Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon
Director:  Billy Wilder
Audio:  PCM Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Review
Length:  122 Minutes
Release Date:  November 20, 2018

“Look at the way they move…I tell ya, it’s a whole different sex!”

Film ****

I once saw an interview with director Billy Wilder in which he claimed he never considered the genre of the picture he was making beforehand.  Having dabbled in a wide variety, he humbly suggested, “If the audience laughs, then I know it was a comedy.” 

Some Like it Hot was definitely a comedy.  The audiences have been laughing for more than 45 years now.

Voted by the American Film Institute as the greatest American comedy ever made, Some Like it Hot is absolutely timeless in its appeal to movie lovers, and completely immortal in its ability to inspire tear-inducing laughter for a full two hours.  Wilder, who co-scripted and directed, put Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag opposite a dynamite, sexually overt performance by Marilyn Monroe and created a comedy legend.

When hard luck musicians Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in the 1920s, they take the only chance they see to stay alive:  join an all-girl swing band en route to Miami.  So, with a costume change, a couple of wigs, and two pairs of clean-shaven legs, the newly christened Josephine and Daphne take it on the lam.

On the train, they meet up with the airy and curvaceous Sugar Kane (Monroe), and both fall for her, though naturally, as women, they can’t indulge.  There are laughs a plenty before the stage in Miami is ever set.  Watching Sugar in Daphne’s berth, warming her feet…there was never such a harbinger of comic things to come! 

Miami offers strange romantic interludes for both of our heroines…er, heroes.  When Sugar confides in Josephine her dreams of marrying a millionaire with a yacht, Joe decides to make her dream come true with a phony costume change and a horrendously funny accent, not to mention a story about his impotence with women that leads to one of the sexiest horizontal kissing scenes ever captured on film!

Meanwhile, Daphne finds herself in the clutches of a real millionaire, Osgood (Brown), who can’t keep his groping hands to himself.  While Joe is sharing romance with Sugar aboard Osgood’s yacht, scenes of a bewildered Daphne tangoing with Osgood are humorously intercut.  (“Dear, you’re leading again…”)

But a gangster convention in town suddenly puts the girls…uh, boys, in danger once again, and with Joe faced with telling Sugar the truth, and Daphne strangely engaged to Osgood, everything races towards a climax that is faster and funnier than anything you’ve ever seen, leading up to THE funniest exit line in motion picture history.  Trust me.

The script is sharp and impeccable…there is enough humor in it to make at least three modern comedies.  The witticisms and scenarios come one right after another in such rapid fire fashion that severe laughter pains are a distinct possibility.  The three leads are remarkable in their chemistry and timing.   Tony Curtis is picture perfect in his “trio” of roles (“Where did you get that accent?” snaps Jerry, “Nobody talks like that!”).  Jack Lemmon, a clown prince of comedy, is at his sharpest and most vibrant.

But as good as the men are, I defy you to even look at them when Ms. Monroe is on screen.  Exhibiting all the radiance, sweetness, innocence and raw sex appeal that continues to win audience’s hearts today, Marilyn is every bit the equal of her co-stars when it comes to timing and delivery.  Stories have abounded for decades about the film being made during a particularly horrid time in her life, and how mistakes, miscues, late arrivals and solitude made working conditions difficult for her director and co-star.  How much is true and how much is fiction we may never fully know, but one thing is for certain:  there are no hints of problems on screen.  Billy Wilder managed to bring a wonderfully sexy and comic performance out of Marilyn that stands as one of her most memorable.

Apart from the laughter, the most memorable aspect of the picture has to be her rendition of “I Want to be Loved by You”.  Sporting a most daring see-through gown that must have made censors reaching for their cold compresses, she coos and purrs her way through the number, smiling directly at the camera.  The way she moves her body in and out of the light with such a carefree attitude makes the scene play like a fully clothed striptease.  Her luminous face, innocent eyes and incredible figure, combined with that whispery, sexy voice…um…sorry, lost my train of thought…what was I talking about?

Oh, yes, the movie…sorry.  If Some Like it Hot isn’t the funniest movie ever made, I can’t think of a better one off the top of my head.  This is a genuine American classic, and a movie that has lost none of its luster, appeal, or magic after forty years.  I’d wager the next forty won’t be any different.

Video ***1/2

Not only is it in 4K, but it is a remarkably clean and beautiful black and white transfer from Criterion.  Images are sharp and well-detailed throughout, with only a couple of VERY minor stretches where the print shows age in the form of some scratches or specks.  The disc is free from compression artifacts, grain, shimmer, or other distractions.  The range from darks to lights is superb.  Marilyn has never looked so beautiful.  For that matter, neither have Tony and Jack.

Audio ***1/2

The uncompressed mono soundtrack serves the comedy well; audio is clean throughout, with good balance between spoken words, music and action.

Features ****

This loaded disc includes:

* Audio commentary from 1989 featuring film scholar Howard Suber

* New program on Orry-Kelly's costumes for the film, featuring costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis and costume historian and archivist Larry McQueen

* Three making-of documentaries

* Appearance from 1982 by director Billy Wilder on The Dick Cavett Show

* Conversation from 2001 between actor Tony Curtis and film critic Leonard Maltin

* French television interview from 1988 with actor Jack Lemmon

* Trailer

* PLUS: An essay by author Sam Wasson


Some Like it Hot, but everyone will like this Blu-ray offering from Criterion.  With a beautiful transfer and a collection of terrific extras, this is a disc that every personal collection, no matter how big or small, must have. 

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