The last black-and-white film until Schindler’s List to win the Best Picture Oscar, 1960’s The Apartment is considered by many to be one of the best comedies of the decade. With fine performances from Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment is a yet another must-see title in writer/director Billy Wilder’s lengthy filmography.
C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is an ambitious, young clerk eager for advancement at the large New York City insurance firm where he works. Baxter isn’t above cutting corners and collecting favors as he attempts to wind his way up the long corporate ladder. He learns that in order to succeed in business, you must ignore personal indiscretions, and practice lots of patience. Baxter is faced with these indiscretions when word reaches the companies junior and senior executives that that this industrious little employee has a quiet, cozy, and charmingly convenient mid-town apartment. With the promise of a promotion dangled in front of him, and the equally implied threat of a demotion, Baxter lends out his apartment to several of his company’s executives for private trysts.
From there, Baxter must deal with the significant inconveniences of loaning out his apartment: sickness, exhaustion, and endless waiting. No matter the sacrifices, dutifully agrees to it, believing it to be the only way to gain a promotion. The popularity of Baxter’s mid-town retreat leaves Baxter with less and less of a personal life. To make matters worse, Baxter’s neighbors have begun wondering about all the traffic coming in and out of his apartment.
When Baxter learns that the company’s elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine) is having an affair with the company’s head boss J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), he decides to make a change. Fran is the only person at the office that Baxter considers a real friend, and the knowledge that she’s just another girl in a long line of Sheldrake’s mistresses, reawakens his dormant conscience. Baxter is forced to decide between career advancement and following his heart.
Sheldrake’s toying with Fran’s emotions leads her to attempt suicide while in Baxter’s apartment. He finds her in time, and calls on a physician neighbor to pump her stomach. Baxter nurses her back to health over the next two days. As they begin to reveal things about one another to each other, they begin to realize what their so called “dreams” are costing them. More importantly, they begin to sort out what they really want out of life.
The strongest element of The Apartment is the interaction between Lemmon and MacLaine. Like the best of low key romances, there’s chemistry from the beginning, but it’s not necessarily sexual. Their relationship is built on common beliefs and interests. After all, it’s a suicide attempt that would turn their friendly banter and mild flirting into something deeper.
While my favorite Billy Wilder movie is Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment—a mix of humor, drama, and romance—is certainly one of his finest efforts.
Framed in 2.35:1, this 1080p transfer is a nice upgrade from the SD edition. Black levels are solid, while details exhibit some nice depth. While there is occasional gloss, the print itself is spotless, which makes for a nice viewing experience.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track is quite crisp. While there isn’t too much use of the surrounds, the effects (mostly party sounds and the score by Adolph Deutsch) sound good coming out of the rear speakers. Dialogue is always clear.
English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are available.
The special features are ported over from the SD special edition:
- Audio Commentary by film producer and historian Bruce Block: Block delivers an informative analysis, covering Wilder’s demand for detail and shooting style, etc.
- Inside The Apartment (SD, 29:35) Shirley MacLaine, Walter Mirsch, Chris Lemmon, and others offer their thoughts on the film.
- Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon (SD, 12:47) An all too short tribute to the work of Jack Lemmon, featuring the thoughts of various friends and colleagues.
- Theatrical Trailer
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