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directed by Billy Wilder
U.S.A. 1950

 

One of Wilder's finest, and certainly the blackest of all Hollywood's scab-scratching accounts of itself, this establishes its relentless acidity in the opening scene by having the story related by a corpse floating face-down in a Hollywood swimming-pool. What follows in flashback is a tale of humiliation, exploitation, and dashed dreams, as a feckless, bankrupt screenwriter (Holden) pulls into a crumbling mansion in search of refuge from his creditors, and becomes inextricably entangled in the possessive web woven by a faded star of the silents (Swanson), who is high on hopes of a comeback and heading for outright insanity. The performances are suitably sordid, the direction precise, the camerawork appropriately noir, and the memorably sour script sounds bitter-sweet echoes of the Golden Age of Tinseltown (with has-beens Keaton, HB Warner and Anna Q Nilsson appearing in a brief card-game scene). It's all deliriously dark and nightmarish, its only shortcoming being its cynical lack of faith in humanity: only von Stroheim, superb as Swanson's devotedly watchful butler Max, manages to make us feel the tragedy on view.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Posters

 

Theatrical Release Date: August 4, 1950

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Comparison:

Paramount -  Region 1 - NTSC vs. Paramount (2-disc Centennial Collection) -  Region 1,4 - NTSC vs. Paramount -  Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

Distribution Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC  Paramount - Centennial Collection - Region 1, 4 - NTSC Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:50:12   1:50:08   1:50:17.652  
Video

1.33:1.00 Original Aspect Ratio

Bit-rate: 6.10 bps
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1.00 Original Aspect Ratio

Bit-rate: 6.87 bps
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 41,022,151,042 bytes

Feature: 29,548,529,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), DUB: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), DUBs: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1141 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1141 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Embedded: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English, None English, French, Spanish, None English (SDH), English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, None
 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bit-rate: Original

 

Bit-rate: Centennial

 

Bit-rate: Blu-ray

 

Features Release Information:
Studio: Paramount Home Video

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary by Ed Sikov, author of
On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder
• Un-restored Theatrical trailer (3:15)
• Fully restored
• "The Making of Sunset Boulevard" (includes interviews with Nancy Olson, Ed Sikov, film critic Andrew Sarris, Paramount producer A.C. Lyles, and Glenn Close) (25:52)
• Photo galleries
• Hollywood location map
• Script of the original morgue prologue
• "The Music of Sunset Boulevard" featurette (14:24)
• "Edith Head: The Paramount Years" (documentary of the famed costume designer) (13:43)

DVD Release Date:  November 26, 2002
Keep Case
Chapters: 19

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount Home Video

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary by Ed Sikov, author of On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder
- Duplicated from 2002 Release

Disc 2

Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning (22:46 / New featurette)
The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard by Joseph Wambaugh (14:20 / New)
Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic (14:29 / New featurette)
Two Sides of Ms. Swanson (10:32 / New)
Stories of Sunset Boulevard (11:17 / New)
Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden (11:15 / New featurette)
Recording Sunset Boulevard (5:48 / New featurette)
The City of Sunset Boulevard (5:32 / New featurette)
Morgue Prologue Script Pages (Duplicated from 2002 Release)
Franz Waxman and The Music of Sunset Boulevard (14:25 - Duplicated from 2002 Release)
Behind the Gates: The Lot (5:03 / New featurette)
Hollywood Location Map - Duplicated from 2002 Release
Paramount in the '50s (9:32 - Duplicated from previous releases)
Edith Head - The Paramount Years Featurette (13:42  - duplicated on 2002 release)
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:12 / Duplicated from 2002 Release)
Galleries

8-page booklet with photos

 

DVD Release Date:  November 11th, 2008
Keep Case inside cardboard box
Chapters: 19

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount Home Video

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 41,022,151,042 bytes

Feature: 29,548,529,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Commentary by Ed Sikov, author of On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder
Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning (22:46)

Sunset Boulevard: A Look Back (25:52)
The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard by Joseph Wambaugh (14:20 / New)
Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic (14:29 / New featurette)
Two Sides of Ms. Swanson (10:32 / New)
Stories of Sunset Boulevard (11:17 / New)
Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden (11:15 / New featurette)
Recording Sunset Boulevard (5:48 / New featurette)
The City of Sunset Boulevard (5:32 / New featurette)
Franz Waxman and The Music of Sunset Boulevard (14:25 - Duplicated from 2002 Release)

Morgue Prologue Script Pages (Duplicated from 2002 Release)

