Release Date(s)1945 (November 24, 2020)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Winning four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor, 1945’s The Lost Weekend was an unusually realistic take on alcoholism, one that Paramount Pictures wasn’t entirely keen on when the film was originally released. Even so, Billy Wilder’s adaptation of Charles R. Jackson’s novel managed to avoid delving into subject matter that the Hays code would definitely have had major issues with, including the lead character’s struggle with being a homosexual. Instead the film focuses almost exclusively on the alcoholism, treating it as a real sickness and following a man’s descent over the course of a weekend. A difficult film to watch, it’s also a rewarding experience, leaving the doors open for hope at the end without succumbing to schmaltz or becoming victimized by a Hollywood ending. In truth, it’s a miracle that the film was ever released by a major Hollywood studio. Its source material has the makings of an Ed Wood film, but because its makers took it seriously, it was largely successful, both critically and at the box office. Relatively tame by today’s standards alongside addiction films like Requiem for a Dream, it still has an enormous amount of seat-squirming power, thanks in no small part to its leading performance by Ray Milland and director Billy Wilder’s unflinching attention to detail.
Don Birnham (Milland) is a novelist with a case of writer’s block, a result of his ongoing battle with alcohol. Attempting to discourage him from drinking is his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) and his devoted girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman). Avoiding his typewriter altogether, Don spends a desperate weekend of trying to get his hands on as much booze as possible, particularly from a local bartender named Nat (Howard Da Silva), who sees through Don and grows more and more concerned about him. Desperate for a drink, he does everything from stealing to pawning things to keep himself intoxicated, much to his shame. Not knowing where he is, Helen camps outside of his apartment and waits for him to come home, but whether he will make his way to an unpleasant end or manage to see through his alcoholic haze and get through it is up to him.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings The Lost Weekend to Region A Blu-ray utilizing a new 4K master. It’s a beautiful black and white presentation with mostly solid grain levels, deep blacks, and excellent contrast. Detail, especially in the shadows, is abundant, whether in close-ups or backgrounds. The film loses some of its visual clarity during the second half when the opticals become more frequent. Density also suffers slightly during these moments. Outside of minor speckling, it’s a clean and stable presentation with no major leftover damage to speak of.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English. It’s a narrow, even thin, presentation with hardly any bass behind it. Dialogue is discernible and sound effects have decent impact. The score isn’t as full-bodied as it could be, but it comes through with mild presence. Outside of very minor hiss, it’s otherwise clean, lacking any obvious flaws.
The following extras are included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Joseph McBride
- Trailers from Hell Trailer with Mark Pellington (2:31)
- The Lost Weekend Radio Adaptation (27:36)
- Trailer (2:08)
- Five Graves to Cairo Trailer (2:13)
- A Foreign Affair Trailer (1:01)
- Witness for the Prosecution Trailer (3:08)
- Beau Geste Trailer (1:28)
- Reap the Wild Wind Trailer (2:17)
- Panic in the Year Zero Trailer (2:24)
In the audio commentary with film historian Joseph McBride, he speaks about the many awards that the film won at the time, Billy Wilder’s career and his penchant for occasionally making straight drama films, the unusual approach to the film’s subject matter, his own personal experience with alcoholism and his relationship with the film because of it, Billy Wilder’s collaborators and love life, Ray Milland’s character, the work of cinematographer John F. Seitz and composer Miklos Rozsa, the visual look of the film, what’s missing from the film’s portrayal of alcoholism and other shortcomings, the initial reactions to the film in test screenings, and the film’s success. Mark Pellington provides a Trailers from Hell commentary on the film’s trailer, which is also presented separately. Next is the 1946 Screen Guild Theater radio adaptation starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, and Frank Faylen. Rounding things out is a set of six trailers for other films of similar interest in the Kino Lorber catalog.
Though a stigma still surrounds alcoholism in certain circles, The Lost Weekend is a sobering (no pun intended) film that was ahead of its time in treating it like a real disease, which is enhanced by a magnificent performance and careful direction. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release is definitely one that film fans will want to own.
- Tim Salmons