54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Back at that pool again. The one I always wanted"
I watched "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) for the first time a few days ago, after a friend lent it to me. I am very grateful to him because otherwise I probably wouldn't have rented it, or at least not anytime soon. And truth to be told, this is the kind of movie that you simply should watch as soon as possible. From my point of view, "Sunset Boulevard" is, like "Casablanca"...
Published on 8 Sep 2006 by M. B. Alcat
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic Hollywood
Clearly a great film but a little oppressive for me. I could not properly get used to the empty mansion
occupied by only an eccentric former film star and her slightly sinister manservant. Some nice touches though,
William Holden giving us a commentary on his means of death even as we see police fishing him from the swimming pool.
Plus passing cameo...
Published on 9 Jun 2011 by R. Allen
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Back at that pool again. The one I always wanted",
I watched "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) for the first time a few days ago, after a friend lent it to me. I am very grateful to him because otherwise I probably wouldn't have rented it, or at least not anytime soon. And truth to be told, this is the kind of movie that you simply should watch as soon as possible. From my point of view, "Sunset Boulevard" is, like "Casablanca" and "The Maltese falcon", a classic.
This film is directed by Billy Wilder, and narrated by a dead man that appears in one of the first scenes floating in a swimming pool. It sounds strange, doesn't it? Despite that, it is very effective! The opening sequence is strong, but things get better and better as the story goes on. Despite that, a word of caution is in order: if you don't like black humour, don't watch "Sunset Boulevard", because this satire of the perverse side of Hollywood has it in spades.
One of the main characters is Joe Gillis (William Holden), a screenwriter without money that happens to hide from his creditors in an old mansion that seems to be empty. That is unfortunately not the case... The mansion is no less than the home of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a rich woman that used to be a silent screen star, and that wants to be famous again. That appears to be the reason why she employs Joe to improve a very long script she has written for her comeback, and also the reason why she insists that Joe is to stay at her house in the meantime. Joe isn't fond of the idea of staying in the mansion with the old woman and her creepy butler, Max (Erich von Stroheim), but he has no money, so he has to accept. Joe Gillis is like a fly caught in a spider's web: from the moment he enters Norma's house he is doomed, he just doesn't know it yet.
What will happen? Well, you must watch this film to learn that. I can only promise you that "Sunset Boulevard" is the kind of movie you don't regret watching. It is entertaining, insightful, has great performances and includes some of the best lines I have heard in a movie. Again, a classic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
PS: If possible, remember to watch the extra features after seeing this film. One of them, a commentary by Ed Sikov, is specially good, due to the fact that it allows you to learn several interesting facts about the cast and the making of this movie.
PS 2: I wil include here some of my favourite quotes from this movie. I'm sure they will make you want to watch it :)
-Joe Gillis: "You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big".
Norma Desmond: "I am big. It's the pictures that got small".
- [Joe is reading Norma's script] Joe Gillis: "Sometimes it's interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit".
- Norma Desmond: "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!"
- Joe Gillis: "There's nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you're trying to be twenty-five".
- Norma Desmond: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up".
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PRISTINE BLU RAY TRANSFER,
This review is from: Sunset Boulevard [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
at long last this priceless gem of a film has made the jump to blu ray,and what a blu ray it is.the restoration is spotless,there is not a single scratch,or a trace of dirt or dust in the print.the dense grain structure has been left in and it brings out all the smallest detail in the picture.the high quality is from start to finish,no patchy bits anywhere.there is no evidence of digital noise reduction any where and the tones look natural and as they should be.it now seems the studios have learnt that massive amounts of digital noise reduction is the wrong way to go,and films should be treated with cotton gloves,rather then manhandled with industrial rubber gloves.this blu ray is worth every penny
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark and delicious classic gem!!,
This is a great and extremely dark look at what happens when the film cameras aren't rolling. It tells the story, in vivid flash-back, how a down-on-his-luck script writer (William Holden) happens across a forgotton and ageing silent screen icon called Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) who believes she can help him revive his career and thinks that he can bring her back into the limelight again. She falls for him and showers him with gifts, and wants him for herself. He in turn thinks that she is mad and losing her marbles, but he soon finds himself in thrall of her madness and it soon leads to his downfall.