Deleted Scene: The Paramount Don't Want Me Blues (1:27)
Behind the Gates: The Lot (5:03 / New featurette)
Hollywood Location Map - Duplicated from 2002 Release
Paramount in the '50s (9:32 - Duplicated from previous releases)
Edith Head - The Paramount Years Featurette (13:42  - duplicated on 2002 release)

Paramount in the 50's (9:33)
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:12 / Duplicated from 2002 Release)
Galleries

 

Blu-ray Release Date:  November 6th, 2012
Standard
Blu-ray case
Chapters: 19

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray (October 2012): One of the greats, Sunset Blvd. arrives on Blu-ray in a dual-layered transfer with a high bitrate. The film has always had issues digitally - and while this isn't immaculate, I do think it look as authentic as it possible with some appreciated texture and supportive contrast levels. It is a shade brighter with more layering than the 2008 Centennial edition. Much of the 1080P experience does not produce overwhelming visuals but they certainly advance over the SD transfers. There are plenty of individual scenes and shots that do, however, impress in the new format - accentuating John Seitz's deft cinematography. Thank fully, I see no manipulation and any softness is inherent in the original.

Audio is transferred via a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 channel at 1141 kbps. Franz Waxman's score benefits from the lossless rendering - as does the "La Cumparsita" Tango played at New Years and Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor, BWV 565". Never aggressive there is still hints of depth and there is some buoyancy. There are optional subtitles on the region FREE Blu-ray disc.

Supplements carry the stacked line-up from the 2-disc Centennial Edition including the impressive commentary and over an hour's worth of video extras plus there is some new stuff - Sunset Boulevard: A Look Back runs over 35-minutes, there is a short deleted scene: The Paramount Don't Want Me Blues sung at the party and a ten-minute video piece about Paramount's successes in the 50's.

Even a minor advancement would make this an essential purchase and this Blu-ray has more than enough for a full recommendation. Another of my favorite Wilder films.

 

***

ON THE DVDs: Paramount have decided to take another kick at the can with Sunset Boulevard in 'The Centennial Collection' (although technically the film's 59th birthday coming up) Their initial release caused quite an uproar with visible chroma bug and extremely poor contrast (green/yellowish infiltration.) I'm happy to say this new 2-disc edition is superior in every category.

NOTE: The new edition is also coded for region 4 now.

Now, as many more knowledgeable than I might inform us - there is not much they could do as there were inherent problems with the best available print of Sunset Boulevard. BUT - putting to digital on the first Paramount DVD, it was shared with an abundant amount of extras - hence the film-to-digital compression began to get worse and worse for each additional supplement. This has been improved in the new edition with only the existing commentary (and some previews) still present - and all the old, and a host of new, featurettes included in a 2nd disc. Bravo! It is remains as clean but the chroma spectrum was detracting from the purity of the contrast - and was easy to discern. There may still be a shade, but it is far lessened. Grain is still, expectantly, not visibly intact. 

So the image is better - marginal improvement to some, vast to others. But a simpler way to put it is - black and whites are far more pure in the new Centennial Collection. Detail looks about the same (hmmm.. maybe even a small notch lower - no matter) and nothing seems cropped away from the frame.

Audio - we have the same acceptable mono audio but a Spanish DUD has been included and likewise optional French and Spanish subtitles along with the previous versions English (see sample below).

The old extra features were very good but even they have been improved. The excellent commentary by Ed Sikov (author of "On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder") remains (as do 'Location Map', 'Making of', 'Edith Head' etc.) and there many new featurettes: Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning runs 22:46 and details pre-production information. The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard by Joseph Wambaugh has the ex-cop author giving his recollections for about 15 minutes. Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic is new and also runs about 15 minutes. Five more fill out the extensive dual-layered 2nd disc - Two Sides of Ms. Swanson (10:32), Stories of Sunset Boulevard (11:17), Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden (11:15), Recording Sunset Boulevard (5:48), The City of Sunset Boulevard (5:32) and Behind the Gates: The Lot (5:03.) Lastly there is an 8-page booklet with some beautiful photos and two pages of text.

The image is still imperfect but it's the best we have seen of this classic with a cornucopia of supplements. Whole-heartedly recommended! 

Gary W. Tooze


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

DVD Menus

(Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC RIGHT)

   

 

Disc 2 Centennial Collection

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

1) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Screen Captures

 

 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

 

 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

NOTE: Chroma colorization in Holden's face of the 2002 release

 


 

1) Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount (Centennial Collection) - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

More caps from the Blu-ray Edition

 

 

 
Box Cover

 

Distribution Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC  Paramount - Centennial Collection - Region 1, 4 - NTSC Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray

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