Boxed set of the week
The Billy Wilder DVD Collection highlights the Austrian director’s wittiest and most sobering films preceding his longtime writing partnership with I.A.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment). In 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, Wilder cast William Holden as a disillusioned screenwriter-turned-kept houseboy, and in 1954 paired him with Audrey Hepburn in the frothy romance Sabrina. But it was Stalag 17 (1953) that won the actor an Oscar. Equal parts drama, comedy, and mystery, Wilder’s adaptation of Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski’s play about American POWs sniffing out a mole in their midst is still as entertaining as ever (even if the muzzle on Robert Strauss’ campy Animal begs to be tightened).
EXTRAS Both the doc on real-life POWs and the making-of that boasts a few tantalizing anecdotes — Marlene Dietrich drops by the set, the budget balloons when a still-writing Wilder insists on filming in sequence — are disappointingly short. And the commentary, which could have offered a historical expert take, instead has bit players like Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton swapping minor tales and ruminating over their former costars’ passing (”Is he still around? Is he gone?”). Sunset: A- Stalag, Sabrina: B+