Sunset Boulevard (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 1 Old 10-26-2012, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

Studio and Year: Paramount - 1950
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 110 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD Mono, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Starring: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Jack Webb, Fred Clarke
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Music by: Franz Waxman
Written by: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr.
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 6, 2012

"I AM big, it’s the pictures that got small"

Film Synopsis:

Gloria Swanson, as Norma Desmond, an aging silent-film queen, and William Holden, as the struggling young screenwriter who is held in thrall by her madness, created two of the screen's most memorable characters in "Sunset Boulevard." Winner of three Academy Awards®, director Billy Wilder's powerful orchestration of the bizarre tale is a true cinematic classic. From the unforgettable opening sequence -- a body found floating in a decayed mansion's swimming pool -- through the inevitable unfolding of tragic destiny, "Sunset Boulevard" is the definitive statement on the dark and desperate side of Hollywood. Erich von Stroheim as Desmond's discoverer, ex-husband and butler, and Nancy Olson as the bright spot amidst unrelenting ominousness, are equally celebrated for their masterful performances.

My Take:

Sunset Boulevard features Gloria Swanson in a career-defining performance as faded silent screen star Norma Desmond and William Holden is Joe Gillis, a young, down-on-his-luck screenwriter whom Norma drafts to help provide her with a workable script for her planned "return" to the modern-day screen. Erich von Stroheim is Max von Mayerling, Norma's devoted servant, who harbors a few personal revelations of his own. Hollywood has never taken a more ominous, compelling or electrifying look at Hollywood than in this brilliant, Oscar-winning tour de force that still mesmerizes with its witty, sardonic script, unforgettable cast, and provocative storyline. Director Billy Wilder's paints a dark portrait of desperation, obsession and tragedy in this noir and masterful film classic.

Wow. This is my first time seeing Sunset Boulevard. Obviously I have heard of it and have seen it referenced in other films, TV shows etc. but had never gotten around to sitting down and watching it. I absolutely loved it. The opening sequence which begins with the end of the film and then goes back six months with Joe’s running narration sets the tone for an incredible journey. This is a superbly constructed film with one of the best character driven narratives ever. The characters of Norma, Joe and Max are wonderfully drawn within the context of the storyline as the authentic Hollywood references littered throughout serve to make its subject matter all the more evocative. I can’t praise the performances of Swanson and Holden enough. Their marvelous chemistry sells the bizarre nature of the co-dependency between Joe and Norma which makes the unfolding and inevitable events all the more involving. The finale and memorable closing moment is the icing on the cake.

I found Sunset Boulevard to be poignant and immensely compelling. Not to be missed this is a classic piece of American filmmaking that deserves a place on the shelf of every enthusiast. It has been meticulously restored and the results are excellent. Those that have been waiting for this cinematic gem to come to Blu-ray have been rewarded with this top notch offering from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Parental Guide:

The film contains thematic material that would probably garner a PG rating.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 76

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Video: 90

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

Sunset Boulevard comes to Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 Mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD1.0 sound that has an average bitrate of 1.1 Mbps.

Sunset Boulevard has undergone a restorative process and the results are very impressive considering the elements used. Here are the details found in the press release from Paramount:

The main objective of the restoration effort was to remain faithful to the distinctive look created by the director and cinematographer. Stark shadows and darkness occasionally cut by the bright light of a film projector are themselves essential in telling the disturbing story of madness and obsession. The restoration team secured a vintage print made at the time of release from the Library of Congress to view and study the tones and extensively researched documentation from the production to accurately present the director’s original vision. Although none of the original nitrate materials survive, the restoration team conducted a worldwide search for the earliest generation elements, ultimately using an acetate 35mm duplicate negative as a primary source for scanning at 4K to create the highest picture quality possible.

In addition, work done on the film’s original mono soundtrack back in 2001-2002 was expanded upon. As with the picture, no original sound materials survive, but a variety of source elements were analyzed, transferred, digitally cleaned and incorporated into the final restoration – including optical soundtrack negatives, music and effects tracks and partial music master materials.

The restoration is a success that delivers marvelous video quality. Images onscreen have excellent depth with rendering that draws out plenty of delineation. Close ups and mid level pans reveal perceptible detail in the faces, hair and clothing worn by the cast as well as the texture on surfaces within the frame. This adds a noticeable sense of depth to the image making it appear more lifelike. Blacks have plenty of dynamic range and consistency which plays very well against the various stages of white and gray. The film uses lots of low level sequences that feature streaming light, shading and mixed content. While there is some natural loss of visibility in dark backgrounds the level of shadow detail is quite good.

The superb/signature cinematography by John F. Seitz uses a variety of lighting schemes, transitions and purposeful shadows that translate extremely well in this high definition presentation. Contrast is stable and supports the film’s elements naturally. Grain is presented in even layers that provide a satisfyingly filmic texture. A few backgrounds contained light digital noise but I suspect that most probably won’t even notice it. 60 plus years later this wonderful film looks terrific thanks to a well executed restoration. Kudos to Paramount.

The monaural soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD lossless and I found it rendered the components of the original recording beautifully. The auditory is clean and free of unwanted clicks, pops or background hiss. Dialogue intelligibility is excellent as it is never lost amidst the other sounds coming through the central channel. Franz Waxman’s superb music score exhibits a broader dynamic quality and open expression that adds a bit more emphasis. Purists will appreciate the time and effort that went into maintaining the integrity of this great film’s original elements while restoring it. The result will allow those seeing it for the first time to experience it looking and sounding better than it ever has on home video.

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Ed Sikov, author of On Sunset Blvd: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder

  • Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning – 22 minutes

  • Sunset Boulevard: A Look Back 25 minutes

  • The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard – 14 minutes

  • Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic – 14 minutes

  • Two Sides of Ms. Swanson – 10 minutes

  • Stories of Sunset Boulevard 11 minutes

  • Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden – 11 minutes

  • Recording Sunset Boulevard – 5 minutes

  • The City of Sunset Boulevard – 5 minutes

  • Franz Waxman and the Music of Sunset Boulevard – 14 minutes

  • Morgue Prologue Script Pages – Interactive script feature

  • (HD)Deleted Scene—“The Paramount-Don’t-Want-Me Blues”

  • Hollywood Location Map – Interactive documentary feature that briefly highlights locations featured in the film

  • Behind the Gates: The Lot – 5 minutes

  • Edith Head: The Paramount Years – 13 minutes

  • Paramount in the ‘50s – 9 minutes

  • Galleries:
    1. Production
    2. The Movie
    3. Publicity
  • (HD)Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts:

Sunset Boulevard was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three. It is widely accepted as a classic, often cited as one of the greatest films of American cinema. Deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1989, it was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. There is no denying its significance or place among the upper echelon of American films. It makes it debut on Blu-ray Disc in this excellent offering that features painstakingly restored and revitalized high definition video, faithfully reproduced lossless sound quality and a complimentary assortment of bonus material. A must have for every film fan this terrific Blu-ray release from Paramount Home Entertainment comes highly recommended.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

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