Release Date(s)1983 (July 2, 2021)
Studio(s)Gaumont (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Two years after playing a professional killer for director Georges Lautner in Le professionnel, Jean-Paul Belmondo portrayed a decidedly unprofessional policeman in Jacques Deray's The Outsider (Le marginal). While the two films have little in common besides Belmondo, it’s interesting that both of his characters find themselves being railroaded by their superiors, but fighting back in decidedly different ways. Philippe Jordan (Belmondo) is a police commissaire on the trail of a drug cartel led by Sauveur Mecacci (Henry Silva). After a daring chase in which he destroys a large shipment of drugs rather than bringing it in as evidence, a frame-up forces him to transfer to a different unit. But that doesn't stop him from pursuing Mecacci, since he is perfectly willing to break every rule in the book to get his man.
Belmondo was fifty years old when he made The Outsider, and while he was a little slower here than in some of his prior films, he had lost none of his swagger. He's perfect as Jordan, and while he may not have moved as quickly as before, the stunts that he performed prove that he’d lost none of his nerve. Belmondo was doing his own crazy stunt work years before Jackie Chan, let alone Tom Cruise, and it's unfortunate that his derring-do isn't always as well remembered as theirs. (Sometimes, it seems like there’s collective amnesia regarding everyone between Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan.) The rest of the cast is equally good, with Henry Silva making a great foil for Belmondo. The two actors only appear together in the climactic scene, but Silva's intense presence is felt throughout the rest of the film. While he's dubbed, the voice that was chosen is an appropriate one, so it isn't too distracting. Tcheky Karyo is also memorable in a small role as an old friend of Jordan's who becomes embroiled in the conflict.
Deray wrote the screenplay along with Jean Herman and Michel Audiard, and they were all working in familiarity territory with this kind of film. Morality is rarely black or white in the French crime genre, and they treated the character of Jordan ambiguously, neither condemning nor condoning his actions. Of course, casting Belmondo in the role tipped the balance a bit, as his innate charisma makes it easier to sympathize with him even while he crosses line after line. Still, it's always interesting to watch this kind of story in our current era, since many modern actors seem unwilling to take such risks with audience identification. Belmondo fearlessly took risks both physical and personal, and it paid off at the French box office. Unfortunately, that didn’t necessarily translate into international success, making The Outsider ripe for rediscovery.
Austrian cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger shot The Outsider on 35 mm using Panaflex cameras with Panavision spherical lenses, framed at 1.66:1 for its theatrical release. There's no information regarding the master that Kino Lorber used for this Blu-ray edition, and while it doesn't appear to be a recent one, it's still in reasonably good shape. The image is clean with few signs of damage, and grain is intact, so it doesn't appear that much noise reduction has been applied. Contrast is fine, though there's inconsistent shadow detail, and there's also noise in the darkest shots—the scene set in a car at approximately 1:33:00 is the worst offender. But the color grade is good, with natural flesh tones. There’s a microphone briefly visible in one shot, which could be a framing issue, or a mistake made during filming.
Audio is available in French 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with removable English subtitles. The track is clean with clear dialogue, and it has decent dynamics for a mono mix from that era. Ennio Morricone's score dominates the mix, combining funky jazz reminiscent of Lalo Schifrin’s Dirty Harry scores with the quietly discordant strings that Morricone used so well in scores like Frantic.
Extras include the following:
- Audio Commentary by Samm Deighan
- The Outsider (Le marginal) Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:42)
- Le professionnel Trailer (SD – 2:12)
- Le duolos Trailer (HD – 2:24)
- The Sicilian Clan Trailer (SD – 2:21)
Film historian Samm Deighan delivers a commentary track which is dense with information, starting with a geographical overview that explains why the Marseilles setting is so important to the story. She provides a detailed look at Belmondo’s career, and points out how he worked in commercial cinema while still keeping one foot in the arthouse world; she admires how he played such varied characters, yet was always unmistakably Belmondo. Deighan also goes into Deray’s biography at length, also giving a history of French crime films prior to The Outsider. Ennio Morricone and Henry Silva are also covered, though she’s a bit less impressed by Silva’s dubbing. Overall, it’s a solid track which should enhance appreciation of this neglected film.
The Outsider has most of the classic elements of Euro-thrillers and French crime films, including corrupt criminal masterminds and even more corrupt police officers. It also features Belmondo driving a mean looking, tricked-out 1967 Ford Mustang which makes Steve McQueen’s 1968 Mustang GT Fastback from Bullitt look tame in comparison. What more could you want?
- Stephen Bjork
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