Updated: Mar 3
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) Jack Lemmon (Jerry) and Tony Curtis (Joe) star as Chicago jazz musicians who must find a new gig after Mozzarella’s Funeral Parlour nightclub was raided by federal agents and the Chicago police. They plead with music agent Sig Poliakoff (Billy Gray) for the Florida job. He says, “You’re the wrong shape.” (2) “Look at that!” Jerry (Daphne) tells Joe (Josephine) as they watch Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane Kowalczyk) walk past them in high heels. “Look how she moves. Like Jell-O on springs. She must have some sort of built-in motor. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex.”
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“SOME LIKE IT HOT”
4K Ultra HD, 1959, not rated
Best extra: Commentary with Joseph McBride, author of “Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge”
JUST OVER two years ago, the definitive edition of Billy Wilder’s (“Sunset Boulevard,” “The Apartment”) comedy masterpiece “Some Like it Hot” was released by The Criterion Collection. It had been remastered in 4K from the original black and white camera negative, using a fine-grain positive to fill in the gaps. The presentation was released in 1080p, with standard dynamic range (SDR). The results were first-rate with a steady dose of natural film grain and excellent sharpness.
But could the Criterion Blu-ray be topped with a true 4K presentation?
Kino Lorber just released its 4K Ultra HD version of “Some Like it Hot,” and the results are THE BEST! Sourced from the same MGM/United Artists 4K master, but this time in 2160p, plus high dynamic range with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The film grain is more refined and pronounced, with perfect grayscale ranging from deep inky shadows to controlled highlights. The added resolution gives every single closeup and wide-angle shot more definition and clarity. For example, each individual face is more well-defined during the opening prohibition funeral parlor club scene with dozens of club-goers, a band, and dancers.
(1-4) In the prohibition era, henchmen for bootlegger “Spats” Colombo transport a casket full of whiskey as they are persuaded by Chicago police. (5) Small-time gangster “Toothpick” Charlie (George E. Stone) provides the details for federal agent Mulligan (Pat O’Brien) with getting inside the Mozzarella funeral parlor-turned-nightclub.
Wilder cast one of Hollywood’s hottest stars, Tony Curtis (“Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Defiant Ones”) as saxophonist Joe, and up-and-coming funny man Jack Lemmon (“Mister Roberts,” “The Apartment”) as Jerry, the house bass player. As the jazz band plays in the parlor-turned-bar, Joe spots federal agent Mulligan (Pat O’Brien) pinning his badge onto his coat. The duo makes a speedy exit just as the Chicago police raid the establishment owned by notorious bootlegger, “Spats” Colombo (George Raft). Small-time gangster “Toothpick” Charlie (George E. Stone) provided the tipoff, and is murdered the next morning by Colombo and his henchmen inside a Chicago garage. It’s a real-life assassination, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Joe and Jerry accidentally witness the killings and are spotted during another daring escape.
To save their hides, the musicians disguise themselves as women and join an all-female jazz band heading to Florida. At the train station, Joe arrives dressed as Josephine wearing high heels, a dress, and heavy makeup, with Jerry as the flamboyant Daphne at his side. They both meet singing ukulele player Sugar Kane Kowalczyk played by a stunning Marilyn Monroe, and fall for her like bricks. For the next two hours, viewers get to watch one of Hollywood’s funniest and most treasured comedies.
The American Film Institute and its jury of 1,800 leaders from the film community selected “Some Like it Hot” as the No. 1 American comedy. It’s also ranked No. 22 in the AFI list of 100 greatest American movies. In the U.K.’s Sight and Sound Magazine, the British Film Institute selected “Some Like it Hot” as No. 42 of the 100 greatest films around the globe.
The release of “Some Like it Hot” and other MGM/UA films are seemingly on a 4K Ultra HD fast-track from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. It’s no accident since Amazon’s acquisition of the MGM library is expected to close sometime this year and the e-commerce giant could easily shut down the physical 4K releases. Hopefully, levelheaded minds will prevail and keep the 4K door open.
(1) The smoke-filled nightclub is hopping as Joe and Jerry play for the house jazz band. (2) The dancers for the club. (3) Joe plays the sax and Jerry the bass fiddle. (4) Detective Mulligan breaks up the show as Chicago police raid the club. (5) Mulligan questions “Spats” Colombo. “What’s the rap this time?” says Colombo. Mulligan responds, “Embalming people with coffee. 86 proof.”
