Some Like It Hot appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That’s a change from the original 2001 DVD, which presented a non-anamorphic transfer. It also meant a definite improvement in quality.
Sharpness remained quite good. The only instances of less-than-positive delineation came from the use of mild soft-focus during close-ups on Marilyn. Otherwise the film appeared acceptably crisp and well-defined. No examples of moiré effects and jagged edges showed up during the movie, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement occurred.
Black levels seemed good. I thought Hot portrayed solid contrast with dark tones that looked deep and rich. Shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. I thought the low-light sequences seemed easily visible but not overly bright.
Source flaws created some concerns, but not as many as I saw in the prior transfer. The main distraction came from white specks, and those appeared mostly during the movie’s first act. Once the characters got to Florida, the specks essentially disappeared. Overall, this transfer seemed quite strong and merited a “B+”.
The DVD of Some Like It Hot provided a modern Dolby Digital 5.1 remix in addition to the original monaural soundtrack. I only screened the multichannel mix for this review, although I did check out a few snippets of the mono track. Although the audio definitely displayed the limitations of the source material, I thought it generally provided a decent listening experience.
Despite the new 5.1 reorientation, the soundfield remained fairly heavily anchored to the center channel. The side speakers added modest breadth to the imaging at times, mainly via the musical numbers heard throughout the film. Stereo separation didn’t seem especially strong, but the tunes and score spread adequately from the center.
Effects also showed moderate extension to the right and left. This mostly provided ambient audio, but some decent panning occurred at times, such as when vehicles moved from one side to the other; scenes on the train easily showed the best dimensionality to the mix. Surround usage seemed limited largely to minor reinforcement, though the rears kicked in with fairly positive activity during some musical numbers. As a whole, the soundfield broadened the original track but stayed true to its roots, which was fine with me.
Audio quality seemed erratic but acceptable for a film of this era. Dialogue displayed some edgy qualities and could appear somewhat brittle, but I found that speech remained acceptably distinct and were always easily intelligible. Apparently many of Tony Curtis’ lines were dubbed because he had trouble with a convincing female voice, but I thought the looping was integrated in a generally seamless manner. As I watched the movie, I debated whether or not the voice I heard was Curtis’, but not because the words didn’t fit in well with the action. I just thought it didn’t sound much like Curtis, but I felt the lines meshed neatly with the presentation.
Effects also displayed periodic signs of distortion. Louder noises such as gunshots had the most problems, but a few other elements showed minor concerns as well. Nonetheless, most of the effects were acceptably clear and realistic for an older movie. These pieces seemed somewhat thin and bland, but they still were adequate. Probably the best parts of the soundtrack related to the music. These parts also could lack dynamics, but they generally were fairly crisp and bright, and the score and songs actually displayed some relatively decent low-end at times. Bass response seemed loose but was deep for the era. I very much liked the effect heard when the camera first approached Curtis and Lemmon. As it nears Jack, the thump of his bass playing got louder. Ultimately, the soundtrack to Some Like It Hot had problems and it didn’t compare to something more modern, but I felt it was a consistently listenable and satisfactory mix for its period.
As I noted, I also checked out the monaural track on occasion in order to hear if any sonic differences occurred. From what I discerned, the 5.1 track possessed the stronger dynamics. Though the dissimilarities were few, I thought that the multichannel mix showed better bass response, and the highs appeared a little cleaner and clearer. As a whole, the two tracks matched up fairly closely, but I felt that the 5.1 version offered the superior experience.
How did the picture and sound of this 2006 DVD compare to those of the original 2001 release? I felt the audio remained the same but the visuals offered improvements. This new anamorphic transfer was tighter, cleaner and better defined than its non-enhanced predecessor.
This 2006 “Collector’s Edition” also expands on the extras found on that 2001 “Special Edition”. I’ll note new materials with an asterisk, so anytime you fail to see a star, that means the component already appeared in the 2001 package.
On DVD One, we get an *audio commentary with actors Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, writer’s son Paul Diamond, and the screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Diamond, Ganz and Mandel sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. The track edits in remarks from Curtis and Lemmon as it goes. Curtis’s notes come from a modern interview, while Lemmon was taped in 1984.
I have no problem with this method, but the content is lackluster. Curtis and Lemmon offer the best bits. They give us their impressions of the film and the shoot along with thoughts about various scenes and their coworkers. Lemmon pops up infrequently, but Curtis tells us a fair amount and is pretty blunt. For instance, he compares Marilyn Monroe’s figure to the shape of a battleship! Curtis gives us a reasonable amount of good material.
Unfortunately, he also doesn’t show up very often, and that leaves us with Diamond, Mandel and Ganz most of the time. Diamond provides a smattering of historical and biographical notes along with a few memories of his childhood experiences on the set, but he really doesn’t do much in either regard. Mandel and Ganz talk about how Hot influenced them and mention references to it in their films. However, they mostly just tell us how much they love the flick and they quote it. The commentary never becomes truly dull, but it doesn’t include a consistent level of good information. I wish MGM had involved a real film historian to discuss it, as that would’ve been infinitely more useful.
