An enduring classic that’s often considered one of the finest American comedies ever made, Some Like It Hot is a testament to the greatness of director Billy Wilder and his writing partner I.A.L. Diamond. Some Like It Hot features a perfect balance of visual and verbal gags, impeccable pacing, and a willingness to push the envelope that ensures its guys-in-drag plot doesn’t feel even a bit dowdy today. And this isn’t even Wilder and Diamond’s best film together! (That would be The Apartment, which was their next project. Let’s get that Blu-ray cracking, folks.)
Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis star as Jerry and Joe, a pair of down-on-their-luck musicians in Prohibition-era Chicago. They’re desperate to take any job, and discover a prime three-week stint at a resort in Florida. Trouble is, it’s for an all-girl band.
Soon after, the two inadvertently witness a mob hit, sending them on the run from gangster Spats Colombo (George Raft). The all-girl band gig turns into a chance to hide out, and posing as Daphne and Josephine, they slap on some foundation and heels, and take over as the new saxophone and bass players.
Making their task of posing as women quite harder is the presence of Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe, in full-on sex-kitten mode), the band’s singer and ukulele player. Daphne and Josephine are both gobsmacked — what straight male wouldn’t be? — and the mantra of “I’m a girl, I’m a girl” doesn’t help much.
Once in Florida, Joe decides to make a play for Sugar, posing as an impotent millionaire looking for the girl who can cure him, and Jerry finds his own suitor in the perennially married dirty old man Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). None of their romantic entanglements — desired or otherwise — may matter much though when the mob comes to town.
Lemmon and Curtis are superb in their bickering, bantering roles, even if their acceptance as women strains credulity. Despite rampant reports of her difficulty on set, Monroe turns in what is probably her most satisfying performance here as a character with sex and charm just emanating from her very being.
Some Like it Hot trades in both heavy sexual innuendo and madcap physical humor — both recipes for disaster if not proportioned successfully. Wilder has no problem finding the balance though, with nearly every minute of the film being just a pleasure to watch. Wilder’s elegant directorial grace can make even the sleaziest of pictures (see: Irma la Douce and especially Kiss Me, Stupid), possess at least a sheen of respectability. Here, he shows himself to be the true successor to the Lubitsch touch, delivering an all-time classic that seems as effortless as it is hilarious.
The Blu-ray Disc
Some Like It Hot is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. I’m very pleased with this transfer, which marks a big improvement over the previous DVD release, with added clarity, sharpness, and fine detail apparent in almost every shot. Contrast levels are solid, with whites, blacks and shades of gray all appearing true and consistent. The image is subtly film-like, with a nicely intact grain structure. It’s not a perfect transfer, as the image is occasionally a tad soft and white speckles pop up on the image more than I’d care for. The film deserves a more thorough cleanup, but fortunately, its materials were in good shape and lent themselves well to this solid upgrade.
Audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which shows itself to be pretty negligible as a stereo track. It’s mostly music that finds its way to the rears, while dialogue and most effects remain upfront where they’re intended to be. No complaints with the mix, which is nice and clean.
We’ve seen all these before on the previous two-disc special edition DVD, but that was a solid release, so that’s no cause for disappointment. A patchwork audio commentary features Curtis, Lemmon, Diamond’s son Paul, and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (they wrote City Slickers and lots of other crap; not exactly worthy successors to Wilder). Two featurettes explore the making of the film and its legacy, while we also get remembrances from Curtis, interviewed by Leonard Maltin, and some of the actresses who played band members. A virtual hall of memories organizes clips and stills from the film, and the theatrical trailer is also included.
Frustratingly, like many recent FOX/MGM discs, this one comes without a proper menu and just plays the movie on a loop. How hard is it to include a menu?
The Bottom Line
More than 50 years on from its release, Some Like It Hot remains top-tier comedic filmmaking, and it more than deserves a Blu-ray upgrade in any serious library.