Archive for the ‘Some Like It Hot (1959)’ Category

Spine #950

SLIT Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 02:02:18

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 29.83 Mbps

Notes: MGM released a Blu-ray edition that included a 1.66:1 transfer of the film. While the transfer was rendered with a slightly higher Bit-rate (31.99 Mbps), it was made from a 1080P scan. Needless to say, Criterion’s 4K restoration transfer is superior.

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“Very early in the structure of that picture my friend Mr. Diamond very rightly said, ‘We have to find the hammerlock. We have to find the ironclad thing so that these guys trapped in women’s clothes cannot just take the wigs off and say, “Look, I’m a guy.”

It has to be a question of life and death.’ And that’s where the idea for the St. Valentine’s Day murder came. If they got out of the women’s clothes they would be killed by the Al Capone gang. That was the important invention. When we started working on the picture I had a discussion with David O. Selznick, who was a very fine producer, and I very briefly told him the plot.

He said, ‘You mean there’s going to be machine guns and shooting and killing and blood?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘It’s not going to be funny. No comedy can survive that kind of brutal reality.’ But that’s what made the picture. The two men were on the spot, and we kept them on the spot until the very end.” –Billy Wilder

Only Billy Wilder would think to blend genres like the gangster film and the burlesque comedy. Some Like It Hot is one of those films that should really date terribly—especially in this era of enlightened social understanding, but Wilder’s deft storytelling prowess and unique comic sensibilities have guaranteed the film’s longevity.

As Criterion’s packaging deftly announces: Some Like It Hot is “one of the most beloved films of all time, this sizzling masterpiece set a new standard for Hollywood comedy. After witnessing a mob hit, Chicago musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) skip town by donning drag and joining an all-female band en route to Miami. The charm of the group’s singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) leads them ever further into extravagant lies, as Joe assumes the persona of a millionaire to woo her and Jerry’s female alter ego winds up engaged to a tycoon. With a whip-smart script co-written by I. A. L. Diamond, and sparkling chemistry among its finely tuned cast, Some Like It Hot is as deliriously funny and fresh today as it was when it first knocked audiences out six decades ago.

“The whole trick in the picture is that, while the two were dressed in women’s clothes, their thinking processes were at all times a hundred-percent male. When there was a slight aberration, like Lemmon getting engaged, it became twice as funny. But they were not camping it up. They never thought of themselves as women. Just for one moment Lemmon forgot himself — that was all. The rest of the time, Curtis was out to seduce Monroe, no matter what clothes he was wearing.” –I.A.L. Diamond

Of course, Monroe’s Sugar Cane isn’t the only one being seduced. Most of the film’s viewers also fall under their spell. Lemmon is especially delightful in his portrayal of Jerry/Daphne. In fact, this may very well be Jack Lemmon’s most hilarious performance. He really runs away with the entire film. Of course, he had the guidance of an excellent director. Nobody does it like Wilder.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases (we prefer this to their digipaks). The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate artwork by F. Ron Miller. It’s a decent design that adequately captures the zany qualities of Wilder’s film. Another very different design was considered that showcased Marilyn Monroe much more prominently. One imagines that it was abandoned so that all three of the primary characters could be featured with equal prominence (but this is merely conjecture).

Unused Blu-ray Cover

Criterion’s abandoned cover artwork.

Also included in the case is a pamphlet that includes an appreciative essay by Sam Wasson entitled, “How to have Fun.” Information about the transfer and technical credits are also included in its pages along with various stills from the film.

Menu

Criterion’s menu features film-related art and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

It won’t come as much of a surprise for our readers to learn that Criterion’s 4K image restoration looks incredible on Blu-ray and easily outclasses the earlier MGM transfer. This restoration was actually a collaboration between Criterion, MGM, and Park Circus. Cinephiles will be pleased to learn that the original 35mm camera negative was used as the primary source for their work, but it became necessary for them to also utilize scans of the 35mm duplicate negative and a 35mm fine-grain positive for footage that was missing from the negative.

The first immediate difference that springs to mind is that Criterion showcases the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio (1.85:1) as opposed to the 1.66:1 ratio employed for the earlier MGM release. This does result in less detail at the top and bottom of the frame, but this is in keeping with how the film would have been projected during its original theatrical release. Criterion’s image is also more stable in terms of density, is much cleaner, looks better in motion, exhibits more a much more impressive level of fine detail, and contrast is more expertly handled. Better yet, there aren’t really any moments where the level of quality drops due to the restoration team’s use of multiple sources. It all flows as organically as if they had used a single source (and this is incredibly rare). There may be a few incredibly brief moments that are less impressive, but they certainly don’t stand out in any obvious way. Finally, we should mention a noticeable improvement in this transfer’s dynamic range and the more naturally resolved grain. This is an upgrade on every level.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Those who appreciated the 5.1 audio track that was included on the MGM release may be disappointed with this release, but purists will understand why Criterion has chosen to include a lossless PCM rendering of the film’s original monaural mix. Frankly, we found the forced 5.1 re-mix a bit unnatural without really offering a more dynamic sonic experience. This transfer presents the film’s audio as it was originally intended in a clean restoration that is free of distracting age related anomalies (such as hiss or hum) with impressive fidelity for a film of this vintage. The Wilder/Diamond dialogue is allowed to clearly flourish throughout the duration, and the film’s music has plenty of room to breathe. Of course, things are a bit flat—but what do you expect from a movie released in 1959. Be happy! This is as good as one can reasonably expect.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Most of the supplemental material from the 2011 MGM Blu-ray has been carried over to Criterion’s disc, with the Paul Diamond, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel commentary track being the single exception. The stills gallery on that earlier disc was also left off of this release, but this is hardly worth mentioning. Criterion makes up for not including these features by including their own 1989 commentary and several other programs and interviews that weren’t on the earlier release.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Howard Suber and Jack Lemmon

