Some Like It Hot [DVD]
Director : Billy Wilder
Screenplay : Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (suggested by a story by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan)
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1959
Stars : Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane), Tony Curtis (Joe / Josephine), Jack Lemmon (Jerry / Daphne), George Raft (Spats Columbo), Pat O'Brien (Mulligan), Joe E. Brown (Osgood E. Fielding III), Nehemiah Persoff (Little Bonaparte)
In the annals of film comedy, there are a select few films that truly stand out as having withstood the test of time--that are just as funny now, if not funnier, than they were when first released--and Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot is right at the top. Named the number one comedy of all time by the American Film Institute, Wilder's wise-cracking, gender-bending farce is a perfectly pitched comedy of romance and masquerade, with its outrageous scenario constantly kept in check by the finely tuned performance from its stars: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.
Curtis and Lemmon play Joe and Jerry, two struggling musicians trying to make ends meet during the Prohibition Era of the late 1920s. After witnessing the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which a Chicago gangster named Spats Columbo (George Raft) machine-guns seven men in a car garage, Joe and Jerry have to get out of town. Since they're flat broke (Joe even sold their overcoats for money to bet at the racetrack), they have no means to travel except one option: Disguised as two women, they join up with Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators, an all-girl jazz band traveling to Miami for a three-week, all-expenses-paid gig.
So, for two-thirds of the movie's running time, Curtis and Lemmon play their roles in quite convincing drag as Josephine and Daphne. Just pulling off the ruse that they're women isn't enough to fuel the entire movie, so things are made even more complicated with the introduction of Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane (her last name having been changed from the more unwieldy Kawalchick), the band's lead singer and ukulele player who has a penchant for getting into trouble and drinking too much. Monroe is at her best in this role, both utterly alluring and slightly sad. Her Sugar is a delightfully upbeat screen character who is hiding a great hurt inside, just as Monroe was in real life (the late 1950s, during which time the movie was made, were some of the hardest years of her life emotionally).
The plot thickens as Joe/Josephine falls for Sugar and adds another character to his repertoire by impersonating a frigid young millionaire on vacation in Florida with whom Sugar will fall in love. Jerry/Daphne has his own problems when he catches the fancy of an aging, seven-time-married-and-divorced playboy named Osgood E. Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who has a devious grin and a wandering hand. And, if that weren't enough, the Chicago gangsters (almost all of whom are played by grizzled character actors who specialized in playing such roles in 1930s Hollywood) just happen to be having a convention in the same Miami hotel, so it isn't long before Spats shows up to throw the whole scenario into utter turmoil.
Some Like It Hot succeeds largely because it constantly pushes the envelope of good taste, always threatening to fall over into utter absurdity, yet never does. It is that tightrope-balancing act that gives it its pizzazz. It's both silly and sexy, and it thrives on twisting expectations and setting up scenarios that seem hopelessly irresolvable. The jokes are sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious, but they are always impeccably timed and perfectly delivered. Just watch the way Lemmon and Curtis react to Monroe when she makes her first entrance and the way Lemmon delivers the line: "Look at how she moves. She's like Jell-O on springs!"
Inspired by a forgotten 1920 farce made in Germany, director Billy Wilder and his cowriter I.A.L. Diamond, with whom he would collaborate on another 12 projects, including The Apartment (1960), took what was essentially a one-joke idea (two guys dressed as girls) and used it as the launching board for a comedy that is both completely irreverent and utterly innocent. Much of the humor in Some Like It Hot can be directly attributed to Wilder and Diamond's screenplay, which is sharp, tight, and filled to the rim with hilarious one-liners, double entendres, and memorable put-downs. It is the very essence of precision comedy writing, and the actors pull it off with the kind of charm and energy that never gets old.
|Some Like It Hot Collector's Edition Two-Disc DVD Set|
|Distributor||MGM / Sony|
|Release Date||August 8, 2006|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
| The primary reason to pick up this "Collector's Edition" of Some Like It Hot to replace the "Special Edition" that was released in 2001 is the transfer. While the earlier disc featured a decent, but unremarkable nonanamorphic transfer that showed some damage and wear, this new two-disc set features a clean, high-definition anamorphic widescreen transfer that is a noticeable step up. The image is a clearer, cleaner, and sharper, and, with the anamorphic enhancement, it boasts considerably better detail, especially in the darker scenes. The dirt and unstable black levels from the 2001 disc have been rectified, resulting in the film looking better than it ever has on home video. |
Although the back of the case claims that the 5.1 surround soundtrack is "newly created" from the original monaural soundtrack, as far as I can tell this is the same track that was available on the 2001 disc. The results of the remixed soundtrack are fine, but limited. In most scenes, the vast majority of the sound is confined to the front soundstage. It is only during the musical numbers that it opens up at all, with some use of the surround speakers to spread out the range, which essentially makes for a slightly souped-up version of the mono track. The soundtrack is generally clean, with good fidelity for a 47-year-old film and a lack of hissing or other artifacts. The original monaural soundtrack is also included.
| In addition to the newly remastered image, the "Collector's Edition" of Some Like It Hot boasts several new supplements. First, there is an audio commentary that stitches together several different sources: a new interview with Tony Curtis, pieces of a 1984 interview with Jack Lemmon, and new commentary from I.A.L. Diamond's son Paul Diamond, who is recorded along with screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Fever Pitch). The disparate elements of the commentary are actually married fairly well, which results in a good overview of the film, its production, and its lasting legacy. |
The other new supplements are two featurettes: "The Making of Some Like It Hot and "The Legacy of Some Like It Hot." Together, these run about 45 minutes in length. They feature circa-1984 interviews with Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder, and I.A.L Diamond, as well as what appear to be more recent interviews with Tony Curtis and Diamond's widow. Much of the discussion tends to focus on Marilyn Monroe--both her centrality to the film's success and the problems she caused. There is little in the way of archival footage, although there are some tantalizingly brief glimpses of color home movies shot during the production.
The rest of the supplements are reissues from the 2001 "Special Edition" disc. The most compelling of these is film critic Leonard Maltin's interview with star Tony Curtis. Running roughly half an hour in length, Curtis talks openly about the lasting appeal and popularity of the film, his approach to playing a woman, and his part in the film's success (he's not particularly humble, but who would have expected him to be, anyway?). He also tells a couple of amusingly off-color stories that are right in keeping with movie's spirit. Maltin, who is an enormous fan of the movie, asks good questions and takes Curtis in interesting directions, especially in their discussions of the rumors and stories about the production, including the notorious difficulty of working with Monroe.
The 12-minute featurette "Memories From the Sweet Sues" is an enjoyable and funny reunion of four of the actresses who played members of the movie's all-girl jazz band: Marian Collier (Olga), Laurie Mitchell (Mary Lou), Sandra Warner (Emily), and Joan Nicholas (Betty). They watch sequences from the film and look through old production photographs, laughing with each other and sharing stories from the production (they do tend to gush a little too much about Monroe, though). One of their most interesting revelations is that all the original advertising art (including what was used on the front cover of the "Special Edition" DVD) features Warner's body with Marilyn Monroe's head attached because Monroe was pregnant during the photo shoots.
The Virtual Hall of Memories is an unnecessarily elaborate slideshow gallery of production photographs and clips from the film. Divided into five sections--Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder, and behind the scenes--this section include some never-before-scene photos. Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer, but a section of six trailers for Billy Wilder films that appeared on the 2001 disc has been dropped.
The original pressbook is also included in its entirety, with the capability of clicking on certain portions and zooming in for a closer view, which is a nice touch.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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