Updated: May 4
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / SDR FRAME SHOTS
Jack Lemmon is a perfect fit as C.C. “Bud” Baxter, a “schnook” who works at one of the thousands of desks in a sprawling New York insurance company.
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“THE APARTMENT” – KL STUDIO CLASSICS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray; 1960; Not Rated, contains sex, adulterous affairs, suicide, drinking, smoking
Best extra: “Inside ‘The Apartment,’” (2008) featurette
FRED MACMURRY – one of the “50 Greatest TV Dads” of all time for his work on “My Three Sons,” and well-known Disney player of “The Shaggy Dog” and “The Absent Minded Professor,” used to play villains in a long and varied acting career that began in the 1930s.
Until a senior woman called him out for his role in Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” for his heartless Corporate CEO philanderer Jeff D. Sheldrake. She let him have it, concluding by clouting him over his head with her purse. She could just as well have nailed him for his role in Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” (1944) or for the spineless Lt. Keefer of “The Caine Mutiny” (1954).
Anyway, the on-street critic changed him. MacMurray decided he would no longer play cads or criminals, and stuck to enhancing a “nice guy” image in family films and series. In real life, he was known as one of the stingiest men in Hollywood, and was awarded the “Least Cooperative Actor” in 1945.
(1) “The Apartment” opened on June 15, 1960, in New York City. (2) Baxter often works an extra hour or two since his apartment is normally occupied by Consolidated Life Insurance executives for their extramarital trysts. (3&4) Baxter arrives at his brownstone apartment building, but Al Kirkeby (David Lewis) and Sylvia (Joan Shawlee) are still using his $85 per month apartment. (5) Nextdoor neighbor Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen) and his wife Mildred, assume Baxter is a cold-hearted playboy.
But Wilder, who co-wrote “The Apartment,” with his friend and collaborator I.A.L. Diamond (“Some Like it Hot”), also cast Jack Lemmon (“Mister Roberts”) and Shirley MacLaine in his Oscar-winning film, along with memorable co-stars Ray Walston, Edie Adams, David Lewis, Jack Kruschen, and Willard Waterman. Lemmon was one of Wilder’s favorites, a sharp and creative talent, whose warmth and humor colored all he did.
You know a man’s a winner when his son, Chris, praises him so highly in “Inside ‘The Apartment,’” one of four bonus features on the Kino Lorber 4K UHD/Blu-ray discs. And if Lemmon’s the best, good-natured “everyman,” we can count on MacLaine to be the best “everywoman.” Together, they sparkle.
Still, it’s a sardonic and, at times, uncomfortable story. According to the info in the extras, Wilder was driven to critique the evils of the new corporate America, and the way it depersonalized and used its workers. Employees are used, abused and thrown away – as are the women who are dined, bedded and cast away by their married and unfaithful lovers. Most times, “The Apartment” plays like a #metoo nightmare.
A Manhattan insurance worker C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) works a lot of unpaid overtime. The truth behind it is because he loans his apartment to his managers to use for their extramarital affairs in hopes to advance himself at work. When Personnel Manager Sheldrake notes the favorable and identical reports in Baxter’s performance reviews from these four operators, it doesn’t take long to put one + four together. Soon, Sheldrake is demanding use of the apartment, with bigger promises to advance Baxter’s career.
(1&2) Baxter finally gets inside and pops a TV dinner into the oven. He gets a call from Joe Dobisch (Ray Walston) who insists on using the apartment with a woman who looks like Marilyn Monroe (Joyce Jameson). (3&4) The next morning Baxter waits for the elevator and starts a conversation with elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). (5) Baxter has developed a bad cold and started canceling tonight’s appointments for his apartment.
Baxter is willing to play along – until he finds Sheldrake’s target is Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), the elevator operator Baxter cares for. A nasty mess of promises, lies and misunderstandings ensue until Miss Kubelik attempts suicide in Baxter’s apartment.
Wilder, Diamond and their actors bring this realistic story of indulgence, greed, and longing together with heart, wit and humor. It won five Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Wilder), Best Writing (Wilder, Diamond), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Black-and-White, and Best Film Editing. Lemmon and MacLaine were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress. Joseph LaShelle (“Laura,” 1944) was nominated for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and Gordon Sawyer (“The Alamo,” 1960) for Best Sound.
