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Sunset Boulevard isn't without pathos, most notably in Erich von Stroheim's protective butler who wants only to shield his mistress from the stark truths that are massing against her. But its view of human beings at work in a ruthlessly cannibalistic industry is bleak indeed. Nobody, not even Nancy Olson's sparkily ambitious writer Betty Schaefer, is untainted. And neither are we, "those wonderful people out there in the dark". Norma might be ready for her close-up, but it's really Hollywood that's in the frame. No wonder Wilder incurred the charge of treachery from his peers. It's cinematic perfection.
On the DVD: Sunset Boulevard lends itself effortlessly to a collector's edition of this quality. The film itself is presented in full-frame aspect ratio from an excellent print and the quality of the mono soundtrack is faultless: the silver screen comes to life in your living room. The extras are superb, including a commentary from film historian Ed Sikov and a making-of documentary which includes the memories of Nancy Olson. Interactive features such as the Hollywood location map add to the fun. --Piers Ford
The faded and long forgotten silent movie star Gloria Swanson is perfect as Norma Desmond (I shudder to think what Mae West would have done it had she done it as originally planned) and William Holden as a yet to succeed screen writer who decides to exploit the old star for everything he can get is wonderful.
The new dvd transfer is stunning and the extras are worth watching too. The more you learn about this film the more you enjoy it. One fact I learnt recently from an interview with Miss Swanson's daughter that is not featured in the 'making of' sequence is that Gloria Swanson stayed in character throughout the entire making of the film run. Imagine having Norma Desmond as your mother??!
And now Mr De Mille........