Posts Tagged ‘Billy Wilder’

Blu-ry Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: December 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:05:00

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

English Mono Linear PCM Audio

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.79 Mbps

Title

“The genesis of The Apartment I remember very, very vividly. I saw David Lean’s Brief Encounter, which was based on a one-act play by Noel Coward—and in the play Trevor Howard was the leading man. A married man has an affair with a married woman, and he uses the apartment of a chum of his for sexual purposes. I always had it in the back of my mind that the friend of Trevor Howard’s, who only appears in one or two tiny scenes, who comes back home and climbs into the warm bed the lovers have just left, would make a very interesting character. I made some notes, and years later, after we had finished Some Like It Hot, we wanted to make another picture with Jack Lemmon. I dug out this notion, and we just sat down and started to talk about the character, started the structure, started the three acts, started the other characters, started to elaborate on the theme, and when we had enough we just suggested it to Mr. Lemmon and to Walter Mirisch and United Artists… In those days it was a very, very risqué project. Today, of course, it would be considered a Disney picture.” –Billy Wilder

In 1960, following the success of their collaboration on Some Like it Hot, director Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina) reteamed with actor Jack Lemmon (The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple, Grumpy Old Men) for what many consider the pinnacle of their respective careers: The Apartment. Winner of five Academy Awards—including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Art Direction (Black and White), and Best EditingThe Apartment features a wealth of Hollywood’s finest talent on both sides of the camera working at the top of their game. By turns cynical, heart-warming and hilarious, the story follows C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) who works as a lowly drone in an insurance firm who allows the company bosses to walk on him and use his apartment for their extramarital affairs in hopes that it might help him rise through the ranks of the company. When Bud enters into a similar arrangement with the firm’s head-honcho, J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity), his career prospects begin to look up. Unfortunately, he discovers that one of Sheldrake’s mistresses is none other than Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine, Irma la Douce), who happens to be the girl of his dreams. The story soon ventures into dark territory as Bud must choose between his career and the woman he loves… and between being a “mensch” and a jerk. Both Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine give performances that were more than worthy of their respective Oscar nominations (the film earned ten nominations), and Wilder perfectly balances the film’s dark themes with human comedy for a completely satisfying cinematic journey.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy really knocked this release out of the park in just about every way and their glorious packaging is certainly no exception. It’s always great to see that it has been shown the proper respect by the good folks at Arrow, and Billy Wilder’s many admirers will want to act fast so that they might reap the benefits. Two items are house in a very sturdy box with excellent artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick that manages to best the film’s original one-sheet artwork. It represents the film perfectly!

One Sheet

The Original One Sheet Artwork

The first item in the box is Arrow’s standard clear case with reversible artwork which gives one the choice of showcasing the same newly commissioned artwork utilized on the box and the film’s original one-sheet artwork. This reviewer chose to feature the one-sheet art on the case since the box already features Fitzpatrick’s superior artwork. Either way, it’s great having the choice. The second item in the box is a 150 page book that features three essays, including Sweet and Sour: The Greatness of Billy Wilder’s ‘The Apartment’ by Neil Sinyard, Broken Mirrors: Illusion and Disillusion in Billy Wilder’s ‘Diamond’ Comedies by Kat Ellinger, Shut Up and Deal: The Changing Candor of 1960s Hollywood Cinema… Morality-wise, by Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche. All three of these essays are interesting and offer both analytical musings and concrete information about The Apartment and some of the other films in Billy Wilder’s distinguished filmography. The production stills and artwork included throughout the pages only sweeten the already worthwhile reading experience.

Limited Edition

The disc’s animated menu features footage and music from the film and is easy to navigate.

Menu

Everything about this release is remarkable and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 1080p transfer of their 4K restoration of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is a thrill to behold. The aforementioned hardbound book includes a brief but detailed paragraph about the work that went into the release:

“…The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director Scanner at EFilm, Burbank. Upon inspection it was discovered that several sections in the original negative had been removed and replaced with a duplicate negative element, resulting in a noticeable shift in quality. These substitutions were not limited to the optical sections, which would have been standard lab practice at the time. Although lab documentation could not be found, these substitutions were likely performed before the film’s original release, as all subsequent intermediary film element also exhibit these changes. The trims from the original negative could not be found as these were likely discarded long ago, but a separate 35mm fine grain positive was sourced and compared against the duplicate negative element for these sections. In each of these instances, the best source element was selected to ensure the highest quality presentation possible.

