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Featured Blu-ray Review: Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray Double-Shot: The Misfits and Some Like It Hot

May 18th, 2011

Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray Double-Shot: The Misfits - Buy from Amazon and Some Like It Hot - Buy from Amazon

The second double-shot Blu-ray review in as many days. This one is two Marilyn Monroe films including one that would turn out to be her final film, The Misfits, as well as the film many would call her greatest, Some Like It Hot. How well have these films aged over the past 50 years? And do the Blu-rays do them justice?

The Movie

We meet Roslyn Taber on the day of her divorce. A mechanic, Guido, has come to take a look at her car, which was a divorce present. She only got to drive it 23 miles before a man ran into her, to start a conversation, as her Aunt Isabelle explains. Guido offers to drive the pair to the courthouse where Roslyn's divorce will be finalized. He also offers to show Roslyn the countryside after the proceedings. Before that, he meets up with Gay Langland, an aging cowboy who is at the train station saying goodbye to a woman. She seems really upset that she has to leave him and return home. He might not remember her name by the end of the day. He's itching to get out of the city and into the country, where a cowboy belongs, and he doesn't want Guido bringing along a woman.

Of course, his attitude changes when he sees Roslyn. The pair meet at a casino / bar where Roslyn and Isabelle go to celebrate / mourn her divorce. When Guido and Gay invite her to stay with them in the country, she accepts, as she needs to get out of the city and sort things out, while Isabelle comes along, so Roslyn doesn't get caught up with cowboys. After Guido has to return back to town, a rodeo cowboy, Perce Howland, comes to help Gay round up mustangs, but he too falls for Roslyn.

Meanwhile, Roslyn is still trying to find herself while adjusting to life in the country. And now she has three men trying to court her. Will she be able to adjust to the country life? For that matter, will Gay be able to adjust to the changing times. The world has very little need for a cowboy anymore. Will they end up together, or just go their separate ways.

Sadly, this film is best known for behind-the-scenes problems, as it had quite a troubled shoot. Some of this was just due to the conditions, as the film was shot in the Nevada desert and the cast and crew had to deal with 108 degree weather. Also, there are problems with some of the key members of the cast and crew. The director, John Huston, was dealing with a gambling and drinking problem at the time. The screenwriter, Arthur Miller, and the star, Marilyn Monroe, were going through a divorce. Marilyn Monroe was also dealing with a prescription pill addiction. While Montgomery Clift was having problems with alcohol. Despite all of that, they crafted an amazing movie.

All four of the main leads give incredible performances as flawed characters who are trying to find their place in the world. It is also a great film, due to its examination of one of the most American movie genres, the Western. (Although the movie itself is a drama.) How Gay Langland goes about adapting to a world that simply has no use for someone like himself is a powerful story. Although this part of the movie is the part that has aged the least gracefully. Granted, there will always be stories you can tell of people whose way of live is becoming obsolete, but I think this particular one would have more impact on those who grew up with cowboy movies.

Overall, while it is not the best film in the careers of John Huston, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, or Montgomery Clift, The Misfits is in the top ten, maybe even the top five for all five of these filmmakers. Quite frankly, if you don't own the DVD, the Blu-ray is a must have.

The Extras

Sadly, there are no real extras on the Blu-ray with only the trailer to be found. The film does look good, with a couple caveats. It is 50 years old, and one has to take that into consideration. Also, while some of the shots look quite soft, this was more of an artistic choice than a flaw in the transfer. The audio is, well, calling it uncomplicated is an understatement beyond compare. It's in mono. The reason for that is simple, the film was shot in mono. On the other hand, I'm not going to complain and for $14, it's still worth it.

The Verdict

The Misfits makes its Blu-ray debut on a disc that is as bare bones as you can get. I would have been willing to pay $20 had the Blu-ray that included a making of documentary, perhaps a retrospective, and an audio commentary track with a film historian. It certainly deserves that. On the other hand, for what you get, $14 is a fair price.

We go from Marilyn Monroe's best dramatic performance to her best comedic performance.

Set in the Prohibition Era, Some Like It Hot stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as Jerry and Joe respectively. They are two Jazz musicians working in a speakeasy disguised as a funeral home. In the middle of a gig, the place gets raided. They do manage to get out before they are busted, but they don't get paid, and they are in a debt to a lot of people. Worse still, Joe loses their coats betting on a dog.

They are so desperate for money, that when they hear about a job with an all-girls band, Jerry's ready to jump at it. Joe thinks it's a crazy idea. That said, after witnessing Spats Colombo lead the Valentine's Day Massacre, and being spotted, suddenly what seemed crazy is the sanest idea in the world. They buy a couple second-hand wigs, some dresses, and they, or more precisely, Daphne and Josephine are out of there and on train bound for Florida for a three-week gig.

While on the way to Florida, they meet Sugar Kane, one of the other musicians. Joe is immediately smitten and decides to take on a new persona, Junior, to woo her. Junior is a rich playboy, or at least that's what he will pretend to be. Meanwhile, Jerry has a little romance of his own when Daphne becomes Osgood Fielding III's object of affection. So now Joe and Jerry have to manage their careers as female musicians while worrying about their romantic entanglements. And then Spats and his boys show up in Miami.

The AFI awarded this film the number one spot on the list of 100 best comedies of all time, and it's hard to argue with that. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are both at the top of their game in this movie. Also, Marilyn Monroe, despite the long-talked about problem she had remembering her lines and such, is great in this part. Granted, her part calls for a high dose of sex appeal and singing talent, both of which she had. The pacing is impeccable and Billy Wilder manages to create a screwball farce that includes a scene of a mafia massacre, and I don't think there have been many directors with the talent to pull off such a feat.

The Extras

The Blu-ray is essentially the old 2-disc DVD and the extras include an audio commentary track, with Paul Diamond, the son of one of the screenwriters, I.A.L. Diamond, plus the screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. There are also interview clips with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis cut into the track. Next up is a 26-minute making of featurette and a 20-minute retrospective. There are two interview featurettes, the first with Tony Curtis and the second with four of the band members. Finally, there is a Virtual Hall of Memories, which is a 21-minute collection of stills from the film inter-cut with clips.

The technical presentation is strong, all things considered. The film is more than 50 years old and was shot a little on the soft side, in order to make the make-up used on Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis less obvious. That said, it still looks better than the previous special edition DVD. As for the audio, they've upgraded it from mono to 5.1, but it is still mostly front and center with the surround sound speakers being underused. You do get the occasional gun shot or the score coming from the back speakers, which is a nice touch.

The Verdict

Some Like It Hot is one of the greatest movies of all time. If it is not in your collection, it should be. The Blu-ray is shovelware, but given the quality of the movie and the extras on the disc, it's still worth it.

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Filed under: Video Review, Some Like it Hot, The Misfits