Showing posts with label Tony Curtis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Curtis. Show all posts

3 April 2015

Blu-ray Review - Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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Drama, Film Noir
Arrow Academy
Rating: PG
BD Release Date:
30th March 2015 (UK)
Aspect Ratio:
16:9 - 1.66:1
Run Time:
96 minutes
Alexander Mackendrick
Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Susan Harrison
Buy:Sweet Smell of Success [Blu-ray]

Don't do anything I wouldn't do! That gives you a lot of leeway...” sums up the world in which you are in in The Sweet Smell of Success. It’s a world of pure amorality to the extreme; very few characters ever on screen are as crooked as Burt Lancaster’s J.J Hunsecker and Tony Curtis’ Sidney Falco. The film remains, nearly 60 years after it’s release, one of the most cynical of all noirs and shows the dark underbelly and dog- eat- dog nature of America.

Sidney is a press agent and hasn’t been able to get Hunsecker to write about any of his clients because of his failure to break-up the relationship between Hunsucker’s sister and her jazz musician boyfriend. Sidney becomes increasingly desperate to pay the favour for his chance of fortune, going to depraved lengths. As with most noirs, and especially noirs at the tail end of the classic era, it all ends horribly wrong for everyone involved.

The film comes alive when you have the two powerhouse performances from Lancaster and Curtis on screen. I’ve never been a big fan of Tony Curtis; Some like it Hot is a fun farce albeit an overrated one (Billy Wilder did much better films) and I have always liked Spartacus. He has a nervous energy in The Sweet Smell of Success that works and adds charm to this character that is full of neurosis. Burt Lancaster just destroys every second he is on screen in very possibly his most impressive performance in a career of many. He speaks with such venom and is just so physically imposing it just leaps out of the screen. It’s no wonder that Lancaster came out of the circus.

The legendary cinematographer, John Wong Howe is responsible for the on-location cinematography that is some of the first I know of that really shows the speed and energy of New York City. The director, Alexander Mackendrick, was full of anxieties during the shoot, with the busy streets of New York just adding to it, which is reflected in the finished product. Mackendrick said on the subject, "We started shooting in Times Square at rush hour, and we had high-powered actors and a camera crane and police help and all the rest of it, but we didn’t have any script. We knew where we were going vaguely, but that’s all".

The Sweet Smell of Success remains one of the visceral films to come out of the golden era of film noir. It perfectly captures the depravity that big-city journalism will stoop down to if need be, and the two leads are still exciting to watch over 50 years since it’s release. The film also became a musical at one point, which is just bizarre. Despite being an initial flop it is now rightfully considered as one of the true classics of post-war American Cinema. Arrow’s release includes a documentary on Alexander Mackendrick along with an appreciation and commentary by Philip Kemp who wrote a book on Mackendrick.

Ian Schultz