1963’s remarkably dull Hud more or less plays out as a home-on-the-range knock-off of Nicholas Ray’s brilliant Rebel Without a Cause. Paul Newman stars as Hud Bannon, the Cain to nephew Lonnie’s Abel. When Newman’s Alpha Male isn’t bedding the town’s married women, he’s busy picking fights and shoving his cock-of-the-walk routine under his ailing father’s nose. Director Martin Ritt strains to equate the foot-and-mouth disease that kills one of his father’s heifers to Hud’s own perpetual foot-in-mouth. Ritt lays on the Southern comfort so thick it appears as if he’s got something to prove: the cook played by Oscar-winner Patricia Neal frequently references the ingredients of her latest Southern-fried concoction and considerable down-time is spent observing the games people play in the dust bowl. The film’s father-son disconnect is a ham-fisted one, but Newman and Melvyn Douglas make for excellent sparring partners. Can’t say that Hud’s cool rage is ever really justified, but I suppose I’d be pissed too if my name was Hud and everyone in my house was named after virgins and Greek poets. There’s very little to recommend here (the insights are as profound as “no one gets out of life alive”) besides James Wong Howe’s glorious black-and-white cinematography and Newman’s smarmy performance—his legs are perpetually open and even a department store’s mannequin isn’t safe from his lascivious gaze. The best single moment, though, is owned by Neal’s heavenly Alma. Waking Brandon de Wilde’s young lamb from his innocent slumber, she asks: “Are you sleeping in the raw again?”
James Wong Howe won an Oscar for Hud's gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, and Paramount Home Entertainment does a top-notch job preserving every nuance of his widescreen compositions. Skin tones are excellent and you can drown in the film's inky blacks. Whites can get a little blinding, but they're never overblown. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is equally impressive. Dialogue is crystal clear, but it's all the mooing, punching, and smashing glass that truly resonates.
Though it's betrayed by the DVD's cover art, Wong Howe's camerawork should be studied in film schools. Then again, it's Newman's horned-up performance that you're probably here for.