Monday, October 31, 2011

Night of Terror #30: 'Sunset Blvd'

Happy Halloween! Today I'll be covering a true classic of the horror genre: Sunset Blvd, from acclaimed Master of Suspense Billy Wilder.

OK, so it's not a horror movie, but I love Billy Wilder and wanted to cover him if I could, and this is the closest he ever came to making a horror movie. And it's not far off: Loads of gothic atmosphere, murder, references to decapitation, necrophilia, bestiality, etc. I was actually surprised by how well it plays on Halloween.

I also imagine it would be pretty scary to anyone who is either in the movie business, or is interested in getting into it. It portrays Hollywood as a cruel, unforgiving place, where creativity and originality are dead virtues, if they ever were considered virtues to begin with. The lead attraction is actual silent movie queen Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a nearly forgotten silent movie star living in a crumbling mansion, hallucinatorily living out her glory days in seclusion.

She ends up with a "kept man" in the form of a failing screenwriter played by William Holden. This guy, Joe Gillis, is just an awful son of a bitch. He's cruel to pretty much everyone, but in a very realistic and subtle way. I've seen this movie a ton of times but this was the first time I realized just how terrible he really is. Anyway, he gets killed (not a spoiler, he narrates the entire movie from beyond the grave, or at least on his way to it).

Anyway, I'd only recommend this for Halloween viewing under two conditions: You're a big fan of Billy Wilder (and why wouldn't you be?), and/or you feel burned out on horror and want to try something a little more tangentially horrific. The connection is definitely there, though, as many people consider Sunset Blvd to be the prototype for full-fledged "psycho-biddy" horror movies like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane or Strait-Jacket. Also, it's a great movie in general, so just watch it.

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