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Howard Hawks
Cary Grants, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe
Harry Segall, Ben Hecht

Not Rated.

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

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/14/2002

• Still Gallery
• Trailers
• Restoration Comparison

The Diamond Collection 2

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Monkey Business (1952)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

In 1952, Marilyn Monroe acted in two films that hit screens in rapid succession. Don’t Bother to Knock appeared in July, while Monkey Business made it out in September, a mere two months later. This might have risked overexposure for the actress, but one factor helped avoid that problem: the two films were totally different.

In Knock, Monroe played the female lead for that dramatic piece. Her character suffered from mental imbalances that made her unstable and dangerous. For Business, however, Marilyn took on a part much closer to those for which she became famous: the sexy and dizzy blonde babe.

Directed by Howard Hawks, Business also marked a move back in Marilyn’s billing, as she took on a supporting part. Better-established stars Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers played the leads, married couple Barnaby and Edwina Fulton. Barnaby’s a scientist who works on a formula to restore youth. He works with chimps, and the potion seems to go nowhere. However, unbeknownst to the staff, one of the monkeys gets out of her cage and mixes her own concoction. This ends up in the water cooler, where Barnaby ingests it after he swigs his own drink.

From there, Barnaby indeed loses years. His terrible vision improves radically, and he begins to act like a teenager. This sends him on an escapade with Miss Laurel (Monroe), the secretary of his pushy boss Mr. Oxley (Charles Coburn). Surprisingly, this doesn’t really bother Edwina too much, and eventually she gives the formula her own try. It works similarly on her, with resultant issues. The primary concern stems from a childish fight she has with Barnaby; this eventually involves long-time family friend Hank Entwhistle (Hugh Marlowe), who clearly retains a crush on Edwina.

And so goes the rest of the movie. After their dosages wear off, the Fultons both try it again a couple of times, and they imbibe larger amounts. Of course, this means they revert in maturity to greater degrees, with the expected loss of control. Madcap matters escalate until the movie reaches its loony conclusion.

While not one of Hawks’ best pieces, Business nonetheless exhibits the wonderfully loose and nutty tone of his comedies. The film maintains a nicely lively energy that usually allows it to remain amusing. A lot of the credit goes to the actors, who bought into their roles to a solid degree. They all went for broke and adopted rather broad mannerisms, but that worked for this sort of film; they really had to overplay things for the flick to make sense. They never emote to an excessive degree, as they nicely keep the balance between appropriate goofiness and over-the-top mugging.

Rogers’ work seemed especially fine. Grant did well, but he seemed to maintain a slightly ironic distance from the part when he needed to act young. Perhaps I liked his work a little less because even in his normal state, Barnaby offered a caricature; he never came across as a natural personality in any circumstance. Edwina, however, appeared quite normal when not under the influence. That made Rogers’ transformation all the more entertaining, and she provided a light and delightful performance.

As for Marilyn herself, she didn’t do anything remarkable. I got the feeling she could play this sort of character in her sleep. To be sure, she seemed solid in the part, and her natural aura made Miss Laurel more memorable than the small role probably merited, but it remained an insubstantial bit.

Probably my greatest problem with Business related to its running time. The film went on far too long. The concept seemed too thin to maintain such a long flick, and concepts became repetitious after a while; the fun and novelty began to lose their effect. Had Hawks cut a good 20 minutes or so, the movie would have succeeded better.

Nonetheless, I still liked Monkey Business quite a lot. While the piece became a little tedious toward the end, it remained reasonably entertaining and amusing. At its best, the flick offered some solid comedy and energy, mainly abetted by a fine cast. Business provided a slight but fun piece of work.

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

Monkey Business 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. Overall, the picture appeared acceptable for a 50-year-old film, but it never exceeded that level of quality.

Sharpness usually came across as reasonably crisp and distinct. The image seemed moderately soft and fuzzy at times, but I didn’t think these concerns became too excessive. As a whole, the picture seemed fairly clear and accurate. While I saw no jagged edges, some light moiré effects appeared, and I noticed a fair amount of edge enhancement. The latter element became quite noticeable at times and provided an unnecessary distraction.

Black levels appeared quite good throughout the movie. Those tones remained fairly tight and deep on a consistent basis, and I also felt the image presented solid contrast. Shadow detail seemed nicely clear and appropriately heavy without excessive opacity.

Not surprisingly, print flaws caused the biggest concerns during Business. Moderate to heavy levels of grain appeared, and I also saw intermittent examples of speckles, marks, streaks and spots. However, it really was the grain that seemed most intrusive.

Oddly, the quality of the image improved noticeably during the second half of the film. The alteration didn’t seem radical, but it was noticeable. Grain decreased and edge enhancement appeared less severe. Both still occurred, but they weren’t as prevalent. That fact led me to increase my original grade. At first I intended to give the movie a “C-“ for picture, but the stronger visuals in the second half allowed me to raise it to a “C”.

When you see the letter grade presented for audio quality, I assign that to the track that features the most “technically advanced” mix. For example, this means that if a movie includes both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Dolby Surround 2.0 edition, I only grade the 5.1 version. I may listen to the 2.0 mix and even comment upon it, but I don’t offer a mark for it in that area.

I did that for Monkey Business simply to maintain the continuity of my reviews. However, it means that the letter grade doesn’t tell the whole story. That ranking related to the stereo soundtrack of Business, but that audio didn’t represent the best material heard on the DVD. In fact, the stereo track seemed like a near-total disaster that appeared radically inferior to the movie’s monaural mix.

The soundfield of the stereo mix displayed absolutely no sense of spatial accuracy. Instead, all audio elements came from a vague place that simply spread the material broadly across the front speakers. This meant the speech came from the sides in an odd way that appeared loose and distracting. Nothing specific emanated from various locations; instead, speech, effects and music just created an auditory mush that seemed ridiculously unrealistic.

To make matters worse, the sound quality appeared quite bad. All elements sounded processed and artificial. The entire track got an odd coating of reverb that made the material seem processed and unnatural. The stereo mix of Business presented an auditory mess that was virtually unlistenable.

Happily, the included monaural soundtrack seemed much more satisfying. Though the mix showed its age, it appeared quite clear and pleasing. Speech was vastly more natural and distinct, and the audio lacked that horrible sense of echo and coldness that tainted the stereo version. Some hiss still appeared, and at times the mix seemed a little harsh, but overall I found the mono track to seem fine for its age. It’s definitely the only acceptable option for Business, and I’d give it a “C+”.

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 Business as well as “Diamond 2” mates Don’t Bother to Knock, 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 19 images. Those consist of shots from the movie and a couple of publicity images. It presents a modest but interesting set.

As with all of the discs in the original “Diamond Collection”, Business 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.

Although Monkey Business didn’t represent a career high for anyone involved, that shouldn’t be seen as an indication the movie wasn’t a fun piece of work. Light and loose, the movie ran far too long to totally succeed, but it still seemed like an enjoyable little comedy romp that benefited from a nice cast. The DVD offered inconsistent but generally acceptable picture plus a truly terrible stereo soundtrack. However, the included monaural mix appeared much more satisfying. Finally, the package provided a small and insubstantial roster of extras. While the DVD seemed somewhat lackluster, the movie itself presented an enjoyable piece, so fans of any of its participants will want to give it a look.

Note that Monkey Business can be purchased on its own or as part of Fox’s Marilyn Monroe “Diamond Collection 2” set. The latter includes four other movies: Don’t Bother to Knock, 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: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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