The Lost Weekend (Masters of Cinema) Blu-ray
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Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced in 1945
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
The Lost Weekend may not have been the first movie to look at the effects of alcohol addiction, but it remains one of the most devastating. For the most part, it is quite strikingly bleak; those familiar with Wilder only from his character comedies will find something of a shocking departure from the sassy sophistication of Some Like It Hot or The Apartment. But there is a familiar urbanity here too – the downbeat ‘hero’, Don Birman (Ray Milland), a failed writer turned inveterate boozer, is not only hobbled by his own addiction, but also by an increasingly oppressive Manhattan. And there are characteristic flashes of Wilder’s dark humour, not least when Birman sharply identifies with a scene from a stage production of La Traviata.
Where The Lost Weekend differs from Wilder’s later work is in its visualisation of the distortion of Birman’s booze-riddled life. The expressionist final scenes, with Birman gripped by hallucinations and the DTs, are still harrowing today. But such flourishes do not threaten to overtake the film’s raison d’etre – that is, as a convincing portrayal of an all-too-common disease.
The Lost Weekend’s true revelation, however, is Ray Milland. Prior to this, the actor had been fairly invisible – tall, dark, handsome, and routinely cast in matinee idol roles against more charismatic actresses. As Birman, however, he gives an agonising scream of a performance, one that ricochets back and forth from snappy and salacious to mercurial and dynamic. Without a drink, he is irritable; when he lays his hands on the first one, he is endearing and triumphant. But his self-respect has vanished, and he stoops to pathetically lower and lower levels of self-humiliation during the 48-hour period of the title. It is Milland’s Oscar-winning turn that brings sympathy and sincerity to The Lost Weekend. How it must have jolted post-war America back to the harsh realities of everyday life.
Julian Upton on 26th January 2005
Author of 151 reviews
Directed by Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot), this gut-wrenching adaptation of Charles Jackson's The Lost Weekend horrified its studio, was rejected by test audiences, and was lobbied by temperance groups, yet went on to huge success and became the awards sensation of its year.
Ray Milland stars as Don Birnam, a New York author struggling with years of alcoholism and writer's block. Trying to keep him on the path to rehabilitation are his straight-laced brother Wick (Philip Terry) and devoted long-time girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman). When Don absconds from a country excursion, he embarks on a four-day bender, flashing back to the events in his life that alcohol has ruined and spiralling towards rock bottom.
Winner of the Grand Prix at the first ever Cannes Film Festival, as well as Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay, this brutal noir provided one of cinema's first in-depth studies of addiction.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 102 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1 OAR
Format: Blu-ray B&W
Released: 25th June 2012
Cat No: EKA70073
Subtitles: , Hard of Hearing - English
- New high-definition master, officially licensed from Universal Pictures
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Exclusive new video introduction by director Alex Cox
- The three-part 1992 BBC Arena programme Billy, How Did You Do It? directed by Gisela Grischow and Volker Schlondorff, featuring Schlondorff in conversation with Billy Wilder
- The 1946 Screen Guild Theater radio adaptation of The Lost Weekend – starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, and Frankie Faylen
- Original theatrical trailer
- 36 page booklet featuring essays and rare archival imagery.