Kino Lorber to Release Marilyn Monroe Comedy ‘Some Like It Hot’ on 4K UHD Blu-ray

Kino Lorber on Jan. 18 will release the 1959 comedy classic Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The film, directed by Billy Wilder, will be issued under the indie’s Kino Lorber Studio Classics line.

In the film, Chicago musicians Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) accidentally witness a gangland shooting. They quickly board a southbound train to Florida, disguised as Josephine and Daphne, the two newest — and homeliest — members of an all-female jazz band. Their cover is perfect, until a lovelorn singer falls for Josephine, an ancient playboy falls for Daphne, and a mob boss refuses to fall for their hoax.

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Some Like It Hot won the 1960 Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (Orry-Kelly) and received five nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Lemmon), Best Director (Wilder), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Wilder and Diamond), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Charles Lang) and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Ted Haworth and Edward G. Boyle).

Bonus features on the two-disc 4K UHD release include a new audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride, the author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge; another audio commentary by Paul Diamond (son of I.A.L. Diamond) and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel; and several documentaries, including featurettes on the making of the film, its legacy, and memories from members of the female jazz band, the Sweet Sues.

Let’s Make Love

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall.

Justifiably taken seriously by then husband Arthur Miller but also by director John Huston, Marilyn Monroe was able to “go out on” that collaborative duo’s The Misfits (speaking in career terms, that is) — just as co-star Clark Gable’s did in service of that onetime critical-commercial flop whose fan base has grown in subsequent years. It was the kind of ambitiously dramatic undertaking that likely would have become more familiar in Monroe’s later career (and would have had to) had mass audiences permitted it — though, yes, she was making the fluffy Something’s Got to Give when she died.

But to backtrack: Five months before The Misfits’ release, in 1960 20th Century-Fox released Let’s Make Love, which makes it the last completed pure MM “vehicle” — though one mostly done because Fox demanded a movie to satisfy a minor little thing like Monroe’s contract, which the now freelancing superstar had been ignoring. A pop culture curiosity for sure, Love is worth seeing but not for the usual reasons: With even the vestiges of youth having disappeared from Monroe’s face, there’s a melancholy pall over the entire outing that’s hard to shake when you’re watching it. Thus, it’s at least somewhat memorable as a kind of prelude goodbye to the kind of screen outing that had made her a star before the real goodbye came a couple years later.

The great George Cukor was hired to be something of a Monroe shoulder amid the fashioning of an apparently much-altered Norman Krasna script, though as Julie Kirgo notes in her Twilight Time backgrounder for the company’s new Blu-ray Love release, the director said he just couldn’t get through to her. Though there’s nothing solid to go on here beyond viewer intuition, MM does seem a bit disengaged, while co-star Yves Montand — uncharacteristically stiff here, as he’d later be with Barbra Streisand in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever — struggled some with English in his first American film (though, as ever, he’s an agreeable presence). Basically a rack on which to hang a full array of hats, the script concerns an Old Money French billionaire secretly posing as an actor to lampoon himself in an off-Broadway satirical revue whose personnel isn’t aware that it has the real thing in its midst. Somewhere in all this, there’s a way to include 974 vocals delivered by Brit Frankie Vaughn, who must have studied at the Keefe Brasselle Institute of Tough-to-take belters. Take it, Frankie, and then say hi to Tony Newley on the way out.

Meanwhile, Monroe is the featured femme star who takes pity on one she perceives to be a struggling and mostly out-of-work performer, which naturally melts the heart of a guy to whom others automatically defer because he has so much green. Beyond looking tired, Monroe is the heaviest she ever was on screen, but as Kirgo suggests, it’s all relative; were the Monroe of this picture seated sans companion opposite most guys I know at a dinner party, their chins would still fall into the finger bowl. Her garb is, shall we say, a lot more revealing than anything Greer Garson wore the same year playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, and the Jack Cole choreography further pegs this as a Fox production through and through.

There’s a commercial gimmick here, and its gives Love something of an energy boost in hour two. Because Montand’s character is so out of his element as an entertainer — and about as natural on stage as John Wayne was playing Genghis Khan on screen — he hires a trio of “experts” to show him the show biz way. This provides the excuse to give us Milton Berle (as the joke expert) in 2.35:1 DeLuxe Color; it also gives us a near-miss (though missed opportunity is more like it) to see him teaching Wilfrid Hyde-White how to walk on he sides of his feet. You can almost hear Montand thinking to himself, “Talk about the wages of fear.”

Then it’s Bing Crosby — prototypical hat and pipe soldered to his face — possibly strolling over from the set of Fox’s High Time, figuring it would be easier to teach Montand than Fabian how to sing. For dancing, it’s Gene Kelly, and in more comfortable surroundings than those provided by the same year’s Inherit the Wind (at least he didn’t have to do his scenes here sweating under a ceiling fan). A potent added touch might have been John C. Holmes for instruction in Step No. 4, but the historical chronology was off and Fox shareholders would have likely balked.

Love was, for those who remember, the lead-in for a real-life Monroe-Montand fling, and it’s been noted that Montand looked a little like pre-Miller husband Joe DiMaggio. Somewhat surprisingly, the two don’t exhibit a whole lot of chemistry on screen, yet their characters are likable enough individually, which is just enough to carry something of a high-profile oddball whose Blu-ray rendering is more successful than not at fighting DeLuxe limitations of the period. (I’ve noticed that the very earliest color Scope movies from Fox — say, ’53 through ’57 — always look better than expected in high-def, but not so much the ones from later in the decade and early in the next). The picture was kind of a hit but just not a very big one — an indicator, perhaps, that ’50s taste was showing hints of waning as a new president (and Monroe fan, matter of fact) was about to take the reins.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Let’s Make Love’ and ‘The Colossus of Rhodes’

Don’t Bother to Knock

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, Elisa Cook Jr. 

