Blu-ray: Charley Varrick

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Don Siegel | CAST: Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Sheree North, Andy Robinson Norman Fell, John Vernon
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 12, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $19.89
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, more
SPECS: PG | 111 min. | Crime thriller | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2 | Audio  | Video  | Overall  1/2

The 1973 crime thriller Charley Varrick from workmanlike auteur Don Siegel (Private Hell 36, Dirty Harry) is a tight-as-a-drum genre outing that has amassed fans over the years despite not making a real impact upon on its initial release. Universal Pictures’ initial DVD pressing was a huge disappointment to its fervent followers, presenting the film in an annoying pan-and-scan format. Happily, Kino Lorber has come along with a new 1.85:1 4K transfer that will have its admirers thrilled.

In one of his patented quirky performances, Walter Matthau (A New Leaf, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) plays the lead character, a one-time stunt pilot and crop duster who has turned to a life of crime, pulling off small bank jobs in the Southwest with help from his Vietnam veteran partner Harman (Andy Robinson, the serial killer in Dirty Harry), longtime partner Al (Fred Scheiwiller, Blazing Saddles) and wife Nadine (Jacqueline Scott, Telefon). One heist goes bad, leading to Charley and Harman being targeted by the police and a brutal hitman (Joe Don Baker, Junior Bonner), enlisted by the mob to retain the unsuspected mob money Charley and company swiped during the robbery.

Walter Matthau is Charley Varrick

The film plays out like an entertaining albeit often brutal–tough to believe this given a “PG” rating when it was released– cat-and-mouse game with Charley using his skills to dodge his pursuers. Adding to the mounting tension is a rift that begins to grow between Charley and Harman.

The acting is superior all around, with Matthau scoring memorably as “the last of the independents,” a wily, world-weary character who seems to always have another trick up his sleeve. Baker is appropriately menacing as the assassin named “Molly” and John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House), an ace at evil, scores as the mobster who hires him.

Charley Varrick is given justice in Kino’s new transfer which showcases a near flawless print and vivid colors set against the appropriate widescreen format. The company has also stocked this release with terrific features. There’s an audio commentary from Western expert Toby Roan (the film plays often like a modern-day western), several trailers and a fine, interview-packed making-of documentary. Perhaps the best extra is the 30-minute-plus “Refracted Personae: Iconography And Abstraction In Don Siegel’s American Purgatory,” in which film historian Howard S. Berger taken an insightful look at Siegel’s fascinating career—he started out making montages for Warner Brothers films—and the different themes and cinematic codes found in Charley Varrick. On the surface, the picture may seem like a simple story focusing on a criminal, but, as Berger points out, there’s a lot more going on here than film fans may have originally taken in on a first or even second viewing.

Buy or Rent Charley Varrick

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.