• Patterns

    Released by: Film Detective:
    Released on: September 27th, 2016.
    Director: Fielder cook
    Cast:Van Heflin, Everett Sloane, Ed Begley, Beatrice Straight
    Year: 1956
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Vicious internecine business and boardroom warfare has always been fertile dramatic ground for film and television, but the recent conclusion of the successful Mad Men television series may have left some faithful viewers feeling a little lost. Fortunately, the kind folks at the Film Detective label are here to give you a blast from the last that might help assuage that gaping entertainment wound.

    PATTERNS began life as a live television episode of the Kraft Theater in January of 1955. The powerful tale of a young executive brought into a high powered Madison Avenue firm to replace an aging executive, it was the breakthrough script of a young and hungry Rod Serling. The initial broadcast was so successful that the show was performed again less than a month later. These early days of TV were both exciting and brutally raw - with only primitive kinescope technology available to record them for prosperity, the shows were performed live like stage plays. There was no videotape or film. These were one and done - so to bring everyone back for a redux was high praise indeed. Both of these versions clocked in at approximately one hour, so when Serling was approached to do the piece as a film script he had to expand the material a bit for this 1956 film.

    We never learn precisely what corporate beast Ramsey & Co. does but it appears to be something in the industrial sector and that involves plant workers and dealing with labor unions. Boss Walter Ramsey (an outstanding Everett Sloan) is a slightly terrifying figure - a harsh authoritarian who brooks little dissent. But he's also a shrewd and organized businessman with an eagle eye on the bottom line and a solid grasp of human character. He's often in direct opposition with his second-in-command - the aging but ethical Bill Briggs (Ed Begley) who's tenure at the company dates back to Ramsey's father (who had a markedly more humanistic approach to business than his son). The third wheel in this tense setup is the young and promising executive Fred Staples (Van Heflin), who had been promoted from a satellite office in the sticks and is (unbeknownst to him) being groomed to replace the senior Briggs. Of course, what further complicates matters is that the two men strike up a friendship despite the increasingly brutal boardroom tensions that quickly mount.

    Serling was a master of what I call "verbal violence". His terse and regularly contentious exchanges between characters were often unforgettable. And while he certainly could be sentimental and even romantic, his true gift was a knack for the finely honed exploration of human character. A lot of PATTERNS echoes themes that would be explored in later and even more rough films like WALL STREET and especially David Mamet's play/film GLENGARY GLEN ROSS, but the distinctive Serling stamp remains. Rod Serling characters really don't sound quite like anyone else's.

    Heflin does a great job with this conflicted character. He certainly likes the new and fancy NYC apartment that the company has given him and he likes seeing his wife so happy with their improved status and finances. His scenes with Briggs are heartbreaking. He has an instinctive liking for the man but it's mixed with pity at watching a guy who refuses to give in and will suffer continuous humiliation at the hands of a manipulative boss. Ramsey's specialty is undercutting Briggs in highly charged board meetings mostly populated by craven yes men. Ironically, when Briggs and Staples work on a report together, it is Staples that comes to the defense of Briggs when Ramsey tries to ascribe all of the report's credit to the younger executive. Ramsey has a weirdly proprietary attitude towards Staples. He picked him and sees great things for the young man. But first he needs to push Briggs out - and he'd prefer to avoid a messy firing and wants the man to voluntarily retire. So it's a series of growing humiliations. Switch his longstanding secretary over to Staples. Pull and switch his accounts. Leave him out of important decisions but overload him with trivial matters. This also plays havoc with Briggs' home life: he's an aging father with a young son who rarely sees him. An while his boy clearly loves his dad, all those missed ball games and inability to play sports are takin a toll.

    All of this comes to a head in three stellar set pieces. The first sees Staples trying to talk Briggs into retiring while the older man's son is on his way to the office to meet his dad. The second is a highly dramatic showdown in the boardroom where Ramsey goads Briggs viciously while Staples tries to intervene and the third is classic Serling - a verbal slugfest between Ramsey and Staples loaded with the kind of linguistic fireworks Serling was a master at. And the unexpected conclusion foreshadows what Serling would become world famous for in his later career triumph "The Twilight Zone".

    Serling was both a humanist and a realist and it's really quite amazing how much of what PATTERNS deals with remains relevant today. The business balance between compassion and profit. The ethical role of corporations in society. Shareholders versus unions. Personal ambition versus morality and how best to achieve making a positive difference in the world. Do you "do what you can" or do you stomp off in a sanctimonious huff? This would make a terrific double bill wth GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS.


    The Film Detective brings PATTERNS to HD with a serviceable 1.66:1 framed 1080p AVC-encoded transfer. Original source materials suffer from some minor scratches and dirt but it's nothing particularly noticeable. This is sadly now a title that has fallen into the public domain but The Film Detective should be commended to doing a good job here and resisting the urge to mess with the image using DNR. The black and white presentation is organic looking with normal grain and depth and clarity are strong. This is FAR and away the best the film has looked. However, two caveats should be noted. The final scene sees a significant drop in quality. Nothing disastrous but definitely noticeable. The second issue may concern some - this disc is a BDr. This has no effect on the quality visually but those with an aversion to non-pressed discs are heretofore warned.

    Audio? DTS-HD Master 2.0 Mono. And it sounds surprisingly good. Highs and lows are properly balanced and all dialog is nice and clear. There are no pops or anomalies. For a film like this, all you can ask for is this kind of a track. There isn't a lot of music and audio effects are virtually nonexistent so this is perfect. There is a minor drop in sound quality at the end of the film when the video slightly deteriorates as well however. There are no extras. Sadly.

    The Final Word:

    Rod Serling's first real classic has stood the test of time beautifully. Masterfully written and performed, The Film Detective have given us a very nice version to replace all those crappy PD versions. I certainly would've loved some supplements, but until somebody else takes a crack at this, this will do just fine.

    Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Given your review, those screen caps, and just how cheap this is, I don't know how Rod Serling fans could pass this up. I'm adding it to my must-buy list.