The Swimmer (1968)

Comments Off on The Swimmer (1968) 14 December 2014

The Swimer CoverStudio: Grindhouse Releasing

Theatrical Release: May 15th, 1968

Blu-Ray/DVD Release: March 25th, 2014

Rating: PG

Directed by Frank Perry

Review by Craig Sorensen

Based on a short story published in The New Yorker, produced by powerhouse Sam Spiegel and staring Hollywood Icon Burt Lancaster with no murders and no nudity, The Swimmer is a little out of left field for a company like Grindhouse.  In fact it’s about as far from a grindhouse film as you can get. Thankfully that didn’t stop them from releasing this film on Blu-Ray in an extras packed special edition.  I could see this ending up as a Twilight Time exclusive otherwise.  And nobody wants that.  Nobody.

The Swimmer 001

The Swimmer 005

In the film’s opening, Ned Merrill (Lancaster) comes running out of the forest in his swim trunks from somewhere (it’s never explained) and right up to his neighbors house.  They seem surprised to see him, implying that it’s been a while since they’ve seen each other.  While chit-chatting, Ned notices all the swimming pools dotting the landscape and decides that they form a sort of river straight through the valley.  He decides to swim the river back to his house.  Along the way, Ned meets up with all his neighbors and reminisces about the past.  Slowly we realize that Ned’s memories are not exactly lining up with reality. 

The Swimmer 004

The Swimmer 007

The Swimmer is a nicely multi-layered film.  The central mystery of the film, and Ned’s slow breakdown, are compelling enough on their own to make the film an entertaining and interesting watch.  But the film also can be read not only as an indictment of upper middle class moral hypocrisy but also as a larger allegory for the older, white establishment’s crumbling world view in the face of the social upheaval of the ‘60s (of course, we all know now they had nothing to worry about).  It’s kind of surprising that any of this comes out of the film, or that it’s still so compelling given all the behind the scenes strife during the making of the film.  Director Frank Perry, coming off of art house darling David and Lisa, constantly butted heads with Lancaster.  Perry would eventually loose control of the film and Sydney Pollack, evidently a friend of Lancaster’s, was brought in to direct certain scenes. 

The Swimmer 008

The Swimmer 009

Of course, Grindhouse Releasing has gone all out for their special edition Blu-Ray/DVD release of the film.  Previously only available in a bare bones DVD release from Sony, The Swimmer is finally getting the treatment it deserves on home video.  As usual for Sony and Grindhouse, the transfer is stellar.  The colors really pop here, benefiting the subject matter, and there hasn’t been an overabundance of noise reduction or other filtering.  Everything looks really, really nice.  You also get a nice DTS-HD mono audio track and an isolated music score.  The presentation is packed with extras as well.  The biggest of these is the multi-part doc The Story of The Swimmer.  Filled full of interviews with basically anyone still alive who worked on the film, it follows the film from it’s beginnings and through it’s troubled production.  There are lots of interesting and funny stories here and the whole thing is entertaining enough on it’s own to warrant release.  You also get the original short story read by author John Cheever himself, lots of still galleries (production photos and storyboards), trailers, an eighteen minute interview with actress Marge Champion, deleted scenes and extensive liner notes by director Stuart Gordon. 

Rating: ★★★★★

- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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