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As Hollywood has shown us multiple times, it is possible to catch lightning in a bottle twice. In 1973, Paul Newman, Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill did just that, crafting one of the most effortless, perfect and downright fun films to ever capture the biggest prize in film, the Oscar for Best Picture. As part of its 100th Anniversary series, Universal studios released the classic film, The Sting, on Blu-ray.
Hill, Newman and Redford had all worked together on the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, a film that turned into a big hit, partly for its soundtrack (which included “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”) and partly for the actors’ incredible performances. The two just looked like they were having fun together and audiences ate it up.
A few years later, young screenwriter David S. Ward penned a script called The Sting. Producers were interested in making it and asked Redford to star. When he said he would only do it if an experienced director worked on it, Hill came on and eventually Newman was convinced to play the older, more experienced con man Henry Gondorff to contrast Redford’s brash young Johnny Hooker. The trio was back together and set to make another classic.
The Sting centers on Hooker, whose mentor is killed after they accidentally con a man working for Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). He recruits Gondorff to help him come up with the ultimate con to get his revenge on Doyle. The operation unfolds like a well oiled-machine, overcoming any obstacle in its way. It comes together for one of the best twists in film, as Ward’s screenplay withholds just enough information to keep the audience on its toes.
Universal promotes its Blu-ray release as “digitally remastered and restored from high resolution 35mm original elements.” The transfer preserves the unique, stylized look of the film, which takes us back to Depression-era Chicago. It looks remarkably clean for a film from 1973 and probably a touch too clean, if that makes sense. As for the sound, you couldn’t ask for a better track than the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provided. It presents Marvin Hamlisch’s fantastic adaptation of Scott Joplin’s rags and dialogue as crisp as you could want.
However, the set lacks in the supplements department. Universal only includes an hour-long documentary called The Art of ‘The Sting’ from 2005, which is split in three parts. It covers just about all aspects you’d expect and includes interviews with the cast and crew. Other than that, there are three 100 Years of Universal clip-shows that the studio has been including on other recent releases. More features on the film itself would have been great, such as a commentary or an overview of the awards it won and its influence.
Universal’s deluxe book packaging is worth shelling out the extra money for and includes a Leonard Maltin essay, photos and biographies. You also receive a DVD copy.
The Sting won seven Academy Awards (right between the two Godfather films), including three big ones: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. While most Best Pictures from the ‘70s are rather heavy in the drama department, The Sting is a breath of fresh air as a fantastic film that you can enjoy at anytime. Redford, Newman, Hill, Ward and the rest of the cast and crew had fun making it and that joy is hard to avoid whenever you watch it.