Top positive review
THE APARTMENT  [Blu-ray]
on August 1, 2014
THE APARTMENT  [Blu-ray] [UK Release] Movie-wise, There Has Never Been Anything Like `The Apartment'! Love-wide, Laugh-wise or Other-wise!
Winner of five 1960 Academy Awards® and including Best Picture for `The Apartment' and is by the legendary director Billy Wilder at his most scathing and satirical best. With audio commentary from film producer and AFI member Bruce Block and two documentaries, including a loving tribute to actor Jack Lemmon.
Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter [Jack Lemmon] knows the way to success in business...it's through the door of his apartment. By providing a perfect hideaway for philandering bosses, the ambitious young employee reaps a series of undeserved promotions. But when Bud lends the key to big boss J.D. Sheldrake [Fred MacMurray], he not only advances his career, but his own love life as well. For Sheldrake's mistress is the lovely Fran Kubelik [Shirley MacLaine], elevator girl and angel of Bud's dreams. Convinced that he is the only man for Fran, Bud must make the most important executive decision of his career: lose the girl...or his job.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1960 33rd Academy Awards®: Won: Best Picture for Billy Wilder. Won: Best Director for Billy Wilder. Won: Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder. Won: Best Film Editing for Daniel Mandell. Won: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration in Black-and-White for Alexander Trauner and Edward G. Boyle. Nominated: Best Actor for Jack Lemmon. Nominated: Best Actress for Shirley MacLaine. Nominated: Best Supporting Actor for Jack Kruschen. Nominated: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for Joseph LaShelle. Nominated: Best Sound for Gordon E. Sawyer. ‘The Apartment' also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine and also both won a BAFTA® and a Golden Globe® Awards each for their performances.
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Naomi Stevens, Johnny Seven, Joyce Jameson, Willard Waterman, David White, Edie Adams, Dorothy Abbott (uncredited), Bill Baldwin (uncredited), Benny Burt (uncredited), Lynn Cartwright (uncredited), Fortune Cookie (uncredited), Mason Curry (uncredited), Frances Weintraub Lax (uncredited), David Macklin (uncredited), Ralph Moratz (uncredited), Joe Palma (uncredited), Edith Simmons (uncredited) and Hal Smith (uncredited)
Director: Billy Wilder
Producers: Billy Wilder, Doane Harrison and I.A.L. Diamond
Screenplay: Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
Composer: Adolph Deutsch
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [Panavision]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 120 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / United Artists
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: While it may be hard to imagine now, ‘The Apartment'  actually shocked some moviegoers upon its initial release. The problem wasn't the central premise; it was an ambitious office worker performs dubious favours in exchange for career advancement, but the actual treatment of it. In the hands of writer-director Billy Wilder and his collaborator I. A. L. Diamond, `The Apartment' became a razor-sharp farce that equated corporate success with immorality. Actually, filmmakers in communist Russia viewed it as an indictment against capitalism. The central character Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter, is actually little more than a pimp for upper management while the girl of his dreams, elevator-operator Fran Kubelik [Shirley MacLaine], is a demoralised working girl whose solution to a failed love affair is to commit suicide. These are not the most wholesome characters in the world and we're talking about the hero and heroine! However, as played by Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, Bud and Fran not only win the audience's sympathy but also charm them in the process. The most astonishing thing about The Apartment is how Billy Wilder manages to keep the tone light and playful while exposing the worst aspects of Manhattan corporate life, from the drunken office parties to the casual adultery committed by married employees. Despite these controversial elements, the film racked up ten Oscar nominations and won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director of 1960.
`The Apartment' marked the first time Shirley MacLaine had worked with Billy Wilder and she quickly discovered that her habit of occasionally improvising or changing dialogue was not welcome. For example, she delivered a wonderful take of a scene set in the company elevator but it had to be re-shot when Wilder discovered she had omitted one word of dialogue. Still, Billy Wilder was sufficiently impressed with her acting to cast her in the lead role of ‘Irma la Douce' . `The Apartment' also won Shirley MacLaine her second Oscar nomination as Best Actress (the first time was for `Some Came Running' in 1958).
