Sweet Smell of Success
One of the best movies of the 1950s, Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success has gotten to DVD a lot faster than it got to laserdisc, as part of MGM's Vintage Classics series. That means a low list price but not much in the way of packaging -- artwork, a synopsis, a box, and that's it -- not even an insert listing the chapters. The film-to-video transfer is as crisp as the movie itself is piercing and disquieting in its action and its depiction of the vicious, petty underside of American popular culture of the 1950s. Every shot looks as sharp as a fine black-and-white still, and considering that the movie was shot on location in New York City, that makes this DVD almost as valuable as a travelogue of the city as it is as a drama. And the score, a mix of Elmer Bernstein jazz-based background music and material by the Chico Hamilton Quintet, fairly leaps out of the speakers on this digital remastering, which adds immeasurably to the experience; this was a deliberately aggressive score by Bernstein and company, and was meant to be perceived by the viewer. The chapter breakdown is adequate, and the menu is easy to maneuver around -- the only extra material included is the original trailer.