Sweet Smell of Success (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-Ray]
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In the swift, cynical Sweet Smell of Success, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers), Burt Lancaster (Brute Force, The Leopard) stars as barbaric Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot, Spartacus) as Sidney Falco, the unprincipled press agent he ropes into smearing the up-and-coming jazz musician romancing his beloved sister. Featuring deliciously unsavory dialogue in an acid, brilliantly structured script by Clifford Odets (Notorious, Bigger Than Life) and Ernest Lehman (North by Northwest, The Sound of Music) and noirish neon cityscapes from Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe (The Thin Man, Yankee Doodle Dandy), Sweet Smell of Success is a cracklingly cruel dispatch from the kill-or-be-killed wilds of 1950s Manhattan.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition • New audio commentary by film scholar James Naremore • Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away, a 1986 documentary featuring interviews with director Alexander Mackendrick, actor Burt Lancaster, producer James Hill, and more • James Wong Howe: Cinematographer, a 1973 documentary about the Oscar-winning director of photography, featuring lighting tutorials with Howe • New video interview with film critic and historian Neil Gabler (Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity) about legendary columnist Walter Winchell, inspiration for the character J. J. Hunsecker • New video interview with filmmaker James Mangold about Mackendrick, his instructor and mentor • Original theatrical trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins, two short stories by Ernest Lehman featuring the characters from the film, notes about the film by Lehman, and an excerpt from Mackendrick’s book On Film-making
Criterion's two-disc treatment of Sweet Smell of Success is the kind of tasteful assembly befitting a classic--even if this particular classic was a little slow in being acknowledged as one. A definitive digital restoration of the film is accompanied by James Naremore's informative commentary track and Gary Giddins's affectionate essay, the latter in a smart little booklet designed to evoke the tabloid spirit of the kind of newspaper J.J. Hunsecker might write for. This also contains two stories, by screenwriter Ernest Lehman, that introduced gossip columnist Hunsecker and press agent Sidney Falco to the world, plus an excerpt from On Filmmaking, by Alexander Mackendrick, in which the director recalls the impact of Clifford Odets's rewrite of the script.
The second disc offers new half-hour video interviews with biographer Neal Gabler (speaking with authority and insight about Walter Winchell, the lightly disguised model for Hunsecker) and director James Mangold, who remembers the lessons he learned studying film at CalArts with Mackendrick as teacher. A 44-minute TV portrait of Mackendrick from 1986, The Man Who Walked Away, provides a close look at his films, his flinty personality, and his decision to leave filmmaking for teaching. James Coburn and Burt Lancaster are among those paying tribute, and Lancaster calmly recalls firing Mackendrick from the director's chair on The Devil's Disciple, the film they were to make after Sweet Smell. A 21-minute featurette from 1973, James Wong Howe--Cinematographer, gives a glimpse of the great director of photography as he explains a few basics about his craft. For more on that, just watch Sweet Smell of Success. --Robert Horton
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Top Customer Reviews
A sharp-edged, penetrating film, Sweet Smell of Success is now regarded as a model of street-smart cinematic cynicism --- The electric performances of the stars are matched by the taut direction of Alex MacKendrick, the driving jazz score of Elmer Bernstein, and the evocative nocturnal camera work of James Wong Howe.
Under the production staff of:
Alexander Mackendrick [Director]
Writers:Clifford Odets [Screenwriter]
Ernest Lehman [Screenwriter]
James Hill [Producer]
Elmer Bernstein [Original Film Score]
James Wong Howe [Cinematographer]
Edward Carrere [Art Director]
1. Alexander Mackendrick [Director]
Date of Birth: 8 September 1912 - Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Death: 22 December 1993 - Los Angeles, California
2. Burt Lancaster
Date of Birth: 2 November 1913 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 20 October 1994 - Century City, California
3.Read more ›
Hunsecker only wants to help Falco in his career goals if he meddles in the relationship of his younger sister Susan and boyfriend musician.
This Blu-Ray features the film itself with a beautiful high-def transfer, cleaned audio, a wealth of extras, and a hefty 56-page booklet. The cardboard packaging is very nice as well. This release upholds the Criterion Collection's very high standards admirably.
The film belongs to Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Both were huge stars at the time and cast themselves against type in this movie. Naturally, the film tanked when it was released but it has since become a much admired and imitated film (Oliver Stone has said that a lot of his movie, Wall Street, was inspired by Sweet Smell). Curtis is note perfect as a slimy agent who'll do anything to get his clients promoted and climb the social ladder. This puts him at odds with the most powerful columnist in the city--J.J. Hunsecker, played by Lancaster. J.J. can kill careers with a few words and it is this power that makes him such a dangerous person.
The film also features stunning black and white cinematography that is moody and atmospheric. New York City has never looked so dark and foreboding. The camerawork is rich and textured and it is fascinating to see a New York City that just doesn't exist anymore. Watching this film is like stepping into a time machine.
The DVD is a bit of letdown. The transfer could be better. I noticed scratches and dirt on the print. And the lack of extras is unexcusable. C'mon, a retrospective documentary with film historians and Tony Curtis (who is still alive) would've been nice. The studio really dropped the ball in that respect. A classic like this one deserves more respect.
Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is J.J's press agent and his little dog. He considers J.J. as his ladder for success. He has even a conscience, but at the end he always obeys his master's orders.
Susie has a boy-friend: Steve (Martin Milner), a talented young jazz musician that any mother in law would welcome. But not J.J. He orders Sidney to separate them. Sidney's plan is very simple: he brings another newspaper columnist to write a slanderous article about Steve. First he tries blackmail, then pimping: he drives his own girlfried, a young mother, to prostitution. The article is published. Steve is denounced as marijuana-smoker and communist, and he is fired. But he and Susie understand very well who is behind this article. Sidney suggests that J.J. should use his influence to help Steve get his job back - what better way to look good in the eyes of his sister? But Steve has committed a deadly sin: He confronted J.J. In Public. J.J. wants his revenge. And this time he goes too far...
Atmospheric and brilliantly acted. Burt Lancaster reminds me of a giant snake: one does not argue with him.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The masters of HD at Criterion have done it again. This is a little gem of a movie.Published 7 months ago by r_duke
Well acted! Curtis & Lancaster act well together (like in Trapeze). Excellent quality movie.Published 17 months ago by R.R
Un grand film de Mackendrick, avec des Curtis et et Lancaster très confrontants qui nous offrent de grandes performances d acteurs dans une cite qui semble ne pas laisser... Read morePublished on Dec 24 2012 by Luigi
One of the problems with studying in film school, being a movie buff and getting older is that at some point in ones' life a man ventures into the video store, peruses the shelves... Read morePublished on July 16 2004 by Steven Travers
The dialogue moves along so fast, and the plot is so sketchy, that I had a difficult time understanding it. Read morePublished on June 22 2004 by R. A POKATILOFF
I was stunned when I watched this film, and it's been a while since that's happened. The script, the acting, the cinematography are all dazzling. Read morePublished on May 24 2004