Kino Lorber started slow in 2019 with MGM’s “Hannibal” (1999) from Ridley Scott, using HDR10 and Dolby Vision. In the spring of 2020, the Mel Brooks’ space parody “Spaceballs” (1987) debuted with Dolby Vision. Sergio Leone’s Western classic, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966), arrived only in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR), with good contrast and color spectrum. The results are still the best it’s ever looked. Last fall, Kino Lorber released the five-Academy Award winner “Silence of the Lambs” (1991), Stephen King’s thriller “Misery,” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978) – all three getting the full 4K/HDR treatment.
Kino Lorber 4K MGM/UA Slate for 2022
In January, it was the star-studded World War II epic “The Great Escape” (1963), and now “Some Like it Hot,” which received six Oscar nominations, including best director, actor (Lemmon), adapted screenplay, and B&W cinematography. In March, it's Wilder’s Best Picture winner “The Apartment” (1960) with Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. On April 19, there’s Best Picture winner “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), with Sidney Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs and Rod Steiger as small-town Police Chief Gillespie.
Additional MGM titles planned this year are John Frankenheimer’s “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) starring Frank Sinatra; Stanley Kubrick's film noir double-header “The Killing” (1956) and “Killer’s Kiss” (1955); the courtroom drama “12 Angry Men” (1957), with Henry Fonda; Kubrick’s WWI anti-war film “Paths of Glory” (1957), with Kirk Douglas; neo-noir mystery “The Usual Suspects” (1995); Brian De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” (1980); action thriller “To Live and Die in LA” (1985), and the two remaining “Man with No Name” Westerns, “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964) and “For a Few Dollars More” (1965).
Kino Lorber also has an exclusive 4K release schedule with Universal Studios for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011) coming Tuesday, February 22; Orson Welles’ film noir classic “Touch of Evil” (1958) March 15, which will include three 4K cuts, and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” (2007) March 22. There are no dates yet for Clint Eastwood’s “High Plains Drifter” (1973) or John Waters’ “Cry-Baby” (1990) with Johnny Depp.
(1) “Toothpick” Charlie and his friends play cards inside a Chicago parking garage. (2&3) It’s a real-life assassination, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre as Colombo and his henchman knockoff Charlie and his gang. (4) Joe and Jerry accidentally witness the killings and they disguise themselves and join an all-girl orchestra on its way to sunny Florida.
The Kino Lorber set includes a Blu-ray disc loaded with bonus features, with seven carryover featurettes and trailers. It reveals that, originally, Frank Sinatra was pegged to play Jerry, with Mitzi Gaynor as Sugar. But Sinatra stood Wilder up for lunch and Monroe, who’d worked with Wilder four years earlier on “The Seven Year Itch” (1955), wanted to work with him again.
The best of this group is the 30-minute sit-down conversation with Curtis and film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, taped in 2001 inside the famed Formosa café, located around the corner from the old Samuel Goldwyn Studio where “Some Like it Hot” was filmed. The two sat in the “Marilyn booth,” where Monroe would relax and dine after a day of filming. Curtis and Lemmon would join in, “After getting out of our lady dresses and get a drink,” he says. “The place was really jumping,” filled with the crew and extras along with the stars. Additional bonus features include “Memories from the Sweet Sue’s,” interviewing four actresses that played in the all-girl band with Sugar, Josephine, and Daphne. Wilder required each member to dye their hair a shade of blonde that would not match Monroe’s trademark platinum color.
“The Legacy” highlights the historic Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, used in the Florida beach scenes, and additional interviews with Curtis, Lemmon, and Wilder. The director says, “All I know is it was a huge success worldwide. We knew we had a good picture and were surprised it lived on after all of those years.”
Writer/director Curtis Hanson is also interviewed, saying he considers meeting Wilder one of the perks of making his Best Picture nominated film, “L.A. Confidential.” Wilder had seen the film and invited Hanson to his office. “It was a great call to get,” Hanson says. He gives a walking tour of the old Goldwyn Studio lot, and points to a parking lot that once housed the soundstages used for Wilder’s “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957), “Some Like it Hot” and “The Apartment.” Sadly, the stages were ravaged by a fire in 1974, with debris collapsing into Wilder’s corner office, destroying everything inside.
