Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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Released 8-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 92:35
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alexander Mackendrick

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Burt Lancaster
Tony Curtis
Susan Harrison
Martin Milner
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Elmer Bernstein

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, Does anyone -not- smoke?
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"In brief, the best of everything is good enough for me."

    Everyone wants to be successful. Some people will do anything to be very successful. What would you do? Sweet Smell of Success is a fantastically bitter look at the levels people can be driven to.

    J.J Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is the most powerful newspaper columnist in New York. A man used to getting his way and feared by many. His sister, Susan (Susan Harrison), has fallen in love with Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) a jazz musician. J.J is very overprotective of his sister and is jealous of her interest in Dallas. J.J calls upon Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), an unscrupulous press agent hard-pressed for cash and recognition, to solve the problem no matter what. What ensues is a twisting game of cat and mouse, with various connections being used as pawns all in an attempt to destroy the credibility of Dallas. With the biggest bait held in front of him, how low will Falco stoop?

"Mr. Hunsecker, you've got more twists than a barrel of pretzels!"

    This is a story about corruption, jealousy, and above all, greed - juxtaposed with love. Falco lusts for money and fame, J.J lusts for the continual abuse of power and unabated fame, the news industry as a whole lusts for the dirtiest piece to write on the unluckiest soul, while Susan and Dallas simply love each other. Will Susan and Dallas find their path and be together? Will Falco find a way to bring the happy couple down?

    The biting dialogue is truly fascinating, zipping back and forward between Falco and J.J. There are some classic lines from this movie that survive today, in one form or another. This is an excellent movie that bites hard at the gritty underbelly of the media. Highly Recommended.

"I'd hate to take a bite out of you. You're a cookie full of arsenic."

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Considering the age of the source material, this transfer is in very good condition. There is really not a lot wrong with the video on this disc. Very good to see.

    The video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, closely matching the theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. This is an opening of the matte, as opposed to cropping, to achieve the current ratio.

    Sharpness is reasonable throughout. Do not expect to shave with this transfer, but given that this is a 45 year old movie, it holds up very well. Shadow detail is really quite good for indoor/well-lit scenes. The majority of the movie occurs at night (come to think of it I can't actually remember a daylight scene) and outdoor scenes suffer from fairly poor shadow detail. Still, all things considered, it is doing well. Fortunately, there is no low-level noise present. Some background grain becomes quite obvious at 18:30, but in general grain levels are well-controlled throughout.

    Colour? What colour? This movie was filmed in black and white so there is nothing to see here.. move along.

    There are no obvious MPEG artefacts on display during the feature. However, there is not a lot to really stress the MPEG encoding process in this film. Film-to-video artefacts are limited primarily to aliasing with some of the more obvious occurrences at 2:35 (newspaper), 11:22 (bricks), and 68:32 (stack of papers). Film artefacts are quite common. The most annoying being one, or more, vertical stripes extending the whole height of the frame. Notable examples of this can be found at 2:17, and 69:01 (a multitude of lines covering quite a portion of the screen). The standard spattering of film artefacts are also on display, including reel change markings. The reel change markings identify the source material as a theatrical print. Thankfully, it was still in good condition.

    The English subtitles were reasonably accurate to the spoken word. There are also a host of other language subtitles that I did not look at. This is a single layered disc so there is no layer change to negotiate.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is not a lot to say about the audio in this transfer. It does its job satisfactorily.

    There are five audio tracks available on this disc, all Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 192kbps. Only one of the above tracks was in English so I listened to that.

    Dialogue quality is very good throughout, fortunate as this is an entirely dialogue-driven movie. Audio sync is a bit suspect at times but never annoyingly out. Doesn't every movie of this vintage have sync problems?

    The original musical score is by Elmer Bernstein. It suits the gritty undertone of the movie quite well. I noticed that the recording level of the music seems significantly higher than that of the dialogue. This occasionally caused mild hysteria when the music rammed home a point after I had just turned the volume up to hear the dialogue a little better.

    Were you expecting to find info about the surround channel use and subwoofer use? I hope not, since there is none.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Extra, singular. No plurals here.


    The menu is well themed, especially if you like sepia tones.

Theatrical Trailer (2:59)

    The quality of the trailer is very similar to the main feature, with slightly higher grain levels.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It looks like MGM have placed an identically poor collection of extras on this disc in R1. There is no clear winner here.


    The Sweet Smell of Success is an all time classic - powerful, gritty, and always engrossing. If you like the sound of this review then don't hold back.

    The video quality is very good considering the age of the source material.

    The audio quality is good.

    Does a Theatrical Trailer even count as an extra any more? Disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Cameron Rochester (read my bio)
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 106S DVD-ROM with PowerDVD 4.0 scaling to 864p, using RGB output
DisplayMitsubishi VS-1281E CRT front projector on custom 16x9 screen (270cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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