102 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I first saw this film about a month ago expecting to see a campy, vampy classic the likes of which I hadn't seen since Mommie Dearest. Boy was I suprised! This film is not campy at all, it's a finely crafted work of art that fully engaged me in it's story of desperation. I was suprised by the richness and depth of characters all around, but espicailly by Norma Desmond...
Published on March 16, 2001 by Bruce Aguilar
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Centennial 2008, Review
This review is for the November 2008 Centennial release. This issue is a mixed bag. The picture is sharp, but the contrast is quite a bit darker. In some scenes the effect is very good and in quite a few other scenes, I found it a bit too dark. The November 2002 release was done with the services of Lowry Digital, the same service that did the recent James Bond...
Published on April 22, 2009 by John Sunyak
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102 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sunset Boulevard [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I first saw this film about a month ago expecting to see a campy, vampy classic the likes of which I hadn't seen since Mommie Dearest. Boy was I suprised! This film is not campy at all, it's a finely crafted work of art that fully engaged me in it's story of desperation. I was suprised by the richness and depth of characters all around, but espicailly by Norma Desmond. As over the top and outragous as Gloria Swanson is I never once didn't believe her. To achieve this level of believability and honesty from this character takes great craft. The story is dark and twisted with some new depth of character being revealed at the most suprising moments. Cinematography and lighting are astounding. I will never be able to forget the one close up shot of Norma on the movie set back lit by the sets lights. My breath was taken away and it was only one of many times.
Sunset Boulevard is a film that will stay with me forever and one that's become a classic for one really good reason: It's a flawless production.
197 of 216 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal favorite,
As a film critic says in one of the interviews on this splendid special edition, Billy Wilder not only had the craft, style and elegance we associate with classic Hollywood, he also had a biting wit that appeals to the sensibilities of today. This film has aged much better than it's central villian, the demented starlet portrayed to perfection by real-life demented starlet Gloria Swanson. William Holden's (literally) dead-pan narration as a two-bit screenwriter of B-movies is as sad and funny as it ever was.
The documentary on the disc does a good job of demonstrating just how unique the tone of this story is, how it perfectly navigates between funny and sad. Not everyone in Hollywood saw the funny side when it was released, and it lost to ALL ABOUT EVE at that year's Oscars. So what? With this disc, SUNSET BOULEVARD is finally getting it's due.
Besides the documentary, you can read two screenplay drafts of an excised opening sequence, explore 1950's Hollywood with an interactive map and watch the film with audio commentary by a critic and historian. All these features are secondary, of course, to the movie. It looks gorgeous. The black and white picture is rich and crisp, the sound is re-mastered and the story is as compelling as ever. The special features only do what all good special features should do on a DVD. They add to the richness of the film. You may already know that Eric von Stroheim (who plays a character who directed Gloria Swanson's character in silent films) directed Gloria Swanson in silent films. But did you know that the drugstore where all the screenwriter's hang out in the movie is the drug store where F. Scott Fitzgerald had a heart attack in 1940? One of the reasons I love this movie is because it is so rich with Hollywood history.
I can't recommend this disc highly enough. Kudos to Columbia for doing right by a classic, a real film lover's film. I love this movie and I love this disc! 5/5 stars.
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Wilder's Classic Film About Hollywood,
Billy Wilder is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers and SUNSET BOULEVARD is one of my all-time favorite films. As soon as I discovered it would be on DVD, I jumped at the opportunity and am so glad I did.
The image quality on this DVD is first-rate. The DVD case indicates that the film is presented in "full screen" format, which is somewhat misleading. It gives the false impression that the film has been "formatted" to fit a standard television. While the image does fit the screen without black bars on the top and bottom, the original aspect ratio of the film has been preserved. That is because it is not a "wide screen" film. Like most films of the period it was shot in standard 1.33:1 (or 4:3), which is the same aspect ratio as a standard television set, so cinema purists need not be alarmed. In other words, there is no annoying "pan and scan" of the image or parts of the frame cropped off to fill the television screen.
For those unfamiliar with the film, it is a scathing portrait of Hollywood and how it discards people when it is decided that they are no longer "useful." The casting of the film is inspired. It was if the parts were written for them. Gloria Swanson was indeed a faded silent film star, who had all but disappeared from the movies (although she was still active in the entertainment business). William Holden, while not a down-and-out screenwriter as depicted in the film, was a once promising young actor whose career was stagnating. Erich von Stroheim did in fact work in Hollywood as a director. Put this in the "art imitates life category": an excerpt of QUEEN KELLY, von Stroheim's ill-fated film starring Gloria Swanson appears in one scene. The cast also includes filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille as himself (who also worked with Swanson during the silent era) as well as several stars from the silent film era (e.g., Buster Keaton) in small roles.
