[box cover]

Sunset Boulevard: Special Collector's Edition

One of the most sought after cut scenes in all moviedom is the original opening to Billy Wilder's 1950 black comedy about the movie industry, Sunset Boulevard. Among film buffs, this sequence is almost as famous as the film itself, yet few if any have seen it. The case of the missing scene is well-known: Paramount tested the film using the original sequence, as the film's main character and narrator is shown being zipped through the streets to the L.A. County Morgue. Wheeled into a cold room with other corpses, he begins to look around, and the corpses begin to talk in voiceover. The test-audience started laughing, utterly ruining the mood of the film to come. Thus, when Paramount Home Video announced that it was releasing Sunset Boulevard on DVD, excitement filled the breast of the buff who hoped Paramount would deliver the sequence. Well, the disc is finally here, and in a list of supplements on the back of the box there is the discrete announcement, "Morgue Prologue." Unfortunately, rather than the full sequence, this particular supplement consists of the text of two drafts of the sequence, with the surviving unedited footage accessible by clicking icons on the screen next to the relevant passages. But don't let the lack of the still-missing scene distract you from the disc's achievement. This is a beautiful transfer. It offers a version of the film cleaner than anything you've seen in the past, with supplements that enhance the viewing experience rather than distract from it. Paramount's full-frame, black-and-white image (1.33:1) is superb thanks to a digital restoration, while audio comes in Dolby Digital mono. The main supplement is an audio commentary by Wilder-biographer Ed Sikov, who is informed and thoroughly engaged in the film. Also informative is "Sunset Boulevard: A Look Back," 25-minute documentary, and an equally knowledgeable Hollywood location feature that offers five featurettes accessible via links from a map of sites used in the film. "Edith Head: The Paramount Years" (13-min.) is something of a boilerplate featurette; less well known is the composer of the film's music, who receives his due in "Franz Waxman and the Music of Sunset Boulevard" (15 min.),. Theatrical trailer, photo galleries, reconstructed morgue prologue. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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