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Case Number 13680: Small Claims Court

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Marilyn Monroe: Behind The Legend

Janson Media // 1986 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 22nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas wants to be loved by you, just you, nobody else but you.

The Charge

"I want to be a big star more than anything. It's something precious."—Marilyn Monroe

The Case

Your honor, we, the jury, thoroughly filled out the fifteen-question survey you given us regarding the guilt or innocence of Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend. We continue to find the fact that you are a judge to be rather suspicious, and we find your tactics to be…well, tacky, to say the least. However, as you have threatened us repeatedly with a series of poison-pen letters, we have submitted to your will and provided what you requested.

Question 1—Who is the subject of the documentary?: The lovely Marilyn Monroe, perhaps the most well-known sex symbol of all time (with apologies to Helen of Troy).

Question 2—What fruits are discussed or shown in the documentary?: The jury will abstain from making some very obvious jokes here. However, we do admit that it is rather tempting.

Question 3—When you think about the documentary, what is the first thing you remember?: Nudity! Yes, that famous photograph is included (and gazed upon at length), which seems rather odd, considering that the rest of the documentary is reasonably family-friendly PG-rated material. Also, there's the deluded fellow in this documentary who claims that Monroe became a star "not because of her beauty, or anything superficial, but because of her talent as an actress."

Question 4—Were there many scandals in the life of this particular Hollywood star? If so, are they discussed much?: Oh, yes indeed, and yes indeed. However, the documentary makes a valiant attempt to focus on the human being behind the sex symbol, a quality we find admirable in this case.

Question 5—How much of the documentary relies on clips from this particular actor's movies?: There are a number of movie clips, but there are even more clips of Monroe at various public events. Some very colorful and candid archival footage adds a good deal of interest to this documentary.

Question 6—Which well-known or well-respected individuals participate in this documentary?: Shelley Winters, Robert Mitchum, Susan Strasberg, Sheree North, Don Murray, Celeste Holm, and Josh Logan. Mitchum gets the most screen time.

Question 7—Who narrates the documentary?: The late, great Richard Widmark, who takes some time to reflect on his own memories of Marilyn in addition to narrating the documentary.

Question 8—How long is the documentary?: The documentary runs only one hour, despite the packaging which claims the "total running time" of the package is 115 minutes.

Question 9—What is your opinion on the morality of viewing a flea circus?: Your honor, the very concept of visiting a flea circus just seems so disappointing after watching Marilyn Monroe for one hour. However, we have no problem with the idea of a flea circus. If only more fleas would engage in such activities, instead of making themselves at home in the hair of poor mammals.

Question 10—If you had to pick between watching this documentary or watching Speed 2: Cruise Control, which would you choose?: We would most definitely watch this documentary again. We just finished watching Speed 2: Cruise Control, and we were very disappointed by it. We felt like Willem Dafoe was no replacement for Dennis Hopper, Jason Patric was no Keanu Reeves, and that big boat was no big bus.

Question 11—On a scale of one to ten, how huggable would you say the subject of the documentary is?: 11.

Question 12—Just on a personal level, name five films you would recommend as a good introduction to this particular actor?: Monroe's comic masterpiece is Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot, an absolutely delightful film that shows her at her best. She also gives a splendid little supporting turn in the spicy All About Eve. One of her final films, The Misfits demonstrates a real talent as an actress that shows where she could have gone if she hadn't died at such a young age. While many of her movies were very insubstantial, she showed a lot of promise in such early noir films as The Asphalt Jungle and Clash by Night.

Question 13—How does the documentary look and sound?: The documentary looks considerably better than the Cary Grant documentary released around the same time, though it still shows signs of age. A number of scratches pop up here and there, and it's pretty grainy as well. The sound is perfectly adequate, though the music is rather weak at times.

Question 14—Are there any extras included on the disc? If so, are they worth checking out?: Extras are precisely the same as those included on Cary Grant: The Leading Man…photo galleries, an interview with producer Gene Feldman, and some previews for other documentaries in this collection. None of this is particularly interesting.

Question 15—Would you recommend this documentary for humans and/or animals?: Yes, it is casually recommended for everyone, with a couple of noteworthy exceptions: snapping turtles and Methodists.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: Janson Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Gene Feldman interview
• Photo Galleries


• IMDb

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