‘The Greek Tycoon’ Blu-Ray Review – Fictionalized Account Of Jackie Kennedy Romance Lacks Drive

As Americans, we certainly love our gossip. This is not a new phenomenon by any means, as the idea of getting the dirty details on someone else is as American as apple pie. When that person happens to be someone of some level of fame, people are even more enthused to learn all they can. Following the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Americans were deeply invested in the well-being of First Lady Jackie Kennedy. They were so invested that they about lost their minds when it was announced she was marrying longtime friend and Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968. This was a relationship that was drenched in controversy, and the desire to know more about the unexpected romance was through the roof. It should come as no surprise that some enterprising creatives decided to turn this story into a feature film. After being rebuked by the former First Lady when asked to participate in the film, the team decided to create a “fictional” tale in order to avoid lawsuits. While the very small changes might be enough to avoid being sued, that does not change the fact that the resulting film is basically a gossip column come to life. 

Released in 1978, The Greek Tycoon stars Anthony Quinn as Theo Tomasis (NOT Aristotle Onassis. Definitely not…), an aging Greek mogul who rose from a childhood of poverty to one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. Tomasis is a mover and shaker in all of the most powerful circles due to his ownership of oil tankers, airlines and even islands. Theo is a larger-than-life personality with a weakness for beautiful women, especially when they are not his wife Simi (Camilla Sparv), and a drive to get what he wants by any means necessary. One night he happens to set his eyes on Liz Cassidy (Jacqueline Bisset, NOT playing Jackie Kennedy), the wife of Senator James Cassidy (James Franciscus). Cassidy is a man well on his way to becoming the next President of the United States. While nothing untoward happens initially, the tragic assassination of the now-President Cassidy leaves Liz feeling adrift. As she has come to expect certain things from the world, Liz agrees to Theo’s advances which come with boundless luxury and security. Theo may be used to kept women he can control, but he will soon learn that Liz is not someone content to be pushed off to the side. 

Whether or not you are watching this film in hopes of some titillating stories about Jackie and Aristotle, or if you really are content with going on a journey with this fictional couple, you are bound to notice many glaring issues with its construction. Perhaps the largest issue with the film is the way in which the passage of time is depicted. From the opening moments of the film to the last, you have to take wild guesses as to how much time has passed since the previous scene. Five years may have passed between the assassination of Cassidy and Liz’s marriage to Theo, but that’s only a guess based on real-life history. Also, it is really unclear whether or not Liz and Theo are supposed to have passion within their marriage or if this is only a marriage of convenience. There are moments where director J. Lee Thompson appears to be attempting moments of palpable longing between the two leads, but their chemistry is absolutely nowhere to be found. Theo is such an ugly character on the inside that it makes it difficult to care about any aspect of his life – which is only made worse by how he treats Liz. 

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The greatest sin that this film commits is that it is generally just really dull. Quinn gives an excellent, energetic performance as Theo, but he is not given much to do with that energy. You feel it deep down that this would have been a more compelling movie if the romance with Liz was not the end goal. The rise and dominance of Aristotle Onassis (uh, I mean Theo Tomasis) is one that is ripe for dramatization. The lure of tabloid exploitation may get you more initial interest for your film, but it will not take long for word to spread that there is very little substance once you get past the novelty of seeing this controversial love affair translated to the big screen. The scenes of Theo in business mode and being a real conniving shark in the boardroom are among the best scenes in the film. Even his relationship with his son Nico (Edward Albert) could have yielded more gut punches if that thread had been fleshed out more. On a technical level, this movie is very impressive, especially in the stunning cinematography and in the great performances. The sensationalistic aspects of the film just proved to be too limiting in its narrative possibility. This specific story is probably one that should have been left untold, but if it needed to be told then it needed a few more passes to make sure things flowed well and remained interesting throughout. 

Video Quality

The Greek Tycoon comes to Blu-Ray with a digital AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 derived from a new 2K master. The presentation is fairly solid throughout, but not without its share of problems. This transfer maintains the natural film grain of the presentation and runs slightly on the soft side, most likely due to limitations of the original source material. Colors appear slightly oversaturated throughout the runtime, but instances of print damage have been cleaned up immensely with only the occasional specks and marks visible. Overall clarity and detail is decent, while skin tones run a bit hot as they showcase subtle facial features that are easily noticeable in closeup. Black levels hold up well with crush not serving as an overwhelming issue. Delineation occasionally struggles as fine details are lost in a dense mass. This new presentation from Scorpion Releasing is a good effort for the long-unavailable film, which should please fans who have been eagerly anticipating a proper release.  

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Audio Quality

The Blu-Ray disc comes with a remastered DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio track that preserves the artistic intention of the film. The score from Stanley Myers sounds good throughout the duration of the film, as it sets the moods for the events of the story. There are moments where it threatens to overwhelm competing sounds, as elements struggle for dominance instead of working in harmony. Dialogue is mostly intelligible, but it often feels like it should be more clearly defined. Environmental sounds such as the seascape are rendered well alongside everything else. There is a pretty consistent hiss that plagues the presentation that can be distracting. Scorpion Releasing has given this film an acceptable, if not outstanding, audio presentation.

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary: Film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson provide a track in which they discuss the origins of the story, the boundless energy of Nico Mastorakis, the relationship between Anthony Quinn and the real life figures that inspired these characters, backgrounds of the actors and more. The details on the production of the film are at times more interesting than the film itself. 
  • Alternate Opening Scene: A six-minute scene that would have opened the movie with a focus more on the naval business dealings of Theo to showcase his unscrupulous nature. This was actually a bit more intriguing than the theatrical version. 
  • Alternate End Credits: A three-minute alternate credit sequence which showcases moments from throughout the film underneath the credit scroll instead of the traditional black background. 
  • Trailers: A two-minute trailer for the film is provided with a narration that hints around at the real-life parallels of characters in the movie. There are various other trailers for other Scorpion Releasing titles. 

 

Final Thoughts

The Greek Tycoon is a bit of a misguided picture that details an infamous relationship when other aspects of the titular tycoon’s life would have made for a more engaging story. Anthony Quinn delivers a strong enough performance to make this one worth watching, and Jacqueline Bisset impresses when she is not trying to build chemistry with Quinn. Scorpion Releasing has delivered a Blu-Ray with a moderately good A/V presentation and some fun special features. Fans of the film who have been waiting for a proper release should mostly be pleased with the results. 

The Greek Tycoon is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Scorpion Releasing has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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