The film was graded on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, [and] scratches were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Instances of picture instability, warped sections, and damaged frames were also improved.” –Limited Edition Hardbound Book

Despite the obstacles created by the production’s original source elements, Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography hasn’t looked this good on home video—and we include the excellent 2012 Fox/MGM Blu-ray in this statement. It is a pristine transfer of a beautifully shot film that has benefited from the 4K scan as well as the hours of restoration work. Detail is impressive with beautifully deep blacks and a greyscale that runs the gamut. Gradations are smooth and naturally rendered with natural looking contrast. The source itself sometimes lends itself to a softer overall look to certain scenes, but one cannot expect improvement on the original photography (which is always attractive in any case). Clarity is also brilliant for a 60 year old film, and purists will be happy to see that grain reproduction looks natural and organic. There may be a few fleeting imperfections that couldn’t be resolved here (such as the occasional minor scratch), but these are never distracting. The work that has gone into this demo quality transfer will be evident to everyone lucky enough to behold it.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Linear PCM mono option will impress purists as it is the option most faithful to the film’s original sound design. However, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a more than adequate alternative for those seeking a slightly more dynamic option. Either choice should please the listener. Elements are all well prioritized with frontal dialogue on both options. The 5.1 offers some separation as the surrounds kick in (especially when the score takes over). Atmospherics also give the track a bit of depth. Personally, this reviewer prefers the more faithful mono option—but one shouldn’t fault Arrow for giving fans a choice.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Bruce Bloch

Bruce Bloch’s commentary was featured on MGM’s original Blu-ray release and has been carried over to this much better disc. Film historians often give rather dry but informative tracks and their theoretical analysis isn’t always very astute. While Bloch’s commentary cannot rival the sort of personal commentary that Wilder, Lemmon, or MacLaine might have offered, it is well worth listening to if you admire the film or Billy Wilder’s work. Having said this, there are times throughout the track when he describes the onscreen action rather than offering an analysis of that action or relaying pertinent information about the production or the action onscreen.

Select Scene Commentary by Philip Kemp – (08:37)

Kemp’s track offers commentary from two different scenes from the film. The first sequence finds a woman name Marge MacDougall (Hope Holiday) picking up Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) in a bar. The sequence also features the scene in which Ms. Kubelik is offered $100 in lieu of a Christmas gift. The second scene focuses on Baxter as he waits for his date outside the theatre (which houses the stage production of The Music Man). While Kemp’s comments aren’t particularly probing, the commentary offers just enough to be worthwhile. It simply isn’t brimming with actual information or heavy analysis.

The Key to The Apartment – (10:12)

This short featurette is a kind of companion piece to Philip Kemp’s select scene commentary track offers a few interesting words about the film—including a few quotes from archival reviews of the film. He has an unfortunate tendency to read from cards but they do seem to keep his comments on track.

The Flawed Couple – (20:24)

Better is this “video essay” by David Cairns that examines Jack Lemmon’s special place in Billy Wilder’s filmography. The actor made no fewer than seven films together and Wilder was responsible for the first onscreen pairing of Lemmon and Walter Matthau who would go on to become a popular comedic acting duo throughout the rest of their careers. In fact, three of the seven Wilder/Lemmon films were also Lemmon/Matthau movies. In any case, the essay features voiceover audio from Cairns coupled with clips from The Apartment and stills and artwork from some of their other collaborations.

Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon – (12:47)

It is nice to see that Arrow has carried this short appreciation of Jack Lemmon’s unique screen presence over from Fox/MGM’s earlier Blu-ray of The Apartment. It is worth watching as it might give the viewer added appreciation for Jack Lemmon’s unique talents and some very general biographical information. The actor’s son is the primary contributor here and this gives the piece a personal flavor that makes up for a decided lack in actual depth.

A Letter to Castro – (13:23)

Arrow’s new interview with Hope Holiday finds the 87 year old actress looking back on her experiences being cast in and working on The Apartment. She seems to have a special fondness for both Wilder’s direction and Lemmon’s unique acting talents. It is a nice addition to the disc as it expands on the interviews in Inside ‘The Apartment.

