Fox // 1960 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 9th, 2012
"Why do people have to love people anyway?"
After his hit Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder decided to throw fans a curve ball with the 1960 Best Picture winner The Apartment, a movie that broke many taboos including mixing comedy and drama around the controversial subject matter (for its time) of adultery. Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray, The Apartment finally hits Blu-ray care of Fox Home Entertainment.
C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon, Days of Wine and Roses) is an up-and-coming young executive climbing the corporate ladder in a very odd way: by lending out his small New York apartment to fellow high ranking execs for extra-marital trysts. One of C.C.'s bosses, personal manager Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity), has been carrying on an affair with one of the elevator operators, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment), whom C.C. also has a crush on. As Baxter continues to lend out his apartment, Fran experiences her own romantic ups and downs until finally settling on a stunning decision that sets into motion a romantic love triangle that will test the moral character of all involved.
Instead of a rehashing the three previous DVD Verdict reviews, I want to tell you a few specific things I love about The Apartment...
A good friend of mine is a big Jack Lemmon fan. I never knew why. Then I saw The Apartment. Now I know why. How do you not love this guy? He's not just an everyman, he's THE everyman. The moments where Lemmon shines here are many: slinging spaghetti with a tennis racket; spurting nasal spray all over his boss's office; taking his own temperature with a thermometer, while sitting in a crowded workspace; trying to explain to his doctor neighbor why he has so many women in his house; and the phrase "that's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise." It's a great performance deserving of its Oscar nomination.
The Time Period
The Apartment is a movie made for a late night viewing. For my umpteenth time, I cozied up under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. There is just something about the movie that works on this level. Baxter's '60s apartment is disheveled but comfy, his workspace cavernous and spacious. There is an intangible quality in the film that makes you warm to everyone on screen, even when they are doing the most despicable things behind their spouses' backs. And don't get me started on Shirley Maclaine's pixie-like Fran, an irresistible concoction of innocence, cuteness, and sexual desire.
The Holiday Office Party Sequence
Seriously, has anyone ever throw an office party like this in their lives? I so, want to have lived in 1960. People standing on desks pouring booze into giant punchbowls, folks making out in every corner, dancing like there's no tomorrow. It's the closest thing the '60s got to putting on a rave. Except everyone is dressed up in suits and ties.
The film's music is mellow jazz for a rainy day, accentuating the loneliness and isolation you know these characters feel. It also helps with the aforementioned cozy feeling you get watching the film. Composer Adolph Deutsch's score is at times overly dramatic (as when C.C. Baxter pops a champagne cork and Fran thinks it's a gunshot), but it's also emotionally fulfilling; I so need to find this soundtrack album.
Margie MacDougall, played by Ms. Holiday (Irma la Douce), is the floozy, philandering barfly whom C.C. Baxter latches onto in a moment of drunken desperation. Her line reads are just priceless: "'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Not nothing. Dullsville." One of my favorite, silliest performances in the film.
"Shut Up And Deal"
The Apartment's famous final line summarizes the movie perfectly: nothing gets tied up in a pretty white bow. Things are messy. There's hope for two of the characters, but it's tentative at best. Sweet and sour in the same moment. It's truly quintessential Wilder.
I have a hard time finding any real flaws with The Apartment. It started as a film I respected, became a film I liked, and is now a film I am passionately in love with. It's hard to separate the dance from the dancer, so you'll just have to take my word for it: The Apartment is worth seeking out. It's for fans of comedy, drama, love, loss, and (above all) the movies.
The Apartment (Blu-ray) is presented in black and white, 2.34:1/1080p high definition widescreen and looks beautiful. My initial reaction to this transfer was slight disappointment, but it was my own issue of just having to get past its fine layer of filmic grain. The picture quality is a gorgeous black and white image, filled with crevices and spaces you never noticed on the mediocre DVD edition from a few years back. Fans of this classic film will be more than happy with the way that this high def transfer turned out.
The soundtrack is presented in a newly created 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that sounds great. Purists will be happy to know the studio hasn't screwed up this mix with any out-of-place sounds or cues; the bulk of the track is front heavy with an almost Mono feel. Also included are Spanish and French language tracks in Dolby Mono, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Better than expected, but not as good as it could have been, The Apartment sports a few meaty extra features including a commentary track with film historian Bruce Block; a half hour retrospective "Inside The Apartment" that features interviews with Chris Lemmon (Jack's son), Shirley MacLaine, host/historian Robert Osborne, and others involved with the film's production; a short featurette titled "Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon"; and a theatrical trailer for the film.
I'm ecstatic to have Billy Wilder's The Apartment on Blu-ray, especially since Fox has done a nice job on this release.
The Apartment is just great, old fashioned movie making.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated