You had me at Marilyn Monroe in Dolby Vision...but even without the luminous MM and brilliance of 4K UHD, Some Like It Hot stands as one of the greatest comedies in Hollywood history. Far more than a standard cross-dressing farce, writer-director Billy Wilder's uproarious classic examines gender roles while spoofing both Prohibition and gangster movies. A witty, rapid-fire script and career-defining performances from Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon keep Some Like It Hot fresh, while Kino's spectacular 4K UHD transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 supplants any other home video version of this fun, frantic, and utterly fantastic film. Must Own.
The joke is an old one. Desperate men put on a dress, slip into high heels, slather their faces with pancake makeup, and talk in falsetto tones to try and fool the establishment, beat the system, or dodge a rap. Hollywood can’t get enough of it, and for decades, Tinseltown has recycled and refashioned the premise until it’s become a tired cliché. The best cross-dressing comedies, however, don’t just rely on the inherent outrageousness of what is essentially a lowbrow burlesque gag; they make statements about sexual roles, male-female equality, and personal acceptance. And the best of the best of gender-bending farces is undeniably Some Like It Hot.
Packed with memorable lines, hilarious situations, and a deceptively high degree of insight, director Billy Wilder’s captivating classic continues to charm audiences more than 60 years after it was first released. Because Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond set their zany tale in a nostalgic era - the roaring 1920s - the film doesn’t have to fit the constraints of any contemporary context. Instead, it can concentrate on the timeless interactions and misunderstandings between men and women, as well as their often warped perceptions of each other. It’s a clever conceit that keeps the movie wonderfully fresh, no matter how many times we’ve seen it.
The story of two down-on-their-luck Chicago musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) who unwittingly witness the bloody St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, then masquerade as women and join an all-female band in a frantic attempt to escape the wrath of a vengeful mob kingpin (George Raft) is just a setup for a surprisingly frank examination of sexual and gender psychology. Before the guys can get comfortable in their pumps and undergarments, they meet the bubbly, jiggly, and oh-so-blonde Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the band’s lead singer and every man’s fantasy girl. Both men are attracted to Sugar like flies to honeycombs and become her best bosom gal pals to get close to her. In the process, though, they see the vulnerability and insecurities that make her human.
The dilemma then becomes do they exploit what they learn about Sugar as women and use it to their advantage as men to get her in the sack? Joe (Curtis) initially does, masquerading a second time as Sugar’s fantasy guy, a rich, bespectacled yachtsman with a Cary Grant accent and inferiority complex. Meanwhile, Jerry (Lemmon) takes his feminine role too seriously, summoning his inner gold-digger and leading on dirty old millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who’s unabashedly smitten with Jerry’s sassy alter ego, Daphne. What will happen when Sugar finds out her Mr. Right is really her best girlfriend who isn’t really a girl at all but a wolf in sheep’s stockings? And what will happen when Osgood discovers the dreamy Daphne is a baritone with a beard?
As the film’s hilarious last line so perceptively points out, nobody’s perfect, and that really is the point of what may seem to some like a pointless comedy. We’re all a jumble of inconsistencies, aberrations, quirks, and fetishes, and who the hell really cares! We’re people. We’re silly, we’re messy, we’re weird, but we’re all wonderful in our own way. Wilder presents this viewpoint with an intoxicating vivacity and a tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Everything is just outrageous enough to be funny, but there’s always an underlying reality, and that’s what makes the movie resonate and endure.
On top of that, it’s pretty darn risqué for a film made in 1959. Sexual allusions - both straight and gay - abound, and several scenes exude a palpable degree of heat. That should be expected for a movie titled Some Like It Hot and starring arguably the world’s most iconic sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe. The titillation, though, has a purpose, and Monroe, with a delightful lack of abandon, both celebrates and lampoons her sultry image. Like everything in the movie, it’s an angle, a ruse, and when Sugar shows us her inner dimensions, we see Marilyn’s, too. Both women use their sexuality, but it’s not who they are. And both are objects of desire who desire to be wanted for what’s underneath their beautiful skin.
