Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Article #744 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-29-2003
Posting Date: 8-26-2003
Directed by Billy Wilder
Featuring Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim

A down-on-his-luck writer hooks up with an actress from the silents intent on making a comeback.

The issue here is not the quality of the movie; it is recognized as a classic and one of Billy Wilder’s finest moments, and I plan to say nothing to the contrary. It is chock-full of memorable dialogue, fascinating characters and great acting from all concerned. It also has a priceless set of cameos of Hollywood personalities playing themselves (Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, etc.), and gives Erich von Stroheim, the man you love to hate, one of his most sympathetic characters. No, the issue here is why I am covering this film noir in my survey of fantastic films. The answer is quite simple; the movie has several elements that bring it within shoulder-rubbing distance of the horror genre. The whole story is narrated by a corpse, to start with. Then the subplot about the interment of the monkey has a sense of grotesqueness that would not be out of place in a horror film. Norma Desmond’s decrepit mansion could very well make a fine setting for a horror movie, and finally, her inevitable descent into madness touches upon another horror theme. Not that it every really becomes a horror movie; it definitely remains in the realm of marginalia. But if you think about it, it really is only a couple of small steps away from WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, which may mean that it is a little closer to horror than it would initially seem.


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