From it's bold introduction to its classic ending, SUNSET BOULEVARD is a well-crafted masterpiece. One will be hard pressed to find a dramatic misstep in this film. The structure is classic and the execution is flawless.
As part of the DVD's release, several extras are included. Some are standard like the inclusion of the film's theatrical trailer, English subtitles and a French language track (the guy doing Max actually sounds like von Stroheim -- perhaps it was). Other features add up to make this a must buy for fans of the film. One is a map of actual locations used in the film. For example, the exterior of Norma Desmond's home was not actually located on the 10000 block of Sunset Boulevard as depicted in the film. Actually, it was located on Wilshire Boulevard near the corner of Irving Blvd. (one block east of Crenshaw Blvd.). For people who don't know anything about Los Angeles this is about six miles away.
Ed Sikov's scene-by-scene commentary on the film is very good if not excellent. In it he provides many insights into the making of the film for those unfamiliar with that aspect. His presentation is generally well-organized and carefully thought out, if a bit dry.
One added feature that I really appreciated are two script versions of the original opening sequence of the film. When the film was first previewed for an audience, they reacted unexpectedly, prompting the filmmakers to change the beginning. Also included are silent images of the deleted footage from that sequence. The images are silent because some of the original sound was lost. For those curious about the deleted scenes, they should get a real kick out of reading the script. In Ed Sikov's audio commentary, he reads the dialog over the scene that replaced it.
The documentary on the making of the film while not as in-depth is perhaps more interesting. For one reason it includes an interview with Nancy Olson, who presumably is the only principal involved with the film that is still alive. Billy Wilder who of course, wrote and directed the film, died last March at the age of 95. One could only imagine what he would have said about the film over fifty years after its initial release. Needless to say, there are no archival interviews with any of the principals involved with the making of the film. Perhaps this was due to licensing issues, but would have certainly enhanced this DVD release. The closest the DVD comes to utilizing archive footage as it relates to the film, is the inclusion of a fine documentary on Edith Head, the costume designer who worked on numerous Billy Wilder films including SUNSET BOULEVARD. However, in the end, while one appreciates the "extras" in the film, it is ultimately the film itself that should be the primary motivation for buying this or any DVD.
Overall, this DVD is a good value for the money. You get an excellent transfer of the film with enough added features to warrant buying on DVD. A fan of the film or not, this DVD is definitely worth serious consideration.
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Centennial 2008, Review,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sunset Boulevard (Centennial Collection) (DVD)
This review is for the November 2008 Centennial release. This issue is a mixed bag. The picture is sharp, but the contrast is quite a bit darker. In some scenes the effect is very good and in quite a few other scenes, I found it a bit too dark. The November 2002 release was done with the services of Lowry Digital, the same service that did the recent James Bond restoration work with excellent results. Comparing the two, The 2002 release done by Lowry Digital was very good and didn't really need any improvement since there was very little if anything to improve. Rather than re-shuffling the same product over and over, it has been quite some time since Paramount has done anything new with their classic catalog. Paramount has not released new product from their classic catalog in years. For those of you who have the 2002 release, there is no need to buy the Centennial, so keep the current copy that you have.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Addictive--Melodrama at its best!,
This review is from: Sunset Boulevard [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Simply put, this is the greatest movie ever. And Gloria Swanson gave the greatest film performance in thie movie. You forget your Bette Davises, your "All About Eve"s, your "Titanic"s, your Katharine Hepburns, your Jack Nicholsons, and your "Citizen Kane"s. This--Hollywood will never produce anything better.
A striking film, visually, emotionally, and in every sense, this is a dark, bitter, darkly comical study of what happens when a faded star (who was a bit out of touch with reality to begin with) clings a little too tightly to her gone days of fame. Gloria Swanson gives a phenomenally powerful, over-the-top performance as Norma Desmond, histrionic ex-silent film star. Bill Holden is fine as the down-and-out screenwriter from Dayton, Ohio, that accidentally gets mixed up with her. Max von Stroheim is magnificently creepy as Norma's devoted butler, and Nancy Olson is heartbreaking as the one innocent with no idea of the trouble that surrounds her.
