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Sporting Club, The
Based on the novel by novel by Thomas McGuane, 1971's The Sporting Club, directed by Larry Peerce, explores the idea of The Centennial Club, a hunting lodge located in the Midwest populated by wealthy elitist type W.A.S.P.s (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestants). Early in the movie, we learn that the club is celebrating its one hundredth year of existence, quite the milestone, and many of its members are celebrating by drinking heavily and generally enjoying some mild debauchery.
Vernur Stanton (Robert Fields), one of the younger members of the club and a spoiled rich kid who has never had to work a day in his life, decide he wants to make a statement about the club's place in society and the separation of wealth between the haves and the have nots. To do this, he fires the groundskeeper and replaces him with a pot smoking, lower class man named Earl Olive (Jack Warden). The theory here is that he'll cause a little chaos by introducing a different element into the mix. As this, the main plot in the movie, evolves, we witness various less important subplots start to sprawl out, demonstrating the different club members getting up to no good, eventually getting fairly violent. Surveying all of this is club member James Quinn (Nicolas Coster), Vernur's rival in the club, with Vernur's girlfriend Janey (Maggie Blye) also along for the ride.
A strange, satirical film that at times feels like it could have been directed by someone like Ken Russell, The Sporting Club isn't necessarily very good, but it is typically very interesting. The movie lacks focus, it meanders, its plot unfolds at a strange pace and character development is mediocre at best. Still, it holds our attention because we really don't know where it's going to take us. If the narrative, at times, feels lost at least its lost in a world populated with weirdly intriguing people doing weirdly intriguing things for sometimes indecipherable reasons.
Production values are pretty solid across the board. The cinematography from Jack Courtland (who worked as a camera operator on Superman, Bullitt and Papillon) is quite good. There are plenty of smooth camera movements and close up shots that help to build tension and generally speaking, the movie always looks good. The score from Michael Small, who worked on Audrey Rose, Marathon Man, The Stepford Wives and The Parallax View among many others, suits the tone of the story quite well. Location work is nice, the backdrop that everything plays off of just seems right for all that happens.
The acting is good. Robert Fields is really solid as the lead, playing Vernur with plenty of arrogance but successfully making him into an interesting character. We don't necessarily like him, but we do want to know more about him and learn how his quest will turn out. Nicolas Coster is also quite good as Vernur's chief rival in the club. Jack Warden seems to be having a good time as the club's new blue collar import, while lovely Maggie Blye is just fine as Vernur's lovely girlfriend, though at times you wonder what she sees in him. Look for a quick cameo from an uncredited Linda Blair.
Kino/Scorpion Releasing brings The Sporting Club to region A Blu-ray on a 25GB disc with the ninety-four minute feature taking up just under 21GBs of space on the 25GB disc and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k restoration done by Studio Canal. Overall, it looks pretty solid, the image always very clean and free of all but the most minor instances of print damage. Colors look pretty nice, if a little flat at time, and black levels are decent. Grain is present throughout but it looks natural enough. There are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about. Overall, this is a pretty good looking picture.
The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. The mix sounds good, the score in particular has some good presence to it and if the gun shots don't always sound as powerful as maybe they could have, at least the dialogue is clean and easy to follow.
There are a few extra on the disc, starting with a commentary track from film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer. He talks in depth about the film's score and its composer, Larry Peerce's life and career, the cinematography and graphic matches that are used in the movie, the frequent use of the zoom lens in the movie, the character driven aspects of the movie, details on the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture, the recurring themes that populate Peerce's early work and lots more.
There's also an interview with director Larry Peerce that runs just under nineteen minutes. He speaks here about how he got into filmmaking, how he came to direct the film, the cast and crew that he collaborated with, where his career was at during this period in time and how he feels about the movie overall. A second interview gets leading man Nicolas Coster in front of the camera to speak for fifteen minutes about his background and training, his role in the film, thoughts on his character, how he feels about the movie as a whole, and what his experiences making the movie were like.
The disc also includes bonus trailers for The Farmer, Trackdown, Privilege, and Slow Dancing In The Big City as well as menus and chapter selection options. No trailer for the feature is provided.
The Sporting Club is an odd, satirical look at class war and the effects that it has, along with te generation gap, on those not necessarily included in the upper class' self-indulgent lifestyle. The movie's plot meanders too much for its own good and it has some pacing issues but despite these failures, it remains an interesting watch. The Blu-ray release from Kino/Scorpion both looks and sounds good and the extras are interesting and illuminating. Easily recommended for those who know they appreciate the film already, a solid rental for the rest.
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.