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Blu-ray Review The Apartment Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Billy Wilder’s wry, biting social satire presenting two lonely people trying to find love in a cold, cruel Manhattan comes brilliantly into focus in The Apartment. Among his greatest and most sophisticated films, The Apartment teems with heels and users, and Wilder doesn’t bother sugar-coating their nefarious morals, but he puts them under his coruscating microscope and lets us draw our own conclusions about their worth. And he does so while also making us smile, quite an accomplishment.



The Apartment (Blu-ray)
Directed by Billy Wilder

Studio: MGM/UA
Year: 1960
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 125 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish

Region: A
MSRP: $ 24.99


Release Date: January 24, 2012

Review Date: January 30, 2012




The Film

5/5


C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) has become the “it” boy at Consolidated Life, not because of his professional work ethic but because he allows the key to his bachelor apartment to be passed around to the junior executives over him who use his pad as a meeting place for liaisons with their mistresses. When big boss man J. D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) learns of the apartment’s availability, he supersedes his underlings and claims the apartment as his own nesting place for his latest affair with company elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), a person Baxter himself had been eyeing. Fran is continually promised she’ll soon be the next Mrs. Sheldrake once he finds the right time to break things off with his current wife, but she isn’t aware until the Christmas party that she’s only the latest in a long series of lovers who have been fed that same promissory line. Heartbroken, Fran takes desperate measures to end her suffering, and it’s up to Baxter to give her a reason to want to continue living.


The script by director Billy Wilder and his co-writer I.A.L. Diamond is alternately tough and tender, and the tough parts find Wilder at his most needling casting a contemptuous glare at the heels who have no remorse over their adultery or in their inconveniencing Baxter (often demanding use of his place in the middle of the night forcing him into the streets in his pajamas or having to huddle in shadowy doorways while his boss is upstairs having a quickie). More amenable are the scenes where Fran and the lovesick Bud play gin rummy and ruminate about life, all filmed with great sensitivity by Wilder and never hurried, one of the reasons the film runs for slightly more than two hours. In fact, Wilder uses the widescreen frame thoughtfully capturing the huge, scurrying world of Manhattan businesses (the enormously endless accountants’ workspace is very awe-inspiring) while focusing intimately on a few of its rather unimportant (well, unimportant in the grand scheme of things; very important to the viewers of the film) players. Wilder and Diamond also sustain beautifully a running gag involving the landlady and his next door neighbors (Jack Kruschen, Naomi Stevens) believing that all the partying going on in Baxter’s apartment nightly is he with a steady stream of women never dreaming that he’s actually sort of subletting his digs as a means for advancement in his company. The movie takes place at Christmastime, but this is one of the least sentimental Christmas movies that you'll ever see.


The role of C. C. Baxter gives Jack Lemmon a chance to play to his strengths as both a facile comedian and a first class dramatic actor. Unlike his no-holds-barred Jerry/Daphne for Billy Wilder in Some Like It Hot, his Bud Baxter is grounded and empathetic, sacrificing his own emotions for everyone else around him and yet capable of great depth of feeling at appropriate moments. Who’ll ever forget the gin games, the spaghetti straining, or the climactic confrontation with Sheldrake? It’s a performance that stands among the best of his long, distinguished career. Shirley MacLaine’s gamin quality is perfect for Fran, a loser at life and love and who learns in the end that she’s worth fighting for even if the road to that realization is a long, bumpy one. Mostly remembered as a devoted dad in Disney films and his own television series, Fred MacMurray’s snake-like Sheldrake shows his selfish, thoughtless side in a performance that ranks right alongside his Walter Neff in Double Indemnity as a double-dealing, heartless conniver. [Contest entry word: quickie] Jack Krushen has some very effective scenes as the concerned doctor /neighbor, and Naomi Stevens matches him every inch of the way as his wife. As Fran’s concerned brother-in-law, Johnny Seven has a very funny cameo near the end of the movie while Ray Walston, David White, David Lewis, and Willard Waterman are the other executives without a home away from home when Sheldrake ousts them from Baxter’s rotating door. Edie Adams as a secretary with some secrets to spill has a couple of good scenes, too, but doesn’t have enough to do.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film’s theatrical Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is accurately presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. While a couple of scenes may seem a bit dark, overall the grayscale is nicely presented with good white levels but blacks that aren’t quite as deep as might have been possible. Sharpness is superb throughout with acres of detail to be seen in skin textures, clothes, and hair, and unlike previous DVD releases, there is no problem whatsoever with aliasing or moiré in all of those tight line structures. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.



Audio Quality

4.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers a very nice spread to the sound design of the movie. Adolph Deutsch's background score sounds marvelous in its several airings during the movie, and there is some slight panning through the soundstage where appropriate with cars and other sounds. The dialogue is always clearly presented, mostly in the center channel but with occasional directionalized effects that don’t call ready attention to themselves. There are no age-related artifacts to spoil the mix either making this one of the best audio tracks for a movie of this age currently available.



Special Features

3.5/5


The audio commentary is by Bruce Block. While he certainly offers background information on the players, he often resorts to describing what we’re watching on screen (sometimes reading from the script itself), making for an overall not very interesting audio commentary.


