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Sunset Boulevard (1950) [VHS]

4.8 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark
  • Directors: Billy Wilder
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, HiFi Sound
  • Language: English
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Paramount
  • VHS Release Date: 4 Feb. 2002
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005UO3S
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,840 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Billy Wilder directs this Oscar-winning classic exposé of the Hollywood studio system. Struggling Hollywood writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) is attempting to avoid his creditors when he pulls his car into the garage of an apparently deserted mansion. He soon discovers that it is in fact the home of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), an ageing actress who was once a star of silent films. Desperate for money, Gillis agrees to work on a screenplay adaptation of 'Salome' which Norma has written for her intended comeback. Gillis then gradually becomes trapped in Norma's bizarre fantasy world, and when he tries to leave her, she makes an attempt at suicide. The film also features silent screen legends Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton and Erich von Stroheim in supporting roles.


More than half a century after its release in 1950, Sunset Boulevard is still the most pungently unflattering portrait of Hollywood ever committed to celluloid. Billy Wilder, unequalled at combining a literate, sulphurous script with taut direction, hits his target relentlessly. The humour--and the film is rich in this, Wilder's most abundant commodity--is black indeed. Sunset Boulevard is viciously and endlessly clever. William Holden's opportunistic scriptwriter Joe Gillis, whose sellout proves fatal, is from the top drawer of film noir. Gloria Swanson's monstrously deluded Norma Desmond, the benchmark for washed-up divas, transcends parody. And her literal descent down the staircase to madness is one of the all-time great silver-screen moments.

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 --This text refers to the DVD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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?
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: 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 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
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Format: DVD
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........
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Format: DVD
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.Read more ›
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