Monroe’s Emotional Turmoil

An unusual cruelty runs through Don’t Bother to Knock. It’s mean, seedy, and judgmental. Dialog is tough and harsh. Based on a novel by Charlotte Armstrong, the fierceness comes with definite reason: feminist empathy.

Jed Towers (Richard Widmark) chats with a bartender in an early scene. Towers asks if the bartender ever fights with his wife. “Sometimes she sleeps,” is the sexism-laced reply. Later, a snoopy, puritan older couple worries when an unmarried woman invites a man into her room.

Towers breaks with his current lounge singer girlfriend Lyn (Anne Bancroft), and in a lustful moment, sees Nell Forbes (Marilyn Monroe) across the way. In a role that decades later seems biographical, Forbes suffers from anxiety, delusions, and self-harm due to an earlier fling in which her one night stand died the next day. No one sees her anguish, only her behavior.

In not even 80-minutes, Don’t Bother to Knock says more than films twice its length

Even if they understand, like Towers, they blame her. Discovering scars on her wrist, Towers contorts his face into disgust, indirectly accusatory. In a pure performance moment for Monroe, she shamefully bows her head. This isn’t the first person to react this way in her life.

Don’t Bother to Knock acts as a parable for war widows, or more specifically, those around them. It’s meaningful noir. Monroe spends the movie as a babysitter, rifling through expensive jewelry, desperate for the mirror to reflect a pre-trauma state. As her delusions grow, so does the crowd of spectators. Only Towers and Lyn provide sympathy. The others, a colorful New York group, stare and gawk. The blame – and the cycle – continue.

Although nasty, Don’t Bother to Knock uses this callousness to breathe life into romance. In seeing Forbes’ downfall, Towers and Lyn own problems come into perspective. In this post-WWII New York where little things pile up, Don’t Bother to Knock returns to a time of authentic worry and anxiety. It’s a film asking people not to forget amid the economic recovery. Some wounds did not heal, and that’s no one’s fault. That pride and strength projected by celebratory parades did not reach all.

In not even 80-minutes, Don’t Bother to Knock says more than films twice its length. Unknowingly so during production, there’s discomfort in watching Monroe suffer this way. Those people staring at her in the hotel lobby as she brandishes a razor blade encapsulates her later life. No one stops her; they just watch, as if everything she does is entertainment.

Video

Previously released as a stand-alone disc by Twilight Time, Shout Factory includes Don’t Bother to Knock in their Anne Bancroft Collection set. It’s an inconsistent presentation, struggling with visible processing that brings harm to the grain structure. At times, the film stock swims unnaturally, grain wavering or moving in odd ways. A little smearing further suggests digital tinkering.

Behind that looks to be a capable print, in gorgeous condition. Resolution brings out some sharpness, at least what isn’t marred by digital tools. Detail escapes, bringing light facial detail and other texture. When Monroe grabs a bracelet, the diamond close-up looks sensational.

If anything acts as a savior, it’s gray scale. Tremendously pure black levels finds detail in shadows, while still preserving the rich lighting. Overall brightness adds to the dimension, adding life to these small studio sets. Depth never runs at a loss.

Audio

Bancroft’s singing makes use of the uncompressed mono, keeping vocals pure and smooth. This translates to the score too, rendered clean with exceptional range for a vintage film.

Dialog dryness matches expectations, naturally thin but warm.

Extras

A trailer and isolated score only.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Don't Bother to Knock
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Marilyn Monroe and Anne Bancroft star in the uniquely empathetic and moving tragedy, Don’t Bother to Knock.

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