Quite possibly the best film I've seen on the dark and disturbingly desperate side of Hollywood, it begins superbly with a stunning opening sequence and having the voice-over of the deceased. One of the best opening sequences I've seen to possibly any film. The acting is first-rate with Gloria Swanson on blistering form as the forgotton silent screen goddess wanting to come back to the big time and William Holden equally impressive as the struggling writer. There are star turns by a handful of Hollywood's elite of the time; Buster Keaton (one of the greats of silent screen), H B Warner and Cecil B. DeMille. Directed by Billy Wilder, a masterful director and screen-writer in his own right, it's memorable, brilliant and sheer class. Features in my Top 10 no question.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ready for your close up?,
Quite how this film ever got made is a wonder. Billy Wilder's superb look at a faded film star's attempt to make a come back is a triumph. A savage swipe at Hollywood, it's loaded with classic one-liners and spine chilling irony.
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........
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And the winner is.....?,
The three serious Oscar contenders for best actress of 1950 were Bette Davis for "All About Eve", Judy Holliday in "Born Yesterday" and (of course!) Gloria Swanson for "Sunset Boulevard". Surprisingly Holliday won. It was said that Davis and Swanson cancelled each other out because they both played actresses. At the time there was some carping that Swanson did not deserve the award because she was merely acting herself while Davis and Holliday gave striking interpretations. Now more than 60 years later perspectives have changed. Denigrating Gloria Swanson's work displayed ignorance in the art of acting. When presented with this argument, Swanson said that she used aspects of herself in the role which included her fabulous career as a silent film star as do all good film actresses, but in real life she was far from Norma Desmond. When looking at these three films today, it is clear to me that Swanson rated the Academy Award (as in horse racing: by a nose). Hers is a highly complex role bordering on the ridiculous. Without the masterful collaboration of writer-director Billy Wilder she could have easily gone off the rails. Her totally integrated performance is pure cinema. Note the canny use of her eyes, her hands, every majestic silent movie gesture, the unusually intense inner concentration. In "Born Yesterday" director George Cukor shrewdly guided Judy Holliday in her first starring role, but the movie remains a crafty reproduction of Holliday's successful Broadway comedy. Writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, as much a woman's director as Cukor, gave Bette Davis in "All About Eve" the most sophisticated original screenplay ever written and directed her to give an astonishing performance. The hair-splitting difference between Davis and Swanson is that while Bette Davis PLAYS Margo Channing to the hilt, Gloria Swanson IS the extraordinarily eccentric, dangerous Norma Desmond. At the end of "Sunset Boulevard" after killing her lover the psychotic Norma proclaims: "The stars are ageless." So is Gloria Swanson's legendary performance and the bitingly brilliant movie that frames it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless classic still shocking.,
I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't seen this film but suffice to say the story is still fascinating and disturbing today, i can only wonder how if was percieved when it was released. You have to be a real black and white movie buff to spot all the cameos, I admit I don't know who a lot of the people are, but it doesn't take away from my enjoyment of the film. When you take a truely original script, brilliantly shot, which gives a beautiful picture of hollywood in the 40s/50s you end up with a film lovers dream.