This is an older Criterion commentary from 1989 that features Howard Suber’s scholarly observations in conjunction with some pre-recorded memories from Jack Lemmon. It is on par with the MGM commentary and it touches on many of the same topics. If there is a downside, it is that it is less conversational and therefore feels a bit more like a lecture. The film’s production is discussed as is the film’s overall structure. Suber’s obvious Monroe obsession is both a positive and negative attribute as he has plenty of Monroe trivia and discusses the actress with enthusiasm but sometimes his infatuation disturbs his ability to discuss her contributions to the film in a sober and unbiased manner.

Billy Wilder on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ (1982) – (55:36)

The crown jewel of Criterion’s supplemental package is undoubtedly this two-part interview with the legendary director (who certainly knows how to tell a story). It was conducted on January 14 and 15, 1982 and finds Wilder in great form as he discusses his personal history (including his early years in Germany) with an earnest openness that endears him to the viewer immediately, and he does so without surrendering his acidic humor. He discusses an encounter with Sigmund Freud, his evacuation to America during the dark years of Nazism, the magnificence of pre-war Berlin, relearning to write in English, and some of the various actors he had worked with throughout his career. We hope that Criterion continues to include these Cavett Show interviews on their future releases. They always add enormous value to their discs.

The Making of ‘Some Like It Hot – (25:45)

This documentary short has been carried over from the earlier MGM Blu-ray and it is nice to see that it has been included. The program includes an array of archival interviews with the likes of Billy Wilder, I.A.L Diamond, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and several others and some extremely precious color footage that gives the viewer behind the scenes of the film’s production. While one wishes that this were more comprehensive, it is great to hear the various participants discussing the film’s script, cast, production, and release. Of course, a great deal of time is devoted to the late Marilyn Monroe (who was not particularly easy to work with and rarely arrived to the set on time). It is an engaging and informative glimpse into the film’s history that fans will be thrilled to have included here.

The Legacy of ‘Some Like It Hot– (20:21)

The Legacy of ‘Some Like It Hot’ makes a great companion to The Making of ‘Some Like It Hot’ as it discusses the film’s lasting legacy. It utilizes footage shot at a screening of the film in 1984. Those who appeared in the previous program are back for this one while new voices are added. (It’s difficult to imagine why we really needed to hear from Hugh Hefner and Curtis Hanson, but they are included here in any case.) It’s not a terribly insightful look at the film’s lasting appeal, but it manages to engage the viewer in any case.

A Nostalgic Look Back (2001) – (31:12)

Fans will be pleased to see that Criterion also carried over Leonard Maltin’s “nostalgic” interview with Tony Curtis from MGM’s earlier Blu-ray (actually, this actually goes back even farther to one of the early DVD editions). Their conversation covers his memories of being cast, the film’s production, his experience working with Monroe, his approach to the role, and some amusing anecdotes—but there is something about Curtis that strikes one as incredibly narcissistic and his navel-gazing does grow a bit tiring after a few minutes. I notice that Jack Lemmon tends to discuss and praise Billy Wilder and his fellow actors, but Curtis is a bit more enamored with his own contributions. It is still worth seeing as it adds another perspective and his stories about Monroe are incredibly interesting.

French Television Interview with actor Jack Lemmon (1988) – (09:49)

While this excerpt from an episode of Cinema cinemas (which originally appeared on French television) is much shorter than Maltin’s interview with Curtis, it is also more amusing. It repeats some of the same information included in some of the other programs included here, but it is certainly worth watching.

Memories from ‘The Sweet Sues’ – (12:02)

Memories from ‘The Sweet Sues’ is another featurette that originally appeared on MGM’s Blu-ray release of the film, and it definitely brings something worthwhile to the table as the actresses remember the various members of the cast and their experiences during the production.

Orry-Kelly’s Costumes – (18:57)

Deborah Nadoolman Landis (Costume Designer) and Larry McQueen (Costume Historian and Archivist) discuss Orry-Kelly’s career and legacy and dissect his costumes in Some Like It Hot. This is more of an “appreciation” than a career history or comprehensive examination of his costume work in this film, but it does offer a few truly interesting nuggets of information while always engaging the viewer. Most importantly, it is bound to enhance the viewer’s appreciation of Kelly’s costumes. It is also very nice to see one of the dresses worn by Monroe in the film (which is now owned by McQueen).

Radio Interview with Marilyn Monroe (1955) – (08:44)

In a radio interview with Dave Garroway that predates the film by a few years (it was recorded on June 12, 1955), Monroe discusses her hopes to become a better actress. She seems incredibly personable here, but there is a perceptible sadness to her voice that is impossible to overlook in retrospect. Other topics are also discussed, but the information relayed is trivial. What lingers after these nine minutes is the aforementioned sadness.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:18)

The original vintage theatrical trailer rounds out this incredible supplemental package rather nicely.

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Final Words:

Do you like to laugh (or at least smile)? Well, if the answer to this question is yes, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot earns an easy recommendation (even if it is decidedly old-fashioned in some of its attitudes regarding gender). The Criterion Collection’s new 4K restoration transfer is vastly superior to the earlier MGM disc and might even be worth an upgrade if the film is one of your favorites.

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