Blu-Ray Review: The Only Game in Town - Twilight Time Limited Edition

By , Contributor
Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor star in this 1970 character study about a gambling-addicted pianist and an over-the-hill Vegas showgirl. Set in a very different Sin City than the one we know now, The Only Game in Town is a patience-trying slog about two supremely unlikable characters. Adapted by Frank D. Gilroy (from his stage play of the same name), it's notable for being the final film directed by two-time Academy Award-winner George Stevens.

Specialty label Twilght Time has made the film available on Blu-ray for the first time, an edition limited to just 3,000 copies. Honestly, serious fans of its two legendary stars comprise the target audience for The Only Game in Town. Never really transcending its stage roots, most of the film consists of Joe (Beatty) and Fran (Taylor) talking in an apartment. Don't get me wrong, the dialogue is often sharp and witty, always well-delivered by the leads. And the Vegas casino scenes, however brief, offer a time capsule glimpse at the city from 43 years ago. But this is ultimately a difficult 113 minutes to sit through.

only game cover (191x250).jpgJoe subsists mainly off his tip jar. He plays old standards at a pizzeria/bar, with plans to move to New York City as soon as he can save five grand. The only problem is that he pisses every dollar away at the casino. Fran drops in for a couple slices and a glass of wine one night and ends up taking Joe home. Fran is biding her time, waiting for her on-again, off-again Prince Charming's divorce to be finalized. Since she has her doubts about whether this boyfriend (Charles Bramwell) will ever re-materialize, she takes Joe in like a stray and attempts to save his money for him. Neither wants to admit that, over time, their "no strings attached" arrangement has become considerably more serious than anticipated.

Beatty and Taylor play their unseemly characters well enough that it’s hard to care what even happens to them. Not helping matters is the near total lack of romantic chemistry between the pair. We never really see them enjoying each other’s company, making it hard to swallow that they supposedly care so much. Beatty manages to make Joe moderately interesting, while Taylor is given much less to work with as Fran. In fact, if we weren’t told she was a dancer we’d hardly know how she manages to support herself. Basically, Fran is unsure whether she wants to be taken care of, or to do the caring. She’s a boring enough individual that in the end I didn’t really care.

As for the visual presentation, The Only Game in Town looks kind of rough. Most of the problems involve print flaws, with lots of dirt specs flicking across the screen. It doesn’t ruin the viewing experience, but it’s also hard not to notice. I’m guessing the ultra-soft focus close-ups of Taylor were intentional. There’s a two-shot of Taylor and Beatty that actually looks it was shot with a dirty piece of frosted plastic over the lens. Generally it’s an okay, watchable image that manages to disappoint based on how much better so many older films look in HD. The DTS-HD 1.0 mono track allows the copious dialogue to be heard clearly. As an extra feature, Maurice Jarre’s score is available as an isolated DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track.

For ordering info, visit Twilight Time’s exclusive distributor, Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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