The Apartment: Deluxe Edition

Studio: Arrow Academy

Jan 29, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Though it deals primarily in infidelity, prostitution, workplace harrassment, and suicide, 1960’s The Apartment – from writer-director Billy Wilder, one of Hollywood’s all-time best – is still somehow considered among the few, hybrid “comedies” to have taken home Best Picture. It won four other Oscars, including Best Writing and Best Director for Wilder, among its nine total nominations. If it weren’t for Lemmon’s so affable execution of Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s script, The Apartment could have been oppressively dark and cynical; an impressive-looking and well-acted film, still, but unlikely to have been so palatable for Academy voters of the era.

C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a low-level paper-pusher for an NYC insurance giant. He’d remain nameless among the firm’s 40,000+ drones if it weren’t for his ideally-located apartment just a block from Central Park. (His rent, in 1960, is $85 a month – similarly-situated apartments today start at $2850.) Several bigwigs at the company have found that they can lean on Baxter to lend them his apartment for their extramarital activities. In exchange for their putting in kind words with the bosses, Baxter effectively runs the place as an Airbnb, keeping an hourly calendar for who will be porking at his place and when. This degrading situation starts to pay off, and Baxter begins his climb up the corporate ladder. The morality of it all doesn't come into question until Baxter falls for an elevator girl, Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), whom he learns later is the latest dalliance of personnel director J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), the biggest of the company’s higher-ups to utilize Baxter’s slimy rental service.  

Lemmon pulls off the difficult feat of making The Apartment’s main character likeable despite him being a bumbling pushover and so intentionally enabling despicable behavior among his office superiors. (It’s especially shocking in today’s environment, but it’s hard to imagine the movie’s premise could have been seen in that different a light six decades back.) MacLaine brings a sublime sadness to the film’s heartbroken (emphasis on broken) heroine. Both were nominated – but passed over – for Academy Awards, as was prolific character actor Jack Kruschen for Best Supporting. As Baxter’s friendly Jewish neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss, he’s one genuinely good character in a film full of deeply flawed ones.

With all of its slickly-dressed snakes schtupping secretaries, it’s no wonder at all that The Apartment was part of Matthew Weiner’s required viewing list for Mad Men.

Arrow Academy’s limited, Deluxe Edition Blu-ray of The Apartment is the high-quality breed of release that would give any home video label a run for their money. The film has been exclusively restored in 4K for Arrow’s release; the black-and-white picture is crisp and high-contrast, doing justice to Joseph LaShelle’s fantastic cinematography. (Viewers have their choice of uncompressed mono and 5.1 DTS soundtracks.) Film historian Philip Kemp provides a full-length and two scene-specific commentaries; there are video essays about Wilder and Lemmon, a new interview with actress Hope Holiday, a Making of featurette from 2007, and the original screenplay available for BD-ROM viewing. The disc comes housed in a thick, beautiful slipcase along with a hardcover book containing essays, behind-the-scenes photos, and other rare visual ephemera from the film. At only 3,000 copies pressed, if you’re a fan of Wilder, Lemmon, or The Apartment, we recommend you grab this limited edition before it’s gone. 

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