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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Blu-ray)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // August 9, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted August 3, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is mostly known in pop culture as the Tennessee Williams adaptation where Elizabeth Taylor plays a horny wife who can't get the time of day from Paul Newman's depressed alcoholic washed-up football star. In fact, that dynamic is more of a sub-plot to a main theme that touchingly analyzes an emotional chasm between father and son, two people who obviously love and cherish each other, but can't seem to figure out a way to express those feelings due to the cultural differences between generations.

The film version of Williams' play centers on the 65th birthday celebration of Big Daddy (Burl Ives), a southern millionaire who recently got a clean bill of health after an impromptu doctor's visit. While others in Big Daddy's family are scheming to get their paws on as much of his inheritance as possible, Brick (Newman) spends the day ignoring his estranged wife Maggie's (Taylor) pleas for a normal married life, while drowning himself in alcohol in an effort to forget about his best friend Skipper's tragic death. When Brick becomes privy to a bit of devastating news about Big Daddy, the already superficially executed celebrations come to a screeching halt, as the father and son realize that they have very little time to confront each other about their frayed relationship.

To be fair, Newman and Taylor are excellent in their roles, and both of them find that sweet spot between fervent melodrama and existential ennui that many Williams plays center on. But it's Ives' boisterous yet fragile performance of a man whose lifetime of burden filled him with pride and regret, is the one that stands out the most, especially considering that Ives was a folk singer with very little acting experience at the time.

Just like many other masterful directors from the era (Sidney Lumet comes to mind), Richard Brooks doesn't get enough credit as one of the essential helmers of his generation, mainly because he was a versatile filmmaker who dabbled in various genres, styles, and tones. Compare his then-revolutionary black and white and gritty docudrama approach in In Cold Blood to the static, patient, and lush Technicolor melodrama aesthetics of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Both fit the tone of the material perfectly, in their own unique ways. Yes, this is very much a filmed play, with long dialogue-driven scenes in a story that takes place almost entirely in a southern mansion. Yet Brooks finds clever ways to cinematically accentuate the inner torment of the characters by placing them in locations that directly compliment the themes of each scene.

One of the key sequences, where the father and son discuss whether or not love means to emotionally or financially support one's family, takes place in a basement drowning in expensive but useless crap that's covered in spider webs. The production design itself makes Brick's case about the futility of putting matter above emotional support before the character even opens his mouth. A scene depicting a grave revelation takes place under pouring rain with harsh lighting, creating one of the most unforgettable melodramatic scenes in film history.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Up until Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Williams' plays were all adapted in black and white, since that was the way "artsy" dramas were shot in the 50s. Brooks decided to go with Technicolor mainly to capture Newman and Taylor's famous colored eyes, but this decision also gives the film a lively, brightly colored, Douglas Sirk-style melodrama feel. The 1080p transfer is pitch-perfect in bringing those colors to life, with a healthy amount of grain and a complete lack of any video noise. It's hard to find a better transfer than this for the fans.

Audio:

The DTS-HD 2.0 audio track actually represents the mono mix of the film. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, since I prefer 1.0 tracks when the mix is mono. Regardless, this dialogue-heavy movie is represented clearly and without any issues within this track. It's perfectly fine to watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof through TV speakers.

Extras:

Commentary by Williams Biographer Donald Spoto: This extremely informative commentary is a must-listen for fans of Williams and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof itself. Spoto covers the history of the play, as well as the film's production and reception, in great detail.

Playing Cat and Mouse: This is a 10-minute featurette that focuses on Taylor and Newman's personal and professional lives during the production of the film.

We also get a Trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Even though it was eventually a big hit with audiences and critics, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was also criticized for softening the homosexual context within the play. Since the film was made in the 50s, the decision to merely hint on the relationship between Brick and Skipper makes sense. If the adaptation was shot ten years later, the gay subtext could have been infinitely more accentuated. Maybe it's just me, since I enjoy trying to pick up hints of sexual content in films made during the Hays Code years, but I think Brooks did an admirable job of making Brick's sexual past clear using the silence between the words as opposed to the dialogue itself. Regardless, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of the best melodramas to come out of a Williams play and is highly recommended, especially considering the excellent A/V presentation.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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