Getting ahead in life can be rather difficult. With the business world seemingly rigged, many desperate individuals will try just about anything to catch a break or find a leg up, leading to some pretty creative strategies. The protagonist of Billy Wilder's 'The Apartment,' is one such desperate, but crafty individual, and in order to climb the professional ladder he resorts to some decidedly out-of-the-box thinking. A masterful blend of comedy and pathos, the film presents a charming, entertaining tale of romance that isn't afraid to tread into some surprisingly dark subject matter. Led by Jack Lemmon's effortless, everyman charisma, and Shirley MacLaine's heart-breaking allure, the film easily stands the test of time, putting most, similar modern efforts to shame.
Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter [Jack Lemmon] is a low level employee at a big insurance company who dreams of rising to the top of the corporate world. In order to make his ambitions a reality, he has devised a devious little scheme to win over the good graces of his superiors, by letting his bosses use his apartment for their various adulterous affairs. The plan works like a charm, and soon Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter [Jack Lemmon] is invited to meet with the company's head honcho, Jeff D. Sheldrake [Fred MacMurray]. It turns out Sheldrake wants to utilise Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter's unique services as well, and not wanting to pass up the potential for a big promotion, he seizes the opportunity. Unfortunately, the situation takes a dramatic turn when Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter discovers that Jeff D. Sheldrake's romantic partner is none other than the building's lovable elevator attendant, Fran Kubelik [Shirley MacLaine]. After he develops feelings for Ms. Fran Kubelik, and then Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter begins to rethink his strategies, and must ultimately choose between business and love.
The true genius of the film revolves around its perfect mixture of comedy and drama. The main plot features a delightfully subversive sense of humour that presents a cynical satire on corporate America. Highly influenced by the great Ernst Lubitsch, Wilder gives his characters playful, unique personalities and biting, memorable lines of dialogue. In sharp contrast to many modern comedies, the humour is given time to develop and breath, with Wilder often lingering on shots, letting Jack Lemmon draw out and build extra bits of amusement. While all of the comedy works brilliantly throughout, the movie actually takes a very dark turn at its half way point, and somehow Wilder is able to balance the tones without skipping a beat. In fact, not only does the drama not end up clashing with the comedy, it actually turns out to be incredibly effective and powerful. A certain downtrodden malaise casts over the second half, showering the proceedings in a sobering mist that draws some very realistic characterisations while still maintaining an ultimately life affirming charm. It's a truly remarkable juggling act, and Billy Wilder makes it all seem so easy.
One particular scene becomes a great example of the film's oscillating, but perfectly harmonious tones. At an office Christmas party, Ms. Fran Kubelik is given some bad news about her precarious relationship with Jeff D. Sheldrake. Depressed and sombre, she runs into Baxter who enthusiastically shows her his brand new office. Baxter carries on, trying on a silly hat with a playful smile while acting like a giddy fool. All the while, Fran Kubelik continues to wallow in sadness on the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum. The manner in which the dialogue and interactions are written and performed almost makes it seem like the characters are in two completely different films. Jack Lemmon appears to be in a light-hearted comedy and Shirley MacLaine is clearly in a drama, but somehow they come together, and it works beautifully.
In the included special features, it's revealed that the director feared Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter might prove unlikeable to audiences, but honestly I'm not really sure what Billy Wilder was worried about. It's nearly impossible for Jack Lemmon to seem unlikeable, and as Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter the actor absolutely wins over viewers. The character is a classic lovable loser, a lonely "schnook" with a good heart that makes some poor decisions. Jack Lemmon plays up all the right comedic and dramatic beats, and demonstrates a great talent for physical comedy. As memorable as the actor is, Shirley MacLaine might actually be the real scene stealer. Her performance as Fran Kubelik is irresistible and touching. Her sadness is palpable, and Shirley MacLaine underplays the emotions with heart-breaking restraint, revealing devastating bits of anger and sorrow through simple glances and fleeting lines of dialogue. The pair has incredible chemistry and make for one of cinemas most lovable on screen couples.
Billy Wilder injects a surprisingly strong visual style into the proceedings. Opting for a very wide 2.35:1 [Panavision] aspect ratio, the director often uses the full scope of the frame. Character placement and blocking take advantage of the added space, enhancing bits of drama and comedy. There is a great economy of shots on display as well, with the director choosing to cut to new angles only when functionally necessary or dramatically important. Many scenes feature relatively long takes with wide masters. The film is home to stark, noir influenced lighting, which helps to set it apart from typical comedies, bolstering the narrative's unique blend of tones. Production design is also top notch, with some inventive forced perspective set construction used to exaggerate the business world's dehumanizing grip. In addition, the apartment itself takes on a life of its own, becoming a cosy retreat from the movie's harsh corporate environment.
'The Apartment' is a true classic, a perfectly balanced masterpiece that celebrates love's joys and heartaches with wit and insight. The film has inspired many imitators and has become the prototypical romantic dramedy that all subsequent releases aspire to be. Truly ahead of its time, the movie actually feels fresher today than the majority of its numerous modern copycats. Through the story of lonely Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter, Billy Wilder tells the tale of a simple "schnook" who learns how to be a real "mensch," illuminating all of the cynical and heart-warming realities of life along the way.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The film is provided with a stunning and beautiful black-and-white 1080p encoded image transfer in the 2.35:1 [Panavision] aspect ratio. Authentic to the filmmakers' intentions, this is a wonderful, nicely preserved transfer. The print is in fantastic shape, but there are some very minor specks here and there, mostly in the opening shots. A light layer of grain is visible throughout giving the image a pleasing, natural filmic quality. Clarity is good, revealing all of the little, painstaking production details. Wilder utilizes the widescreen frame to its full advantage, and the transfer does a nice job of showcasing his understated, economical, but still artful compositions with nice instances of depth. With that said, wide shots do look a tad soft. Contrast is nice and high, featuring bright whites that pop and deep, inky blacks that really show off the film's noir influenced lighting design. Some very mild edge enhancement pops up in a few scenes, but doesn't hurt the presentation. 'The Apartment' shines nicely on Blu-ray in a faithful, consistent transfer. With very little signs of damage or age, the image carries a clean, mostly pristine look throughout that should more than please fans.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The film is provided with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track along with Spanish and French mono tracks. Subtitle option includes English SDH. Resisting the urge to spruce up the original mono elements too much, this is a respectful remix that does the film justice. Dialogue is clear and full throughout with no signs of crackle or hiss. The soundstage remains faithful to the movie's mono roots but has been opened up slightly in subtle but effective ways. Speech and other effects are occasionally spread out directionally when appropriate, and soft echoes of music and ambient sounds hit the rear speakers. The wonderful score comes through with nice fidelity demonstrating pleasing range with no distortion. Low end activity is minimal, but for a movie of this type that is to be expected. Balance between all of the audio elements is handled well. While I usually prefer for mono films to retain their original track, this 5.1 remix is so subtle and unobtrusive that I didn't mind it at all. With no major signs of age or distortion, this is a very solid track.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Film Historian Bruce Block: Bruce Block provides an informative and steady discussion of the movie, rife with production trivia and facts. Various details on the film's locations, casting, schedule, production design, and visual style are all touched upon. Bruce Block also describes several scenes that were cut from the final edit and even reads a few excerpts from the original script, demonstrating how close the finished product stays to the writers' detailed descriptions. Some background information on Billy Wilder is thrown in, including talk about his love for Ernst Lubitsch films and their heavy influence on his work. Though Block does repeat himself a bit throughout, this is a pretty strong commentary that fans should definitely check out.
Special Feature: Inside The Apartment  [30:00] This is an interesting look back at the film's production, featuring interviews with some of the cast and crew. Billy Wilder's path to Hollywood is discussed along with details on the inspirations for the films risqué subject matter. Participants touch upon the film's innovative mixture of tones and share various anecdotes from the set.
Special Feature: Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon  [13:00] Here the focus is on actor Jack Lemmon. Interviews with his son, who looks and sounds a lot like him and biographer, are included, sharing lots of details on his life and approach to acting.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [2:00] The Original Theatrical Trailer is included.
Finally, 'The Apartment' is a genuine masterpiece, a rare film that perfectly marries humour and drama into a beautifully insightful and entertaining package. By blending sombre pathos, biting satire, and light-hearted charm, Billy Wilder ends up with a truly unique piece of cinema that was way ahead of its time. The video transfer is strong, remaining faithful to the filmmaker's intentions, and though it's a mostly unnecessary remix, the new 5.1 track does the movie justice. The special features aren't exactly mind blowing, but the commentary and documentary are a very welcomed inclusion. Basically, this is a stunning wonderful Blu-ray disc for a really special beautiful classic Billy Wilder film, who is one my all-time favourite Directors, who has never made a duff film in my opinion and is so sad this wonderful person is not around anymore to make more brilliant films, as Billy Wilder scripts are so poignant and character drive and it is so wonderful to add this to my ever increasing Billy Wilder Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom