Plot: What’s it about?
Stephen Fermoyle (Tom Tryon) has devoted his life to his faith and after years of service, he is on the threshold of becoming a Cardinal. The road to this great honor has been long and paved with hardship, but he has walked it all the same. Even when things seem hopeless, or he was tempted to compromise, he stayed true to his beliefs and now, he is about to assume of the church’s highest positions of honor. But while he did walk the road even in tough times, he was tempted to stray in some situations, due to various circumstances around him. As he prepares to take the next step within his faith, Fermoyle takes some time to look back on how he reached this point, including the times that have haunted him. He started out as a young priest with strict beliefs, so strict and proud in fact, that his Cardinal (John Huston) decided to send off to another parish. His destination would be an isolated location, where his new mentor (Burgess Meredith) teaches him about various virtues, including humility. Even so, he is still entrenched in his beliefs and even when his church peers claim he is in the wrong, he fights for what he thinks is right. His career takes him through numerous places and events, even a time in which he ponders giving up his faith. But is the road now at an end, or do his greatest challenges still remain ahead?
This movie has a broad scope and tries to cover an immense base of topics, but even with almost three hours of screen time, it isn’t able to cover all the bases. Although Otto Preminger’s effort does deal with a multitude of issues, events, and historical records, I didn’t feel as though those subjects were given proper space within the storyline. So we have a lot of thin looks at things, but little depth and that does impact the experience. I would compare it to Forrest Gump, because Forrest interacts with so many important people and is present in so many historic moments, but these instances are brief and have little real impact. Such is the case in The Cardinal, as ample ground is covered, but we never delve into the real heart of the issues and Preminger seems to want more issues, instead of depth, to be sure. Which is not to say that this is a bad movie, as it isn’t, but it isn’t as good as it strives to be, not even close. The novel by Henry Morton Robinson, which this movie is based upon, covers the same ground and does so with more intelligence, instead of rushing past and simply taking a quick glance. But the performances are quite good, thanks to a well chosen and star studded cast of players. Even if it movie falls short of its potential, it is still solid and with such a nice treatment from Warner, it makes for a solid recommendation.
Although he is surrounded by better known cast members, Tom Tryon was given the lead role here and he comes through with the goods. He has good presence and handles all the needs of the material, so you can’t knock him too much. Maybe someone else could have done more with the role, but Tryon is solid and of course, that is what matters. But his effort might have been better if the material were more faithful to the source novel, as it contains much more intellectual content and has more depth. As such, Tryon wouldn’t have been held back by the thin writing in some scenes and could have done more with the part. In addition, his costars could have been more fleshed out and the scope of the picture could be more realistic, not to mention insightful. But all things considered, including his dislike of Preminger’s treatment of him, Tryon did well enough in the end and gives us a good performance. Other films with Tryon include The Longest Day, In Harm’s Way, Color Me Dead, The Unholy Wife, and The Scarlet Hour. The cast also includes Carol Lynley (Vigilante, The Shape of Things to Come), John Saxon (Black Christmas, A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Burgess Meredith (Clash of the Titans, Rocky).
Video: How does it look?
The Cardinal is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a great looking effort from Warner, a welcome improvement over previous home video incarnations. Of course, if you’re used to pan & scan treatments on this movie, you’re in for an immense treat, as the scope visuals really enhance the experience. The print is in good condition, without much grain or debris to muck up the visuals. The colors have a lush texture, so hues remain vivid throughout, though still within a natural scope. No complaints with the contrast either, as black levels look sharp and never waver in the least here, a solid all around presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
The soundtrack here offers a solid, yet basic experience, which seems to be adequate. I heard minimal signs of wear, so no distortion or hiss is present, even in the slightest. The elements seem distinct, but never too much so, as they never overstep the intended boundaries at all. The dialogue remains crisp here and sounds much better than expected, with no volume errors to contend with. The music is well presented also, which is good, since many folks seem to love Jerome Moross’ musical score here. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, in case you might need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main supplement here is Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker, a feature length documentary on Preminger’s career. The piece has some valuable insights, but runs too long and could have been trimmed down, in order to focus more on the important notions, as it isn’t too well crafted. It seems as though little was done to edit the interviews, so while lengthy, they lack direction and often seem poorly placed within the program. Even so, it is a welcome inclusion for its good points, though some work might have made this a much better, more concise piece. This release also includes a vintage behind the scenes featurette, award notes, highlights from Preminger’s career, and the film’s theatrical trailer.