Sunset Boulevard (1950) [VHS]
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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Top Customer Reviews
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?Read more ›
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.
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........
Most Recent Customer Reviews
All film enthusiasts should have this already in their collections. I'm thrilled to have this version with the added extras - some details of which I was already aware of, for... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Eric H.
Some movies need to be watched every week, whilst others have to be savoured much less frequently
Sunset Boulevard falls into the category of the latter. Read more
Brilliant on stage play. DVD shows more of the background to the plot. Loved it .Thank you.Published 28 days ago by RONICA DAWES
If you like old movies, with murder romance and a car chase
this one is for you.
A really great film. A classic which you can enjoy over & over.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
An absolute stonewall classic.
Who can forget the opening scene where the camera pans up to the body floating in the pool.A unique shot then AND now. Read more