DVD Review: Medium Cool (Masters of Cinema)

Medium Cool

Turbulent times often lead to some of the most groundbreaking cinema. 1968 was possibly the most unstable year in post-war American history. The US were on the back foot in Vietnam, and with public anger at boiling point, President Lyndon Johnson resigned during the Primaries. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated, the former sparking demonstrations and riots across the country. Director Haskell Wexler skews the line between factual and fictional in Medium Cool, shooting in a cinéma vérité style in order to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and blurred lines.

Focussing on Chicago in the run-up to the Democratic National Congress, John Cassellis (Robert Forster) is a successful news cameraman who detaches himself emotionally from his work. He’s dedicated to his job and pursuing women, eschewing outside influences or morality, until he discovers that his TV Network are showing his footage to the FBI. After losing his job he meets a single mother (Verna Bloom) and her son (Harold Blankenship) and begins to become fond of them, taking a newfound interest in the events happening around him.

Medium Cool is a brilliant and groundbreaking work of cinema. Its social and historical relevance lead it to be preserved in the US National Film Archive by the Library of Congress. The editing is reminiscent of an Altman film and the merging of archive footage, documentary filmmaking and often unscripted narrative creates a heady atmosphere. Medium Cool was years ahead of its time and still remains as relevant and important a work, both in terms of film making and as a historical reference point.

Special Edition:

  • 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray from the 4K digital film transfer approved by director Haskell Wexler
  • Audio commentary with writer and director Haskell Wexler, editorial consultant Paul Golding, and actor Marianna Hill
  • “Look Out Haskell, It’s Real!”, extended excerpts from Paul Cronin’s documentary
  • Excerpts from Sooner or Later, Harold Blankenship is interviewed almost 40 years after appearing in Medium Cool
  • Haskell and the Cameras, Wexler demonstrates the cameras used to make Medium Cool
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • 28-page booklet featuring a summary of the government-commissioned report on the Democratic National Convention riot of 1968 illustrated with archival imagery

Medium Cool is released on Dual Format by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema Collection on Monday.

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