Four years after the 1080p Arrow Academy 4K restoration of the 35mm original camera negative and fine-grain positive damaged sections (2.35:1 aspect ratio), Kino Lorber has unveiled a striking TRUE 4K Ultra HD presentation from the same source of Wilder's comedy-drama of secret love affairs. The onscreen upgrade is apparent from the black-and-white, well-composed wide shots from Wider and cinematographer LaShelle. Film grain is more defined throughout, while overall grayscale is nicely balanced. It doesn’t matter if you’re seated on the front row or the back row of your theater setup, everyone gets a first-rate 4K presentation.
The only thing missing is no HDR grading, like Kino’s release of “The Great Escape” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Those movies were captured in color, and the added color spectrum of HDR might have been a nice touch, but those two films still look better than ever. “The Apartment” still provides deep, dark shadows, as never seen before, while holding excellent detail. Plus, highlights and mid-tones are brighter and more controlled than in previous versions.
Surprisingly, the enclosed 1080p wasn’t sourced from the 4K master, but an old 2K master at least a decade old. It suffers from shadows, blown-out highlights, and a much softer image. Keep it for your Blu-ray player and the bonus features.
(1) Fred MacMurray plays personnel manager J. D. “Jeff” Sheldrake, who just learned about Baxter’s apartment. (2) Sheldrake meets Fran at a nearby restaurant to try to kindle their summer fling. But, Fran tells him it is too painful to date a married man. (3&4) Baxter’s hard work has paid off, he finally gets his own office. His adulterous supervisors (Mr. Dobisch, Mr. Eichelberger, Mr. Vanderoff, and Mr. Kirkeby) still want to use his convenient Manhattan apartment.
The original 2.0 mono track is the default, with perfectly clear dialogue, while the remastered 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack provides a slightly fuller soundstage with Adolph Deutsch’s orchestra score. The repeated and romantic theme composed by Charles Williams as “Jealous Lover” (1949), became a 1960 Billboard hit, and will be familiar to viewers of a certain age.
Most are carried over from earlier releases, and filled with info, anecdotes, and Hollywood history. Find two commentaries: A new one from film historian Joseph McBride, author of “Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge,” covering a wide range of topics such as Wilder’s inspirations for the story, the long wait to have it made, waiting for the repeal of The Hays Code restrictions; an analysis of characters and situations, emphasizing Wilder’s interest in touchy subjects; and Wilder’s partnerships with Diamond and Charles Brakett, and Lemmon who he first cast in "Some Like It Hot," (1959), also available in a fine Kino Lorber presentation. Wilder and Lemmon would go on to make "Irma La Douce," 1963, with MacLaine; "The Fortune Cookie," 1966, Lemmon's first with "Odd Couple" partner, Walter Matthau, and "The Front Page," 1974, again with Matthau.
There’s also another fine commentary from producer and film historian Bruce Black, as mentioned above.
The documentary “Inside ‘The Apartment’” has interviews with critics Robert Osborne, Molly Haskell, Ed Shov and Drew Casper, along with Chris Lemmon, Diamond’s Son Paul, Shirley MacLaine and other actors. It’s a surprise to find “The Apartment,” despite its forthcoming Oscars and today's classic status, was initially despised by a number of critics when first released. The documentary tells us why.
“Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon” gives us more of son Chris and lots about Lemmon’s career and personality.
— Kay Reynolds, Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer, and Peggy Earle
(1) The wild Christmas office party. (2) Baxter discovers that Fran has been Sheldrake’s mistress. (3) Fran and Sheldrake meet again at Baxter’s apartment for Christmas Eve rendezvous. Fran gives him an LP as a Christmas gift and he gives her a cheap $100 bill. (4) Baxter goes to the local bar and gets smashed. (5) Fran takes a number of sleeping pills from Baxter’s nightstand, while Dr. Dreyfuss tries to keep her conscious. (6) The next day Baxter makes spaghetti and he uses his tennis racket as a strainer. (7) Fran and Baxter meet again on New Year’s Eve at his apartment.