A scarifyingly grim and grimy account of an alcoholic writer's lost weekend, stolen from time intended to be spent on taking a cure and gradually turning into a descent into hell. What makes the film so gripping is the brilliance with which Wilder uses John F Seitz's camerawork to range from an unvarnished portrait of New York brutally stripped of all glamour (Milland's frantic trudge along Third Avenue on YomKippur in search of an open pawnshop is a neo-realist morceau d'anthologie) to an almost Wellesian evocation of the alcoholic's inner world (not merely the justly famous DTs hallucination of a mouse attacked by bats, but the systematic use of images dominated by huge foreground objects). Characteristically dispassionate in his observation, Wilder elicits sympathy for his hero only by stressing the cruelly unthinking indifference to his sickness: the male nurse in the alcoholic ward gleefully chanting, 'Good morning, Mary Sunshine!', or the pianist in the bar leading onlookers in a derisive chant of 'somebody stole my purse' (to the tune of 'Somebody Stole My Gal') after he is humiliatingly caught trying to acquire some money. A pity that the production code demanded a glibly unconvincing ending in which love finds a way.
Cast and crew
Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder
Ray Milland Jane Wyman Philip Terry Howard da Silva Doris Dowling Frank Faylen