The Apartment (Blu-ray Review)

Winner of five Academy Awards in 1960 including Best Picture, The Apartment is legendary director Billy Wilder at his most scathing and satirical best. With audio commentary from film producer and AFI member Bruce Block and two featurettes— including a loving tribute to actor Jack Lemmon—this special Collector’s Edition is your chance to own one of “the finest comedies Hollywood has turned out” (Newsweek)!  C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) 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 Baxter lends the key to big boss J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), he not only advances his career, but his own love life as well. For Sheldrake’s mistress is the lovely Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), elevator girl and angel of Baxter’s dreams. Convinced that he is the only man for Fran, Baxter must make the most important executive decision of his career: lose the girl…or his job.


The Apartment is considered one of Billy Wilder’s finest movies and it’s been on my list to see for a long time.  I’m glad I waited because this Blu-ray is first rate.  The idea of the movie was based on several real life stories from which I.A.L. Diamond wove together different aspects to create the movie.  After the great success of his previous collaboration with Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder wanted to work with the actor again.  He then enlisted Shirley MacLaine, but he had to replace Paul Douglas with Fred MacMurray when Douglas died days before filming.

The Apartment tells the tale of a low level accountant named C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) who is so desperate to be promoted within his insurance company, he allows his superiors use his apartment for their extramarital liaisons. What started off as a kind gesture for one boss to use his apartment to change his clothes in, has turned into a daily routine with reservations on his place every day of the week.  Baxter hates the situation as none of his superiors mind in the least that they are impacting his life, but he is scared to stop it in fear that he won’t get his promotion.

Since Baxter now has so much free time on his hands, he spends a lot of it watching and talking to one of the elevator operators in his office building called Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) who he’s been attracted to for a long time.  Fran seems completely out of his league since most of his bosses have already tried to woo her and failed. Baxter has issues at home too since his neighbor’s are tired of hearing what’s going on in his apartment and they assume he is the sole cause of it all, a criticism that he accepts rather than tell them the truth.  In fact, one of the running gags of the movie is his neighbor Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen) seeing the countless women go in and out of the apartment in constant bewilderment.

All of his long hours at work and sitting outside in the freezing cold while waiting to be allowed back into his apartment finally pay off for Baxter when four of his mid-management “clients” write a glowing recommendation about Baxter that’s so positive that it catches the eye of Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) who is the Director of Personnel.  He calls Baxter into his office and let’s him know that he’s aware that something’s going on and turns the screws on Baxter until Baxter  agrees to give him a key to the apartment in exchange for the promotion.  To sweeten the deal, Sheldrake gives Baxter two tickets to see “The Music Man” in exchange for the use of the apartment that night.  An astonished and happy Baxter agrees, and he invites Fran to join him that night to see the play which she agrees to but after she meets with her former paramour for a drink.

What Baxter doesn’t realize is that the man Fran is meeting is Sheldrake himself who convinces Fran that he’s going to leave his wife and children and marry her.  Despite knowing better, Fran believes him and they go to Baxter’s apartment even though Fran isn’t aware that it’s Baxter’s whom she just stood up.  Baxter is disappointed by her not showing up but the promotion he has long dreamed about cheers him up a lot and he forgives her.  Later, when Baxter discovers a broken mirror  left in his apartment, he returns it to Sheldrake who says that the owner of it had thrown it at him.  It’s not until the office Christmas party where Baxter thinks he might be winning Fran over that he discovers that she is the woman Sheldrake is seeing when she offers him her broken mirror to see how his new hat looks.  Crushed at the discovery, his promotion doesn’t seem as important as it once did compared to his feelings for Fran.

Things take a darker turn when Sheldrake’s secretary (Edie Adams) tells Fran that she is the latest in a long line of women to be Sheldrake’s mistress and that he’s told each one of them that he would divorce his wife for them too. After hearing what she had long suspected, Fran angrily questions Sheldrake while they are at Baxter’s apartment, but he tries to placate her until it’s time for him to go home to his family.  Fran is so distraught at the realization that she will never be loved by Sheldrake like she loves him, that she takes an overdoes of sleeping pills and goes to sleep in Baxter’s bed.  For poor Baxter, who was also depressed at the apparent loss of Fran to Sheldrake has spent hours in a bar getting drunk waiting for Sheldrake’s time to be up before returning home.  He comes home with a drunk woman he picked up at the bar only to discover Fran on the brink of death.  That brush with death clarifies every-one’s situation and feelings as Baxter must decide what’s most important to him – Fran or his promotion, while Fran must choose between men and restore her self-esteem.

