Plot: What’s it about?
Has there ever been a more poignant closing line in the history of film? Probably. But what a way to end one of America’s great films! I’d actually never seen this until about fifteen years ago and it instantly became one of my favorites. I’d held out watching this as I was in a Billy Wilder kick at the time watching such classics as Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment. There were more, of course, like Sabrina, The Lost Weekend and Ace in the Hole. However I’m willing to bet that if you had to name one that’s most memorable, it’d be this 1959 classic that features a cross-dressing Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The film was nominated for six Oscars and walked away with a much deserved trophy for Orry Kelly’s Costume Design. But there’s so much more to this film. It works on multiple levels of humor, drama and even a bit of action. Is it the perfect film? No, but it’s darn close. If, for some reason, you’ve not had the chance to treat yourself, there’s no time like the present to see it. Let’s dive in.
Struggling jazz musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The duo hightail it out of Chicago on the tour bus of an all-female band, disguised as Josephine (Curtis) and Daphne (Lemmon). Once in Florida, Joe/Josephine sets sights on alcoholic singer/ukulele player Sugar Cane (Marilyn Monroe), further disguising himself as the Cary Grant-ish playboy millionaire Shell Oil, Jr to seduce her. Meanwhile, Daphne gets caught in the crosshairs of Oswald (Joe E. Brown), who is determined to wine her, dine her and hopefully marry her. Just as the mob is closing in, Joe and Jerry, with Sugar and Oswald in tow, escape to what one can only assume is a happy ending.
There’s a lot to say about this film, notably for the subject matter. While most viewers wouldn’t think twice about anyone cross-dressing, the film came out in 1959. In a decade that brought about the McCarthy hearings, the Korean War and desegregation; two leading men schmoozing it up with America’s sex symbol was quite the news-maker. Add to that, the film managed to sneak in a few things past the censors (most likely they were laughing too hard) and that only adds to the allure of the film. The American Film Institute did a countdown of the top 100 Funniest Films a while back and this was atop the list. And, wouldn’t you know it, coming it at #2 was Tootsie, oddly a film that also involved a man dressing as a woman. Sensing a trend? Whatever the motivation to see the film, be it the first time or the fiftieth – it’s one of those that seemingly never gets old. And that’s a good thing.
Video: How’s it look?
Not too long ago Criterion put out a Blu-ray of this film sourcing a new 4K master. It’s not often that Kino gets the upper hand on Criterion, but this is 4K whereas Criterion’s was Blu-ray. Granted, there’s not a night and day difference and maybe it’s a placebo effect, but something that’s 4K just seems better-looking. Makes perfect sense, no? That said, the film really couldn’t have worked in color, namely due to the makeup they had Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in. This isn’t a huge deal to us, the viewers, some 60 years later of course – but worth mentioning for sure. Contrast and black levels are very strong and give the movie a more dynamic tone. Detail has been improved vastly and it’s also worth nothing that most, if not all, of the grain that plagued earlier releases is now a thing of the past. The film is one of the most beloved out there and this new 4K has it looking its best – beautiful.
Audio: How’s it sound?
We get two DTS HD Master Audio tracks: a 2.0 and a 5.1. I think either way you go it’ll be fine, but I think that most purists will agree that if a 2.0 track can sound this good, then there’s no need to “dirty it up” with an overblown surround mix. Vocals are, naturally, at the heart of the film with Lemmon and Curtis’ voices and their ever-changing pitch to match their “characters.” Monroe’s whispy voice resonates as does everything else. One thing that I found as a pleasant surprise was the lack of any distortion or background noise. It was quite the treat to hear an older film sound, well, this good.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disc One (4K)
- Audio Commentary – Film historian Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge, has recorded a new commentary track for this disc. He’s got plenty to say and I found the track interesting. Plus, it’s not often we get new material for one of the most acclaimed films ever made.
- Audio Commentary – Paul Diamond (son of I.A.L. Diamond) is joined by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the writers. We also get some interviews with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
- Nostalgic Look Back – Circa 2001, Tony Curtis and critic Leonard Maltin sat down for a discussion of the film. This was an archival feature shown in the early DVD releases.
- Billy Wilder and Volker Schlondorff Discuss Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder discusses his work with Marilyn Monroe on the film, the numerous takes and what it was like working with the legend.
- More with Billy Wilder and Volker Schlondorff – I have no idea why they simply couldn’t have edited this into the above discussion, but this is…you guessed it, more of the same.
- Tribute to I.A.L. Diamond – Billy Wilder pays homage to long-time collaborator I.A.L. Diamond.
- Featurettes – These are three fairly lengthy features (each running about 20 minutes) that have appeared on previous releases, though it’s nice to have them here.
- The Making of Some Like It Hot
- The Legacy of Some Like it Hot
- Memories from the Sweet Sues
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
There’s no denying that this is one of the great American films and one I realized how much I liked the moment I put the disc in. The good news is that this looks and sounds great and there is even some new content (the commentary). The bad news is that purists who want the definitive version need to hold onto their Criterion Blu-ray and add this to their collection as well.