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Tab Hunter Confidential
Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, 2015's Tab Hunter Confidential is a documentary that goes into quite a bit of detail about the life and career of one Arthur Andrew Gelien, the American born actor who passed away in 2018 but who came to quite a bit of fame as a teen heart throb in fifties and sixties under his stage name, Tab Hunter.
Born in New York City in 1931, he did some time in the military but in the fifties got into acting where he starred in quite a few western and adventure movies and his star started to rise and he landed a contract with Warner Brothers where he proved to be one of their biggest stars. He also released a few records and had a number one hit in 1957 with the song 'Young Love.' He continued to act into the early nineties, though his marquee value would start to fade once the sixties turned into the seventies, the plus side of this being that it allowed John Waters to get him for 1981's classic Polyester where he's amazingly cast opposite Divine. In 2005, he publically came out of the closet as a gay man.
Schwarz's documentary is made up of newly shot interviews with Hunter himself as well as plenty of the people that he worked alongside as well as those he influenced, including Clint Eastwood, John Waters, Debbie Reynolds, Portia De Rossi, Noah Wyle, George Takei, Robert Wagner, Dolores Hart, Connie Stevens, Allan Glaser, Liz Torres, Rex Reed, Eddie Muller and quite a few more. The documentary also includes loads of archival clips with Hunter but also with some of those he collaborated with who are no longer alive, like Natalie Wood, Paul Newman, James Dean, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Perry Como, Pat Boone and others.
Tab Hunter Confidential does a pretty thorough job of exploring Hunter's career, going into a fair bit of detail about his personal life and professional life alike, but it also does an interesting job of exploring the Hollywood era from which Hunter emerged. The documentary looks at the studio system of the era as well as the social pressures that were placed on people at the time, particularly in regards to Hunter's sexual orientation.
The various interviewees all have something to say here, but the biggest draw for most will be the chance to hear the somewhat famously guarded Hunter talk about his personal life. You can tell he's still not completely comfortable about what went on behind closed doors in his past, and you can't blame him for that, but he does talk about some of his experiences in this regard and what he doesn't go over, many of the other interviewees do. The end result isn't so much a gossipy picture as it is a thorough one, with Hunter coming across as a very genuine and likeable guy for the most part. He seemed very comfortable in his own skin at the time that this movie was made, and the end result is both comforting and touching far more than it is salacious or scandalous.
Tab Hunter Confidential arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen taking up 17.3GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The documentary is made up of newly shot interview clips, all of which look very nice, and older archival clips, some of which show their age and look a little worse for wear. Overall though, this is a perfectly fine high definition presentation that looks as good as it needs to.
English language audio options are offered up in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo options with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is fine if not especially remarkable. Most of the movie is made up of interview clips but the score is spread out nicely in the 5.1 mix. Some of the archival clips sound a little flat but otherwise, no problems to note here, it all sounds fine.
Aside from a trailer for the feature, the disc also includes thirty-six minutes of interview outtakes with George Morris, Robert Osbourne, Lou Simon, Robert Wagner, Brett Halsey, Darryl Hickman, George Takei, Debbie Reynolds, Liz Torres, Laine Kazan, Noah Wyle, William Wellman, John Waters and Hunter himself.
Tab Hunter Confidential is a very well-made look at the life and times of the former teen idol that proves to be quite an interesting watch, particularly for anyone with an affinity for fifties and sixties Hollywood history. The Blu-ray from FilmRise isn't stacked with extras but some of the deleted material is quite interesting and the presentation, while not reference quality, is perfectly fine. Recommended.
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.