Inside The Apartment – (29:36)

Fans should be thrilled to discover that Arrow has carried this wonderful half hour documentary from the earlier Fox/MGM Bu-ray of The Apartment. This disc would’ve been naked without it as it contains a good deal of pertinent information that isn’t included in the disc’s other material—and the information that can be found elsewhere (like Bruce Bloch’s commentary track) is easier to digest here. This is one of the disc’s better supplements.

An Informal Conversation with Billy Wilder – (23:17)

This 1995 interview with Billy Wilder is introduced with a voiceover introduction by an extremely brief introduction by Jack Lemmon. The lo-fi video interview is a part of a series of interviews made for the Writers Guild Foundations’ Oral Histories Series, and it might very well be the crown jewel of the disc’s supplemental package. The program concentrates on Wilder’s writing process (especially his collaboration with IAL Diamond) with a good portion of the conversation focusing in on The Apartment. Any interview with Wilder is worthwhile and this one is no exception! He’s a very straightforward and unpretentious gentleman.

Restoration Show Reel – (02:20)

This is a document of the work that went into the excellent 4K restoration from the film’s 35mm camera negative. The usual before and after comparisons are featured here.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:19)

The film’s theatrical trailer is a nice way to round out the disc’s video supplements—and a happy addition to the package.

Original Screenplay

Those who have a BD-ROM drive on their computers will be able to take advantage of the included original screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. Future filmmakers could find a lot of worse ways to learn the craft of screenwriting than reading this excellent script.

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Final Words:

Why haven’t any of Billy Wilder’s other classic film’s received a Blu-ray release as good as this one? The only other release that approaches this one is Criterion’s edition of Ace in the Hole—and if this release is any indication, Criterion may need to watch their backs. Arrow Academy is formidable competition. The film has never looked or sounded this fabulous on home video and the packaging is absolutely gorgeous. It’s the perfect release, Blu-ray wise.

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This is an edition that has been limited to 3,000 units, so those interested in adding this brilliant release to their collections will want to act quickly!

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Blu-ray Cover

Limited Edition to 3000

Distributor: Twilight Time

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 126 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This release has received numerous DVD releases, but this is the film’s North American Blu-ray debut.

Title

A lot of veteran directors ran into a creative wall in the 1960s. Both the industry and the audience’s sensibilities were changing rapidly, and the greatest auteurs of the previous decades struggled to keep up with these unusual times. Alfred Hitchcock peaked with 1960’s Psycho (despite a strong return to form in 1972 with Frenzy). Like Hitchcock, one of Billy Wilder’s career peaks occurred in 1960 with the release of The Apartment only to fall into a creative slump in the following decades.

Luckily, fate granted Wilder with a temporary reprieve from creative purgatory when he began his seventh script collaboration with I.A.L. Diamond on The Fortune Cookie (1966). Wilder originally wanted to cast Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason but created cinematic history by casting Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon instead. This was the first time these actors were paired together in a film, but the duo would go on to make nine additional movies with one another (although Kotch wasn’t an acting partnership). As a matter of fact, two of these pairings (The Front Page and Buddy, Buddy) were also directed by Billy Wilder.

The tale focuses on the travails of a TV cameraman (Jack Lemmon) who is injured while shooting a professional football game and then inveigled into an insurance scam by his brother-in-law—the infamous Whiplash Willie (Walter Matthau). The resulting film was a financial success and earned Walter Matthau a well-earned Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for his indelible comic performance in the film.

Even so, it is clear in retrospect that The Fortune Cookie doesn’t rank amongst the director’s best efforts. The film is too leisurely paced and the mixture of drama and comedy is decidedly uneven. One sometimes wishes that some of the film’s broadly drawn comic moments were more subdued or that they could have been played straight. After all, a lot can be said for understatement and for simple gestures. Having said this, Wilder’s mid-sixties comeback is essential viewing for Wilder fans and anyone who enjoys the on-screen chemistry between the film’s two principal actors.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in clear Blu-ray case featuring film-related artwork. The six-page booklet featuring movie stills, poster art, and an enthusiastic short essay by Julie Kirgo sweetens the overall presentation a good deal.