Interestingly Sam Mendes thanked Billy Wilder when he received his Oscar for American Beauty. When you see this film it will be clear to see why, this film was clearly a major influence. It's definately in my top 5 films of all time.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How The Mighty Have Fallen.,
This review is from: Sunset Boulevard (1950) [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film was made at a time when the big Hollywood Star Machine was beginning to grind to a halt. The first big movie stars, the likes of Lillian Gish, Errol Flynn and Joan Crawford had either faded into obscurity, booze, charity events or all three. For some the shock was simply too much and Gloria Swanson's portrayal of fallen star Norma Desmond in complete denial and going slightly mad is a perfect mix of pure melodrama and heart-breaking realism. The aura of decay is made all the more palpable by the disintegrating dust-gathering mansion in which most of the film is set and beautifully shot by Billy Wilder. Norma's surreal life is brought back into focus by self-serving opportunist, Joe Gillis (William Holden), who uses the rich and deluded Norma to bankroll his own Hollywood dream. Great director Erich von Stroheim plays Norma's ever faithful servant and protector, and watch out for other big names who couldn't resist a cameo in this movie about movies. Playing themselves are faded luminaries such as Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Cecil B. DeMille and H.B. Warner. I will spoil nothing if I tell you that the movie begins with Holden lying face down in a swimming pool. This film is also an enthralling whodunnit with the victim telling the story in one big flashback. With a magic cast and script under Wilder's skillful directorship, this film is a fore-runner to the equally exquisite Old Hollywood Has-beens flick, "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?". It's a pure gem.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunset Boulevard DVD 1950,
Holy Molly!!! WHAT A CRACKER!! I've been a bit of a film nerdaziod forever but for some reason I hadn't got round to sitting in front of Billy Wilder's classic Sunset Boulevard Sunset Boulevard [DVD] . Last month I had the presents of mind to do just that............and by thunder it's a Cracker!! Voted by many directors, critics and general folk as 'one of the greatest films ever made' I should have guessed it would be good. A fantastic aspect of Sunset that knocked my socks off was the sheer geniuses of the casting. Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond, a faded silent screen actress out of work and living in her own fantasy owing to the arrival of the talkie pictures. In real life Gloria Swanson actually was a faded actress, out of work owing to the arrival of the talkie pictures. Halfway through the film you learn her butler is the director of her first films and wait for it............ he's Eric von Stroheim a director of Swanson's films!! Cecil B DeMille plays himself and even Buster Keaton, H. B Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson turn up for a game of bridge. Swanson's performance is outstanding!! Scary, vulnerable, innocent, murderous, a trifle sexy and a whole lot of creepy.. The satire of 50's Hollywood in Sunset feels perfectly realised and almost transcends the film itself, particularly in one of the best end scenes I've seen in my life! Norma Desmond literally reaching out of the picture staring straight at you and delivering the immortal 'close-up' line. Sunset Boulevard certainly stands up to it's title as 'one of the greatest films ever made'. If your are remotely interested in films and the early days of Hollywood, or even just want to see a brilliant film, this is a MUST. I cant recommend this film enough......go forth and treat yourselves!!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Norma Desmond never looked so good,
One of three exquisite classic releases from Paramount in a row (the other two are "Roman Holiday" and "To catch a thief"), "Sunset Blvd.", the DVD is a pleasure to look at from the moment you load the disc and the menu starts. Fully restored, there are no words to describe how astonishing it looks. It could have been made yesterday rather than fifty five years ago. Someone put a lot of love (and money) into the restoration, and for that I shall be forever grateful, and I'm sure I am not the only one.
The story of a faded movie star and a penniless screenwriter (Gloria Swanson and William Holden), the film is arguable the wittiest and the best film ever made about Hollywood. Giving the plot away is spoiling it to those who haven't seen it, and I still remember how exciting it was to enter the strange world of silent movie star Norma Desmond for the first time. If you have seen the film don't hesitate before buying it: apart from the superb transfer the DVD includes a trailer, a very good and informative audio commentary, a very nice making of, a music featurette and another on Edith Head's years at Paramount (which is shared with the other two films I mentioned before) and perhaps the best, some fragments and the script of the infamous morgue prologue which Billy Wilder cut after a preview.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Face down in Hollywood Babylon...,
I think that 'Sunset Boulevard' is easily a contender for one of the greatest films of all time- which is no mean feat coming from Billy Wilder, the director of such classics as Lost Weekend, Double Indemnity, Some Like it Hot & The Apartment. Here it gets a wonderful DVD treatment, with interesting support features, one of which includes the original opening sequence (Joe Gilles recounting his tale in the morgue, the next step on from Fred MacMurry in Double Indemnity).
