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There is no denying that writer/director/producer Billy Wilder was one of the greatest cinematic geniuses to ever work in Hollywood. Over the course of his multi-decade career he made so many films that are considered classics that I can bandy about the work "genius" without anyone ever challenging that assertion. Of course, it would be completely impossible to pick any one film out of Wilderís brilliant career and declare it his greatest achievement. That is not to say that certain Billy Wilder films stand a bit taller than the others. With its five Academy Awards behind it, including Best Picture of 1960, there is no denying that THE APARTMENT ($15) was one of the pinnacles of Wilderís cinematic career.

I donít know if it is best to describe THE APARTMENT as a comedy with dramatic undertones or a drama with comedic overtones, but either way, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamondís Oscar winning screenplay made "funny" respectable in the eyes of the motion picture Academy once again. THE APARTMENT stars Jack Lemmon as C.C. 'Bud' Baxter, who takes the easy road up the corporate ladder by lending out his apartment to his boss Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) as a rendezvous point for an extramarital affair. However, things become complicated one late evening, when Bud discovers that Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is the woman Sheldrake has been trysting with in his apartment. Through a series of circumstances, best not revealed here, Bud finds himself falling in love with Fran, which jeopardizes his relationship with Sheldrake and his position in the company. THE APARTMENT features standout performances from all three leads, especially MacMurray, who always made a big cinematic impression, when playing and out and out rat. The cast of THE APARTMENT also includes Ray Walston, David Lewis, Naomi Stevens David White and Edie Adams.

MGM Home Entertainment has made THE APARTMENT available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Wilder understood the dramatic power of combining black and white cinematography with the Ďscope format as a storytelling canvas like few other directors before or since. With THE APARTMENT, the combination pays off big time with the dramatic undercurrent running through the film. Fortunately, the DVDís black and white presentation is pretty darn good for a film that is well over four decades old, remaining completely demonstrative of Wilderís stylistic choices.

The image is generally very sharp and nicely defined; there is some softness here and there, but nothing that would make the transfer seem deficient in that regard. Blacks appear inky, while the whites are crisp. Contrast and grayscale are good, while shadow detail is more than respectable. The film element used for the transfer demonstrates a modest amount of blemishes and an occasionally noticeable grain structure. Digital compression artifacts are usually well concealed, but there are a couple of instances where they are a bit noticeable. One final note on the video transfer: some have complained about various anomalies in the transfer, while I do not doubt they exist on certain combinations of home theater equipment, they did not manifest themselves on my setup.

THE APARTMENT features a perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Fidelity is a bit truncated, but that has to be expected with a monaural movie from 1960. The filmís music sounds a bit shallow, but it never comes across in a distorted fashion. Most of the hiss and other audio anomalies have been cleaned away; leaving fairly crisp sounding dialogue that is always completely understandable. The track can be amplified to normal listening levels without serious incident, although amplification does occasionally reveal bits of looped dialogue. French and Spanish monaural tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the filmís theatrical trailer.

THE APARTMENT represents one of Billy Wilderís most critically acclaimed achievements in the cinema. The DVD isnít perfect, but it holds up rather well, offering fans a generally good presentation of this Academy Award winning film. If you are a Wilder fan, then THE APARTMENT is something you are going to want to add to your collection.



The Apartment (1960)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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