If you haven't seen Sunset Blvd., I strongly recommend that you do. Yes, it's really weird. Yes, that Gloria Swanson is a total nut-job. Yes, it's awesome. I watched it for the second time ever last weekend for Old Movie Night, and it was better than I remembered. And it was especially fun to watch with a group of 20-somethings who were completely disturbed by most of it.
If you don't know the story, which you should, it opens with a dead man in a pool. That's how you know it's going to be great. We then go back some time to find out how this fellow ended up in the pool. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a handsome, young Hollywood hopeful narrates the story of his accidental meeting with the insane, washed up movie star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). For whatever reason, he gets sucked into her weirdness and things spiral out of control from there. It slowly builds as Norma gets more and more crazy and poor Joe tries harder and harder to get away from the madness.
(Sidenote: Is it just me, or are there a lot of crazy movie characters with a variation of the name Norman? Norma Desmond, Norman Bates ... Hollywood has doomed the name!)
Also adding to the insanity is Norma's creepy butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). He's always lurking in the shadows and seems to have some weird, unhealthy obsession with Norma.
Clearly, it has the makings of a great film: A big old mansion, an insane old actress with crazy eyes, a dashing young man trapped by the old lady, and a creepy butler who plays the organ.
The group at old movie night seemed to enjoy it. Despite some mocking laughs at Norma's weird facial expressions and some plain old corny dialogue, it seemed to go over really well. It's definitely a film that holds up. As my insightful (and cute!) boyfriend said, it's kind of like a really long episode of The Twilight Zone. It's plenty creepy, but not really a scary movie.
We were so inspired by Norma's crazy eyes that we took a Norma-inspired group photo:
To make things even more interesting, check out the imdb.com trivia for the movie. Good stuff. And take a look at their trivia for Gloria Swanson. Turns out her on screen persona isn't that far off from real life. And Carol Burnett's parodies of the movie is always entertaining.