‘The Apartment’ 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review – Jack Lemmon And Shirley MacLaine Captivate In Billy Wilder Classic

Unlock the door to The Apartment and welcome legendary director Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot) and screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond (One, Two, Three) at their scathing, satirical best. C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon, The Fortune Cookie) knows the way to success in business…it’s through the door of his apartment! By providing a perfect hideaway for philandering bosses, the ambitious young employee reaps a series of undeserved promotions. But when Bud lends the key to big boss J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity), he not only advances his career, but his own love life as well. For Sheldrake’s mistress is the lovely Fran Kubilek (Shirley MacLaine, Irma La Douce), elevator girl and angel of Bud’s dreams. Convinced that he is the only man for Fran, Bud must make the most important executive decision of his career: lose the girl…or his job. By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, The Apartment won five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Movie-wise, there has never been anything like it…love-wise, laugh-wise or otherwise-wise!

For thoughts on The Apartment, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic here

Video Quality

The Apartment appears on 4K UHD Blu-Ray courtesy of an impressive 4K digital restoration in 2160p that is quite excellent even without HDR implementation. This appears to be the same restoration that was used for the previous Arrow Video Blu-Ray release, but with a slightly boosted contrast and much more detail. While that Arrow release is admittedly incredible, this true 4K presentation hands-down feels like the preferred choice moving forward. This presentation is simply astounding. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous with smooth gradients and subtle textures. As mentioned, the contrast can verge on being too harsh, but it remains stable and provides grand improvements in sharpness. 

The transfer eradicates any dust specks or print damage that previously plagued the older MGM release. This picture showcases some excellent depth to the image which gives way to a pleasing sense of scale within the setting. This transfer is a fine showcase of textural details in the costumes and production design. This transfer maintains the filmic quality of the picture with fine film grain giving way to more detail than you would have thought possible. Black levels are appropriately deep without any pesky nuisances such as digital noise or compression artifacts. This transfer is a marvel for a film that most certainly deserves such treatment. Kino Classics should be praised for this transfer. 

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Audio Quality

The 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio track in English that handle this material perfectly. While I do not have the release for comparison, it is my understanding that this uses the 1989 Laserdisc mono track that fans have long sought. The expanded 5.1 track is pleasing enough for those solely looking to engage all of their speakers, but the go-to track for most fans will be the mono track that captures the original intention of the film. The classic dialogue is crisp and clear throughout the duration of the feature. The environmental sounds such as the din of certain environments are rendered well alongside everything else. 

There does not seem to be any majorly noticeable instances of age-related wear and tear. The score from Adolph Deutsch is used perfectly to establish the mood of the story, and this track handles it elegantly throughout the duration of the film. There is never a moment where it threatens to overwhelm competing sounds, and it maintains a good balance so that dialogue comes through clearly. The track does not feature constant kinetic activity, but it comes alive when it makes sense in a brilliant way. Kino Classics has given this film the respect it deserves with this audio presentation. 

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary #1: Film Historian Joseph McBride, Author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge, delivers a fact-filled presentation in which he talks about Wilder’s personal fondness for the material, his collaboration with I.A.L. Diamond, the ways in which Wilder lost touch with the audience in decades after this film, the shooting locations, the critical reception of the time, the casting of the ensemble, the balancing act of comedy and drama, and much more makes for a great listen. 
  • Audio Commentary #2: Film Historian Bruce Block likewise delivers a terrific commentary track in which he discusses how they achieved some visual flourishes, how the final product compares to the shooting script, anecdotes from the performers and more. This is slightly less informative than the new commentary track above, but both are entertaining. 
  • Inside The Apartment: A 30-minute look at the film from its conception to its release and legacy with participation from Shirley MacLaine, author Kevin Lally (Wilder Times), film professor Drew Casper, and Robert Osborne, amongst others. There are great insights into why Wilder wanted to pivot after the success of Some Like It Hot, the delicate tone of the feature, the dazzling performances, how MacLaine’s real-life friendship with The Rat Pack impacted the narrative, the open-minded direction from Wilder and more. 
  • Magic Time – The Art Of Jack Lemmon: A 13-minute vintage featurette which takes a look at the career of Jack Lemmon, his mastery of comedy and drama, his legacy and more. There are some great insights from his family and colleagues. 
  • Trailers: The two-and-a-half minute trailer is provided for The Apartment. There are also trailers provided for Some Like It Hot, Irma La Douce, The Fortune Cookie, Avanti!, and The Front Page. 
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Final Thoughts

The Apartment is an enduring piece of brilliant comedy and drama that only gets richer as the years go by. While it does not need its Best Picture win at The Oscars to signify its quality, it does feel nice to know the Oscars got it right with that choice. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are a brilliant and endearing comedic pairing who electrify the screen every time they are together. Kino Classics has released a 4K UHD Blu-Ray featuring a stellar A/V presentation and a pleasing assortment of special features. Billy Wilder is one of the great talents of cinematic history, and The Apartment is one of his best films. It deserves to be seen in the best quality possible. Essential 

The Apartment is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray.

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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