Curtis and Lemmon rightfully receive the lion’s share of praise for their broad, supremely funny dual portrayals. Both nail their respective parts and seem to be having just as much of a blast as we are, yet Monroe, who was often considered a dumb blonde and perfectly portrays one here, should not be overlooked or dismissed. Though elements of the Monroe persona exist in Sugar, Marilyn fleshes out (pardon the pun) the character, imbuing her with copious warmth and tenderness and a doe-eyed naïveté that’s irresistible. Monroe was under tremendous strain during shooting - she was pregnant (and would tragically suffer a miscarriage two weeks after production wrapped), her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller was beginning to crumble, and her innate insecurities and dependence on prescription drugs made it difficult for her to keep up with the rigors of filming - yet rarely does she seem more natural or carefree on camera. Her inextinguishable luminosity casts a glow over the movie and lends it essential humanity. In an ocean of caricatures and disguises, she’s the real thing.
Wilder, who directed her in The Seven Year Itch, brings out her best, and his impeccable sense of comic timing, appreciation of the absurd, masterful pacing, and supreme ability to implant nuggets of truth in a farcical morass help him transform this merry mélange of madcap mayhem into cinematic art. Joe E. Brown’s memorable closing quip, “Nobody’s perfect,” remains all too true, but Some Like It Hot comes closer to perfection than almost any other screen comedy.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra-HD Blu-ray
Some Like It Hot arrives on 4K UHD packaged in a standard case with an o-card slipcover. The two-disc set includes the main feature with audio commentaries on a 4K UHD disc and all the supplemental material on a standard Blu-ray disc. (Please note there is no standard Blu-ray edition of Some Like It Hot included in this set. The film is presented in 4K UHD only.) Video codec is 2160p/HEVC H.265 with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and default audio DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. (A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is also included.) Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.
Kino used the Criterion Collection's stellar 2018 4K restoration of Some Like It Hot as the basis for this 2160p/HEVC H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision/HDR10, but if you think this UHD edition is just a run-of-the-mill 4K upconvert, think again. While Criterion's Blu-ray rendering, culled from a trio of source prints including the original camera negative, set a new visual standard for Wilder's masterwork, Kino's spectacular, often eye-popping effort ups the ante even further. The differences aren't monumental, but they're substantial enough to grab attention and merit admiration.
Everything that's good about the 2018 restoration is that much better here - heightened clarity and contrast, greater depth, denser black levels, brighter whites, and sharper fine details all enhance the incredibly film-like picture. Consequently, the problem areas are a little more problematic. That's just the nature of UHD, especially with regard to antiquated films. Grain is more noticeable on the Kino transfer, which certainly isn't a bad thing, but light solid backgrounds can look a bit noisy (the opening credits are a prime example). The texture resolves nicely most of the time, except when the source material switches from original to dupe. The grain naturally intensifies and more softness creeps into the image, but thankfully such instances are brief. The shifts may be slightly more jarring in 4K than on the Criterion Blu-ray, but the benefits of the enhanced picture quality far outweigh any minor detriments. Though the Criterion transfer looks smoother overall, it also looks appreciably duller, lacking the pop and pep that make this UHD rendering truly sparkle.
What's so exhilarating about Kino's transfer is the way it captures, reflects, and transmits the kinetic energy that permeates almost every frame of Some Like It Hot. As a result, the movie feels more frenetic and intimate, and the tremendous level of detail draws us into the action and keeps the eye constantly engaged. The ripples and waves in the ocean water, grains of sand on the beach, bubbles in the bubble bath, and ornate interior of Osgood's yacht are all wonderfully crisp. So, too, are the wool and tweed in the men's jackets, the delicate weave of Osgood's hat, the women's silky, gleaming satin dresses, the glittery sequins that strategically dot Monroe's sheer Orry-Kelly gowns, the scuffs and stains on various costumes, and the embroidery and decorations on the cloche hats Lemmon and Curtis wear as women. You can even see the faint hairs on Monroe's arms and delicate streaks in her bloodshot eyes.
The glimmering and shimmering wet bricks are distinct, the day-for-night shots exude warmth and richness, and excellent shadow delineation keeps crush at bay. Close-ups are breathtaking. Forget Monroe's dreamy, creamy, pale complexion and the heavy pancake makeup, lipstick, and mascara slathered on the faces of Curtis and Lemmon; any transfer that can make Joe E. Brown look good deserves the highest marks!
Some of the whites bloom ever so slightly and a few errant marks that weren't visible in the Criterion transfer can be spotted here, but the positives of this delicious Kino transfer far outweigh any of the niggly negatives. This transfer is as bold and brash and razor-sharp as Some Like It Hot itself, and if you're a fan of this madcap movie and/or the luminous Marilyn Monroe, you simply must experience both in the splendor of Dolby Vision/HDR10.
