1950 was undoubtedly one of the greatest years in the history of movies, yielding masterpieces in every film genre: comedies such as " Father of the Bride," "Born Yesterday" and "Harvey," the film noirs "Night and the City," "Asphalt Jungle" and "In a Lonely Place," and tense dramas like "Caged," No Way Out" and "The Furies." It also delivered two of the finest screenplays ever written, "All About Eve" and "Sunset Boulevard," the latter being a film that synthesizes elements of all the above-mentioned genres, combined with a heaping dose of the macabre.
While "...Eve" portrays the netherworld of the New York stage, "Sunset Boulevard" takes a swipe at Hollywood, one so potent that Billy Wilder was criticized as having betrayed his own industry. Once you start either film, you’re in it to the bitter end. Although it opened to mixed reviews, "Sunset Boulevard" ultimately became a smash hit. Over the years, the film’s popularity escalated to virtual cult status. The story was adapted for a musical, with the role of reclusive silent film queen Norma Desmond being assumed by the great divas of Broadway. With the advent of home video, the movie was issued in every conceivable format and edition.
Paramount is now releasing "Sunset Boulevard" in a long overdue Blu-ray package; and it was worth the wait. The pellucid black-and-white print is pristine. The sharpness of contrast and clarity reveal the minutest detail of Desmond’s baroque mansion, and every word of that remarkable script comes through clearly in the dolby soundtrack. With respect to extras, few films have received more thorough documentation.
From the 2008 DVD Centennial Collection come several brief documentaries on the making of "Sunset...," including interviews with studio executives and co-star Nancy Olson. There are also features on William Holden, and Gloria Swanson, as well as costumer Edith Head. Fanatics will be pleased with a deleted scene, made available for the first time. When Joe escapes Norma’s clutches to spend New Year’s with his cronies, the group is first seen singing "Buttons and Bows." Originally, it was a caustic song called "Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues," in which specific moguls are mentioned by name. Considering the film’s sardonic mood, the song would have been overkill, and was wisely extracted.
Released just in time for the holiday season, the spectacular "Sunset Boulevard," Blu-ray, currently at a reduced price of under $20, is a sure-fire bet for any classic film lover.