30th Mar2015

‘Sweet Smell of Success’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Jeff Donnell, Sam Levene, Joe Frisco, Barbara Nichols, Emile Meyer, Edith Atwater | Written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman | Directed by Alexander Mackendrick


When it comes to Arrow and the releases they output I’ll always be a fan of the Arrow Video line because of my love of everything cult and horror.  A close second though has to be their Arrow Academy range, whereas the name suggest they give more of an education based on films from the past which deserve our attention just as much as any modern movie does.  Sweet Smell of Success is the latest release and gives an insight into one of the more unique Hollywood movies not only of its times in the fifties, but still remains just as good today.

When J.J. Hensecker (Burt Lancaster) a powerful New York newspaper columnist decides to come between his sister’s relationship with a jazz musician he tasks Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) an unscrupulous press agent to get the job done.  His plan is to sow the seeds in the papers to destroy the musician’s career and credibility in the city.  As Falco heartlessly does his job effortlessly he finally feels like he’s finally made it big in New York, though the smell of success may not be as sweet as Hensecker and Falco have come to believe.

It comes as no surprise to say that Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis play their parts perfectly, but what is enlightening is to see them in such dark roles.  Lancaster is unflinching and powerful in the role of a man who can ruin people’s lives just with a word in the right ear, or words in his latest column.  Tony Curtis plays his part as the weasel who will follow Hensecker’s commands to the full, as long as it gets him what he wants.  An errand boy whispering in the ear of other gossip columnists, his heartlessness is in contrast to many other roles Curtis was known for at the time.

When it comes to the director, Alexander Mackendrick is on top of his game.  I was surprised to find that he also directed Ealing comedies such as The Ladykillers before, if anything this should have been the movie to make him big in America, and although he did find that success this movie wasn’t as well received as hoped.  It was down to the brave work of Mackendrick as well as Lancaster (also an executive producer of the film) that got it made, and for fans of film we should be thankful of this fact, because Sweet Smell of Success is a true classic showing the director and actors at their best.

With a script that is amazingly quotable (keep a listen out for Lancaster’s cookie line) and special features that are created with a focus of educating the audience about the history of the film, Sweet Smell of Success is an excellent release from Arrow Academy and works as a reminder of why Arrow’s treatment of older movies is so enjoyable, they show a love that really helps bring out the best in the movies release.  Lancaster and Curtis may play against their typical role, which at first feels slightly jarring, but by the end of the film these memorable performances are where the Sweet Smell of Success can truly be found and that is why if you’ve not seen this film this is your perfect chance to rectify that situation.

***** 5/5

Sweet Smell of Success is available now on Blu-ray.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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