Looking at the last few weeks of my column, I'm realizing that entirely by accident, a theme has emerged in my choice of titles in the new year: namely, many of them have focused on different generations of the media – if not turning points, then at the very least accurate chronicles of the atmosphere during a certain time. 'Broadcast News' was first, examining the shift in television news from hard-hitting journalism to well-sold empty-headed punditry. Then came 'All the President's Men,' about the shoe leather and tenacity that it once took to break stories that truly matter. And this week, we have 'Sweet Smell of Success,' Alexander Mackendrick's 1957 film about the poisonous relationship between a press agent and a gossip columnist.
Suffice it to say that in mainstream terms, Mackendrick's film is decidedly less well-known than the other films listed above. But this week, Criterion Collection is releasing a truly glorious new Blu-ray set for the film, featuring a stellar transfer, loads of extras, and packaging that reflects the film's pulpy gravitas. But is 'Sweet Smell of Success' worthy of being in the company of its fellow films about the media? That's what this week's "Shelf Life" intends to determine.