Billy Wilderís comedy Some Like it Hot gets an all new Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection making use of a new 4K restoration performed by MGM, Park Circus, and Criterion. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc and features a high-definition 1080p/24hz encode. The 35mm original camera negative was the primary source for the new restoration, with a 35mm duplicate negative and a 35mm fine-grain filling in for where footage was missing.
The film was released previously on Blu-ray by MGM/Fox, though it made use of an older high-definition master (in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio) that I assumed was made for the special edition DVD from years before. It did the job but it was open to improvement in a number of areas and this new presentation improves upon them in just about every possible way. All damage and pulsating are now gone and this is the most stable and clean Iíve ever seen the film, while the digital presentation stays clean, delivering natural looking grain and smooth motion. Details are staggeringly high and this area was probably the biggest surprise; I thought the MGM disc looked good but detail is far superior here, even in the shadows, the finer details, including the textures on clothing, looking far clearer. Contrast is also better managed, with smoother transitions the in gray scale, nice looking whites, and inky blacks.
As mentioned different sources were used but I donít recall any moments sticking out specifically. There are a couple of shots where it can look a bit dupey so maybe thatís where the alternate sources have been used, but even these are mild and nothing severe ever pops up. It really is a glorious looking presentation in the end. 9/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Criterion ports most of the material over from the previous MGM/Fox editions, though does drop one big one in favor of another. The audio commentary featuring Paul Diamond, and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (as well as audio excerpts from interviews with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) found on those previous editions has been dropped to make room for the audio commentary Criterion recorded with film scholar Howard Suber for their own LaserDisc edition of the film in 1989. I actually didnít have much of an issue with the other track, which was fun, offering more of a look at the production. Suberís is a scholarly track that touches on the production but spends a lot of time on looking at the structure of the film, how it builds up its comedic moments, and how the film broke ground. Cut in every once in a while, are interviews Suber had conducted with Jack Lemmon for Criterionís LaserDisc edition, Lemmon offering more on the production and working with Wilder (Suber points out both Wilder and Curtis were unable to participate). Thereís a mild creep factor at times when Suber talks about Monroe, but it thankfully doesnít reach the levels he displayed on the commentary for The Graduate, where he obsessed over whether Anne Bancroft appeared nude or not. Getting past that itís good scholarly track, but I feel Criterion could have still ported over the MGM commentary (unless they werenít allowed to).
Criterion then ports over a number of MGM featurettes. The 26-minute Making of which gathers together new and archival interviews with such participants as Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Barbara and I.A.L Diamond, as well as others. Through these interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage (some of which is in colour, which inadvertently shows that Wilder was right in his decision in making the film in black and whiteóhe feared the drag would look awful in colour) weíre presented with the production history of the film from its inception, to casting, to filming, and then its release. Thereís also a lot of information about the difficulties that came with working with Marilyn Monroe, Wilder expressing a lot of his frustrations here. Itís typical of the type of making-of MGM made at the time, mostly talking heads, but it moves quickly and covers a lot of material.
The Legacy of Some Like it Hot is a 20-minute featurette more or less about the influence of the film and its growth in popularity over the years, along with its initial reception and, of course, Marilyn Monroeís part in making it a success. Here you find more interview clips of Curtis, Lemmon, Wilder, and others featured in the previous feature, plus interviews with Hugh Hefner and director Curtis Hanson, the latter recalling when he got to meet Billy Wilder. Not overly analytical but itís a fun feature looking at what elements made the film the success it has become.
Memories of the Sweet Sues is a cute addition, gathering together the surviving women from the all-girl band in the film. For 12-minutes the group talks about their memories from the shoot while watching the film or looking at old pictures, what it was like working with Marilyn Monroe, which again could prove difficult. They also speak fondly of Lemmon, Curtis, Wilder, and some of the other girls that were in the group.
Criterion next provides a new supplement about the costumes by Orry-Kelly, featuring interviews with costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman and costume historian and archivist Larry McQueen. This 19-minute feature proves to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the year for me as the two cover the costume designers work, how he is more recognized by those in the field rather than those in the general audience, and then take a real in-depth look at the costumes he designed for Monroe, Lemmon, and Curtis (he was originally brought in just for Monroeís costumes but was then asked to help clean up the costumes for the men). Whatís really great about the feature is that McQueen owns the faux-nude dress that Monroe wore with Curtis on the yacht, and we get to see it and all of the intricate details, as well as some of the interesting little things added to it (like lead weights to keep the dress form fitting). Thereís also one funny detail not all that noticeable in black-and-white that Iíll now have a hard time not seeing. Itís a really fun and fascinating feature, one of the better ones Iíve seen about a filmís costumes.
Criterion also provides the full interview between Dick Cavett and Billy Wilder filmed for his show in January of 1982. Presented in two-parts and running 56-minutes, Cavett (who admits right off that Wilder is one of the people he has most wanted on his show) gets the director to talk very openly about his life and career, from his life in Germany to moving to Hollywood and then looking at some of his more famous works (and less famous) including Some Like it Hot. Cavettís interviews are always fun (the one with Godard, which can be found on Criterionís Every Man for Himself, is one any film buff needs to see) and this one is no different, Wilder being very open and funny. Really great addition.
Criterion then provides interviews conducted with the filmís stars. For Tony Curtis Criterion ports over the interview between him and Leonard Maltin recorded for MGMís previous editions. Running 31-minutes it more or less covers the same material in the making-of (Curtisís segments in that previous doc were actually lifted from here so that material gets repeated again.) He goes into more detail about some of the difficulties that came with working with Monroe, and he of course talks about Lemmon and working in drag. While it is a little repetitive it is nice to get a firsthand look at the making of the movie and Curtis is a solid interview subject.
Criterion then pulls out an excerpt with Jack Lemmon from an episode of the French program Cinťma cinťmas, recorded in 1988. The 10-minute segment has Lemmon recall getting the script, coming onto the film, and the joy he had making it. He admits the role did scare him, but that only made him want to do it more. He also addresses the issues both Wilder and Curtis had with Monroe but he offers a defense for her, explaining how she got herself ready and why she was insistent on a large number of takes, which frustrated Wilder.
Criterion also digs up a radio interview with Marilyn Monroe, recorded in 1955, before Some Like it Hot was made. Itís short, at only 9-minutes, but Monroe talks about her career and what she wants to do with it, her frustrations, and how she handles her fame. Itís a great discussion but itís a bit annoying that the showís host, Dan Garroway, has to keep pointing out how intelligent she is, though this does get comments out of her about the stereotype, so it pays off.
The disc then closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer, also found on the MGM disc. Outside of the commentary this disc also drops the galleries found on previous MGM discs. Criterionís LaserDisc also featured home movie footage of Monroe and Arthur Hiller, Curtis and Janet Leigh, along with Wilder. The included insert features an essay on the film by Sam Wasson.
So not everything makes it from previous releases but this is easily the most comprehensive release yet Iíve come across for the film. 9/10