Failed Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) inadvertently ends up in the home of former cinematic queen Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and with one thing leading to another heís suddenly re-writing a massive screenplay for her she believes will be her return to superstardom. But little is as it seems, and soon Joe discovers himself becoming lost within a world he thought he wanted to be a part of but now fears might be consuming him body and soul.
Thereís been plenty written about Billy Wilderís 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard over the years, and Iím not entirely sure what I can add to the discourse that hasnít already been stated numerous times already. The bottom line? The film is a masterpiece, plain and simple, itís analyzing of the price of stardom and the pursuit of fame and celebrity above all else as cutting and as incisive as ever.
The Academy Award-winning writer and directorís greatest achievement? Not sure you can go that far. I mean, we are talking about the guy who made Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Double Indemnity and Stalag 17 (amongst others), after all, and it seemed for like a good three decades there everything he touched turned to absolute gold. Without question, he is one of the all-time greats to have ever graced the streets of Hollywood, and considering the influence he still has over countless filmmakers working today it goes without saying his films have has something of a lasting impact.
In the case of Sunset Boulevard, this darkly comic noir is an unsettling bit of Americana that deftly plays upon the desires and dreams of so many viewers. Star worship, the idea of becoming a celebrity, the concept of having people across the globe follow every move and action, it is a desire that never dies, and in this world where people now have the ability to become famous for no real reason whatsoever (and can be completely devoid of talent in the doing so) the darkly devastating and tragic themes Wilder presents here are more vitally important than ever. In short, watch this movie. Now. Without any hesitation at all.
Sunset Boulevard is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.37:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English Dolby TrueHD Mono soundtrack along with French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono tracks and comes with optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Audio Commentary with Ed Sikov, author of On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder
∑ Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning (22:47)
∑ Sunset Boulevard: A Look Back (25:52)
∑ The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard (14:19)
∑ Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic (14:29)
∑ Two Sides of Ms. Swanson (10:37)
∑ Stories of Sunset Boulevard (11:22)
∑ Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden (11:13)
∑ Recording Sunset Boulevard (5:51)
∑ The City of Sunset Boulevard (5:36)
∑ Franz Waxman and the Music of Sunset Boulevard (14:27)
∑ Morgue Prologue Script Pages
∑ Deleted Scene Ė ďThe Paramount Donít Want Me BluesĒ (1:26)
∑ Hollywood Location Map
∑ Behind the Gate: The Lot (5:05)
∑ Edith Head: The Paramount Years (13:43)
∑ Paramount in the Ď50s (9:33)
ii. The Movie
∑ Original Theatrical Trailer (3:16)
Itís an exhaustive set of extras, and fans of the film or anyone just wanting to learn more about filmmaking in general owe it to themselves to give just about all of it a look, in some cases two or three. Iím not going to go into it all one item at a time, Iím just going to say all of it is of merit, especially the litany of featurettes and the outstanding (if a bit dry) audio commentary with Wilder biographer and classic film historian Sikov. One of the best collection of special features contained on any one single Blu-ray release Iíve had the pleasure to sift through in all of 2012.
Sunset Boulevard is another classic from Hollywood giant Billy Wilder. Paramountís Blu-ray presentation is immaculate, and film fans owe it to themselves to include this title in their hi-def library.