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Sunset Boulevard Blu-ray Review

“Sunset Boulevard” is a well deserved cinematic classic.

The plot: A struggling sarcastic screenwriter named Joe Gillis is hired by a rich, aging, eccentric, unstable, reclusive, egocentric, delusional silent film star (Norma Desmond) to pen a comeback talky film for her (based on her own idea). Even though Joe knows Norma’s film idea is utterly absurd, he decides to work with the “stuck in the past” star for the money. As Joe unwillingly finds himself becoming a sort of prisoner at Norma’s mansion, Norma soon begins to develop feelings for Joe even though he wants nothing to do with her. Instead, Joe has eyes for a script reader and up and coming writer named Betty (even though she’s engaged). As you can imagine, this does not sit well with the jealous Norma which puts a major strain on their relationship (to say the least). Will Norma’s project be made? What secrets is Norma hiding? What will become of Norma and Joe?

In the history of classic Hollywood cinema, you won’t find many better films (or better performances) than in “Sunset Boulevard.” From Gloria Swanson’s deeply layered performance as Norma Desmond to the criminally underrated William Holden as screenwriter Joe Gillis, this film’s powerhouse acting will suck you in from the first scene to the last scene. Of course, their performances aren’t the only ones to make an impression as the supporting cast (and cameos) are filled to the brim with Hollywood icons such as Buster Keaton, Cecil B. Demille (as himself) and Erich Von Stroheim as Norma’s protective butler.

As great as the acting is, however, it’s the screenplay by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman, Jr. that really impresses. The crackling noir esque narration, the banter between Betty and Joe, and the rants and raves from Norma should be required reading in Screenwriting 101.

Summary: “Sunset Boulevard” is simply a must see classic.

Video/Audio:

The film, which is presented in B&W fullscreen 1080p, looks as good as you would hope. Despite some slight fuzz here and there, the lush cinematography and L.A. locals really shine in hi-def.

The Dolby TrueHD Mono audio track definitely sounds like a Mono track. It’s fairly soft, but there’s only so much you can do with the audio.

Extras:
* “Sunset Boulevard” theatrical trailer in HD.
* 1 deleted scene.
* “Morgue Prologue Script Pages”- Script pages of an alternate opening scene.
* “Hollywood Location Map”- An interactive map featuring videos of locals featured in the film.
* Production, movie and publicity photo galleries.
* “Edith Head: The Paramount Years”- A featurette on the iconic costume designer.
* “The Noir Side Of Sunset Boulevard”- Writer and former LAPD Sgt. Joseph Wambaugh chats in depth about the film, it’s noir elements, Gloria Swanson and various aspects of the film and its production.
* “Sunset Boulevard Becomes A Classic”- A featurette containing interviews with everyone from Gloria Swanson to Andrew Sarris about the film’s success and now legendary status as an American classic.
* “Two Sides Of Ms. Swanson”- Swanson’s granddaughter Brooke Anderson and actress Linda Harrison talk about Gloria Swanson in her personal and professional life.
* “Stories Of Sunset Boulevard”- As the title claims, this featurette features various stories about everything from Billy Wilder’s work to the opening scene.
* “Behind The Gates: The Lot”- A brief 5 minute piece on some history of Paramount Pictures.
* “Paramount In The 50’s”- A 9 ½ minute feature on Paramount’s classic films from the 50’s.
* “Recording Sunset Boulevard”- A featurette on Franz Waxman’s score and the re-recorded score.
* “The City Of Sunset Boulevard”- Historical discussions about locations featured in the film.
* “Franz Waxman And The Music Of Sunset Boulevard”- A piece about film composer Franz Waxman.
* “Mad About The Boy: A Portrait Of William Holden”- A featurette about actor William Holden.
* “Sunset Boulevard: A Look Back”- An all inclusive featurette that tackles everything from the film’s production and themes to reception and awards.
* “Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning”- Yet another featurette that delves into Billy Wilder, the film’s narrative structure, and the cast.
* Last, but not least, there is a commentary by author Ed Sikov. Like many commentary tracks on classic films, it’s scripted, but informative. However, there are a few quiet spots here.

November 14, 2012 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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