Filmed on three or four simple sets and clocking in at just 76 minutes, Don’t Bother to Knock is an unusual movie for Marilyn Monroe to have made just as she was on the brink of the Twentieth Century-Fox superstardom that was obviously on Darryl Zanuck’s mind (along with, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear, one of two other things). Though professionally speaking, Julie Kirgo notes in another of her well-researched Twilight Time essays, that he did make Monroe test for the part, a lesson that one wonders if he forgot when it came to Bella Darvi.

Knock was one five movies that marked Monroe’s 1952 output — along with two Fox comedies, a cameo in the opening segment of the studio’s all-star anthology O. Henry’s Full House and a loan-out to RKO for Clash by Night. Though the last was a drama, she didn’t have to carry large chunks of it, but in Knock, she has to bring off a case of frightening bonker-dom brought on by her lover’s death — an emotional condition that ends up threatening a child’s life.

It’s a somnambulant performance somewhere between effective and one she gets away with — though some will tell you that I’m underrating it, and possibly so. Call Monroe’s approach a second cousin, say, to Kim Novak’s deadpanned dialogue deliveries in Vertigo, though the passage of time has pretty well rendered Novak’s turn a complete success, no matter how she and Alfred Hitchcock got there. Monroe, of course, just got better as she aged, which more people should have told her at the time.

The surprise for me here (or at least something I’d forgotten) is how sympathetic lead Richard Widmark’s characterization is — as an edgy guy not exactly imaginable as, say, some neighbor’s backyard-barbecue invitee but one who ends up being sincerely moved by Monroe’s plight. This unlikely duo gets thrown together because her elevator-operator uncle (Elisha Cook Jr., getting a little extra something out of his role) has ill-advisedly elected to set her up as a one-shot babysitter in the hotel that employs him, not long after she’s been released (too soon) from an institution. After squabbling with his hotel chanteuse squeeze (Anne Bancroft in her feature debut, a component that’s not without interest itself) over his lack of commitment, Widmark sees Monroe through an adjacent hotel window and thinks her might get lucky with her as a one-night companion.

Well, she does have a bottle of booze plus some glasses in the room — but also a younger girl (Donna Corcoron, real-life sister of Kevin “Moochie” Corcoron and Noreen Corcoron of Bachelor Father), who is probably going to be traumatized by what happens or at least have some good material later in life if she ever decides to become a short-story author. The kid’s parents (Lurene Tuttle and Jim Backus in a tux) are no further away than downstairs for dad to get some kind of award involving his newspaper career, but the evening didn’t exhaust Tuttle’s in-room perfume supply, which means there’s some for Monroe to apply (so much of it that Widmark immediately notices). Alcohol, perfume … say, what else can Monroe make hers? Well, there’s always Tuttle’s negligee to put on for much of the movie’s running time — and with its owner just a few floors away, and you just know that no good is come of this. No one ever talks about this, but I think one of the most compelling angles of this story is poor Uncle Elisa learning that no good deed goes unpunished. You have to believe that this longtime employee with the corny jokes (he says his job has “its ups and downs”) is going to get canned after what eventually happens and that his resumé won’t have a very satisfactory answer to the question: “Reason for leaving last job.”

Fox was obviously trying to figure out what to do with Bancroft: She’s a singer here, then did a commercially DOA Sol Hurok biopic (Tonight We Sing), and then there was Gorilla at Large, whose lunacy was possibly a good warm-up for enjoying a happy real-life marriage with Mel Brooks. Despite her presence and that of a lot of welcomely familiar faces, this is Widmark, Monroe and Cook all the way.

Yet let it be said that the faces include the ever ubiquitous Willis Bouchey, who must have fought it out with rank Ferguson and Ray Teal for the “hardest-working white man in show business”; December Bride’s Verna Felton as an ancient biddie — and one who shares a frame with Monroe for contrasting views of womanhood; Joan Blondell’s real-life sister Gloria, who played “Honeybee” on TV’s The Life of Riley; and even the actor who played the police pathologist on the first go-round of “Dragnet” and eyeballed the gradations on the bullets dug out of the human versions of Joe Friday’s workday.

So as Kirgo notes, the result is “unexceptional if always entertaining.” Future Peckinpah right hand Lucian Ballard shot it (no Verna Felton in those collaborations), and the director was Roy Baker (aka Roy Ward Baker), whose later bragging rights over The One That Got Away, A Night to Remember and Quatermass and the Pit just by themselves made him more than a journeyman. And for a movie that’s relatively obscure, I’ve run into not a few people who harbor kind of toasty feelings for it and its sympathetic treatment of mental illness (and, of course, Monroe’s mother spent a lot of time I institutions).

This said, the reviews at the time were only fair, and in the capital city that would soon be my home turf, one of the downtown movie palaces bolstered the bill (or tried to) by adding Models, Inc., with Howard Duff (he’s back), Coleen Gray and — deep down in the cast — Joe E. Ross (hey, I think I’d like to see this). To bolster the Blu-ray, Twilight Time has also included the Richard Widmark “Biography” episode that they’ve issued before and another from that same Fox-associated TV series, this time devoted to Monroe. It gets into the actress’s marriages and, of course, her once famous battles with her home studio — though there’s not even a still photo from MGM’s The Asphalt Jungle to mark how important John Huston’s best movie was to the breakthrough part of her career.

Mike’s Picks: ‘While the City Sleeps’ and ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’