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Sunset Boulevard (Centennial Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 615 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hack screenwriter Joe moves in with Hollywood has-been Norma and her chauffeur, Max.

Additional Features

The Centennial Collection’s edition of Sunset Boulevard includes a second disc of supplementary materials that deserves a review of its own. Over 16 biopics, short documentaries, still photo galleries, and more offer viewers the chance to look at Wilder’s masterpiece through a scrupulous critical lens. These extras will appeal to not only fans who want behind-the-scenes anecdotal gossip but also to those interested in how the film was made and the movie industry climate during the making of this "movie about the movies," as author Joseph Wambaugh calls it in his featurette, "The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard." For fans of the actors there are two glimpses into the stars’ personal lives and careers, "Two Sides of Gloria Swanson" and "Mad About the Boy: Portrait of William Holden." Though archival interview footage of Gloria Swanson is more ample in the short "Sunset Boulevard Becomes A Classic," "Two Sides" features Swanson’s granddaughter, Brooke Anderson, who remembers Swanson as a kind-hearted, hard working, elegant health nut. Actress Linda Harrison, who worked with Swanson on set, remembers her graciousness under the spotlight. While these type of second-hand biopics typically feel residual, Swanson’s is unique in that it aims to separate the monstrous character in the film from the actual woman, due to Sunset Boulevard’s meta-narrative in which she plays an embittered version of herself, nostalgic for a past era. For production detail, there are more than enough shorts about Paramount studios, 1950s Hollywood, and behind the scenes still photos. These topics have been well-documented in books, however, and more interesting are the two shorts about the look and sound of the film. The documentary about Franz Waxman’s score starring his son, John, is fascinating, as it discusses Waxman’s beginnings in Germany studying classical music. Moreover, "Edith Head: The Paramount Years," follows her biographer through a photo tour of this legendary costume designer’s films and career path, in which she started as an wardrobe assistant and graduated to more advanced jobs after successfully dressing picky actress, Clara Bow.

Also highly notable are the featurettes "Stories of Sunset Boulevard" and "Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic," because of their mixture of interviews with actors (Nancy Olson as "Betty Schaefer"), critics (Andrew Sarris), and Wilder’s biographer, Ed Sikov. "Stories" opens with the facts surrounding the film’s original opening and its cut script, namely the morgue scene in which the corpses speak to each other. It then proceeds to describe how the opening scene we know and love, namely Joe Gillis floating face down in the swimming pool, was made before waterproof cameras were the norm. Ed Sikov’s commentary during the screening of the film, as well, is rich with details about Wilder’s directorial efforts. These insider notes and educational feauturettes inspire one to consider just how much consciously planned construction goes into a film that screens as a flawless story. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark
  • Directors: Billy Wilder
  • Writers: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, D.M. Marshman Jr.
  • Producers: Charles Brackett
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: November 11, 2008
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (615 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001EXE2ZG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,901 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sunset Boulevard (Centennial Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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