MGM // 1957 // 121 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 23rd, 2011
Marilyn Monroe and her bosom companions!
"Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop."
Joe (Tony Curtis, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon, Grumpy Old Men) are struggling musicians living from paycheck to paycheck (and usually blowing most of those at the racetrack) in Depression-era Chicago. One night, Joe and Jerry accidentally witness ruthless local gangster Spats Colombo (George Raft, They Live By Night) mowing down some of his associates. Desperate to get out of town before Spats can find them, Joe and Jerry agree to dress up as women and join an all-female band headed for a three-week gig in Florida.
The initial plan is to ditch the costumes as soon as they arrive, but that plan changes when the boys meet the drop-dead gorgeous singer/ukulele player Sugar Kane Kowalcyzk (Marilyn Monroe, The Misfits). Both men are instantly smitten with Sugar, but find themselves unable to act on their lustful impulses due to the disguises they have chosen. Joe quickly gets the upper hand when he adopts a third identity as an emotionally stunted, fabulously wealthy oil magnate. Meanwhile, Jerry unexpectedly finds himself being courted by an actual lovestruck millionaire (Joe E. Brown, Earthworm Tractors).
It's said that Marilyn Monroe's depression, addictions, and personal problems caused no end of difficulties during the shooting of Billy Wilder's 1955 comedy The Seven-Year Itch. Monroe had trouble with her lines on a regular basis, was frequently late to the set, and caused the budget to inflate considerably. Even so, she managed to churn out a memorable performance and one of cinema's most iconic images (the skirt of her white dress being blown up as she stands over a subway grating). It's perhaps a tribute to her undeniable allure that Wilder was still interested in working with her two years later on Some Like It Hot. Monroe's role had initially been intended for Mitzi Gaynor, but Wilder immediately handed it to Monroe as soon as she became available. Sure enough, Monroe brought another generous supply of problems to the set with her, routinely arriving late, continuing to struggle with her lines, and causing Billy Wilder one headache after another. Wilder was so fed up with Monroe by the time filming concluded that he didn't even invite her to the wrap party.
Even so, it's hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of Sugar, as Monroe managed to turn it into one of her most memorable, entertaining parts. She's the beautiful calm at the center of a comic storm; perhaps the only actress in America at the time with enough sex-symbol status to validate the absurd lengths to which Jerry and (particularly) Joe go to in order to win her affection. Whatever problems Wilder may have had with Monroe, he nonetheless films her with awestruck adoration. When the film pauses so Monroe can sing, "I Want to Be Loved By You," we receive a striking piece of cinema rather than a pointless interlude. Monroe and Wilder use the actress's alarmingly low-cut dress and a large spotlight to sensual effect, as Monroe teasingly yet innocently starts bobbing in and out of the shadows Wilder has surrounded her with. The other characters simply observe in greatly appreciative wonder. True, the plot is primarily about the actions of the characters played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, but the film undeniably revolves around Ms. Monroe. Watching the film, you understand why Wilder was so willing to indulge behavior that would not be tolerated from anyone else.
Still, Some Like It Hot is only regarded as a comedic masterpiece because almost every other element is handled with such professionalism and wit. Monroe's charms (comedic and otherwise) were considerable, but it could be argued that she excels to the degree that she does because she's permitted to simply flow through the film rather than support the entire endeavor. Much of the grunt work is done by Lemmon and Curtis, who provide manic energy to their scenes together and remain fresh and spontaneous even on Monroe's fortieth take of a scene. Lemmon is a scream during his "bedroom" scene on the train with Monroe; a small masterpiece of comedic frustration. Curtis isn't quite as good at playing his female alter ego as Lemmon is (many of his lines had to be dubbed by another actor), but his fake oil baron ranks as perhaps the funniest work of Curtis' career. Offering a sly, giddy Cary Grant impression, Curtis exploits Grant's charming screen presence to fantastic effect. Still, the subplot that ends up stealing the show is the contrived "love affair" between Lemmon and Joe E. Brown, which comically builds its way to one of the most delightful closing lines in the movies.
Some Like it Hot arrives on Blu-ray sporting a mostly respectable 1080p/1.66:1 transfer. While this film doesn't look as sharp as MGM's Blu-ray release of The Misfits (another Monroe film released on Blu the same day as this one), the picture isn't bad considering its age. There are a few scratches and flecks present, but they aren't prominent or distracting. The film's natural grain structure has been left intact and the level of detail is suitably impressive. There's no evidence of artificial tampering of any sort. The audio is a bit less impressive, as the music occasionally sounds a little muffled or distorted (particularly during the opening credits and when Monroe is singing), but it's clean enough for the most part. A few stray lines of dialogue aren't quite as clean as they ought to be, but it's not worth complaining about.
In terms of extras, there's a bit of a problem: I was unable to access them. Some Like it Hot does not contain a disc menu, meaning that the extras can only be accessed via the pop-up menu while you're watching the film (which runs on a loop once you put the disc in). That's all well and good, but each time I would click one of the extras, the disc would simply quit and act as if the "stop" button had been pressed. Still, many others have reviewed the disc and did not report such problems. The packaging lists a group commentary patched together from archival interviews with assorted cast and crew members, several featurettes ("The Making of Some Like it Hot," "The Legacy of Some Like it Hot," "Nostalgic Look Back" and "Memories from Sweet Sues"), a "virtual hall of memories," and a theatrical trailer.
Honestly, some of the gangster stuff doesn't quite work for me, and that's due in large part to the fact that George Raft is awfully flat as the violent Spats. I realize Spats is supposed to be nothing more than a stereotypical gangster, but Raft just seems bored in the role and can't bother to sell a suitably menacing presence.
In addition, the film offers so many fantastic, well-earned laughs that it's easy to forget about a handful of clunkers. The screenplay occasionally veers into territory that's beneath a comedy this witty, such as the less-than-amusing material in which a horny bellboy continually attempts to woo Curtis' female alter ego. Still, these complaints are minor and will be completely overwhelmed by the giant grin you'll have on your face after Some Like it Hot concludes.
Oh, and that lackluster cover art is awfully disappointing, too.
Blisteringly funny, relentlessly sexy, and boasting strong performances from all three of its leads, Some Like it Hot remains an immensely enjoyable film. This Blu-ray release doesn't do much to improve on the previous special edition DVD, but it gets the job done.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Catalan)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (German)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Russian)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Thai)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Czech)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Hungarian)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Polish)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated