In 1959, the great state of Louisiana found itself knee deep in scandal when Governor Earl K. Long (Paul Newman, Harper) Huey’s shrewd little brother began a relationship with a stripper named Blaze Starr (Lolita Davidovich), who at 28, was almost young enough to be the politician’s granddaughter. Based on Starr’s 1974 memoir, the film paints her in a very positive light (Starr was alive at the time the film was released and even has a cameo as herself). She was a poor girl from Virginia who could take it all off with the best of them, but never lost sight of her morals.
Blaze made her stage debut ten years earlier in Washington, D.C. While working at a doughnut shop, Starr was discovered by Red Snyder (Robert Wuhl) who makes her believe this is to be her singing debut. When she exclaims, “I ain’t taking nuthin’ off,” in a club full of uniformed military men, he appeals to her sense of patriotic duty.
Having found a new confidence, by the time Blaze meets Earl, she’s a top stripper in New Orleans, but she still has a down-to-earth innocence. A regular visitor to the clubs, Long is instantly taken with her highly provocative act, scarves and all, telling her it’s a, “powerful expression of basic human needs.” Earl pays little attention to the press, as the affair turns to love. At the same time, his progressive stance on race has put him at odds with members of his staff and his political future in doubt.
Newman appears to have enjoyed portraying the quotable governor, delivering every line with relish. The actor injects an energy and style into the character that makes him completely believable as a southern politician. It’s perfect really–in one scene, he’s fighting for civil rights, in the next, he’s shedding his clothes for a liaison with a stripper not even half his age. Lolita Davidovich, having beat out 600 other actresses for the role, matches up well with Newman, commanding the scene when necessary. Her character matures as she spends time in Earl’s life, but she never forgets where she came from.
Blaze has long been faulted by some for playing fast and loose with the facts (both Starr and Long were married during their relationship), but the truth be damned. As it stands, director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) has created a light, funny, enjoyable movie that leaves the difficult topics to others.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer isn’t as strong as I’d hoped it would be. There’s a heavy amount of grain in a few early scenes, it’s too much. Thankfully, after the first twenty-five minutes or so, that evens out. Unfortunately, print flaws do pop up, in the form of small flecks and scratches here and there. None of this makes the film unwatchable, it’s just not as clean as you might expect.
Blaze comes with both a DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 mix. The 5.1 mix provides clean, clear, and concise dialogue, while ambient sounds are fine. The mix us nothing special, but it works just fine for this dialogue heavy film.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Ron Shelton
Movie title: Blaze (1989)
Director(s): Ron Shelton
Actor(s): Paul Newman , Lolita Davidovich , Gailard Sartain , Jeffrey DeMunn , Richard Jenkins , Robert Wuhl
Genre: Comedy, Biography