While the emergence of a movie on DVD can serve to provide a viewer a more complete presentation of the film and the intent of its filmmakers, sometimes a film's release on DVD will return a great film of the past to the consciousness of DVD connoisseurs. One of the great noir films of all time, "Sweet Smell of Success" is an enjoyable story filled with colorful dialogue laid on so thick you would need a steak knife to cut it. While the DVD's sound transfer is a bit disappointing, this is a film that definitely stands the test of time and is certainly worth watching.
Sweet Smell of Success centers on Sidney Falco, a press agent, instigator and sometime friend to powerful gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker. Falco, played by Tony Curtis in a great performance in a role he obviously relished, is hired by Hunsecker, played by a young Burt Lancaster, to confirm the rumor that Hunsecker's sister, of whom Hunsecker is extremely protective, has taken up an affair with a local musician and later, to attempt to drive a wedge between them. Meanwhile, Falco is trying to accomplish this while working every possible angle for the benefit of himself and his clients.
The greatest enjoyment of the film comes from Falco's meddling, weaseling, promoting, and making sure that he is always working a room and everyone in it that he can. Although the film is filled with many serious dramatic plot elements and is certainly not a comedy, Falco's constant angling in pursuit of the Sweet Smell of Success provides a number of humorous moments and is quite entertaining.
While Curtis and Lancaster each put in strong performances and really get into their roles, the true star of the film is the dialogue. Matched with Alexander Mackendrick's stylish direction, lines like "I'd hate to take a bite out of you, you're a cookie full of arsenic" and "Sidney, this syrup your giving out, you pour over waffles, not J.J. Hunsicker" make watching the movie a treat, as the film seems to ooze big city flair.
Overall, however, it is the confluence of all of these elements that helps this film achieve noir classic status and truly takes the viewer into a different world, 1950's New York, teeming with corruption, muckraking and backstabbing.
Relatively rare for the release of films of its era, Sweet Smell of Success is presented in Widescreen format with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. There are a few problems with the print, namely a thin line that seems to run down the length of the frame at times during the film. Further, there are occasional specks that appear on the screen, although these are most likely attributable to the original print rather than the DVD transfer. All in all, while some of these are noticeable, none are sufficient to impede enjoyment of the film.
The sound transfer on this DVD is in Dolby Digital 2.0. While the overall sound quality is at or better than the level one might expect for a film of this film's age, it appeared, a number of times throughout the film, that the sound transfer might be the slightest bit out of sync with the film print.
Sadly the only additional material added to the DVD is the film's trailer. For what it's worth, it's an enjoyable trailer, one from which a viewer can judge just how much trailers have changed over the last 45 years.
A classic film, Sweet Smell of Success is definitely worth a rental and possibly a purchase. It is an enjoyable movie with great, pulpy performances and dazzling dialogue. This film will be a bit more in the spotlight in the next year when the new staged production of Sweet Smell of Success hits Chicago and then onto Broadway with John Lithgow in the Hunsecker role, so check it out!