The Sweet Smell of Success - 1957 - 96 Minutes - Criterion Edition BluRay

“Mr. Falco, let it be said at once, is a man of 40 faces, not one – none too pretty, and all deceptive.” -J.J. Hunsecker

When people talk about the golden age of cinema, it’s easy to dismiss as sentimentality for a bygone age that never existed, but then you see a film like The Sweet Smell of Success and realize they were right all along. Released in 1957, The Sweet Smell of Success is a movie that takes the sharp dialogue of classic film noirs like The Maltese Falcon (1941) and updates it with even sharper conversation , a more impressive cast, and a story that resonates over 40 years after its original release.

The film tells the story of Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a slimy press agent willing to do anything to earn a quick buck. His ‘friendship’ with all-powerful columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is on the ropes after his unsuccessful attempt to break up a relationship between Hunsecker’s 19 year-old sister and a jazz musician. Falco manages to hatch a plan that should see the couple split apart, but J.J.’s love for his sister borders on obsession and Falco finds himself in a moral minefield he cannot escape.

With dialogue you just don’t see in movies anymore and a sharp visual style that showcases the grandeur of New York City in the 50s, the film can’t be beat in the atmosphere and tone it sets from the opening frame. Hunsecker’s cry of “I love this dirty town” seems to come straight from the director’s lips. Curtis and Lancaster are impeccably cast and provide the perfect foils for each other. A film noir that doesn’t rely on violence or sex is rare and The Sweet Smell of Success is certainly for the thinking fan of the genre. But, that’s probably why the movie has aged so much better than other film noir classics.

The video quality is outstanding on this BluRay release with inky blacks and a perfect level of grain that provides authenticity without sacrificing sharpness. In fact, this release looks so good that if not for the lack of colour you might think you were watching a far more recent release. The audio is 2.0 mono as per the original, but despite the lack of surround, the dialogue comes through crisp and clear. In a movie that doesn’t rely on cheap sound effects, the surround is not missed too much and the audio serves more than adequately.

The Sweet Smell of Success is a rare breed of movie, one that you can’t imagine being made in this day and age. Containing some of the sharpest lines of dialogue in film noir history and offering an intriguing story that relies on morality and inner tension to develop the plot rather than violence or women, the film is certainly a rare breed. With two film legends taking the lead and a technically excellent BluRay release, film noir and classic cinema fans need not hesitate to pick this one up.