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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Sunset Blvd. (2-Disc Special Edition)”

(Paramount. 1950/2008. B&W. Directed by Billy Wilder.) Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond), William Holden (Joe Gillis), Erich von Stroheim (Max von Mayerling), Nancy Olson (Betty Schaefer), Fred Clark (Sheldrake), Jack Webb (Artie Green), Cecil B. DeMille (himself), Hedda Hopper (herself). Music by Franz Waxman.

Think we live in cynical times? Go back 58 years to Billy Wilder’s brittle tale of one Norma Desmond, a has-been silent screen actress living in a crumbling Hollywood palazzo with her manservant and a dead monkey. A hack screenwriter (Holden) stumbles on the house and its odd inhabitants by accident, and seeing a potential payday, agrees to work on the actress’ screenplay. Eventually she starts to work on him. Even by today’s standards, it’s still a pretty twisted story of love, madness and murder in Hollywood. Famous movie director DeMille and infamous gossip columnist Hopper play themselves. Look for a bridge game populated by real-life former silent-screen stars (as Swanson was). Isn’t that Buster Keaton? And check out Jack Webb, pre-Dragnet, as a gee-whiz assistant director. Movie earned 11 Oscar nominations, and won 3 (Waxman’s score was one of the winners). In any other year, Sunset Blvd. would have been Best Picture, but it was up against another equally-great tale about show business, All About Eve. Lavish 2-disc set includes an 8-page collectible booklet, and tons of extras including featurettes, photo gallery, trailer, even the original prologue (which takes place in a morgue). Release is part of the first wave from the “Paramount Centennial Collection” which includes the equally-worthy Sabrina and Roman Holiday. Get ready for your close-up.