Booklet

Twilight Time’s Collector’s Booklet

The menu utilizes the same film-related artwork and is attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Twilight Time’s 1080p AVC transfer is surprisingly solid. The image is incredibly rich in detail and with accurate contrast that showcase rich black levels without seeming to crush important detail. It is a vast improvement over the previous DVD edition of the film. Black and white films can look truly terrific in high definition, and this release is no exception.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The English mono DTS-HD master audio track sounds clean without any distracting anomalies to mar the viewer’s enjoyment. Dialogue registers clearly and is well prioritized while the lossless nature of the track gives André Previn’s score adequate room to breathe. Ambience and effects are also well mixed and seem to reflect the original film’s release.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

Original Theatrical Trailer

As a lover of vintage trailers, the inclusion of this original theatrical trailer for the film is a happy bonus and a much-appreciated addition to the disc.

Isolated Music Track

André Previn’s score is allowed to shine without the film’s other sound elements in this isolated music track. Cinephiles with an interest in film scores will find this feature interesting.

One Sheet

The Official One Sheet

Final Words:

Whether you are a Billy Wilder devotee, enjoy the comic pairings of Matthau and Lemmon, or simply adore classic Hollywood cinema, this Blu-ray release from Twilight Time earns our endorsement—and interested parties will want to purchase their copy as soon as possible.  This is a limited edition release available exclusively at www.twilighttimemovies.com and www.screenarchives.com. There really isn’t any way to know how long it will be available.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Release Date: February 07, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 02:09:56

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions.

title

“He could do more with a closed door than other directors could do with an open fly.” –Billy Wilder (about Ernst Lubitsch)

Billy Wilder’s fondness for the “Lubitsch touch” is very much on display throughout the length of Love in the Afternoon, which is the second film that finds Audrey Hepburn under the accomplished direction of Billy Wilder. The director had just begun his legendary writing partnership with I. A. L. Diamond, who would go on to collaborate on eleven future Wilder films. The result is always enjoyable but cannot be considered one of the director’s best works. The reason for this probably lies in the unfortunate casting of Gary Cooper as the film’s masculine lead.

As American playboy, Frank Flannagan, Cooper finds himself decidedly out of his element—especially when paired with a young Audrey Hepburn. Cooper was only 56 at the time, but he looks quite a bit older than this in the film. It is difficult to believe that the Cooper that we are watching onscreen is the ladies’ man that Maurice Chevalier (as Claude Chavasse) discusses during the film’s opening scenes. Wilder’s original choice was Cary Grant, and one feels that he would have been more believable in the role—even if Grant (at age 53) was only a few years younger than Cooper at the time.

Fortunately, the solid script, Wilder’s expert direction, and admirable performances by Hepburn and Chevalier are enough to make one’s viewing experience a pleasurable one.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with a sleeve containing Saul Bass’s original one-sheet artwork, which is enough to make this release look like a rather special one. One wishes that more Blu-rays would be released with their original poser art.

menu

The menu utilizes this same artwork and are easy to navigate. However, the unusual absence of a chapter menu might annoy some viewers.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

William C. Mellor’s gorgeous black and white cinematography is treated with love and respect in Warner Archive’s wonderful 2K transfer scanned from the original camera negative. Their efforts to clean up the imperfections in the scan was handled with care as the image showcases a very natural grain pattern. The transfer’s high bitrate allows for above average depth and clarity for a film of this age, even if the image is a shade softer than one might expect. It should be made clear that the picture’s softness is a direct result of Mellor’s romantic cinematography and does not reflect any weakness in the transfer. Blacks are deep without giving way to noticeable crush and the various shades of grey are equally well rendered.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The film’s original mono audio track has been carried over to the digital realm and cleaned of any glaring imperfections that might have distracted viewers. The result is a lossless track that accurately replicates what audiences would have heard in 1957. Anyone expecting anything more than this is both unreasonable and slightly ridiculous.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

Theatrical Trailer – (03:00)

Maurice Chevalier narrates this cute and entertaining marketing artifact and it is nice to see it included on the disc.

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Final Words:

Billy Wilder’s flawed homage to Ernst Lubitsch is a pleasure to watch—even if it isn’t in the same class as his best work.

Review by: Devon Powell