Every frame is perfectly filmed, every image marverlously conveyed, every line wonderfully spouted. Nothing is wrong or out of place. And practically every line is a classic. Most remember the last line of the film's insane conclusion: Norma, finally completely descended into madness, sweeping dramatically down the grand staircase as cops, reporters, and even Hedda Hopper look on; the music swells to a deafening height, and Norma--with that deranged look in her eyes--breathes, "I'm ready for my closeup..." But the best line of all, and the line that symbolizes everything that stands for the golden days of Hollywood, is spoken when Joe recognizes Norma and makes the mistake of saying, "You used to be big." She eyes him bitterly, raises her chin, looks down her nose at him and cries, "I AM big! It's the PICTURES that got smaller!"
If you have to choose a movie to see one day, and can only choose one, don't let the opportunity go by. See this.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPERB GOTHIC FAIRY TALE ROMANCE,
The greatest movie about Hollywood, SUNSET BOULEVARD is really a Gothic fairy tale about a not-so-innocent boy who gets lost in the woods and sells his soul to a witch. Former Golden Boy William Holden is dead-on (pun intended) as a down and out screenwriter who comes under the spell of Gloria Swanson's frozen in time silent star Norma Desmond.
The late great Billy Wilder wrote the screenplay (with Charles Brackett) and directed this must have 1950 masterpiece that has not lost one iota of its power to entertain and disturb.
The level of writing is superior and sustained. After they first meet, Holden says, "You used to be big." Swanson replies, "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." Holden mutters, "I knew there was something wrong with them."
Erich von Stroheim, who actually directed Swanson in the ill-fated Queen Kelly (1928), steals the show as Norma Desmond's faithful butler, protector (and first husband) Max.
Swanson's bold and daring performance was overlooked by the Academy but has since become iconic. She was only 53 when the film was made and close ups of her face reveal undamaged skin -- smooth, wrinkle-free and youthful (she was a health nut).
By the way, Desmond's house "in the 10,000 block of Sunset" was really the overgrown and empty home of one of J. Paul Getty's ex-wives a few blocks away on Wilshire. It's now a gas station.
The meticulous transfer is crisp and clean and the extras include a fascinating making of documentary and an insightful commentary by Wilder scholar Ed Sikov.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ready as Ever...,
Directed by the incomparable Billy Wilder, this is iconic Gloria Swanson in the comeback-of-all-comeback films (even though as Norma Desmond she protests that she hates that word, it's "Return!"). From the crumbling Spanish Revival (J. P. Getty-owned) mansion to the leopard-upholstered Isotta-Fraschini (once owned by Peggy Hopkins Joyce, the inspiration for Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds"), this is a tour-de-force of behind-the-scenes Hollywood atmosphere, the dark flipside of the other great send up of when Talkies came to Tinsletown, "Singin' in the Rain."
But first of all, dismiss the myth that this movie was a biopic of Gloria's life. Not in the least. True, Gloria had been a huge success in silents (at age 25, the first actress with a million dollar contract) but she made the transition to sound just fine, even singing in early 1930s films like "The Trespasser" ("Love Your Magic Spell is Everywhere") and "Music in the Air" (which Billy Wilder also worked on). If anything, it was her exotic look, not her voice, that made her seem passé in the darkening days of the Depression.
To create Miss Desmond, screenwriters Charles Brackett (who also scripted "Ninotchka"), D. M. Marshman Jr. and Billy Wilder threw in all of the faded film star lore they could, combining the May-December marriage and mostly pickled later life of America's Sweetheart Mary Pickford (who was offered and turned down the part) and the quick fadeout to black of the other Norma (Talmadge). Throw in the other two Talmadge sisters, Clara Bow, Mable Normand, et al; the stories you hear are true, but a compilation and the names have been changed, sort of.
Then, once she agreed to the starring role, as an additional benefit, Gloria graciously allowed all of her personal mementos, from the unreleased and von Strohiem directed "Queen Kelly" to the plethora of 8 x 10 genuine publicity stills, to give the set verisimilitude. Her Chaplin-taught imitation of himself, her collaboration with De Mille (right down to his pet name for her "Young Fella"), the quip about Valentino and the tile floor, and more, were bonuses that make the film more than just another pastiche of a long-gone era.
Swanson and Holden do yeoman's work as the ill-fated couple in a nightmarish liaison that can only end badly. The lush Franz Waxman score augments a script replete with quotable quotes about the perils of a star's decline. There are layers and layers of Hollywood goodies, like the storyline that Holden and Nancy Olson spoof about, concerning a guy and a gal who rent the same flat, one sleeping in the daytime and the other at night, sharing the apartment on a shift basis, never seeing each other; it is a real 1933 film, called "Rafter Romance" starring Ginger Rogers and Laura Hope Crewes.
