When it comes to pool-hall gambling films, The Hustler is the quintessential classic in every regard. Paul Newman reprised this role in Martin Scorsese’s sequel, The Color of Money, and there is a reason this return was so anticipated. Newman has made some great films and played many incredible roles in his years as an actor, but this simple pool shark Fast Eddie Felson is so vibrant with Newman’s young energy that he nearly leaps from the screen. The Hustler also boasts a fantastic supporting cast including Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott, making this a well acted film. Luckily these great actors were also given an incredible script about pool hustling which was shot beautifully in black and white. Co-written, produced and directed by Robert Rossen, this film was also marked as a return after Rossen’s career was halted with the McCarthy witchhunts of the 1950s.
Fast Eddie Felson (Newman) is a small time pool player thinking he may be the best. He wins enough to strut and always have a boyish grin on his face, until the day he plays Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). The match lasts for 36 hours until Fast Eddie eventually loses, which puts him in horrible shape. It isn’t until a ruthless gambler (George C. Scott) starts to show Eddie how to hustle that he gets his taste for winning back. Bouncing easily between the melodrama and spectacular pool action, The Hustler is a complete film.
The filming of the pool games themselves are something to marvel at, which can be done in the special features of the Blu-ray edition of the film, because there is a trick shot analysis of five scenes from the film. All aspects of this film still remain as impressive as ever, perhaps even more so, on high definition Blu-ray. There are also several other reasons that this package is better than the recently released 2-disc Collector’s Edition DVD.
Along with new on-camera interviews with Paul Newman in three featurettes, there is also a fantastic commentary track with the actor and various film scholars and critics. All of the featurettes have previously been released, along with photo galleries and other fun perks, but the Blu-ray release comes in a limited edition with exclusive photos and trivia in the 24-page collectible book packaging.