Sweet Smell of Success
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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In the swift, cynical SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers), Burt Lancaster (Brute Force, The Leopard) stars as barbaric Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot, Spartacus) as Sidney Falco, the unprincipled press agent he ropes into smearing the up-and-coming jazz musician romancing his beloved sister. Featuring deliciously unsavory dialogue in an acid, brilliantly structured script by Clifford Odets (Notorious, Bigger Than Life) and Ernest Lehman (North by Northwest, The Sound of Music) and noirish neon cityscapes from Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe (The Thin Man, Yankee Doodle Dandy), SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS is a cracklingly cruel dispatch from the kill-or-be-killed wilds of 1950s Manhattan.
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Also front and center is the extraordinary black and white photography by one of the greatest camerapeople ever, James Wong Howe. Some of these night shots of New York were even shot surreptitiously by Howe. The look and feel of the film is one of a Noir, but a late 1950s one -- with great views of New York in that era -- Times Square, Nedicks, etc.
This is a cinematic classic, with incredibly sparkling noir-style dialogue, that flows like wine out of the mouths of Lancaster and Curtis. And why not? It was written by veteran screenwriter Ernst Lehmann and famed playwright Clifford Odets. Susan Harrison also deserves a nod in the role of Lancaster's sister. The new Criterion transfer has the richest, tightest visual quality I've ever seen in this film. See it!
Sweet Smell of Success should be included in the viewing repertoire of all serious students of mid-20th century American film.
Criterion has presented a gorgeous reproduction of this film that any true movie lover should be thrilled to have. The supplementary materials included are equally rewarding and only further your appreciation of this masterpiece. For the aspiring filmmaker in-training the James Wong Howe interview and lighting workshop will be of particular interest, as well as the Scottish television produced segment on director Alexander Mackendrick.
All this and more await the fortunate soul who invests in this thoroughly impressive film and DVD presentation.
For a further in-depth review of this DVD, as well as many more, I recommend checking out [...]
This movie is not only one of the best "noir" films I've seen but one of the best movies I've ever seen PERIOD.
It's included in the noir category despite it not being a crime drama at all. The reason for this is it's shadow-filled cinematography and its theme of corruption. According to this movie, human beings are bleak, cold-hearted creatures.
It's about a Broadway columnist (played by Burt Lancaster in one of his best roles) who manipulates everyone he comes in contact with. He is one of the vilest, cold-hearted bastards I've ever seen in a movie because he's just so real. This isn't a noir hit-man in a fedora hat. This guy could be real and I'm sure some of us have met or will meet someone like him. Tony Curtis plays a bastard publicity agent though you sort of feel bad for him even despite his faults. He's the "protagonist" and we are told the story through his eyes. There are a couple of characters who have integrity and are not so corrupted but they only count as victims of the manipulation.
The acting is top-notch. Both Lancaster and Curtis had me in awe throughout the whole movie. Usually movies about "show business" don't interest me all that much but this movie was fascinating. This is dark look at NYC life in the 1950s. I recommend it with every noir-loving bone in my body.
I loved it.