Two previously released audio tracks are included on the disc. The default track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that first appeared on Fox's 2011 Blu-ray. Here's what HDD's Steven Cohen wrote about it in his review:
"Though labeled a 5.1 track, this mix seems to remain pretty faithful to the audio's original mono roots. Dialogue is nice and crisp, with no prevalent distortion, hissing, or other signs of age. Dynamic range is fairly muted and bass is mostly absent. Surrounds are fairly inactive, but do come into play during some of the shootouts, most notably the opening scene, and the music sequences. Thankfully, the surround effects come across as mostly natural and not gimmicky or obtrusive. Directionality between the front speakers is also fairly minimal but appropriately used. Overall, 'Some Like It Hot' offers a nice, respectable soundtrack that brings some minor updates to the original audio."
The DTS-HD Master 2.0 mono track is a virtual replica of Criterion's LPCM mono track that appears on its 2018 release. Here's my assessment of Some Like It Hot's restored original mono track:
"The...presentation is clear and well modulated and free of any age-related hiss, pops, or crackles. Atmospherics like howling wind and sonic accents like gunfire, sirens, and the iconic puffs of steam that bounce off Monroe’s derrière are all crisp and distinct. Excellent fidelity and tonal depth enhance Monroe’s musical numbers, although a slight bit of distortion afflicts the opening bars of "Running Wild." The jazzy music score by Adolph Deutsch sounds appropriately bold and brassy and all the priceless dialogue is easy to understand...Though the scope of this mono track is limited, it’s authentic to the film and serves it well."
All the supplements from the 2011 Blu-ray have been ported over to this 4K UHD release. Kino also adds a few new extras to the package and wisely houses all the special features (except the audio commentaries) on a separate disc in order to keep the main feature's video quality high. Sadly, the extras that were exclusive to the Criterion edition remain just that, so you might want to hang onto that disc as well. For a complete review of the previously released supplements, click here. The new extras are reviewed below.
Audio Commentary - Billy Wilder biographer Joseph McBride sits down for an engaging and informative commentary that examines - among other things - the German film upon which Some Like It Hot is (very) loosely based, the film's unique mixture of violence and comedy, various casting choices that (thankfully) didn't pan out (Mitzi Gaynor as Sugar?), Wilder's penchant for train and hotel scenes, the racy dialogue, and the musical elements that often pervade Wilder's work. He also debunks some of the rumors surrounding Monroe's production delays, describes a deleted scene, analyzes the underlying themes of drag films, discusses the outrage the film caused among conservative and religious groups, and shares some on-set anecdotes and trivia. McBride calls Some Like It Hot Wilder's best film and one of the few "perfect" movies in Hollywood history, so if you're a fan of this timeless classic, you'll definitely want to take the time to listen to this superior track.
Billy Wilder Interview (SD, 20 minutes) - Divided into two parts, this revealing interview with the legendary director, conducted by Volker Schlöndorff, focuses mostly on Some Like It Hot, but also touches upon The Seven Year Itch. Wilder vacillates between German and English - sometimes in mid-sentence - as he discusses such topics as Monroe's unreliability, the differences between Lemmon and Curtis, and the tricky nature of directing comedies. He calls Monroe "a pathetic figure" who had "more doctors than you could shake a stick at," but praises her talent and magnetism and shares some fascinating anecdotes about working with her. He also reads a lengthy excerpt from the Some Like It Hot script during this absorbing and enlightening chat.
Tribute to I.A.L. Diamond (SD, 2 minutes) - Wilder honors his long-time writing partner and recalls their easygoing collaboration in this brief excerpt from a 1988 public tribute to Diamond, held shortly after his death.
Trailers - In addition to the original theatrical preview for Some Like It Hot (presented in HD), Kino includes trailers for six other Wilder films, five of which also feature Lemmon in the starring role.
Some like it hot, but everyone will like - make that love - Some Like It Hot in 4K UHD. Kino Lorber takes the excellent 2018 4K restoration of writer-director Billy Wilder's comedy classic and kicks up it a notch with a spectacular Dolby Vision/HDR10 presentation that further sharpens this razor-sharp farce. Often imitated but never equaled, Some Like It Hot is a masterwork from start to finish, thanks to its impeccable direction, perfectly constructed script, top-flight production values, and wonderful performances from Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. Two lossless audio tracks and a few new extras sweeten this sublime release, but you might want to hang onto your Criterion disc for the extras that are exclusive to that edition. Must Own.