Rated No. 12 on AFI’s Top 100 Films list, Sunset Boulevard is a classic in every sense of the word. The characters are so lifelike thanks to career-defining performances by Swanson and Holden. Director Billy Wilder is considered one of the greatest from Hollywood’s golden age; his résumé also includes Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, and Stalag 17.
The film sports a very distinctive look created by Wilder and cinematographer John F. Seitz. Thankfully, the restoration team at Paramount secured a vintage print made at the time of release from the Library of Congress to view and study the tones of the picture and reproduce the director’s original vision on Blu-ray. The black-and-white photography is simply mesmerizing in its detail, black levels, and shadow delineation.
The Dolby TrueHD Mono soundtrack is a passable effort that high- lights intelligible dialogue. Dynamic range is severely limited, and any atmospheric effects are hollow and won’t draw you into the picture like a modern soundtrack does, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a story with this much meat in today’s Hollywood.
The extensive supplement package includes an audio commentary from Ed Sikov, author of On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder, which is very informative about the history of the production. There’s also a gaggle of featurettes that dig deeper into the film’s roots and explore the careers of the cast and crew, deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.
Before I die, I want to see every film on AFI’s Top 100 list—I have about 15 to go—but I can’t believe I’ve skipped this gem for so many years. It’s easy to see why this is considered one of the greatest films ever made. Today’s audiences may find the pacing a little slow, but the compelling characters make this a must-watch.
Studio: Paramount, 1950
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD Mono
Length: 110 mins.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim