3 October 2002 | jjh6519
Powerful every time I see it
Back in the early 1950's, after a movie had run its course at the theaters, it did not go to video. Nor did it go on prime-time TV, as that concept came up many years later. Instead, they put it on afternoon TV, sometimes around dinner time. Well, that's when I'd come home from high school, and got to enjoy free black and white classics such as "High Noon" and "On the Waterfront".
It made a moviefan of me for life. I remember the effect of "On the Waterfront", as I remember thinking about Terry Malloy in that final scene, "Wow, that guy's got guts! I wish I could be like him." Being just a typical Midwestern teen, I didn't know who Marlon Brando was, but I just was fascinated by this life of these good and bad people, on the tops of buildings and in the cold, wet streets and alleys of this far-away place near the waterfront.
Now, every time I watch it, years later, I still love it. Yes, there is definitely an attempt to make Terry into a Christ-figure at the end. That's no coincidence that he stumbles from having been beaten to a pulp, to walk and carry a hook on his shoulders, to lead others to a better life. (In the book by Budd Schulberg, by the way, Terry disappears after testifying and what is thought to be his body is found floating in a barrel of lime. But he has become a legend on the waterfront.) I love the powerful Elmer Bernstein score (glaring for our present tastes, but back then, exactly what people expected to hear during a drama -- you've got to wonder what a future generation will say about the constant replays of fairly irrelevant pop and rap songs as themes during most movies today, dramatic or comedy).
And being raised in a Catholic home, I found Father Barry to be a great dramatic figure, one of the only times I saw a priest portrayed as a gritty, brave, heroic person, not afraid to mix it up with the common folks in the parish. He smoked, drank and slugged it out. And he was not afraid to die for the right reason. Folks, that's true Christianity at work. And that's powerful.
A classic. A must-see. 10/10