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Roy Ward Baker
Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, Donna Corcoran
Daniel Taradash, based on the novel by Charlotte Armstrong

You never met her type before...
Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Digital Stereo
French Digital Mono
English, Spanish

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/14/2002

• Still Gallery
• Trailers
• Restoration Comparison

The Diamond Collection II

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Don't Bother to Knock (1952)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

When most people think of Marilyn Monroe’s screen persona, they conjure images of the archetypal sexy but spacey blonde. That’s the aura she exhibited in her most famous films such as Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch. However, she took on a fairly nice variety of parts over the years. We find one of her more provocative and interesting roles from an early vehicle, 1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock.

Set totally within the confines of a hotel, Knock initially looks like it’ll feature Monroe in a small supporting part. At the start we meet airline pilot Jed Towers (Richard Widmark), who arrives to stay at the hotel where his lounge singer girlfriend Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft) works. She sends him a “Dear Jed” letter and the two bicker over the possible dissolution of their romance.

In the meantime, Jed spies a sexy fellow hotel guest in a room across the courtyard. Nell (Monroe) recently arrived to stay with her uncle, elevator operator Eddie (Elisha Cook Jr.) and he gets her a gig as the babysitter for young Bunny Jones (Donna Corcoran). Smarting from his woes related to Lyn, Jed decides to go after this sultry stranger. He deduces her room number and gives her a call. After a little sweet talk, Nell agrees to let Jed visit, and the two start to develop a relationship.

Unfortunately, Nell clearly suffers from some emotional issues. These slowly start to emerge as the film progresses. Eventually we learn more about Nell’s problems while she separates more and more from reality.

Over the 40 years since her death, Monroe’s own psychological concerns became well known, and it seems very tempting to read into her performance in Knock. Truthfully, I have no idea how much of Nell came from inside Monroe, but she did quite well in the role. Despite Monroe’s fame as a light actress, she showed the ability here to find something darker and more disturbing.

That tone helped Knock become something more than simple melodrama. To be sure, the film had more than its fair share of those moments, and too much of it appeared overwrought. The movie started very slowly and took quite a while to find any sort of groove. Even at its best, it remained a little too much of a soap opera, as it often seemed like more of a sensationalistic exposé than a believable drama.

However, Monroe truly rescued the piece for its own excesses. I wouldn’t call this the best performance of her career, as I think she did better with the sexy roles that became her staple. However, the depth she brought to Nell allowed the movie to transcend its roots. Don’t Bother to Knock remains a minor film in the Monroe pantheon, but it provides an interesting look at the actress in an unusual role for her.

The DVD Grades: Picture C / Audio C- / Bonus D-

Don’t Bother to Knock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The black and white picture looked acceptable for its age, but it showed a mix of problems that meant it never appeared very strong.

Sharpness seemed decent but a little weak at times. Much of the film provided reasonable clarity and distinctiveness, but at times the image came across as somewhat soft and fuzzy. While these instances didn’t seem excessive, at times they made the picture look less well defined than I’d like. Jagged edges offered no concerns, but I saw some light moiré effects on occasion, and the image also betrayed moderate edge enhancement at times.

Black levels generally appeared good. On occasion those tones seemed somewhat too gray, but they usually came across as fairly deep and rich, and the picture displayed pretty solid contrast. In addition, shadow detail looked acceptably opaque but rarely became too thick or dense.

Given the age of the material, one might expect problems related to print defects, and they definitely occurred here. Throughout the film, I saw moderate grain as well as a mix of grit, speckles, nicks, spots, and thin vertical lines. In addition, frame jumps occasionally occurred. The picture didn’t seem terribly dirty for its vintage, but it definitely could have looked cleaner. Ultimately, I thought the image merited a very average “C” grade. It seemed watchable and generally sound, but it seemed to offer much room for improvement.

I also found the stereo soundtrack of Don’t Bother to Knock to appear quite run of the mill. This mix seemed to be stereo in name only. At no point did I discern any signs of true two-channel audio. While sound clearly emanated from the side speakers, the imaging remained firmly in the center.

Audio quality remained largely acceptable for its age, but I heard a variety of concerns. Speech showed a compressed and artificial tone much of the time. The lines appeared intelligible, but they never sounded very natural or distinct; a modest echo became attached to them. In addition, the dialogue showed a lot of noise. Other parts of the track seemed clean, but speech presented excessive hiss and some hum.

Otherwise, the soundtrack appeared pretty decent considering its vintage. Effects occasionally came across as somewhat shrill, but they usually seemed reasonably clear and accurate. Music was acceptably bright. The mix lacked any real sense of depth, but it came across with adequate fidelity for something from this period. Ultimately, the audio of Don’t Bother to Knock appeared pretty average.

For the five DVDs that come as part of Fox’s “Diamond Collection 2”, we find very similar extras. All five include the same set of trailers. We discover ads for Knock as well as “Diamond 2” mates Monkey Business, Niagara, River of No Return and Let’s Make Love. In addition, we get an ad for the original “Diamond Collection”.

After that we locate a Still Gallery. This domain includes 26 images. Those consist of publicity shots, photos from the movie, and some advertisements. It seems like a decent but unspectacular collection.

As with all of the discs in the original “Diamond Collection”, Knock and the other “Diamond 2” release offer a Restoration Comparison. This lets us see the changes from older releases of the film and the current one. I think these seem somewhat self-serving and a little pointless, but it can be interesting to note the improvements.

While few will consider Don’t Bother to Knock as one of Marilyn Monroe’s classic films, I enjoyed parts of it. The movie stands out from many of her other titles due to the darkness of her character, and Monroe brought nice life and depth to the role. Essentially, she single-handedly carried the flick and allowed it to be something more than just a cheesy melodrama. The DVD provides decent but flawed picture and sound plus some very minor extras. While the disc itself seems a little weak, I still would recommend Don’t Bother to Knock to Monroe fans, as it offers an unusual piece of work from the actress.

Note that Don’t Bother to Knock can be purchased on its own or as part of Fox’s Marilyn Monroe “Diamond Collection 2” set. The latter includes four other movies: Monkey Business, Niagara, River of No Return, and Let’s Make Love. For dedicated fans of Marilyn, the “Diamond Collection 2” offers a nice bargain. It costs only $79.98 list as opposed to a total of $99.90 for the five films on their own. Granted, you’d need to really love Marilyn to want that much of her material, but if you fall into that category, it’s a great idea.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3684 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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