As we move to DVD Two, we begin with two new documentaries. *The Making of Some Like It Hot goes for 25 minutes and 44 seconds. It presents a mix of movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Curtis, Lemmon, writer/producer/director Billy Wilder, co-writer/associate producer IAL Diamond, Diamond’s wife Barbara, and production company head Walter Mirisch. The show looks at the movie’s genesis and development, casting, the decision to film in black and white and the transformation of the guys into girls, location shooting and problems with Marilyn Monroe, performance notes and other concerns, the creation of the movie’s famous final line, a deleted scene, and the film’s reception.
“Making” doesn’t act as a terrific overall look at the film, but it gives us some nice anecdotes. A few of the elements repeat from elsewhere, so expect a bit of repetition. Nonetheless, the program gives us a good snapshot of the production and entertains as it informs.
For the second new piece, we find *The Legacy of Some Like It Hot. This 20-minute and 21-second show includes comments from Curtis, Wilder, Lemmon, IAL Diamond and wife Barbara, Mirisch, publisher Hugh Hefner, UCLA cinema professor Howard Suber, and filmmaker Curtis Hanson. We get a short tour of the current spot that used to be the studio lot and also hear about Wilder’s personality and work. We learn about complaints from the National Legion of Decency and controversies about the film’s sex-related content. The program continues with notes about working with Monroe and the movie’s reception and longevity.
“Legacy” acts as a companion to “Making”. It gets into general issues but doesn’t provide a strong sense of purpose. The show moves along with a collection of fairly interesting insights, though we’ve already heard some of them elsewhere. “Legacy” ends up as a decent little program.
Next comes a Nostalgic Look Back with Tony Curtis. This 31-minute and 13-second program is a recent interview with Curtis conducted by film critic Leonard Maltin. Recorded at the Formosa Café - a Hollywood landmark near the studio at which Hot was filmed - Curtis provides a nicely frank and entertaining remembrance of his days on the movie. In recent years, Curtis has seemed like a rather odd man during interviews, but he manages to keep himself largely in check here, and he adds a lot of fun and informative notes throughout this piece. He doesn’t dish any real dirt, but he does relate some idea of how difficult it could be to work with Marilyn, and he gives a solid overview of his experiences. Ultimately, I enjoyed this show and thought it added to my appreciation of the film.
In the same vein is Memories From the Sweet Sues, a 12-minute and four-second program in which we hear from some of the members of the movie’s all-girl band. Here we find actresses Marian Collier, Laurie Mitchell, Sandra Warner, and Joan Nicholas, all of whom were recorded together for this piece. Their remembrances lack the insight heard during Curtis’ interview, and the parts during which they watch film clips and gush about the greatness of the flick get a little old, but the ladies still give a nice perspective on the experience.
Best of the bunch are two Marilyn-related tidbits. In one we learn how director Billy Wilder lured Monroe out of her dressing room when she has refused to come onto the set, and in the other we find out whose body appears in the film’s publicity shots. Ultimately, “Memories” was generally fun and compelling.
The Virtual Hall of Memories essentially functions as a running montage. When you enter the “hall”, you move through five different areas: Monroe, Curtis, Lemmon, Wilder, and “Behind the Scenes”. In each of these departments, you’ll see a mix of production stills, publicity shots, and film clips, all of which were filmed and backed with audio from the movie. As a whole, the piece runs for 21 minutes and three seconds. I could have done without the film snippets - after all, we already own the movie on its own - but the photos were quite good to see.
In the Pressbook Gallery we fine some stillframe materials. There are 24 frames of clippings from the movie’s pressbook. These comprise various ads and articles about the flick, and they offer a nice mix of elements from the era. In a nice touch, we can enlarge many of these pieces. That helps make this a useful collection.
Lastly, we get some Previews. This area includes the trailer for Hot along with ads for The Princess Bride and West Side Story.
A few paper materials fill out the set. An eight-page booklet provides some production notes, and we also find four art reproduction cards. One of these features original advertising for the movie, while each of the other three offers a caricature of the movie’s leads. They’re a fun addition.
Does the 2006 “Collector’s Edition” drop anything from the 2001 Special Edition? Yes, but not much. The package loses a collection of trailers for other Billy Wilder films. Otherwise, this set retains everything from the prior release.
As a movie, Some Like It Hot has endured quite well over the years. While I can’t endorse the AFI’s decision that it’s the funniest film ever made, I still thought it was witty and well-made as a whole. The DVD offers acceptable sound plus very good visuals and some solid extras.
I definitely recommend this fun movie, and for those who don’t already own the prior release, the 2006 “Collector’s Edition” is definitely the way to go. I also think it’s worth the upgrade for fans who possess the earlier version. The new supplements aren’t dazzlers, but they’re interesting, and the improved transfer makes this a worthwhile purchase.