[box cover]

The Cincinnati Kid

The Essential Steve McQueen Collection

  • Bullitt: Special Edition
  • The Cincinnati Kid
  • The Getaway
  • Never So Few
  • Papillon
  • Tom Horn
  • Having proved himself on the streets of New Orleans, The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen) is looking to cement his greatness. He's got markers on everyone in town, and it's known he's a master at five-card stud, but there's one test left: Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson), the greatest card player alive. And when Lancey comes to town, it's arranged for them to play, with Shooter (Karl Malden) as the dealer. But there are hiccups. Shooter's wife Melba (Ann-Margret) is a promiscuous woman looking to derail Cincinnati's relationship with Christian Rudd (Tuesday Weld), and she's constantly needling her husband. But it's William Jefferson Slade (Rip Torn), who just lost to Lancey and wants to see the man get his comeuppance, who puts Shooter in a compromising position to help throw the game in favor of the Kid. Tensions are high, and the wait is long, but when the game comes up, it's a days-long contest of wills between two great poker players. Directed by Norman Jewison, 1965's The Cincinnati Kid was originally slated to be a Sam Peckinpah film, but when Peckinpah fell behind in schedule, Jewison stepped up. Though it's tough not to wonder what Peckinpah would have done in total (Jewison is a fine though modest director, while Peckinpah is a genuinely great auteur), regardless, Cincinnati is the second-best film ever made about playing poker (after Robert Altman's glorious California Split). The first hour of the movie concerns setting up the match, which drags a bit — but once the game starts, the film comes alive. With the newfound cultural interest in poker, it's amazing how well the card games play out in the film — the writers (Ring Lardner Jr. and Terry Southern, who were working from the novel by Richard Jessup) knew a lot about the game, and the hands are believable, as are the strategies in playing them. And if ever there was an actor with a great poker face, it's Steve McQueen. This was a solid role for him thanks to his mastery at playing bottled-up characters, while Robinson makes for a good foil as the benevolent, legendary card-sharp. But if the film belongs to anyone, it's Ann-Margret; her carnality practically drips off screen. If one could get an R-rating for simply being, Ann-Margaret would get it for this title. Warner presents The Cincinnati Kid in a remastered and rather good looking anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with the original monaural audio (DD 1.0). Extras include a commentary by director Norman Jewison, a scene-specific commentary by "Celebrity Poker Showdown" hosts Dave Foley and Phil Gordon, the featurette "The Cincinnati Kid plays according to Hoyle (6 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
    —DSH



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