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The Lost Weekend(1945)
Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been "on the wagon" for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his last...one way or the other.
For more about The Lost Weekend and the The Lost Weekend Blu-ray release, see the The Lost Weekend Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Charles R. Jackson
Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Frank Faylen
» See full cast & crew
The Lost Weekend Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 13, 2012
Winner of four Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role as well as Grand Prix and Best Actor Award at the first ever Cannes Film Festival, Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" (1945) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include a short introduction by director Alex Cox; original theatrical trailer; fascinating three-part program made for BBC's Arena, directed by Gisela Grischow and Volker Schlondorff; and 1946 radio adaptation of the film featuring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, and Frankie Faylen. The disc also arrives with a 36-page illustrated booklet featuring rare archival imagery, and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Don Birnam (Ray Milland, Dial M for Murder, The Thief) has started drinking because he has stopped writing. His brother Wick (Phillip Terry, Born to Kill) knows about his problem and has tried to help him, but has failed – numerous times. His girlfriend Helen St. James (Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda, Magnificent Obsession) has also tried to keep him away from the bottle, but has finally come to realize that his desire for alcohol is stronger than his desire for her.
One day, after he refuses to accompany his brother on a weekend trip, Don ends up in his favorite bar and confesses to the bartender (Howard Da Silva, They Live by Night) that he has a great story in his head, one that he could turn into a great book. The story is about a drunk, who meets and falls in love with a beautiful girl from Ohio. The two arrange to meet her parents for lunch, but the drunk bails out and instead spends the rest of the day with a bottle of rye. Don also confesses to the bartender that he does not know yet how the story would end.
This story about the drunk and his girlfriend is a lot like Don's life story – a mess. The bartender knows it but keeps quiet. He has seen a lot of guys like Don and they were all the same – losers who can't stop drinking, slowly destroying themselves and often those around them.
Eventually, after he runs out of money, Don ends up in an alcoholic ward. There a nasty male nurse (Frank Faylen, Terror at Midnight) tells him straight in his face what has become of him. The wakeup call inspires Don to run away and end his misery - after he has one last drink.
This is a rough film. It is completely free of melodrama and about as honest in its assessment of alcoholism as it could have been. The main protagonist's angry outbursts and aggressive behavior are very convincing, especially during the second half of the film where his life spirals out of control.
Even though there are a few scattered romantic overtones, the film is very dark and very depressing. Certain sequences, such as the one with the mouse trying to crawl out of the whole in the wall, are so intense and disturbing that they could have easily been used in a serious horror film. John F. Seitz's (Double Indemnity, Sullivan's Travels) brilliant shadowy cinematography also adds to the film's dark and depressing atmosphere.
The ending is rather surprising - at least for a film from the early '40s. There is a ray of hope, but the viewer is left guessing. It just does not feel right to be optimistic about the main protagonist's future. Can love cure him? Probably not.
Billy Wilder completed The Lost Weekend in 1945. Initially, the film was given only a limited release, but after it generated strong reviews from the press, Paramount Pictures released it nationwide. According to Wilder, people with connections to the alcohol industry attempted to stop its release by offering Paramount Pictures $5 million.
The film's success was unprecedented. In 1946, it won four Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Milland). During the same year, the film also won the Grand Prix and Best Actor Award at the first ever Cannes Film Festival.
The Lost Weekend Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
In certain areas the presentation is even stronger than that of Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity. Close-ups convey terrific depth (see screencaptures #1 and 9), and when there is sufficient light clarity is excellent. Color grading does not disappoint either - the blacks are exceptionally rich and stable while the grays and whites look notably healthy. There are no traces of problematic lab corrections. Grain is prominent and well resolved (see screencaptures #9 and 13), and noise never affects its integrity. A few light scratches and flecks and some extremely light edge shimmer occasionally pop up, but there are no serious damage marks or frame transition issues to report in this review. Lastly, when projected the film has a pleasing fluid look. To sum it all up, this is yet another competent presentation of an important film from Eureka Entertainment that should make its fans very happy. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Lost Weekend Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
There are no serious technical issues with the lossless track to report in this review. The dialog is crisp, clean, and easy to follow, while Miklós Rózsa's excellent score (with a prominent role in the film) gets a strong boost. Also, there is actually a decent range of nuanced dynamics that further enhance the unusual atmosphere. For the record, there are no audio distortions of problematic dropouts to re port in this review.
The Lost Weekend Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Lost Weekend Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Eureka Entertainment's release of director Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend is even more impressive than their release of the classic Double Indemnity. Not only does this multiple Oscar winner look great in high-definition, but as a bonus the distributors have also included a truly fascinating three-hour long program in which Volker Schlondorff interviews the legendary director. This is truly a must-see material. If you could play Region-B "locked" discs, consider adding The Lost Weekend to your library. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Lost Weekend: Other Editions
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Eureka Entertainment have revealed their upcoming titles for the months of April, May, and June 2012. There will be seven new releases added to the Masters of Cinema series: Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Lifeboat, Island of Lost Souls, Ruggles of Red Gap, ...
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