"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."
Bruce Aguilar | Hollywood, CA | 03/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Billy Wilder's Classic Film About Hollywood
Ibochild | Los Angeles, CA USA | 12/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
This DVD features proper aspect ratio !
Kerry O. Burns | 12/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite some amateurs complaining about this film being in full screen (and not widescreen), please note that widescreens were only invented in 1953 - movies like this one (produced in 1950) were shot in a classic 1:1.33 format, thus naturally filling your old square TV screens. Releasing it in widescreen would actually cut image from the top and bottom, not show more image on the sides. Fullscreen, in this case, is spot on."
Kerry O. Burns | 01/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.