Paramount Studios presents
The Carpetbaggers (1964)
"You don't know any more about love than I do. You want sensation, the uglier the better. The more it hurts, the nicer it is. The more improper, the more exciting."- Jonas Cord Jr (George Peppard)
Stars: George Peppard, Alan Ladd, Bob Cummings, Martha Hyer, Elizabeth Ashley, Carroll Baker
Other Stars: Lew Ayres, Martin Balsan, Ralph Taeger, Archie Moore, Leif Erickson
Director: Edward Dmytryk
MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, sensuality, prostitution, drunk driving)
Run Time: 02h:29m:51s
Release Date: 2003-04-22
DVD ReviewJust as Danielle Steel is the first name in respectable literary sleaze today, so was Harold Robbins in the 1960s. His tales of salacious characters were larger than life and firmly rooted in the notion that men are men and women are their playthings. Misogynistic and vicious at their heart, they carried a built-in audience for Hollywood adaptations, and The Carpetbaggers fulfilled the necessary requirements as an adaptation to gratify Robbins' audience.
Jonas Cord Jr (George Peppard) is the ne'er-do-well son of chemical factory tycoon Jonas Cord (Leif Erickson). When the old man has a fatal stroke in 1925 over his son's philandering, young Jonas steps into dad's shoes with a vengeance, seizing control of the company from the minority shareholders and abusing his stepmother Rina (Carroll Baker, immortalized and typecast as sex kitten in Baby Doll), whom he seduces and discards with abandon. Interested in aviation, he invests in the fledgling company of Buzz Dalton (Ralph Taeger), then absorbs one airplane maker after another. Along the way, he dominates Buzz and repeatedly humiliates his long-suffering wife Monica (Elizabeth Ashley), the daughter of one of the competitors he has viciously eliminated. His capitalism run amok meets its match, however, when he takes on Hollywood and film producer Bernie Norman (Martin Balsam). Running through the story is Cord's relationship with his mentor, former cowboy and later cowboy star Nevada Smith (Alan Ladd), Rina, and a mysterious brother that seems to unnerve Jonas at every mention.
The potboiler story of money, sex and power is loosely based on that of industrialist Howard Hughes, who pursued a vaguely similar journey from chemicals to flight to Tinseltown into madness (though the extent of Hughes' insanity wasn't widely known until well after the making of this film). George Peppard gleefully plays Cord as vicious to the core, reveling in every harassment, abuse and humiliation that he can heap on his rivals, employees and wife. Only through his devotion to Nevada Smith and when he incidentally humiliates his estranged eight-year-old daughter does he show a speck of humanity. Alan Ladd, in his last screen role, gives a convincing resentfulness combined with dedication as one of Cord's few friends. But really stealing the show is Bob Cummings, as Smith's agent Dan Pierce, who switches allegiance between Smith, Cord and Cord's enemies based upon whomever waves the largest paycheck in front of him. Smarmy and deceitful, Cummings is letter-perfect and hugely enjoyable in his nastiness.
Indeed, there's hardly anyone likeable in this tale of backstabbing and treachery, one of the hallmarks of such classics as Wuthering Heights. But one doesn't need a hero to tell a good story, as that latter book made clear. The female leads (Baker, Ashley and Martha Hyer as the prostitute-turned-starlet who is the focus of Cord's later adventures) also have little to recommend them from a moral standpoint, all willing to prostitute themselves in one way or another for Cord. Ashley's character apparently is supposed to have real affection for Cord, but she doesn't really convey much conviction here; part of the problem is in her introduction, which feels so abrupt as to make one think that a reel is missing, despite the two and a half hour running time.
The lengthy running time passes quite quickly, thanks to Edward Dmytryk's brisk direction. Even though there are numerous talky sequences, things never really bog down. The pace is helped by Elmer Bernstein's brassy jazz score, particularly the striking main title, set in the clouds. The primary flaw is an overwrought recurring narration from the talented PaulFrees; it's really unnecessary to the storytelling, at least after the opening. The complete package is certainly entertaining enough, and makes for a compelling picture of viciousness and the corrupting power of money and ambition.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The Panavision visuals are given a very nice anamorphic transfer by Paramount. Color is brilliant, blacks are rich and velvety, and there is plenty of fine and shadow detail. I didn't notice any significant ringing or obtrusive frame damage. The opticals for the flying red main titles are a little rough and smeary, with a fair amount of grain, but the picture otherwise is dazzling, with great texture visible. One notable sequence is of Cummings (in yellow suit and straw hat) in a car with Baker wearing furs; the dazzling array of textures comes across beautifully with the result truly a feast for the eyes.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The English audio comes in both the original mono (2.0) and a 5.1 remix. The DD remix is actually quite subtle, with very little surround activity or localized sound; the only notable exception is a brief sound of a passing train that really sticks out. The sound is quiet without noise or hiss; the dialogue is clear throughout. Bernstein's score has a full and rich sound with detailed timbre that provides an excellent immediacy to both versions of the audio. The French audio dub tends to match the voices of the English track in surprisingly effective fashion, and is equally clean, although a bit more hollow sounding.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Layers Switch: 01h:10m:21s
Extras Review: There are zero extras, not even a theatrical trailer. The chaptering is very thin for a movie of this length, too.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsHarold Robbins' Howard Hughes roman á clef hits DVD with a bang of a transfer, but there is nothing for extras at all.
Mark Zimmer 2003-05-12