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The Men (Home Entertainment Review)

2 min read

BFI

Marlon Brando, following a successful Broadway run starring in A Streetcar Named Desire, for Elia Kazan, made his big screen debut in The Men, which was released in 1950 and directed by .

For the most part, The Men takes place on the ward of a veteran's hospital. Where a group of paraplegic army veterans, under the watchful eye of compassion fatigued, tough love physician Dr Brock, struggle to navigate the psychological and physical traumas imposed on them by a gruelling rehabilitation program.

The film does an admirable job of depicting the traumatic psycho-social impact of life changing injury on war veterans returned from combat. It focuses on the loss of role the men struggled to adjust to. The frustrated masculinity inherent in their experiences, and the prejudice and dismissiveness directed at them by a society ashamed of and indifferent to their stories.

United Artists

Method man ; one of the most famous proponents of the Stanislavski system of acting in Hollywood, who reportedly remained in a wheelchair for the duration of the shoot, gives a credible performance as paraplegic war veteran Ken Wilocek. Brando's depiction of Ken's struggles to adjust to a life impacted by disability is an emotionally dysregulated tour de force. And whilst his dedication to physical performance in the film is to be commended, it's the raw emotional honesty he brings to the role, that really stands out.

Brando's ability to portray the vulnerability of a man emasculated by physical and psychological trauma, would serve him well in his subsequent career. Blossoming fully in 1951 when the future Don Corleone would reprise his role as Stanley Kowalski, the poster boy for toxic masculinity, in Elia Kazan's cinematic adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Retrospectively, The Men is often dismissed as a low-key social problem picture. Best remembered for being the film in which Marlon Brando announced his brooding presence to the filmgoing public. However, the film is littered with impressive performances, including Everett Sloane as Dr Brock, and Teresa Wright as Wilocek's lovelorn, optimistic partner Ellen.

United Artists

Fred Zinnemann does an excellent job directing proceedings ensuring the film remains focused on the recovery of its wounded characters without getting bogged down in melodrama. Carl Foreman's screenplay, meanwhile, which was nominated for an Oscar at the 1951 Academy Awards, is empathetic and unflinching. Packed full of humour, tragedy, and hope, it retains its relevance over 70 years on from its release.

The disc features an impressive list of extras. Including a 35 minute film from 1950, directed by Paul Dickson about a disabled ex-glider pilot going through rehab. Alongside an interview with Carl Foreman, an audio commentary by film historian Jim Hemphill, along with stills gallery, original trailer, and a first pressing only illustrated booklet. The Men, released on for the first time by the BFI, is a must see for fans of Marlon Brando unfamiliar with the legendary actor's first film performance.

The Men, BFI Blu-ray/DVD is available now.