Tuesday, March 18, 2014

THE SWIMMER (Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray) - You Find Your Own Pool, Burt Lancaster!

Since Grindhouse Releasing has started releasing Blu-rays, they've blessed us with some very unique material. What was one a house for Italian Splatter gems and and exploitation awesome has truly become a market for a different kind of underbelly. With releases like An American Hippie in Israel, Corruption and The Big Gundown under their belt perhaps it was time to tackle something less gritty, more subtle and yet completely powerful in its own right. I'm still trying to figure out where the folks at Grindhouse Releasing dug up Frank Perry's The Swimmer. I had never heard of it before, and quite honestly the cover left me completely vexed. Did I really need to pick up a release that featured Burt Lancaster in a bath suit with his hand on his hip in front of a goddamn swimming pool? Not since Hammer's The Snorkel did I feel absolutely funny about digging into a feature film, but you know something? The Swimmer is a touching tale; heartbreaking really, but also a truly emotive piece of cinematic storytelling. I'm glad to know the whole story now after enjoying the G.R. Blu-ray, and I'm anxious for their next releases (back to Italy for Cannibal Holocaust and The Beyond on Blu-ray), but I can't wait to have them fill my eye sockets with a completely un-horrifying film again. They pick good ones.

Synopsis from Grindhouse Releasing:

Burt Lancaster stars as Ned Merrill, a man who confronts his destiny by swimming home, pool by pool, through the suburban nightmare of upper-class East Coast society.

What starts as a somewhat bland tale. Man and woman talking and hypothesizing, waxing philosophical and that seems to represent a good portion of the first third of the film. We're getting to know our protagonists. It's almost uncomfortable. Schmoozing. Like an intimate, peeping Tom job. Why does a man swim "pool by pool" on some fated sojourn to his home?  So stories emerge and Ned Merrill develops, and we do not suspect the shocking ending for one second. The cover describes it as a longer Twilight Zone episode, and I would agree with that in part save that at least with a Zone you understand from the get go that things are going to twist into the fifth dimension. I don't think it's clear from the opening that you'll eventually wander into a tangent that follows a man from ordinary strange to the leftover carcass of a mere shell. Without the anticipation of the catch or the twist, well, it's really its own entity, forgoing tension for shock. It's this shock that makes it perfect Grindhouse fodder even if it was made by a major studio with a biggie star. That it didn't raid the box office is the only reason it was banished to obscurity.

The G.R. disc comes in a combo pack and the Blu-ray is a thing of great beauty. It's a good transfer; 1.85:1 AR, created from 4k scans! Aside from production stills and trailers and TV spots, you get over two hours of extras including some mammoth interviews that discuss the creation of The Swimmer and Lancaster beyond the movie. I can safely say that this disc is an education. The double sided cover includes a still on the inside and poster art on the outside. The disc includes a booklet filled with liner notes that round out the package and assist greatly in the understanding of the cult presence of a movie that seemed to fail only for us to allow it a new success.

The typical Grindhouse Releasing crowd... bear with  me and this release. You're used to Pieces and The Beyond and Cannibal Ferox. It is clearly not one of these pictures. Where it may not necessarily look or sound like something that you'd really enjoy, you probably will. While I find the Twilight Zone reference to be somewhat of a stretch, fans of the Zone should be able to access this release nicely. It isn't a gory nightmare. It isn't B rate. It's actually a high class picture with expert storytelling. It just needed some help to find an audience which is, for now, you. If you have been enjoying this new age of G.R. pictures, The Big Gundown etc., this is another chance to appreciate something, perhaps for the first time.

Order The Swimmer now from DiabolikDVD. Support a great release that is quite touching. This is the filth your used to. It's a work of art (and I don't mean finger paints). And man... this score is going to make you weep if Lancaster's performance doesn't rip your heartstrings right out.

-Doc Terror

1 comment:

  1. There are talk a few years ago of Alec Baldwin leading a remake... given how lean and fit he is now ... :-/