The Apartment: Collector's Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

There are few who would argue that Billy Wilder was and remains to this day one of Hollywood’s finest directors. Whether tackling suspense in Sunset Boulevard or nailing comedy in Some Like It Hot, Wilder knew how to deliver well-made superbly entertaining films. The Apartment is no exception to this rule. In fact, with 5 Academy Awards including best director, screenplay and picture as well as appearing not only on AFI’s top 100 comedies, but AFI’s top 100 movies of all time, it might be arguable that this film is his finest comedy.

In case you’ve been hiding in a cave and not watching classic films, The Apartment is the story of C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), a low level company man who lends his apartment to his betters for their extra martial trysts in hopes of furthering his career. His boss Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) gets word of this deal and starts taking advantage of it with elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). Things change, however, when Baxter starts to fall for Kubelik.

It’s a simple story, but it’s Wilder’s masterful words and inspired eye as well as the superbly wonderful performance from all that make this film both hilarious and memorable. The film easily could have looked like any other comedy but Wilder uses (but doesn’t over use) the camera to let us know exactly who these characters are and how they feel. Even simple two shots are picture perfect.

One cannot talk about this film with out speaking about Jack Lemmon. Lemmon was one the greatest comedic actors of all time. He perfectly balanced the wit of Wilder’s words with his own pitch perfect physical comedy, often at the same time. His performance at times is heartbreakingly subtle, were he to over play the tragedy of his character it would ruin the whole film. The Apartment fluctuates between comedy and drama and Lemmon plays both at the top of his game.

If you’ve never seen this film you really are doing yourself a disservice. Even if you’re not a film nut and could care less about the camera angles and the lighting and all the other film lingo, this is a truly entertaining film that can be enjoyed by all.

The film is presented in full frame 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and Mono and is in Black & White. Also in Spanish and French Mono with English and Spanish subtitles. The Film looks and sound fantastic.

Commentary: Talking about The Apartment is film historian and producer Bruce Block. Like all historian commentaries it’s a little dry but Block is chalk full of information and eloquently shows how genius Wilder really was in his filmic style. Definitely worthy listening to.

Inside The Apartment: (30 min.) This is a nice little retrospective with many different points of view. It talks about how the film got made and the ramifications of making a film like this at the time it was made. Some of this information is repeated in the commentary but not all of it.

Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon: (13 min.) As one might guess this featurette focuses on Jack Lemmon, you get a bit of his history. Most of it focuses on Jack’s role in The Apartment. Pretty good.

The Apartment is just about as close to a perfect film as you can get. It’s been released on DVD a bunch of different times so odds are if you’re a film-fanatic you probably already own it. However, if you’ve put off picking this film up for whatever reason now is as good a time as any.

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MGM presents The Apartment. Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray. Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. Running time: 125 minutes. Originally released in 1960. Not Rated. Released on DVD: February 5, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.