent time in the fields, the share his weathered appearance and again, it just helps to make all of this click the way a good action movie should.

    There's some great camera work on display from Oscar-nominated cinematographer Richard Klein throughout the picture and a strong, effective score that comes courtesy of prolific composer Charles Bernstein. Again, the production values and technical merits really help, but it all comes down to Bronson. Here he's iconic, not yet past his prime and still completely able to kick ass and take names. Upon revisiting Mr. Majestyk it's easy to see why it remains a well-regarded entry in his filmography, as it's fairly perfect in its simplicity and it just all works really, really well.

    Mr. Majestyk - Blu-ray Review:

    Taken from a new 2K restoration, Kino brings Mr. Majestyk to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed properly in the film's original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio looking really good. Taking up 34GBs of space on the 50GB disc, the film is given a nice, strong bit rate and shows strong detail, depth and texture throughout. Black levels are strong but avoid crush and color reproduction looks very good. There aren't any compression problems to note at all and the image is free of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Expect a good amount of natural grain and some small white specks now and then but overall, the image is nice and clean and it looks very strong here.

    The only audio option provided on the Blu-ray is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, there are no alternate language options but subtitles are provided in English as well. This track sounds fine. The levels are nicely balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. The score has a decent amount of depth to it and the dialogue is always easy to understand.

    The best of the extras on the disc is a new audio commentary, carried over from the Signal One Entertainment release, by Paul Talbot, the man who was good enough to unleash upon the world the 'Bronson's Loose!' books. As Talbot's commentary tracks over Bronson films tend to be, this is a very detailed and informative track. He talks about interviewing Flesicher before his death before then giving a somewhat scene-specific breakdown of the movie. He goes over the credits, notes earlier misspellings of Majestyk in certain early PR items, Bernstein's fantastic score for the picture, Elmore Leonard's screenplay and loads of detail on the different cast and crew members. He notes that the script was originally set in Arizona, why it wound up being shot in Colorado, how the crew bought ten junked cars specifically to blow up during the shootout in the first third of the movie, small details in the film that clearly place it in the seventies, why certain camera angles were chosen and lots, lots more. If you're at all interested in learning the story behind this film, take the film to listen to this track.

    Up next is a fourteen minute interview with director of photography Richard H. Kline. In this interview, Kline talks about how lucky he was be work with and befriend Richard Fleischer, how this was one of his favorite films that he was able to work on, his admiration for Bronson and his low key acting style, thoughts on the film's main character and Bronson's performance in this film in particular, his thoughts on how the film was reviewed when first released, some of the trickier scenes to shoot during the production, moments that Bronson improvised on the shoot, shooting on location and what the terrain was like and shooting the physical action in the film.

    Actress Lee Purcell is also interviewed on the disc in a twenty-eight minute featurette. She talks about the film's cult following and how she never thought it would happen while making it, her thoughts on the talented cast and good director, how she got into acting after studying drama in London, some of her earlier pictures, getting the part in Mr. Majestyk, what her work in London was like versus her work in America, shooting on location in Colorado after being rushed to the set, having her own ideas about how to play her character, working with Fleischer, details on working with the rest of the cast on the shoot, thoughts on her character's motivations and actions in the film and quite a bit more.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are a TV spot and a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Bronson vehicles (Farewell Friend, Rider On The Rain, Violent City and Cold Sweat), menus and chapter selection options. This release also comes packaged with a reversible cover sleeve and a slipcover.

    Mr. Majestyk - The Final Word:

    Mr. Majestyk remains a really strong action/suspense picture anchored by Bronson's no-nonsense approach to the character and Richard Fleischer's efficient direction and knack for pacing. It's a classic underdog story in many ways, but it's given a unique spin and it holds up really well. Kino's Blu-ray reissue offers a very strong presentation with some great extra features as well. Highly recommended!
    Click on the images below for full sized The Mr. Majestyk Blu-ray screen caps!

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    • Torrente
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      Am I the only one who can't see any pictures for a week now approximately?
      Is it my browser (I'm using Firefox and Firefox only)? Is it an aknwoledged issue?
      Thanks for your help.

    • Ian Jane
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      There's an issue with Firefox right now that should be corrected in the site update happening in the next day or two.
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