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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

'The Prize' Blu-ray: Paul Newman Makes Nobel Effort to Put Right What Once Went Wrong

The awesomeness of the beautifully remastered Warner Archive January 15, 2019 Blu-ray of the 1963 Paul Newman drama "The Prize" begins with this release adding another Newman film to the Archive catalog. This inventory includes the (reviewed) "Harper" and the (also reviewed) "Drowning Pool" series in which the salad-dressing king plays gumshoe Lew Harper. 

This film based on an Irving Wallace novel also is a perfect example of a Hitchcockian Cold War era movie. This comparison begins with Newman playing rugged everyman/Nobel Prize winning novelist Andrew Craig getting in over his head (pun intended) due to a series of unfortunate circumstances.

60s sex-kitten Elke Sommer fills the role of a Hitchcockian blonde who becomes the partner-in-crime-solving of the leading man. The credits of screenwriter Ernest Lehman including the 1958 Hitchcock film "North by Northwest" further contributes to the Hitch cred. of "Prize." You will want to keep your eyes on this one. 

The Cold War element comes courtesy of fellow Nobel winner German physicist Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) not seeming to be himself during the festivities related to the Nobel ceremony. The plot thickeners include current American Max having worked in his native country (for a stated good reason) during WWII. His clandestine meeting with a former colleague and other indications of nefarious doings contribute to the sense that something is rotten in the state of Sweden.

The "Grand Hotel" vibe begins with "Prize" centering around the stays of Andrew, Max, their fellow Nobel winners, and the companions of those folks who are the top members of their professions, The Grand Hotel hosting this group seals the deal even more than an amusing Greta Garbo joke with which Newman runs. 

The following YouTube clip of the '60stastic trailer for "Prize" highlights all the above elements in a manner that screams for watching the film.

Sommer plays local handler Inger Lisa Andersson, who finds "problem child" Andrew far more than a handful. This hard-drinking womanizing cynic makes it clear that the cash award is the only prize that interests him. 

Andrew divides his romantic pursuits between Inger and Max niece Emily (Diane Baker). Emily almost literally is the girl-next-door but may be far less pure than she seems. 

The rest of the gang includes married French scientists Denise and Claude Marceau, who amusingly lack any chemistry between them. Claude keeping his beautiful "secretary" in an adjoining room prompts Denise to dictate to Andrew. 

The game fully gets afoot when a puzzling remark by Max triggers the spidey sense of Andrew; this soon leads to our hero obtaining solid proof of an evil plot. Of course, no one believes him.

The lukewarm pursuit sends Andrew to a private sanitarium and then hilariously seeking cover at a meeting of a nudist group; this being a '60s Hollywood film precludes getting a glimpse of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids. 

This leads to Inger Lisa fully becoming a pawn in the intrigue; the ensuing rescue attempt involves a good mix of cunning and brute strength, This leads to a wonderful scene in which it is clear that Andrew does not have a gun in his pocket but is glad to see Inger Lisa.

Of course, the Nobel ceremony provides the setting for the climax of "Prize." Andrew predictably saves the day, but the truly surprising twists at the end deserve a revered place in Hollywood history. This verifies that "Prize" is much more original "Manchurian Candidate" then "White House Down." 

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