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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 <email@example.com>
When the film was given its first public showing at a sneak preview in Santa Barbara, California, the audience reaction to the intense film was not good. The audience laughed. Billy Wilder recalled, "The people laughed from the beginning. They laughed when Birnam's brother found the bottle outside the window, they laughed when he emptied the whiskey into the sink." The theater lost viewers like a broken sieve. Preview cards were handed out, and the opinions of the flick ranged from "disgusting" to "boring." Wilder even claimed that one patron left the theater proclaiming, "I've sworn off. Never again." "You'll never drink again?" he was asked. "No, I'll never see another picture again." Another preview card said that the movie was great, but that all the "stuff about drinking and alcoholism" should be omitted. See more »
During one of Milland's scenes in Nat's, he grasps and shakes the bar vigorously. In a real saloon, the bar would be so heavy and/or solidly attached to the floor that no one would be able to do such a thing. See more »
One's too many an' a hundred's not enough.
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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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