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The Lost Weekend

4.5 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The Best Picture of 1945 has lost none of its bite or power in this uncompromising look at the devastating effects of alcoholism. Ironically, this brilliant Billy Wilder film was almost never released because of poor reaction by preview audiences unaccustomed to such stark realism from Hollywood, but the film has since gone on to be regarded as one of the all-time great dramas in movie history. Ray Milland's haunting portrayal of a would-be writer's dissatisfaction with his life leads him on a self-destructive three-day binge. Filled with riveting imagery, the multiple Academy Award-winner offers an unforgettable view of life on the edge.

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Notes on the Making of the Film
  • Cast and Filmmakers
  • Recommendations

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard da Silva, Doris Dowling
    • Directors: Billy Wilder
    • Writers: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett
    • Producers: Charles Brackett
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, NTSC
    • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
    • Subtitles: Spanish, French
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated:
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    • DVD Release Date: February 6, 2001
    • Run Time: 101 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B0000549B1
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,360 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "The Lost Weekend" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    By Mr Peter G George on April 27, 2001
    Format: DVD
    Ray Milland is not really thought of as a great actor. He was a fine, competent leading man, but he rarely gave an outstanding performance. Lost Weekend shows that he was a far better actor than was usually apparent. Milland's performance is wonderfully realistic and daring also, for his character is not especially sympathetic. There is no glamour in the situations he faces. He is dirty, seedy and at times obnoxious. This is a portrait of a drunk which was and is untypical. Most often drunks are portrayed as comic characters, but there is little humour in the life shown in Lost Weekend, only degradation.
    This all rather makes the film sound dull and unappealing. It is anything but. Often with Billy Wilder's films it is the dialogue which is most memorable and Lost Weekend has some great lines. I particularly enjoyed the language and forties slang of sympathetic bad girl Doris Dowling. It seems amazing that Wilder, who co-wrote the film, grew up in Austria. He must have really listened to those around him to pick up all the nuances of contemporary speech.
    I would not say that Lost Weekend is Wilder's best film. The story is a little bit too predictable. This is always the case with message films. Here the message is the horrors of alcoholism, so we rather know where we're going. Nevertheless it is a fine film by one of the finest directors ever.
    The quality of the DVD is very good. It has few extras, just a trailer really, but the quality of the picture and sound is superb. My only quibble is with Universal who issue the DVD and no doubt own the rights to the film. They should not put their globe symbol at the beginning of the film in front of the Paramount mountain. This might seem petty, but it is still `A Paramount Picture' whoever owns it now.
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    Format: DVD
    Billy Wilder pulls no punches in showing the horrors of alcoholism in "The Lost Weekend." So ahead of its time was this film upon its original release that it still holds up pretty well to modern sensibilities.

    Writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) is an alcoholic. Both his brother, Wick (Phillip Terry), and his girlfriend, Helen St. James (Jane Wyman), have tried to get him to sober up. Don is making progress but he gives into his demons once more during one harrowing weekend. During this time, Don lies, steals, and does whatever he can to get his hands on booze and more booze. After staying at the drunk ward of a hospital and experiencing a series of terrifying hallucinations, his journey enters even darker territory when he contemplates ending his life

    Wilder's unwavering direction coupled with Milland's remarkable performance gives "The Lost Weekend" a dramatic power that disturbs and frightens. The scenes in the film are so well staged that they attain a heightened sense of realism that is impressive for a non-documentary. The only problem with "The Lost Weekend" is an ending that feels a little too neat and tidy. Specifically, Don's final proclamation has a dubious ring to it. Wilder undoubtedly wanted to end his film on a hopeful note but the ending just feels awkward. Yet, even though "The Lost Weekend" ends oddly, its depiction of one man's total meltdown remains a powerful viewing experience to this very day.
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    Format: DVD
    I can understand why the studio did not want to release "The Lost Weekend" in 1945: it's a gritty and realistic (sometimes horrifyingly so) account of an alcoholic's weekend binge. Going against years of movies that portrayed drunkeness as something cute and harmless, this movie pulls no punches in illustrating to what depths a man will stoop when he just has to have a drink.
    There's a story told about the filming of "LW," in which another of Ray Milland's on-the-street takes were ruined when someone recognized him. Instead of asking for his autograph, though, the woman offered to bring him back to her apartment for a drink. She didn't believe him when he said he was making a movie about a drunk; she thought the actor was down on his luck and really *was* a drunk. Billy Wilder came out from behind the hidden camera and finally set her straight. This is a good illustration of the power of Milland's performance; his work is quite extraordinary. Jane Wyman as his girlfriend Helen does a good job with a small role, as does Phillip Terry as Don's brother Wick.
    While the drama of the movie moves along at a fevered pitch, it really starts to build to a level of unbearable tension when Helen goes to retrieve her coat (which Don has stolen) from the pawnbroker, only to discover Don didn't trade it for money for booze, but rather a gun he had pawned earlier. After his earlier talk of putting a bullet through his head, the audience and Helen realize at the same time what his intentions are, and we find ourselves as anxious as Helen as she races back to his apartment. She gets there in time, and the two play a game of cat and mouse, warily stepping around each other as he tries to get her to leave, and she tries to get to the gun first.
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    7 Comments 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    By A Customer on May 15, 2002
    Format: VHS Tape
    Alcoholism has been seen on movies for a very long time. Many people just haven't realized it because it was never something to care much for. Drinking was often the stuff of comedy. This was because most of what we saw about it was the effects while someone was drunk and making fools of themselves. In 1945, director Billy Wilder made a film called "The Lost Weekend", that dealt with the subject in a different light. The movie was not expected to be a hit, having been a controversial project and being poorly received by preview audiences. But it turned out to be a surprise hit with critics and won academy awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. Here are some reasons as to why this movie is great, along with some of its cons.
    "You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning." The figure of a circle is used often in the movie, primarily in the plot. The story revolves around that of a failed writer (Ray Milland, who I discuss in detail later) and his trouble with alcohol. The usage of a circular plot structure suggests that the life of a drunk is followed by one binge after another, with no start and no finish. It is also used when Don is under alcohol's spell. An example is the usage of rings from the shot glasses to show passage of time.
    The lead performance: After years of acting, Milland hit it big as Don Birnam, the unsuccessful, alcoholic writer who goes on a drinking binge ("I'm not a drinker, I'm a drunk"). Milland's character is a tortured one, who claims that there are, figuratively, two of him: Don the writer and Don drunk. Milland can be melodramatic in his performance, but what do you expect from a film like this?
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