Sunset Boulevard is one of the most perverse films ever made- it's barbed dialogue dripping with references to Hollywood (such as the one made to Gone With the Wind), a post-modern reference to Mrs Haversham in Great Expectations (Joe being a writer, you see)- which exist on the same level as the cameos from Keaton (as Joe's agent) & De Mille (as himself); Wilder even uses a Von Stroeheim silent starring Gloria Swanson in the scene where Norma & Joe sit & watch her youthful self on screen! Joe was originally meant to have been played by Montgomery Clift- who dropped out due to the fact he was in a similar relationship with an older woman, Libby Holman.
Sunset Boulevard is a masterful work of art, one that fits into a bleak worldview of Hollywood- think of Nathaneal West's novella 'The Day of the Locust' (the central artist is not unlike Joe), or bitter & bleak films with messy characters as seen in Ace in the Hole, The Bad & The Beautiful & In a Lonely Place. I have to disagree with the other review which states SB was 'made at a time when the big Hollywood Star Machine was beginning to grind to a halt'- there were plenty of stars still being created (Marilyn Monroe, Monty Clift ,James Dean, Marlon Brando- anyone???) & stars such as Bogart, Gable & Mitchum still existed- while the 'big Hollywood Star Machine' (?) would emit stars such as Steve McQueen & Clint Eastwood. Perhaps that comment alludes to the fact that many stars of the silent era became anachronisms & leftovers from a decadent era with the introduction of sound & a redefinition of the studio system (see an upbeat version of this in 'Singin in the Rain').
Sunset Boulevard explores the dark side of Hollywood, reminding you of Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon & its influence cane be found in recent films: the central conceit of a voiceover from a corpse would be borrowed for 'American Beauty', while the character names of 'Gordon Cole' & 'Betty' (Nancy Olson) would find themselves quoted in works by David Lynch: the former the name of Lynch's character in Twin Peaks; the latter the initial name of Naomi Watts in 'Mulholland Drive'- another treatise on the dark side of Hollywood...
Everything about this film is perfect- the dialogue ("You're a fifty year old woman- when are you going to grow up?"), Franz Waxman's music (as great as Bernard Herrmann's), John Seitz's cinematography (a decaying form of Film Noir- from the late era, see Paul Schrader's essay on Film Noir), the structure, the use of voiceover, the scene where Joe and Betty walk along to a backdrop of fake sets, the use of voiceover etc. Sunset Boulevard is an absolutely perfect film, in the same way that I find films such as The Seventh Seal, Cabaret, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Orphee, The Conformist & Mulholland Drive absolutely perfect.
The acting is of particular note- I had only been familiar with Holden in The Wild Bunch (well that & his sorry demise- it would be days before anyone discovered his body...)& I was bowled over by his charisma & good looks. Gloria Swanson delivers a brilliant performance as Norma Desmond- it's amazing she delivered a performance at all, as the material seems very close to the bone (& when looking at Desmond/Swanson you can see the youthful beauty in the fade of middle age- see the 'impressions' scene: what strikes you about Norma is how old she looks...). Erich Von Stroeheim is equally excellent as Max- who is complicit in Desmond's delusion (having once been her director, her mentor & her husband). I also love Nancy Olson as 'Betty Schaeffer' here- a picture of 50s all American A-line skirt wearing naivety- incapable of saving Joe from his destination facedown in the swimming pool (reminding me a little of Cybill Shepherd's character, Betsy, in Taxi Driver)...
Sunset Boulevard is one of the all time greats, a perfect film on just about every level & one that has become a beacon to the loose genre of films about films: The Player, The State of Things, The King of Comedy (I know that was about TV), Mulholland Drive, Two Weeks in Another Town, Body Double, Stardust Memories, 8 1/2 , Sex Lies & Videotape, La Ricotta etc...
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Sunset Boulevard [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] by Billy Wilder (Blu-ray - 2013)