(1) Daphne (Jerry) and Josephine (Joe) are the newest members of the Society Syncopators, as the band heads south on the 8 p.m. train to Miami. (2) Band manager Beinstock (Dave Barry). (3) Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) sings “Runnin’ Wild.” (4) Daphne and Sugar break out the liquor.
A German TV interview with Wilder is included focusing on “Some Like it Hot.” As a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, he arrived in Hollywood in 1934, with only $11 in his pocket. He won six Oscars over his career, the first two for director and screenplay for “The Lost Weekend” (1945) and his first screenplay nomination for “Ninotchka” (1939), which starred Swedish actress Greta Garbo.
The commentary with Joseph McBride featured on the 4K disc is chockfull with backstories and insights. He considers “Some Like it Hot” Wilder’s best and one of the few perfect films of cinema. “It’s up there with “Citizen Kane,” Ernst Lubitsch’s “Trouble in Paradise” (1932) and Yasujirô Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953),” he says. McBride gives a history lesson to the film’s origin, first based on the French film “Fanfare d’mouth” (1935) of two unemployed musicians who dress up as women for an all-female orchestra and fall in love with two gorgeous musicians. And a German version “Fanfaren de Liebe” (1951) written by Wilder friend Robert Theron, with two male musicians dressing in drag to get work. McBride ended in Berlin to finally get a screening pulled from a German archive.
McBride says, Wilder and his longtime writing partner I.A.L. Diamond, wanted to make sure “Some Like it Hot” had an ironclad storyline that Joe and Jerry were trapped in women’s clothes and couldn’t take off the wigs and say, “Look I’m a guy.” Witnesses to the St. Valentine murders ensured they would stay in dresses to the very end, said McBride. Wilder and Diamond felt the previous versions weren’t “hammerlock,” because they didn’t have the threat of life and death.
Also, during the commentary, he reveals the famous first shot of Monroe walking past Josephine and Daphne at the train station. Monroe saw the dailies with Wilder and felt it needed more. On the fly, Wilder orchestrated the shot with a spurt of steam coming from the engine. Wilder said, “She’s so sexy even the train gooses her.”
(1) Millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) and his fellow fat cats spot the ladies as they arrive at the plush oceanfront hotel filmed at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. (2) Daphne, Sugar, and the rest of the girls go for a swim. (3&4) Daphne is shocked to find Josephine is now Shell Oil Junior. (5) Curtis goes full Cary Grant as Shell Oil Junior.
A second commentary is provided with Diamond’s son Paul, and screenwriters Lowell Ganz “(“Splash,” “Parenthood”) and Babaloo Mandel (“Splash,” “A League of Their Own”), with insert comments from Curtis and Lemmon pulled from the featurettes.
What wasn’t already mentioned above regarding the 4K quality is that this presentation equals Sony’s superb 4K Ultra HD black and white restoration of “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959), released three months before the Wilder classic.
Two audio tracks are made available including the original 2.0 mono track, with pops and hiss removed. There’s also a six-channel DTS HD soundtrack, mostly distributed to the front three speakers, with only brief effects hitting surround speakers.
Owners of The Criterion Collection or if you’ve not upgraded your Blu-ray, this KL Studio Classics version is now the ultimate edition of America’s greatest comedy.
Don’t miss it!
— Bill Kelley, High-Def Watch producer
(1&2) The Society Syncopators’ first performance at the beachfront Ritz Seminole Hotel. Sugar sings the seductive “I Wanna Be Loved by You.” (3) The yacht seduction scene, in which Curtis said kissing Monroe was like kissing Hitler. (4) The screwball courtship between Fielding III and Daphne. (5) Daphne tells Shell Oil Junior she’s engaged.
(1&2) Daphne spots Colombo and his henchman in the hotel lobby. (3&4) Josephine listens as Sugar sings “I’m Thru with Love.” (5) Monroe’s onscreen performance was magical, but she suffered from neuroses and was pregnant during the production. (6) One of cinemas most famous last lines, “Well, nobody’s perfect!”