Studio Rides Off Into 'Sunset'5 Nov, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey
Paramount Puts a ‘Sunset’ on Its Centennial
For its 100th anniversary, Paramount Home Media Distribution took off with one classic title and is letting the sun set on 2012 with another.
“We started it out with Wings (Jan. 24), and Sunset Blvd. (Nov. 6) was a great way to round out the year of our 100th anniversary,” said Andrea Kalas, VP of archives for Paramount Studios. “The more we worked on these films, the more we enjoyed them.”
Wings — the first Best Picture Academy Award winner and the last to see a release on disc — received first-class restoration treatment for Blu-ray Disc, and Sunset Blvd. was no different, Kalas said. Original negatives for both films were lost, forcing Paramount to work with duplicates.
“That was our biggest challenge,” Kalas said, pointing to a worldwide search for the earliest elements for the 1950 Sunset Blvd. None of the original nitrate-based materials appeared to have survived, and Paramount went to the Library of Congress for a vintage print to study. Eventually, Paramount scanned an acetate 35mm duplicate negative at 4K (approximately 4096x3112 pixels), removing artifacts and other imperfections in the picture frame by frame.
Kalas said the main objective was finding the right balance between remaining faithful to the distinctive look of the film and making the picture pop on 1080p Blu-ray. Paramount also expanded on work done with the film’s original mono soundtrack, done back in 2001-02, using a variety of source elements to offer a better sound restoration.
As for the film itself, it was nominated for nearly a dozen Academy Awards, and took home three (Best Writing, Best Art Direction and Best Music). Director Billy Wilder’s brutal take on Hollywood’s dark side — with William Holden as a down-on-his-luck screenwriter and Gloria Swanson as a forgotten silent movie star — still makes top 100 film lists 62 years later.
And Sunset Blvd. is a sentimental choice for one of the studio’s final centennial celebrations, with the film including legendary producer Cecil B. DeMille as himself (on the set of Samson and Delilah, erected in a soundstage still in use on the Paramount lot today), along with a well-known shot of Paramount’s main gates.
The Blu-ray ($24.99) includes more than two hours of bonuses, including a never-before-seen deleted scene dubbed “The Paramount-Don’t-Want-Me Blues.” Obtained from the Academy Film Archive, the scene features Academy Award-winning songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans performing a song cut from the film.
Other bonuses include featurettes on Swanson and Holden, costume designer Edith Head, a look at the Paramount lot of the 1950s, a Hollywood location map and a slew of other Sunset Blvd. featurettes.