{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Cincinnati Kid - Blu-ray


<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"

4 stars

Based on the novel by Richard Jessup, Norman Jewison’s The Cincinnati Kid is as razor-sharp as the four corners on a deck of cards.  Rhythmic and dynamically succinct, Jewison allows the film to breathe in the natural essence of its native soil.  The film explores the seedy side of New Orleans and features some intense backroom poker playing.  Lead by a subtly demanding performance by Steve McQueen, the film – originally released in 1965 – remains one of the best films about poker ever to be issued from Hollywood.

Not everyone can be a winner.  Try telling that to the Eric "The Kid" Stoner (McQueen).  Footloose and without a care in the world, this up-and-coming poker play spends his time wheeling and dealing the best card players around.  He always wins, too.  Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) is in town and wants a real game to go down; one with real action, real stakes, and real players.  Of course, the Cincinnati Kid takes him on and, after refusing the slip-of-the-card offerings from Shooter (Karl Malden), believes his honest skills will take him to the top of Howard’s money pile.

With absolutely on-fire performances from a young Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, and Joan Blondell, The Cincinnati Kid isn’t just a Males Only type of outing.  Even people who don’t understand the first thing about playing poker will be drawn in to the suspense as The Kid keeps testing out the limits of his luck.

Due to its release on the heel’s of Paul Newman’s The Hustler from 1961, Jewison’s film is often and unfortunately overlooked and often dismissed as being nothing more than a repeat offering; same story, different game.  Shot in color by Philip H. Lathrop, the film is steeped in the colorful flourishes of its southern setting.  There’s a heavy feeling that soaks the celluloid and makes it such a rich affair.  In one scene, McQueen’s steely-eyed gaze wanders up into the cascading light of a tiffany lamp above the table and provides a mood shift that is just an example of why Lathrop was so heavily used during the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Adapted by Ring Lardner Jr and Terry Southern, The Cincinnati Kid is a terse little potboiler.  It doesn’t really shift gears on its audience; it’s about a card game and nothing takes away from its course.  The magic is in where and how it unexpectedly whisks its audience away.  The core skeleton of Jewison’s eventual dominant narrative theme is present in their work in that you have a character study – not of a man – but of how a man’s actions affect those around him.  While McQueen’s performance is of note, what essentially fuels this picture are the reactions of the people around him and the consequences of his on-the-spot decisions.

The looseness of The Cincinnati Kid is echoed in his jangly stride and in the music of the jazz-filled city.  It’s also echoed in some of the street corner performances adding a great depth to New Orleans and the screenplay.  Don’t be caught off-guard, though.  This is a deadly serious film about a man with a hard, hard lesson to learn.


{2jtab: Film Details}

Cincinnati Kid - Blu-rayMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
: Norman Jewison
: Ring Lardner Jr.
Cast: Steve McQueen; Ann Margret; Karl Malden; Tuesday Weld
: Drama
Memorable Movie Quote: "Like life, I guess. You're good, kid, but as long as I'm around you're second best. You might as well learn to live with it."
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Release Date: October 5, 1965
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 14, 2011

Synopsis: Steve McQueen stars as the Cincinnati Kid, a crackerjack New Orleans stud poker player. Tired of chicken feed, the Kid decides to challenge The Man (Edward G. Robinson), the reigning poker champ, who is in town for a private game. The Shooter (Karl Malden), another gambling pro, arranges a game between the Kid and the Man, with the Shooter dealing. The game is compromised by the intervention of Slade (Rip Torn), an old foe of the Man's who tries to fix the outcome. The Kid finds out about this and tells Slade to get lost, preferring to win fair and square. The outcome is in the cagey hands of The Man, who is smart enough to do (as one reviewer put it) the wrong thing at the right time. The Cincinnati Kid was based on the novel by Richard Jessup.


{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Cincinnati Kid - Blu-ray

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Review:

Available on Blu-ray - June 14, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
: English SDH; French; Spanish; Portuguese; German SDH; Danish; Finnish; Norwegian; Swedish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; French: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; German: Dolby Digital Mono; Portuguese: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

The transfer’s 1080p transfer is warm in saturation and vivid in detail.  Originally filmed in MGM’s Metrocolor, the transfer is a rung with dark and leafy greens and warm orange flourishes throughout.  For a film from the mid-sixties, The Cincinnati Kid – presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio – looks incredibly sharp and immensely authentic to its time period (the ‘30s) and its setting (New Orleans).



  • There are two commentaries recorded for the release.  The first, provided by Jewison, is for film fans and the second one, provided by Celebrity Poker Showdown hosts Phil Gordon and Dave Foley.  In Jewison’s commentary, he talks about the film and gushes over its stars.  He never addresses how exactly he got positioned in the director’s chair after the departure of Sam Peckinpah and maybe he doesn’t have to.  We still want to know, though.  The second commentary is just entertaining.  Of course, Gordon and Foley talk about the poker scenes.  Thankfully, they don’t take their job too seriously.

Special Features:

The film is loaded with two commentaries.  You want more?  Well, other than an archival short film about dealing cards (hosted by card-handler Jay Ose), there are none.  Bummer.

  • The Cincinnati Kid Plays According to Hoyle (6 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}