The Billy Wilder Collection

The Billy Wilder Collection
Billy Wilder was one of Hollywood's most daring filmmakers, who overcame his limited knowledge of English to become one of the best and most enduring filmmakers of all time. This new eight-film box-set spans the latter portion of the great director's career, from 1959 to 1972, and showcases the satiric antic comedies that he directed and wrote in collaboration with his writing partner of 20 odd years, I.A.L. Diamond. Two of the eight are classics —The Apartment and Some Like it Hot — and are worth repeated viewings. The first because it is as flawless a blend of comedy and drama as you are ever going to find, the second because it said definitively what needed to be said about dressing up as a woman and getting away with it, period. The other six selections — Avanti!, The Fortune Cookie, Irma La Douce, Kiss Me Stupid, One, Two, Three and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes — have gone down critically as not having successfully measured up to the brilliance of his early career. Rather, they mark a period where his filmmaking was proving itself boldly out of step with newer viewers — a generation that would take its cues from Easy Rider and not a Lemmon/Matthau vehicle. What's on display here is a once dark edginess going the way of cheap sentimentality. It's hard to imagine Shirley MacLaine's elevator girl of The Apartment ever giving in to marriage the way her character does in Irma La Douce. So, if you're looking for the Wilder of Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity and Lost Weekend, the films that made his reputation, look elsewhere. If you want to really have fun with this box set though, watch it with an eye out for supporting characters. The bit players are given some of Wilder and Diamond's best lines and whether intentional or not, often outshine the leads. Lou Jacobi's Moustache in Irma La Douce is as sly and sure a performance as can be found in an otherwise muddled film; Ray Walston in Kiss Me Stupid and Walter Matthau's shyster lawyer in The Fortune Cookie (a performance for which he earned an Oscar) are also inspired diamonds. "Billy Wilder has a brain full of razor blades," a critic once said about his writing. Sadly, you won't get cut badly here, but don't let that get in the way. In terms of extras, you get the feeling that this was a rush job. Six out of the eight films have only the original trailers to show in the way of bonus features. However, Some Like it Hot features a very nice chin wag with Tony Curtis, who for my money is as comely today as he is in the original film. Extras: trailers; interviews; alternate and deleted scenes; documentary; photo gallery; more. (MGM)