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The Prisoner Of Second Avenue (Blu-ray Review)

Accompanying both Shaft sequels’ Blu-ray releases in the month of May (CANNOT WAIT for those!) from Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray debut of 1974 Melvin Frank film The Prisoner of Second Avenue. The Jack Lemmon/Anne Bancroft starrer looks to have been out of print on DVD (Going for $50 on Amazon currently. Oof), so getting the Blu-ray upgrade is both good for the quality and the wallet of those who’d like to add it to their film library. This is an interesting film that wasn’t too hot reception-wise when it came out, but seems like a forgotten film candidate to maybe have another look at. And a nice new presentation is one of the best ways to do that.

Film 

Neurotic middle-aged New Yorker Mel Edison (Jack Lemmon) is fired from his advertising job, forcing his loving wife, Edna (Anne Bancroft), to become the couple’s sole breadwinner. Feeling emasculated, he begins to fall into a depression. A summer heat wave, unthoughtful neighbors and a robbery only worsen matters. When Mel finally suffers a nervous breakdown, he relies on those closest to him, including Edna and his brother Harry (Gene Saks), to restore his sanity.

If you want to feel down and watch some old folks shout at each other for a little over 90 minutes, look no further than The Prisoner of Second Avenue. This could be called “Bad things continue to happen to a couple that likes to shout at each other”. I think much of this is supposed to be comedic, but its taken almost so dramatically its a bit too dark. Watching it, I assumed it was adapted from a play, and low and behold I was correct. And its pretty obvious by the lack of locations and inability to leave an apartment.

Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft are both terrific in this movie, but their roles and respective performances feel like a compilation of hopeful Oscar clips for the film. They are both cranked to 11, do a lot of (Have I mentioned this enough already) shouting and project in a stagelike fashion. Cameos from M. Emmet Walsh and Sylvester Stallone prove pretty fun here, too.  Overall, this is a very New York-type movie, but feels like its lacking a lot of the New York part of it.

Yes, I’m bagging on this thing, but for me I had a hard time jumping into it and it feels like it finds one gear and never shifts around. Every scene feels cranked to 11 and people are just constantly bickering at one another. Maybe the stage production works better and this didn’t translate well, but I never see myself returning to it again.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Warner Archive Collection’s release of The Prisoner of Second Avenue boasts a “brand new remaster of the film.” Despite my misgivings on this film, the transfer here is outstanding. Its a sharp, crisp image with a load of specific detailing you probably aren’t expecting going in. Its also almost oddly three dimensional in its appearance, especially when the camera dolly’s around. This is far more than you’re bargaining for and a great image for what it is.

Depth:  The image features an impressive depth of field showcased with confident camera movements displaying great spacing, pushed back backgrounds and natural, cinematic motion.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong, but natural. The film takes place in an apartment with lots grays, offwhites, browns and tame colors. Clothing fares that way as well. Its not a picture that jumps off the screen but it looks rustic and real to the touch.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. You can impressive make out damn near every detail on faces with five o’clocks shadows, sweat, grease, wrinkles and more showing clear as day from any given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Prisoner of Second Avenue features a rock solid, vocal heavy track that is plenty balanced between the music, words and foley effects. The low frequency sounds are almost non-existant and make no real impact, but you’re hear for the dialogue and natural effects to get by and this does the trick quite well.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: This thing is primarily vocals and they are crisp and clear, featuring a clean transfer and no analog hiss to date its sound.

Extras 

Anne Bancroft on Dinah! (SD, 7:41) – Includes a gag reel for the film.

The Making of The Prisoner of Second Avenue (SD, 5:53) – A vintage featurette.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:05)

Summary 

Well, The Prisoner of Second Avenue obviously wasn’t one for me, but for those who are fans of it, you’re getting a pretty terrific presentation from Warner Archive Collection. It appears to come with vintage features ported over. Even if its a film I don’t like, I think it deserves to make the jump to Blu-ray in a continuous effort from Warner Bros to comb through their catalog.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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