DVD/Blu-rays of the week: DOUBLE INDEMNITY and THE LOST WEEKEND
An unprecedented double pick here, but a necessary one, as this is unquestionably one of the great Masters of Cinema’s best release days ever, even better than the triple-header of TWO LANE BLACKTOP/LE SILENCE DE LA MER/PUNISHMENT PARK earlier in the year.
Two early films from Billy Wilder, one of the greatest Hollywood directors of all time, DOUBLE INDEMNITY and THE LOST WEEKEND are totally reinviograted on blu-ray, with remarkable picture quality anda selection of wonderful, well-chosen extras.
THE LOST WEEKEND is a remarkable study of alcoholism that shocked contemporary audiences in its graphic portrayal of addiction, and remains surprisingly effective today. Wilder’s trademark aversion to sentimentality means there is no sheen applied to the difficult subject matter, and some sequences – including the famous scene where Ray Milland hallucinates that his apartment is infested with warring birds and rats – are appropriately nightmarish.
It is so relentless in its assertion that booze is A Bad Thing that it occasionally threatens to turn into anti-alchohol propaganda, and for all intents and purposes that is what it is. But this is so much more than a cautionary after-school special, with huge amounts to admire - Wilder’s precise, unfussy direction; his darkly comic script co-written with Charles Brackett; and John F Seitz’s beautiful monochromatic photography, held together by the centrifugal force of Milland’s towering lead performance.
THE LOST WEEKEND was made at least partly in response to Wilder’s experiences working with Raymond Chandler, a committed alchoholic, on DOUBLE INDEMNITY, an adaptation of a James M Cain novella and the second Wilder film out on Blu this week. A film that managed to define and perfect the concept of film noir in its 100 minutes, it is amongst the very best crime films ever made, and unquestionably has the best dialogue of any of them – “That’s a honey of an anklet you’re wearing, Mrs Dietrichson…”
There are few more electrifying scenes than Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray’s first meeting, as they exchange flirtatious repartee with the lascivious, hard-bitten gusto. Both actors are incredible, but the film is arguably stolen by the original Chief Wiggum Edward G Robinson, as MacMurray’s trenchant, fast-talking investigator partner. Special mention must also got to John F Seitz again, for creating a shadowy world that remains a template background for drink-sodden schemes and mendacious dames to this day.
Both films come with excellent extras – DOUBLE INDEMNITY has a lengthy, informative documentary with contributions from the likes of James Ellroy, while THE LOST WEEKEND features a brief Alex Cox intro and an excellent three part Arena documentary on Wilder. Both films also feature the added curios of contemporary radio play versions of the films, with the original actors reprising their roles.
Two absolutely fantastic releases, then, and clearly the highlight of an amazing film week in DVD/Blu-ray. I thoroughly recommend clicking below to have them in your life.
I made my thoughts clear on Metrodome’s shocking theatrical release in my original review just a few weeks ago here, and it really is appalling how badly it got buried. However, that’s no reason to not buy the Blu, as it’s still a wonderful film and deserving of your support in any medium.
Cool, here we go:
“So then the father shits into his wife’s mouth, while the brother and sister fornicate in the corner, and all the while they’re singer Deutschland Uber Alles…”
Oh, THE ARISTOCATS. My apologies.
A DANGEROUS METHOD
Garbage, but Knightley’s bizarre performance needs to be seen to be believed. My review here.
I adore this film. One of my favourites of the year, no question. I’d like to do a longer review for it but I haven’t had a chance to catch up with it since seeing it at the cinema. Diablo Cody disclaimer: I thoroughly disliked JUNO, am yet to see JENNIFER’S BODY, but I loved this dearly. Can’t wait to see it again.
KING OF NEW YORK
Another classic from one of my favourite low-budget auteurs, Abel Ferrera. Brilliantly nihilistic, with memorably bugnuts performances from Walken as the white Frank White, Wesley Snipes and (particularly) Laurence Fishburne. It’s good to see this often overlooked gangster flick get recognized, as it’s still a hugely entertaining little piece of nastiness. Now how bout a MS 45 release?
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS - S1 BOXSET + MOVIE
Finally, a shout out to one of my favourite TV shows, which gets its first season re-released on DVD this week with the original Billy Bob Thornton-starring movie. The film is a very good, and way better than it needs to be sports movie, but the spin-off series manages to achieve genuine transcendence from its sporting underdog story origins. Of all the ‘great’ TV series to come out in the past decade – THE WIRE, THE SOPRANOS, BREAKING BAD – FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS feels like perhaps the most deeply felt, with superb writing, wonderful photography and uncannily brilliant, semi-improvised performances lending episodes an almost documentary-like realism: in particular, the core relationship between Coach and Tammy Taylor (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) that feels more authentic than just about any on-screen marriage you care to name.
It seems almost clichéd to say that you don’t need to care about American football to enjoy it – I don’t, and I do, incidentally – but I’ll say it anyway, because this is a series that is tragically under-seen in the UK and I'll do whatever it takes to bully people into watching it . It’s an intelligent, moving, sincere, rewarding masterpiece. SEE IT.