The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit(Fox Home Entertainment, 8.9.2005)
War is hell and so is corporate life. Anything that takes a decent man and estranges him from his loving wife and bratty children is pure evil...in a sense. Gregory Peck plays Tom Rath, a humble everyman whose life was inadvertently turned upside down by the pounding bloodshed of the Second World War. His homemaker wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) doesn't help matters. She wants a new home and a loving husband and father for their three children. But she'll never understand what it was like to actually be "in the shit," both in war and at the office.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit paints a suitably sympathetic portrait of the 50s corporate/ex-soldier male and his harrowing struggle to fit in with rock hard, post-war times. After excruciatingly long flashbacks to the battlefield, we witness the atrocities that Tom has so boldly faced (ie. accidentally killing his good friend via a mishandled grenade and falling for a luscious Italian woman who subsequently gets pregnant).
As he comes to grips with his past -- and is also confronted about the bastard child -- Tom must make the hard decision of breaking the news to his wife in the hope that she'll understand his plight. You see, in war, Tom felt completely disconnected from his home life, hardly believing that he would ever return home alive.
After a severe temper tantrum, Betsy finally calms down. The couple shares a warm exchange and we are led to believe that things just might work out after all. In addition, Tom decides to be a "9 to 5" man and tells his boss (Fredric March) that he's a family man first and foremost and prefers it that way. Of course, Tom's boss -- a somewhat bitter workaholic with a deceased son and an unforgiving daughter -- understands just perfectly.
Aside from the fact that the film boasts a ludicrous 153 minute running time, it actually moves along relatively well. Still, a good twenty-odd minutes could have easily been excised. The flashbacks are overly long and almost make you forget what film you're watching. Do we really have to endure the horrors of war to truly understand Tom's dire situation?
The acting is reasonably high-quality with plenty of the other character actors filling in small roles and breathing life into this adaptation. The cinematography makes great use of cinemascope technology (there are some very pleasing widescreen compositions). There are also some nifty ornaments placed on the edges of the frame to add to the depth and overall atmosphere. In full-frame, this film would be nearly unwatchable, as its seemingly endless running time is without a doubt aided by its lush widescreen photography. Last but not least, Bernard Hermann provides an excellent, vibrant score that frequently channels his work with Hitchcock, particularly Vertigo.
The DVD presents the film in its original 2.55:1 anamorphic (ultra)widescreen ratio. The transfer is gorgeous, to say the least. When comparing it with the laser disc from the 90s -- as shown in the DVDs restoration comparison -- one can see a remarkable improvement; the colors look fabulous and the print is nearly spotless. The Dolby Surround track is fitting and certainly enhances Hermann's score. Dialogue is crisp and clear without any noticeable distortion.
As for extras, we get an audio commentary by author/publisher James Monaco that definitely has its ups and downs. It's a two and a half hour track by only one man so you gotta cut him some slack. Monaco is definitely on the ball here but he goes off on one or two tangents and, naturally, there are some long pauses where we are forced to watch the film at an inaudible volume, sans commentary. Monaco still has quite a lot to say about the era, aesthetics, novel, underwhelming sequel (which takes place ten years later), as well as the bit players in the film.
Other extras include the aforementioned restoration comparison, one minute of greatly appreciated newsreel footage (from the premiere), a still gallery, theatrical trailer, and trailers for other Fox Classics releases. Oh yeah, and let's not forget those ultra-hip anti-piracy ads. Thanks a lot, guys.
Overall, this is a pretty decent film, enhanced by an above-average DVD presentation. This is most suitable as rental fare but, if you can find it cheap, you may as well splurge. -- Neil Karassik