on 6 March 2016
Something pretty near the very best of Billy Wilder is to be found on this box-set, but also, alas, perhaps his very worst is there, too. No-one really needs an introduction to "Some Like It Hot", which remains marvellous entertainment, but far too many people will not have seen the lovely and very funny "Avanti!", a box-office flop in the early 70s despite being gorgeous-looking, achingly romantic and yet also, somehow, razor-sharp at the same time. (This was a high-wire walk few directors could ever manage as well as Wilder could). Jack Lemmon is terrific in both films, and if Marilyn Monroe's performance in the first offers a little glimpse of heaven, the second will have you contacting your travel agent the minute you finish watching it. The other three films are, in various ways, problematical, but "One, Two, Three" - a comedy made in divided Berlin at a time when World War III seemed a rather strong likelihood (the Wall went up during shooting) - is, in its raucous, shameless, incredibly vulgar way, marvellous fun; at least, let's say that, if you don't actively hate it, you might very well love it. James Cagney is, in his sixties, all energy, just as he was at thirty - he holds the screen at every moment, a marvellous demonstration of star power. "Kiss Me, Stupid", from 1964, was laconically described by Wilder years later as "the start of my downfall", and it was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency, as well as by the director's old chum Barbara Stanwyck. Let no-one be under any misapprehension - this brazen, acrid, savage comedy will leave a very sour taste in your mouth (even if it makes you laugh), it's as relentless and unforgiving a satire on the American Dream as Hollywood has ever given us, and Nathanael West might have appreciated it. But it has a lot of truth in it, and you'll be both moved by Kim Novak's performance as Polly the Pistol and, in all probability, astounded by the cold nerve of Dean Martin's performance as a monstrous, awful creature who might be not wholly unlike... himself? There remains "Irma La Douce", a version of the famous musical which leaves out all but one of the songs (and we got only a brief snatch of that) and still runs 140 minutes. This film, made almost wholly in L.A., boasts marvellous sets (designed by Alexandre Trauner) recreating Paris most atmospherically and has some likeable actors, and it was the director's biggest-ever box-office hit. But it's almost entirely dreadful - cheaply cynical where it should be acerbic, grossly vulgar where it should be bawdy and, worst of all, simply not funny.
Each film has languages, as follow:
Avanti: Soundtracks in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish. Sub-titles in English, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Greek, English for the Hearing Impaired.
Irma La Duce: Soundtracks in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish. Sub-titles in French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, English and German for the Hearing Impaired.
Kiss Me, Stupid: Soundtracks in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish. Sub-titles in English, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Greek, English for the Hearing Impaired.
One, Two, Three: Soundtracks in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish. Sub-titles in English, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Greek, English for the Hearing Impaired.
Some Like it Hot: Soundtrack in English only. Sub-titles in Czech, Danish, English, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, English for the Hearing Impaired.
This Billy Wilder Collection boxed set vol 1 is accompanied by vol 2, which I've owned and enjoyed for a while now.
Neither set is made up of wall-to-wall Wilder classics, indeed, to many, only the seminal and evergreen classic Some Like It Hot will be instantly recognisable in this volume 1. Both sets feature 5 films in 5 separate slimline cases, rather than the often gate-folded stacked variety.
For the occasional Billy Wilder viewer and who prefers the classics, I'd say get those separately, for around £3 or £4 each or wait until they're on TV, which they often are. Film 4 often has one going.
For Wilder fans, then the films here will be a must. Unlike some, I think that his Avanti is a fine comedy but that Kiss Me, Stupid is the one that stinks, there again I'm no fan of Dean Martin, as an actor. That is far more sexist (take the actual title, for a start!) than Avanti or the other 'sex comedy', Irma La Douce, which, unlike Kiss Me... are not soured by a bad taste - both Avanti and Irma, which are later Wilder's, as he no longer has to prove himself, are full of Mediterranean sun and sexual frolics. Indeed, Irma is rated as '15' as there is a fair amount of nudity - all tastefully done, of course! Both these are in glorious, summery colour, too!
One, Two, Three is the oddball, here. And what a fine oddity it is, but only in that it's set in just post WW2 Berlin and the advent of Communism - and Coca Cola. James Cagney talks nineteen to the dozen and rattles off sharp fast talk like a machine gun. It's scathingly funny but often moves so quickly that it doesn't sink in straight away. This is Wilder at his best and arguably, after Some Like It Hot, the best one here.
Avanti: 1972, colour, 140m (a bit long) stars Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills (daughter of John Mills). My rating 4.5/5
One, Two, Three: 1961, b&w, 108m, stars James Cagney, Horst Bucholz. 5/5
Kiss Me, Stupid: 1964, b&w, 125m (too long) stars Dean Martin, Kim Novak. 2/5
Irma La Douce: 1963, colour, 147m (slightly long but v enjoyable & funny) stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine 4.5/5
Some Like It Hot: 1959, b&w, 120m (never too long!) stars Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis. 5/5 One of the finest and most enduring comedies, ever.
So, for around £3 a film, well worth it, if you're likely to watch them all. The set itself is fairly well presented and put together. My overall rating is for the package as a whole rather than individual films and the value for money aspect.
on 16 September 2014
If you are a lover of classic movies then this is for you, perfect for a quiet night in, takes you to a bygone era in film making, innocent well made fun, they don't make em like this anymore, mores the pity.
on 12 November 2014
To the quick. Everyone knows the films. 4 STARS without a doubt. But...
Interactive menus and trailers do not a Special Features make. And while in decent condition, the original source materials more or less have not been cleaned up. They are, however, despite some speckling and an occasional "wazz that just flashed by", good looking.
Moreover, since MGM went down long ago, Volumes 1 and 2 may be all we'll get of these Wilder classics.
on 25 December 2012
Billy Wilder was one of the best comedy writers and directors, and this box collects a few of his best: Some like it hot (arguably one of the best comedies ever made) and Irma la Douce. Both are classics, and certainly justify buying of this box. The other movies may not belong to his ultimate best, they are certainly interesting and, as always, entertaining and very well crafted. Only Avanti, made in a time when Billy Wilderesque style of cinema had become out of date, may be found a bit diappointing, with Jack Lemmon overacting, and the script filled with the usual cliche's of Italian behavior and a tiny bit predictable. One regrets the omission of Fedora, a great film of his late period in this box. Nevertheless, Billy Wilder remains the norm for writing (and directing) good comedy, sharp dialogue and intelligent human wisdom.
on 14 February 2013
I purchased this collection because I wanted a DVD of "Avanti" (which has long been one of my favourite films) but at the price asked it seemed silly not to purchase this collection and get another four of Billy Wilder's films as well.
"Some Like it Hot" is, of course, well known as one of the all-time classic film comedies, but I was not familiar with any of the other films in the collection. I found "Irma La Douce" highly enjoyable and "Kiss Me Stupid" was also well worth watching, but "One, Two, Three" has not aged well with its creaky cold-war stereotypes and an even dafter than usual plot.
Apart from "Some Like it Hot" there is little in the way of extras. The DVDs of "Avanti" and "Irma La Douce" include the original theatrical trailers but that is all, the other two films don't even have that.
Still for the price asked this collection is excellent value for money.
on 23 July 2012
The Billy Wilder collection is a fantastic collection of films, including Jack Lemmon , Marilyn Monroe, and some fantastic films. Hugely worth the money...
on 25 February 2015
Great to see again, nice quality, speedy service with thanks.
on 4 June 2016
Excellent collection of Billy Wilder film's.