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Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been "on the wagon" for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his last...one way or the other. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As well as the alcohol industry badgering Paramount Pictures into not releasing the film, the studio was also besieged by temperance groups lobbying that the film shouldn't be released, as it would only encourage drinking. It was released on a limited engagement at Billy Wilder's behest. Reviewers fell all over themselves in their praise of it, thus prompting Paramount to take the plunge and give it a wide release. See more »
When Helen pours whiskey for Don near the end then divides it into two glasses, it is nowhere near a quarter of the way up the glass. When Don chooses not to drink it moments later, and drops his cigarette in the glass, it is more than half-way full. See more »
From the first shot of a bottle hanging from a drunk's apartment, we realize we are about to see a clever addict and a weekend of his demented exploits. Ray Milland has an honest face, not unlike Jimmy Stewart's, however, with this character it is only skin-deep. The great thing about his performance and the film as a whole, is that his face will gradually change, becoming dark and chilly, just like Stewart's in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Stewart had lost his life momentarily. Milland has lost his soul to the bottle and he will stop at nothing to quench his thirst.
This really is a textbook example of the alcoholic's lies and schemes, a precursor to LEAVING LAS VEGAS, although there are people in this film who care about the drinker from the beginning. He just can't stop and we start to lose whatever sympathy we had for him because of how he treats other people. This is a drunk with a sober man wanting to come out, but Wilder's script dives deeply into the unpredictable outcomes of most alcoholics.
LOST WEEKEND was innovative and was almost never released because test audiences could not take the film's realism. The hospital sequence retains its horror, and Milland's withdrawal-induced hallucination of a rat in the wall was like him looking in the mirror. See this movie and you will come away with a completely informed and scary anthology of the antics of a hopeless alcoholic. This is amazing considering it came out of the old Hollywood system.
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