The staircase finale has become a thing of legend--deftly spoofed by Carol Burnett. Gloria enjoyed Carol's sketch so much, she made a guest appearance on the Carol Burnett Show, as a result. Even so, the film's ending line is surely one of the five greatest in all Hollywood history, the others being, "Casablanca", "The Wizard of Oz", "Some Like It Hot" and "Now, Voyager".
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars legendary masterpiece...,
This is the stuff of legends. I watched it last night with my wife who had never seen it before, I had seen it once and it is even a more powerful movie experience then I remember. We were glued to the tv screen by this intriguing screen classic. Norma Desmond(Gloria Swanson) is a screen icon from the days of silent movies who now lives in the past unable to face a present where the movies no longer need her, she waits for the call from Paramount Studios that will turn her back into a star. Gloria Swanson gives one of the most memorable screen performances you will ever see. Her Norma Desmond scares you, moves you and enthralls you as you wait for this train wreck to happen. Joe Gillis(William Holden) is from a small town in Ohio who is possibly a day or so away from returning to the copy desk at the small Ohio newspaper that he came from. His dreams of striking it big in Hollywood now a frazzled scorn of cynical delusions. The Hollywood sharks have worn him out. Norma's fate and his are intertwined forever when Joe gets a flat as he tries to elude the repo men who are trying to take his car. He's so broke and unable to sell any of his stories or screenplays that he hasn't paid rent in three months. He ends up at Norma's mansion on Sunset Blvd. that has all the appearances of being abandoned. Norma seemingly has found a new lease on life as she hires Joe to edit and finish her "masterpiece" of a screenplay eventually falling in love with him. Joe takes advantage of Norma at first strictly for the money but eventually the attraction grows not so much because of the physical attraction of the two but Joe realizes no matter how crazy this whole setup is and how much he dislikes being Norma's "boytoy", Norma has treated him better then anyone else in Hollywood that he's run across. Max (Erich von Stroheim) is the glue holding it all together as he devotes himself to giving Norma what she needs to keep her illusions alive while holding his own secrets. A masterful performance. A masterful legendary film. We lived in Hollywood for a few years and I think that's what made this film so much more poignant for me the second time because Hollywood is full of Norma Desomnds drowning in quiet desperation who should've packed up and found a different life years ago. But how can one let go of being a star? Not that easy.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true Hollywood masterpiece,
Sunset Boulevard is, to this day, one of the most unique films ever done. From its voiceover narrative by a dead man (Holden) seen floating face-down in a swimming pool in the opening sequence, to its singular performance by Swanson (a woman who could, on film, convince a viewer that up was down), director Wilder was at peak form in this production. There is an essential truth to the script that holds even today: that an actress, at fifty, is finished, done, futureless.
Everything about this film works--from the darkly shadowed lighting of interior scenes to the secondary performances (particularly director Erich von Stroheim as Swanson's butler) to the mind-sets of all the characters depicted. Swanson is scarily good as the former silent-film star, for which she got a best-actress academy award nomination. (She should have won but the award went to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday--a good performance but not better than Swanson's. But rarely do the truly deserving actors or films get the nods they should from the academy.) This is one of the films that actually deserved its awards for story and screenplay. If it had appeared in, say, 1951, no doubt it would have taken the best picture award. But coming up against All About Eve, there was no contest. It was a great year for movies.
If you've never seen Sunset Boulevard, it's not to be missed. If you have seen it, but not for a while, see it again. It's a classic, in every way.
My highest recommendation.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect,
I forgot how much I loved this movie. Is there a greater character than Norma Desmond? Over 50 years after this movie was released, people are still quoting her dialogue. I happened to catch SB by chance on AMC a few years ago and it's become one of those films I can watch over and over again. This movie is smart and funny storytelling without having to use gratitious sex, violence or cursing.
Everything about this movie is perfect from the writing and sets to Billy Wilder's direction. The opening and closing scenes have to be among the greatest in the history of film. William Holden's subtle and smart alecky acting plays well against Gloria Swanson's over the top Norma. Although they weren't the first choices, it's hard to imagine anyone besides Holden and Swanson in these roles as they nailed their characters perfectly. Erich Von Streim as Max and Cecil B. Demille as himself are also great.
Wilder's sense of mishief pervades this movie and one suspects that he had much of Hollywood squirming when Sunset Boulevard was first released. In lesser hands this movie could have been a disaster. It's hard to believe that the movie won no Academy Awards.
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Sunset Boulevard (1950) (BD) [Blu-ray] by Billy Wilder (Blu-ray - 2012)