Although it’s a classic, I’d never before watched the cross-dressing comedy Some Like It Hot. Not sure why, just never bothered to rent it or watch it on TV. Now I’ve seen it in HD on the recently released Blu-ray. I’m glad I did. Some Like It Hot, released in 1959, is at or near the top of most lists of all-time great comedy movies. AFI has it at #1 and there are few lists that don’t have it in the top 10 somewhere or in the top 100 of all movies. I’m not quite sure why. It’s a good movie, to be sure, but is it really that good? For some people, yes, but I see it more as a very funny movie with a few flaws.
The flaws include my general dislike of cross-dressing movies. Not the fault of director/co-writer Billy Wilder, stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, or Marilyn Monroe, or anyone else involved in the original production. Still, I just don’t find that to be very funny, and since much of the humor relies on Lemmon and Curtis pretending to be female musicians while on the run from witnessing a mob hit, if you don’t like it, it tends to dampen your enjoyment of the movie. Also, a movie made in 1959 just tends to wear. The jokes don’t have the same zing, things look quaint and dated; it just doesn’t work like it did when it was fresh.
Still, this is a movie that has much to make it a worthwhile comedy classic. Lemmon and Curtis, both in dresses and out, are in top form and rattle out the double-entendre dialogue like pros. Playing men scared of a mobster (George Raft) or women in an all-girl band hitting on Marilyn Monroe, they never let up. They never convincingly look or sound like women, but that never gets in the way of their performances. Monroe isn’t exactly an amazing actress, but she gets the job done by looking and acting both sexy and vulnerable in turn.
The real star of this film is the script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. They know how to write jokes, one-liners, and snappy rejoinders about as well as it's ever been done. The gangster stuff is cornball in the extreme, but when Lemmon, Curtis, Monroe, and Joe E. Brown, playing a millionaire after Lemmon’s female alter-ego, are talking about racy topics in a coded way, it’s a joy to watch. The men at times undergo personality transplants to make certain scenes work, but they do work, and this isn’t a movie screaming of realism. It also has beautiful scenery when the movie gets to “Florida” (really the Hotel Del Coronado in California).
I don’t like this movie as much as some (well, most), but it is a great comic film. Good performances and good writing never go out of style, and while the subject matter doesn’t float my boat…well, nobody’s perfect. It’s nice that a classic gets onto Blu-ray for those who want to see this in the clearest possible picture. The picture is pretty good, although there are specks at times, as though there was only so much they could do with a print that’s 53 years old. None of the extras look new, so they are probably recycled from previous DVD releases, but they are fairly lengthy and heavy on nostalgia, which will please Hollywood buffs.
The commentary track is made up of recorded interviews with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis inserted where relevant, as well as observations from Paul Diamond (son of the co-writer) and the screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. It’s a serviceable, although obviously haphazard, commentary with some good insights but a bit too much fawning over the material.
The featurettes include two that clock in at approximately 25 minutes each. One covers the making of the film, and the other the legacy. The making-of featurette is excellent and relies heavily on older interviews with Wilder, Wilder’s wife, Lemon, Diamond, and a more recent interview with Curtis. The legacy featurette includes many of the same participants, along with oddball choices like Hugh Hefner and film critics. Both extras cover how messed up Marilyn Monroe was during the filming but also get into the origins of the film and the work on the characters.
There is also a 30-minute interview with Tony Curtis by film gadfly Leonard Maltin. It’s actually pretty interesting, and Curtis is a pretty frank guy both in this interview (which is used in the other featurettes) and in the commentary. He is a bit coarse at times, but if that bothers you, you probably aren’t the right person for the movie itself. One annoying fact is that music is played during the entire interview, which makes you wonder what the person who decided to add the music was thinking. A 12-minute piece brings together four of the women who were in the all-girl band that the characters join in the movie. They have little interesting or new to say, and the whole thing is structured so poorly, it seems more like a waste. There is also a 20-minute extra that is pictures from the movie and behind the scenes set to music that will give some backstage insight and a nostalgic push. The original trailer is also included, and it’s both funny and quaint.
If you have a DVD where these extras are included, then an upgrade is an iffy matter. Doesn’t seem like the additional picture clarity would be worth it. Still, this is a good movie, and considering the extras add up to about two hours plus a commentary, the disc is a good addition to any classic comedy fan’s collection.
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