Main Contender

Mixed bag of Marlon, including classics The Wild One and On The Waterfront

Trending Now

Who now remembers that The Wild One [5] was directed by one László Benedek? Though he gave it a fetishist biker-cool sheen (later photocopied in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Loveless), its iconic status is down to Brando’s camply brooding presence. What’s he rebelling against? “What’ve you got?” Even Lee Marvin has to play side-saddle to the grandiloquently reticent grump. The film-rock’n’roll posturing incarnate—was much banned because insufficient retribution was doled out to the hoodlums. It’s the leader of this four-DVD pack, which includes, from the same year (1954), Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront [5]. “See, you don’t understand! I coulda been a contender. I coulda had class and been somebody.” Instead of a champ, Brando’s Terry—subversive docklands stevedore—has been given “a one-way ticket to Palookaville”, sold out by brother Rod Steiger. He determines to go down fighting. Eight Oscars (Brando and Eva Marie Saint among them), it retains its righteous power and resonance. Marlon’s magnificent.

Less impressive than that pair are The Ugly American (1962) [3], a talky Cold War commentary with Brando as US ambassador to a South-East Asian state. He slowly learns there are more shades than black and white to both communism and imperialism. He’s restrained: the film’s half-asleep. The Appaloosa (1966) [3] is a would-be-arty Sidney J Furie western set on the Mexican border, with Brando a hassled cowboy. It mimics Leone in overblown, pretentious fashion, and Pauline Kael called it “a dog of a movie about a horse”.


Latest Issue