Unless otherwise noted, the featurettes are presented in 480i.


“Inside The Apartment is a 29 ¾-minute featurette detailing the making of the film. Such critics and historians as Molly Haskell, Robert Osborne, Ed Shov, and Drew Casper along with co-stars Shirley MacLaine, Edie Adams, Johnny Seven, Hope Holiday, and Jack’s son Chris Lemmon and “Izzy” Diamond’s son Paul contribute information about Billy Wilder, the genesis for the film, the subject matter and the Production Code’s lack of authority, the casting of the movie, and some on-set stories.


“Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon” finds Chris Lemmon talking about his father along with some of the other historians named above offering opinions about this versatile actor. It runs for 12 ¾ minutes.


The theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs for 2 ¼ minutes.


The disc also offers a 1080p promo trailer for Dances with Wolves.



In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)


Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture of 1960, The Apartment is one of the great dramedies of the 20th century. This new Blu-ray release offers a crisp, stimulating picture with very agreeable sound and some nice bonus features brought over from a previous DVD release. Highly recommended!



Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC

 

Dick

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Barnes and Noble had a copy of this, which would have cost me the full $24.99, except that they are running a buy-2-get-1-free sale, so it wound up costing me about $14.00.
 

James Luckard

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I bought it from FoxConnect, the official Fox online store. Cost $15.99, shipping took about a week: http://www.foxconnect.com/apartment-the-blu-ray-widescreen.html
 

Adam Gregorich

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Can't find a place to buy it? You can win it. We have one copy of The Apartment to give away to a lucky HTF member. To enter send an email to contest 'at' hometheaterforum.com with the code word in the subject line, and you user name, full name and address in the body of the email. The word can be found hidden in Matt's review above. Winners must have a US or Canadian shipping address, be over 18 and a member of HTF. The winner will be drawn at random from all emails received with the correct code word in the subject line. Contest runs through Sunday 2/5/12. Good luck!
 

Richard Gallagher

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DVD Empire has it in stock for $18.49, with free shipping if you buy something else and get the order up to $25 or more. Fox Connect has the lowest base price, but ground shipping is $3.70.
 

Scott Merryfield

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Richard Gallagher said:
DVD Empire has it in stock for $18.49, with free shipping if you buy something else and get the order up to $25 or more. Fox Connect has the lowest base price, but ground shipping is $3.70.
Interesting. It was $17.99 at DVD Empire last night when I placed my order. I have not ordered from them in quite awhile, and did not realize their prices fluctuated like that. My order shipped this morning. :) FYI, Target listed the item as backordered last night.
 

JoHud

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Richard Gallagher said:
DVD Empire has it in stock for $18.49, with free shipping if you buy something else and get the order up to $25 or more. Fox Connect has the lowest base price, but ground shipping is $3.70.
You can get free shipping + 10% off using the coupon code FOXREG on FoxConnect.
 

Charles Smith

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Wow, thanks for that heads up. I just got it for $14.39 + free ground shipment.
 

Flashgear

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What a great film... I'm thrilled to see it released on Blu-ray...my favourite among the many great Billy Wilder films...brilliant and immortal Americana...I can only imagine how it would have felt seeing it first run in 1960..growing up on My Three Sons, I remember how jarring it was for me to see the cavalier and self involved evil displayed by Fred MacMurray's Sheldrake...What more can be said for Jack Lemmon and Shirely MacLaine...a beautiful and powerful film...it stays with you...I sure hope to see The Americanization of Emily on Blu before too long...
 

GMpasqua

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Blu-ray looked very good, but MGM's bad habits get in the way


Watched it last night. Aside from the opening credits which are window boxed a fair amount and appear quite small (why do these studios do this ("Grease") - it's not like the we can't read the titles and the window boxing takes us out of the moment. Do they still have to bow to the lowest common denominator with Home video product? the film looked great.


No start up Menu, MGM's disc starts up with a forced trailer for other films which you can skip over and the films ends with the abrupt loud lion roar - all of which take you out of the moment (MGM we hate this, please stop this bad practice - it ruins the experience) - score low points with this viewer. Too bad United Artists went under, one wonders how they would have presented their films on home video - remember this IS a UA film - mgm did not produce "The Apartment"


Do we really need to be "hit over the head" that this is an MGM product? Is the studio that hard up for advertising? Do they no longer care about the theater going experience and have to reduce fine art to in your face product advertising?



Criterion should teach MGM a thing or two about presentation
 

Charles Smith

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They could teach all of them. But yes, the MGM lion is particularly annoying these days.


Why do I feel like we're seeing this windowboxing more recently? And is it only done on catalog titles, now that I think about it? It also seems to be more severe than it used to be done by the likes of Criterion in the LD days. On a couple of the BDs I've looked at in the past week, they've nearly shrunk the image to the 4x3 region. WTF are they thinking?? If the Lowest Common Demominator's televisions are that far out of whack, then the hell with them. They're missing half of the movie anyway.


And along with the windowboxing, this might be a coincidence but I also feel like I'm seeing more and more of this no start-up menu crap, previews or no previews. Seriously, what is up with all of this?
 

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