Thursday, December 6, 2007

THE LOST WEEKEND (Paramount 1945) Universal Home Video


Based on the novel by Charles R. Jackson, Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945) is perhaps the most frank and socially conscious film ever produced about the evils and ravages of alcoholism. Certainly, it is a stark and frightening glimpse into the heart and mind of an alcoholic.The story follows Don Birnam (Ray Milland) from one binge to the next as he desperately tries to overcome his dependency and win back the heart of estranged girlfriend, Helen St. James (Jane Wyman).

Don wants to quit. He does! Only, he just needs one more for the road…and one more after that…and, well…there’s just no stopping this man on his downward spiral.Philip Terry costars as Don’s sympathetic brother, Wick. He’s compassionate to a point but has just about given up on rehabilitating his brother. In fact, Wick has more of a roving eye for Helen that may result in more than just an overprotective nature toward her by the final reel.

There are moments in the screenplay from Charles Brackett that truly haunt the audience long after the screen has faded to black, but the most disturbing by far comes late in the third act when Don, who has been temporary institutionalized in a state facility, suffers a series of ‘drying out’ hallucinations and withdrawls that get the better of him and threaten his sanity.

Ray Milland clearly understands this character. His depiction is both real and frightening. There’s an honest rawness to everything he does and a tragic sense of lost opportunity staring back at the audience from his glassy eyes. As the audience, we’re not simply concerned for his safety – we fear for his life.

Universal Home Video has given us a very fine looking DVD of this unusual Oscar winning classic. The B&W picture is quite clean with deep blacks and solid whites. The gray scale is refined with fine details evident throughout. There is a minimal amount of film grain and an absence of digital anomalies for an image that is quite smooth and will surely not disappoint. The audio is mono but adequately represented. There are no extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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