I have to say, that The Apartment is not the movie that I thought it would be.  I was expecting an out and out comedy film, but this was more of a dramedy especially with the darker elements in the last act of the movie.  To everyone in the film’s credit, both the comedy and the dramatic elements are excellent.  Jack Lemmon was perfect for this movie as he’s such a great actor that he makes it all believable.  His nervous energy and ticks make the character a lot of fun to watch and his ease balancing both drama and comedy shows why he was one of our best actors.  Shirley MacLaine is also good as Fran who knows what the reality of her situation is but refuses to believe it until it’s almost too late.  It’s not a big role but she does a lot with it and she makes us sympathize with the downtrodden young woman.

It was something of a shock to me to see Fred MacMurray in this kind of a role, since I grew up watching him in Disney movies like The Absent Minded Professor, in which he always played kind and paternal roles.  Seeing him as the amoral Sheldrake who bullied anyone that got in his way was a far cry from the roles I was used to seeing him in. MacMurray was brilliant as Sheldrake, especially the scene where he blackmails Baxter.  While he may not have been the first choice for the role, I think he was perfect for it with his natural presence and demeanor being used to play a selfish man.  The movie sports a great script from Diamond and once again Wilder proves that his reputation as a director was well-deserved.  While I think the movie could have been trimmed more (it runs a little over two hours), there’s no denying the talent involved in this movie and it’s place in movie history.


This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer is very impressive for a movie this old.  The black and white cinematography looks stunning and could almost be called noirish with all of it’s shadowy scenes.  Detail and textures look great and have a clarity that will allow you to see the designs in the suits.  The black levels are gloriously dark and the contrast is spot on.  For a movie this old, you’d expect to see a lot of defects and blemishes, but only other that a few specks here and there, this transfer looks fantastic.  This is a very clean presentation that looks cinematic and without heavy scrubbing from DNR.  Fans of the film will be very happy!


The Apartment’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also impressive despite it’s age with a clean sounding sound mix that clearly delivers the film’s many witty one-liners.  Most of the dialogue is primarily delivered by the front channels, with only minor instances of the rear speakers offering some directional effects.  Adolph Deutsch’s score for the movie also sounds good and balanced in well with the rest of the movie.  To make it even better, there’s no age related defects on the sound mix like hissing or scratches either.


There’s not a lot of extras on the disc, but the ones that are here are good ones.  The bad news is that they are in standard definition with the exception of the trailer.

  • Commentary with Film Historian Bruce Block – This is an informative commentary that’s filled with some good information about the movie and Block also offers some great stories as well.  He does occasionally drop into just watching the movie and describing the action onscreen. but it’s hard not to on a movie this good.
  • Inside The ApartmentMy favorite extra on this disc is this thirty minute look at the making of the movie and it’s director.   We hear from a bunch of critics and historians including: Molly Haskell, Robert Osborne, Ed Shov, and Drew Casper  and even better, with cast members Shirley MacLaine, Edie Adams, Johnny Seven, Hope Holiday.  In a nice touch, we also hear from Jack Lemmon’s son Chris Lemmon and I.A.L. Diamond’s son Paul as well.  Combined, they all take us behind the scenes of the movie and why it’s so respected.
  • Magic Time – The Art of Jack Lemmon – Jack’s son Chris (among others) talks about the life and career of his inimitable father.
  • Theatrical Trailer


There’s a reason this dramedy won five Oscars including Best Picture and it’s a refreshingly mature film filled with adult content that surprisingly escaped the censors of the time.  While there’s nothing overt, there’s plenty that’s hinted at and sometimes directly shown.  The cast is fabulous and this is one of Wilder’s best movies.  This Blu-ray is easy to recommend since both the audio and the picture quality are excellent and the extras are nice too.  You should have this movie in your collection!

Order your copy today!


2 Responses to “The Apartment (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Nice review Sean. Some Like It Hot is fun, but I really love The Apartment. Jack Lemmon is so good in this film and I love the style of it overall. It balances tones and handles the comedy and drama in such a great way. Looking forward to grabbing this Blu.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Thanks Aaron! I think you will be very happy with this Blu-ray! It looks great!