Long unavailable, John Cassavetes’ 1970 film “Husbands,” at last comes to DVD today, courtesy of Sony. Cassavetes stars in the film, his followup to “Faces” (1968), along with Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara.
“It’s impossible to separate what makes John Cassavetes’ ‘Husbands’ exhilarating from what makes it exasperating,” writes Sam Adams in the LA Times for the film’s reissue. “Following three suburban family men into the maw of a midlife crisis brought on by a mutual friend’s untimely death, the movie is set at a fever pitch that at times approaches outright hysteria. Rarely has depression been so manic.”
Richard Brody discusses the film in a recent issue of The New Yorker: “Cassavetes had to cut the film by nearly an hour and a half to get it down to the contractual length of a hundred and forty minutes, but Columbia, the studio that produced the film, nonetheless cut another eleven minutes (restored in this DVD) during its first run, in 1970, in response to negative reviews (including one from Pauline Kael, in this magazine) and audience walkouts. Unsurprisingly, the troubled reception signals the film’s virtues: this formally radical, deeply personal work still packs plenty of surprises.”
Brody also has an interesting companion piece about the stormy personal history between Cassavetes and Kael, including an anecdote about an incident in which the director threw the critic’s shoes out a taxi window.
The New York Press’ Armond White recommends renting the DVD over seeing Andrew Bujalski’s latest, “Beeswax.” “Mumblecore fans should seek out the disinherited granddaddy of their movement, John Cassavetes, whose 1970 film ‘Husbands,'” writes White. “Opposing Hollywood studio methods, Cassavetes used naturalism and improvisation to convey overlooked truths about American life. Husbands illustrates Cassavetes’ ideal mix of honesty and drama because, ironically, it fused theatrical tradition with cinematic license.”
As far as extras available on the DVD, the Boston Globe’s Tom Russo reports: “Critic and Cassavetes biographer Marshall Fine puts the film in context, notably as one of the first screen meditations on midlife crises. He also notes that Cassavetes actually novelized his story during post-production to clarify things for his editors. Gazzara is interviewed in a half-hour retrospective.”
“Sony / Columbia’s DVD of ‘Husbands’ is an excellent transfer of a movie that looks far, far better than it ought to,” notes Glenn Erickson for DVD Talk. “Few shots have grain issues and the improvised camerawork is nowhere near as noticeable as one might expect — much cruder film ‘looks’ are now routinely lauded as desirable, stylish. Almost all of the dialogue is clear and easy to follow, something that was more important to Cassavetes — nobody mumbles in their beer and calls it acting.”
Watch a scene from “Husbands” on YouTube.