Universal // 1959 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 7th, 2012
"That's just what we call pillow talk, baby." -- Ash, Army of Darkness
A movie that could be considered the granddaddy of modern romantic comedies, Pillow Talk was a smash success when it was released in 1959 and still manages to charm audiences with its quick wit and attractive, likable characters. Part of Universal's 100th Anniversary Collection, Pillow Talk is now available on Blu-ray for fans to snuggle up with.
Interior decorator Jan Morrow (Doris Day) has a problem...and it's the incorrigible Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). Jan is never able to use her phone (connected through now defunct "party lines") because Brad, a regular Don Juan with the ladies, is always on the line, flirting and wooing various women with his smooth talking and musical skills (that's right, he sings to his honeys). In the tradition of the best romantic comedies and through a series of miscommunications and coincidences, Jan and Brad end up falling for each other...but only because Jan thinks Brad is a successful small town guy named Rex, whose aw shucks demeanor makes Jan swoon. Brad plays Jan like a fiddle, always fearing he'll have to tell her the truth: that he's really the cad on the other end of her line. Flip-flopping back and forth from Brad to Rex, Brad finds himself getting deeper and deeper in trouble...and in love!
Is there a manlier name than "Rock?" Seriously, I can't think of a moniker that sounds more like a chest-thumping, beer swilling Neanderthal than "Rock." The only other name that comes to mind is "Granite," but I have the sneaking suspicion the last parents who named their kids "Granite" probably lived about five hundred years before Jesus roamed the earth.
But I digress...
Pillow Talk features Hollywood legend Rock Hudson in one of his most beloved roles (his first foray into comedy), alongside Doris Day, the only woman roaming the earth made of pure sugar (aside from Annette Funicello). Film buffs already know that Hudson and Day were, for a brief period of time, one of Hollywood's hottest on-screen couples. The pair made a trio of films, including Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). All three were hits, but Pillow Talk was the runaway success; the film raked in just under $20 million at the box office, an enormous sum for the late 50's. Aside of being a commercial success, it also managed to snag Oscar nods and a statuette for Best Screenplay. Not bad for a movie as light and airy as cotton candy.
Pillow Talk's plot hinges on something most people under the age of 60 won't remember: party lines. In the early days of the telephone -- before each household had their own dedicated land line (itself now a dying technology due to cell phones) -- folks often had to share their phone service with their neighbors. If you wanted to make a call, you'd pick up the phone only to find out someone else was already in the middle of a conversation. Obviously, this made for not only a frustrating way to contact your loved ones, but privacy was a pretty scarce commodity. Pillow Talk uses the party line idea to set up a romance between Brad and Jan (even though Brad pretends to be someone else upon their in-person meeting). Before there were personal ads and eventually the internet, there were party lines and they were a hoot!
As a movie couple, Hudson and Day have chemistry to spare. Rock pulls off the tricky feat of playing a hardened city slicker and a naive hick, sometimes having to change gears mid-sentence. In her time, Doris was often pigeonholed as the innocent "girl next door," strikingly beautiful but pure as the driven snow. I can see why she got that reputation, as Day's demeanor radiates a woman who has yet to experience more than a first kiss with a man. Even with her squeaky clean image, Doris is a treat, bantering with Hudson like an old married couple. The sexual electricity gets ratcheted up and reaches its peak (for 1959) when the two take a bath together through the magic of a split screen. In fact, the use of split screen during Pillow Talk is rather ingenious; phone calls bounce back and forth like a ping pong match, making what could have been a bland plot device into a funny narrative device.
Supporting Hudson and Day are two excellent performers: the late Tony Randall (who appeared in all three Hudson/Day comedies) and six time Oscar nominee (including a Supporting Actress nod for Pillow Talk) Thelma Ritter. Ritter plays Alma, Jan's boozy housekeeper whose entrances are full of witty, wonderful physical humor. Randall (best known as Felix Unger on the classic TV sitcom The Odd Couple) gets saddled as Day's lovelorn best friend (you know, the guy who never gets the girl) but also garnered most of the best lines ("It takes an early bird to get the best of a worm like me!"). Both actors help raise the material above its genre trappings and into something much more special.
If Pillow Talk has any real failings, it's that the movie sometimes goes so broad it becomes almost laughable. One scene features Doris fending off Nick Adams (as a socialite's nerdy, somewhat creepy son), whose advances can only be described as "rapey." If a man tried the same moves in 2012, he's be prosecuted for attempted molestation so fast it'd make his head spin.
But that's just a minor quibble. Pillow Talk is cute, funny, and a well oiled romantic comedy. The film's best feature is that, aside of the whole "party line" angle, it doesn't feel creaky or lagging. A few years ago Hollywood tried to recapture the same spirit with the comedy Down with Love, which failed miserably because it's impossible to capture lightning in a bottle twice. To spin a well worn cliché, they don't make 'em like they used to. Pillow Talk is proof of that.
Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen, the transfer is clear of any major defects, but the filmic grain is rather notable. A product of its time, the film looks gorgeous in high definition with colors popping out in absolutely wonderful clarity. One of the great things about Blu-ray is revisiting these older films and seeing how beautiful they can look. Pillow Talk isn't perfect, but the upgrade in quality is immediately noticeable. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio is representative of the original recording, a classic front-heavy mix with no evidence of being tampered or screwed with. Just know that it isn't going to give your surround sound system a workout. Also included are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
This Universal "100th Anniversary Collector's Edition" comes complete with bonus features fans will eat up: a commentary track from film historians Jeff Bond, Nick Redman, and Julie Kirgo, discussing various aspects of the film's production and historical importance; a couple featurettes ("Back in Bed with Pillow Talk" and "Chemistry 101: The Film Duo of Doris Day and Rock Hudson") that look at the film's impact and the special on-screen relationship between its two stars; a theatrical trailer; two brief studio features ("100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era" and "100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters") which have been included Universal's other 100th Anniversary releases; and the now ubiquitous standard DVD and Digital copies.
Over fifty years on and Pillow Talk still retains a vast amount of charm and pizzazz.
Not Guilty. This is a movie you can call up anytime, baby!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy