We’ve lost another cinema legend. Director Sidney Lumet passed away over the weekend at the age of 86. Although not very many of the prolific filmmaker’s movies are yet available on Blu-ray, two of his greatest masterpieces are. Let’s honor the man’s memory by giving them another watch soon.
Lumet got his start in live television during the 1950s. He eventually branched into feature films, and immediately made a classic with his first attempt, the 1957 adaptation of ’12 Angry Men’. In all, he directed more than 40 movies, which accumulated more than 50 Oscar nominations. Lumet himself was nominated for the Best Director trophy four times: ’12 Angry Men’, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, ‘Network’, and ‘The Verdict’. Although he never won that prize, the Academy bestowed him with an Honorary Award in 2005.
Of his catalog, only four of Lumet’s films are currently available on Blu-ray. Fortunately, among them are two of his greatest: ‘Dog Day Afternoon‘ and ‘Network‘. His final film, ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead‘, was also well received when it was released in 2007.
Curiously, the fourth title available is one of his most notorious misfires, Lumet’s adaptation of the musical ‘The Wiz‘ – that “urban” (read: African American) reworking of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Other than his reputation for making movies set in New York City, this was an odd choice of project for a white Jewish filmmaker. (Lumet was hired after another white director, John Badham, walked away from the production.) The film took a critical lambasting upon release and was a box office bomb, but has somewhat endured for its camp appeal and the musical performances from Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
Other than that dud, Lumet leaves behind a legacy of many powerful, complex films that typically explored socially-relevant issues in an upfront, unflinching manner. Fellow New York directors Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese both spoke out in praise of the man. Allen said, “I’m constantly amazed at how many films of his prodigious output were wonderful and how many actors and actresses had their best work under his direction.” Scorsese noted that Lumet’s death marks “the end of an era.”