Color, 1971, 100 mins. 46 secs.
Directed by Paul Newman
Starring Joanne Woodward, Nell Potts, Roberta Wallach, Judith Lowry, David Spielberg
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Twilight Time (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

One The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsof those films that was a significant The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsprestige project when it opened but then vanished out of the public eye for no good reason, this was the third directorial effort by Paul Newman and the second to star his wife, Joanne Woodward (following Rachel, Rachel). Their attraction to small-scale dramas continued here with this project, an adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning play by future young adult fiction titan Paul Zindel (The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger, among many others).

Not exactly a candidate for mother of the year, Staten Island single mom Beatrice Hunsdorfer (Woodward) has a contentious relationship with her two teen-aged daughters, the mouthy and epileptic Ruth (Wallach) and more introspective, intellectual Matilda (Potts, real-life daughter of Newman and Woodward). Beatrice keeps going to the bank trying to get loans for her quick-rich business schemes, the latest being a tea room. Meanwhile Matilda is hard at work on her science project for a school competition, using marigolds as test cases for growing patterns when they're exposed to low levels of radiation from seeds to (among those that survive) full bloom. As Beatrice keeps unraveling and takes offense to Ruth's upstart behavior (including impersonating her mother at a school assembly), Matilda decides to take a different perspective on her living situation that might help her to thrive out of the shadow of her mother's daily dysfunctional behavior. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Though not revived all that often today, Zindel's play is a prime example of early '70s quirky dramas as well as one of the best-known titles from that theatrical trend of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsplays with very long, very strange names. (See also: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.) The film carries over that sensibility and really captures the look and feel of the era, with the focus on an almost entirely female cast still giving it a fresh dynamic that works today. Woodward is an interesting choice as Beatrice, a part that's been interpreted many different ways over the years ranging from Shelley Winters to Joan Blondell. Woodward's inherent fragility makes the performance more sympathetic than it might have been in other hands, with Newman keeping a steady dramatic hand on all three of his leads throughout without looking down on them or using them for easy laughs. It's especially interesting to see how he gradually allows Potts to steal the limelight in the film with the all-important finale sitting almost entirely on her young shoulders, and she's easily up to the task. It's a bit of a shame she never acted again after this The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsfilm.

Though it never hit VHS or DVD, Newman's film did get selected as one of the first Fox catalog titles to get an HD transfer and received a broadcast on the long defunct INHD channel in 2005. After that it disappeared again for years until its nearly simultaneous release on Blu-ray in the U.K. from Indicator and the U.S. from Twilight Time, the latter featuring a trailer and isolated score and effects track highlighting the work of composer Maurice Jarre. The UK release from Indicator expands significantly in the extras department to create what will likely be the definitive edition of this film for a very, very long time, starting off with a trio of new alternate audio options for the feature itself. Australian film historian Adrian Martin contributes a thorough new audio commentary going through the film's opening up of the play (which is The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsconfined to the house), its adoption of '70s cultural theories on mental health, and the complex depiction of female relationships and sexuality brought out by the performances and Alvin Sargent's screenplay. Newman appears for a career-spanning (at the time) interview for "The John Player Lecture" at London's National Film Theatre, ranging from his early acting career to the challenges of The Hustler, his move to directing, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsand his thoughts (or lack thereof) about reading reviews. Recorded in 1984 is another career retrospective, this time with Woodward as part of "The Guardian Interview" series at the National Film Theatre. In addition to talking quite a bit about working with Newman she touches on some of her other favorite directors including Martin Ritt as well as her thoughts on the craft of acting such as rehearsal versus improvisation. A brief selection of excerpts from the 1973 Cannes Film Festival (1m58s), where Woodward won Best Actress, including a funny revelation of what Potts did with her fee from the film. A TV spot is also included along with a gallery of production and still photos, while the insert booklet is up to the label's lofty standards thanks to a new Johnny Mains essay about the film as both a Newman/Woodward project and an adaptation as well as a selection of reviews and press coverage from its initial release. The transfer itself (identical on both releases) comes from a new 4K restoration and is not from the older Fox HD master; it looks excellent and adheres to the original grainy, golden aesthetic of the film, not unlike the vibe you'd get from reading a '70s paperback, with an impressive amount of detail throughout. The LPCM English mono audio (DTS-HD MA on the U.S. disc) also sounds pristine, with optional English SDH subtitles provided.

Reviewed on May 7, 2018.