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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » King of the Gypsies (Blu-ray)
King of the Gypsies (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // R // July 14, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 17, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by Frank Pierson, the man behind Dog Day Afternoon and A Star Is Born, 1978's King Of The Gypsies is set in the 1950's where we learn of a man named Groffo Stepanowicz (Judd Hirsch), his son, Dave (Eric Roberts in a very early role) and father Zharko Stepanowicz (Sterling Hayden), a man known locally as the ‘King Of The Gypsies.' Their story stems back to an issue where Zharko paid a man named Spiro Giorgio (Michael V. Gazzo) for his daughter, Rose (played by Tiffany Bogart in her younger days and then later by Susan Sarandon in her adult years), to marry her off to Groffo. Unfortunately, Rose doesn't want anything to do with Groffo and for that reason, Spiro doesn't follow through with his end of the bargain.

Zharko is, as you could imagine, quite unhappy with this and to he brings the matter to the elders of the tribe to look into, but they takes Rose's side here. At the same time, Zharko blames Groffo for this, calling out his various weaknesses as the reason for Rose's disinterest and making it quite clear that he doesn't want him to succeed him as the next gypsy king. This doesn't stop Zharko from having Rose kidnapped, however, and forcing her to marry Groffo as planned. And it doesn't go so well. Groffo proves to be a pushover and Rose turns out to be far more manipulative than anyone ever realized. Groffo decides then that it should be Dave that replaces him, but as Groffo becomes more and more abusive, Dave decides he's had enough and he splits for what he hopes will be greener pastures. Sometime later, however, Groffo finds him and proves to be willing to do whatever it takes to force his grandson to reclaim his rightful place as the ‘King Of The Gypsies'... much to the dismay of Groffo.

The King Of The Gypsies would seem to be trying to provide a serious look at the mysterious Gypsy culture but it never really gets into the hows or whys surrounding that lifestyle to really matter much. We never delve very deep into why the people in this story choose to stick around and do what they do, they sort of just exist in a bubble where all of this is just taken for granted. There's very little exposition or background information in that regard, so what could and should have helped to make this picture unique and interesting instead winds up not mattering very much.

The movie is still worth seeing, however, and that's mainly for the performances. Sterling Hayden is occasionally great and at least consistently dependable here, giving Zharko enough of an intimidating personality that at times he's actually kind of frightening. This man has a temper and when that temper flares, bad things happen. His on screen relationship with Shelly Winters as ‘Queen Rachel' is fairly hackneyed, however, and as fun as Winters can be in the right role, here she feels out of place (she's not actually in the movie very much and as such, does minimal damage but wow, does she ever overdo it here). Susan Sarandon is okay here. She doesn't even come close to matching some of her better work but she looks good and she handles the material well. Judd Hirsch is pretty decent as Groffo, caught in the middle and quite unhappy with pretty much every aspect of his life. He looks the part and he's got the chops to convince us that what he's feeling and going through here is genuine. That leaves Eric Roberts, long before he'd go on to take any role seemingly offered to him (he is, after all, the star of A Talking Cat). Roberts is a little mumbly here in spots but he's well cast. He looks the part, he's got an interesting screen presence and while he'd go on to give far better (and far worse) performances than the one he delivers here, his presence in the movie is definitely an asset. Supporting efforts from Brooke Shields, Annie Potts and Annette O'Toole are interesting to note but don't really add much to the movie.

If the movie, at times, feels like it's borrowing a little too much from The Godfather, by the time it starts moving to its conclusion the film has gone into strange enough territory that it never feels like a complete rip off. Yes, the film fails fairly spectacularly at really properly exploiting or explaining its ‘gypsy' aspect but it's entertaining in its own way even if it never really delivers on its promise. The pacing is decent even if the story bops around a bit too much and it's nicely shot and rather slick looking at times. It's not very good, really, but it's interesting enough in its own weird way that fans of oddball misguided seventies films might want to give it a shot.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

The King Of The Gypsies arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. This looks like it was shot to look intentionally soft at times and that comes through here. Detail is definitely better than you'd get out of a standard definition presentation but don't expect to be floored by it. Colors look good and black levels are decent enough as are skin tones but some minor print damage is hard to miss. The disc is authored well enough, meaning there's no obvious edge enhancement or noise reduction and the image is free of any noticeable compression artifacts. This looks okay, but never great.

Sound:

The English language DTS-HD is fine. There are enough little scenes here where people dance around to gypsy music that the soundtrack and score wind up playing a reasonably good part in keeping things interesting and that comes through here with good clarity. Dialogue, aside from some of Roberts' more mumble-centric moments, is clear enough and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.

Extras:

Outside of a static menu and chapter selection, there are no extras on this release.

Final Thoughts:

The King Of The Gypsies isn't a very good movie but it is at least an interesting one. Roberts fans will appreciate seeing him here but Sterling Hayden delivers the standout performance. Don't go into this one expecting gripping drama or really a whole lot of legitimate tension, but it has its own quirky charm. The Blu-ray from Olive Films looks okay but contains no extras. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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