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Sweet Smell of Success(1957)
Sidney Falco is a New York press agent caught up in a complex relationship with the powerful newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker. Falco needs to get his showbiz clients placed in the newspapers, and hangs around Hunsecker hoping to garner a mention in his column. Hunsecker is obsessively protective towards his sister Susan, and his only apparent desire is to see an end to her budding romance with jazz musician Steve Dallas. Thus with Falco growing increasingly desperate, Hunsecker lets him know that the one way he can secure access to the column is to break up Susan and Steve, thereby setting in motion a chain of events which will tear them all apart.
For more about Sweet Smell of Success and the Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray release, see Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 24, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Jeff Donnell, Sam Levene
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
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Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 24, 2011
Alexander Mackendrick's "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; audio commentary with film scholar James Naremore; "Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away", a documentary film, produced for Scottish Television; "James Wong Howe: Cinematographer", a 1973 documentary about the Oscar-winning director of photography; and video interview with film historian Neal Gabler. The disc also arrives with a 56-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success is about scratching (the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" type) and two men without morals. One of them is J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster, The Leopard), a powerful newspaper columnist in New York City, who could create stars in a manner of hours, and then just as easily destroy them. His writings are followed by millions of people who are literally addicted to his street smart and confident style. The other man is Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis, The Defiant Ones), a young, handsome, ambitious and manipulative press agent lackey who admires everything J.J. does. He also fears the man, which is why he tries hard to be his friend.
The plot of the film revolves around J.J.'s beautiful sister, Susan (Susan Harrison, Key Witness), who is in a relationship with a free-spirited jazz musician (Martin Milner, Zebra in the Kitchen). J.J does not like him because he is too emotional, too straightforward and financially insecure. With other words, he is a disaster waiting to happen, which is not what Susan deserves.
Susan has a great deal of respect for her brother but does not want him arranging her private life. The man she wants to spend the rest of her life with does not have to be approved by J.J. But her brother disagrees, and promptly asks Sidney to do him a favor and make sure that the jazz musician walks away from her.
Lancaster and Curtis are fascinating to behold in this incredibly smart, stylish and illuminating film. Their characters' careers represent the high and low points of a dangerous business where backstabbing is not only expected but encouraged. There are no rules and limits in it - to be the best, one constantly has to be in attacking mode, be the first to deliver a demoralizing punch; switching in defensive mode means capitulation.
As intriguing as it may sound, the plot is practically irrelevant. It is the unique dialog, the ingenious one-liners and colorful expressions that fascinate. When Lancaster and Curtis's characters unleash their attack on the jazz musician, one can literally feel the electricity in the air. Indeed, the film is a masterclass in demagogy and manipulation.
The atmosphere is also fascinating. The chic night clubs, the smoky bars and elegant hotels; the motley crew of wealthy businessmen, powerful politicians, corrupt cops, beautiful women on a mission, and small-timers looking for the right lead or friend to help them move up the social ladder - this is undoubtedly New York City during the 1950s.
Sweet Smell of Success was inspired by Ernest Lehman's 1952 novella, which was initially published in Cosmopolitan as Tell Me About It Tomorrow, and based on a script by Clifford Odets (The Country Girl). Lancaster's character was inspired by Walter Winchell, the famous newspaper and radio commentator who was a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily Mirror during the early 1930s, and was amongst the first high-profile public figures in America to openly criticize Adolf Hitler. Later on, Winchell was also amongst the first to openly embrace the controversial Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Note: In 1958, Sweet Smell of Success was nominated for Best Foreign Actor Award (Tony Curtis) at the BAFTA Awards.
Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created on a SCANITY Film Scanner in 4K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Sheri Eisenberg/Colorworks, Los Angeles."
Great looking transfer! I have seen this film more than a dozen times and without a shadow of a doubt this is the best it has ever looked. Fine object detail is excellent, clarity very pleasing, and contrast levels dramatically improved. Color reproduction is also very impressive - now the variety of blacks, grays, and whites finally look rich and healthy. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern; the background shimmer and fuzziness (especially around the edges) that are present on the very old MGM SDVD are also gone. Some small noise corrections have been applied, but a light, healthy layer of grain is very easy to see at all times. There are no serious stability issues either - blown through a digital projector, the transfer conveys wonderful depth and fluidity. Finally, I did not see any large cuts, damage marks, stains, or debris to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated audio workstation. "
The English LPCM 1.0 is also impressive - there are various improvements in terms of stability and dynamics. Generally speaking, the dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Elmer Bernstein's music score either. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion have delivered yet another must-own package. This time around it is Alexander Mackendrick's thought-provoking and hugely entertaining Sweet Smell of Success that gets the special treatment. The supplemental features are also very good. Make sure you find the time to listen to film scholar James Naremore's audio commentary. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Sweet Smell of Success Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Starts "Three Reasons" Blu-ray Trailers - January 29, 2011
The Criterion Collection is now creating short "Three Reasons" trailers for selected upcoming Blu-ray titles from that label. Each expresses three reasons why, in Criterion's opinion, the film featured is a must-see. The first up are for Sweet Smell of Success ...
• Criterion Blu-ray in February: Arnold, Fellini, Kieslowski, Kore-... - November 15, 2010
February may be short, but the Blu-ray slate from The Criterion Collection certainly is not – the independent label has just announced six very notable movies for that month. On February 1, it will release The Double Life of Veronique (La double vie de Véronique; ...
• Criterion Hints at Sweet Smell of Success, Night of the Hunter - July 1, 2010
In its Facebook page, The Criterion Collection has posted a photograph that shows a classic movie being prepared for Blu-ray release: Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957). Previously, the studio's newsletter had featured a picture probably hinting ...
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