Too Disturbing for Kansas

Disguised as a crime story, Some Like It Hot’s farcical gender comedy is more an ode to flirtatious, sexual rambunctiousness. Crime is only a cover.

This was 1959, cinema still beholden to conservative values, and TV shows unable to show a couple sleeping in the same bed. In steps a lying Tony Curtis wooing a sheepish Marilyn Monroe aboard a stolen yacht – at night, with booze – to break from a puritan ideal of marital sex. It’s a freeing, boundary-challenging escapade that, with a plot device anemic even for a sitcom, finds a way through the norms of Hollywood romance.

Some Like It Hot avoids the obvious, easy jokes

It’s a film surrounded by prohibition and a looming economic depression, being set in 1929 (which makes the sexuality all the more striking). Some Like It Hot challenges its male leads to forcibly turn off their hormonal drive, and simultaneously experience sexism while in their marginally effective feminine drag. Jack Lemmon is pinched by a horny old man who, like many men, thinks he’s free to do as he pleases. Some Like It Hot isn’t only about the lengths men go to pursue the iconic blonde beauty queen, but also the broken barriers that exist between genders.

Curtis’ character Joe creates the perfect circumstance – a womanizing swindler who regularly puts moves on anyone willing to take it, then forced into the opposite side of his own game. Some Like It Hot isn’t inherently about the cross-dressing awkwardness, but it’s still central to this kooky story. That’s where the separation happens between this and a ‘50s era sitcom: the main comic lure isn’t the clothes, but rather how these two broke, often clueless men navigate their way through increasingly outlandish situations.

Critically, Some Like It Hot avoids the obvious, easy jokes, like one where the men have to rapidly switch clothes to maintain their identity for different people. When that happens, it’s invisibly handled, smoothly transitioned, and leads into an even better gag. That’s the perfectionist touch.

Wilder’s direction and the final edit give Some Like It Hot an inarguable energy, although the momentum isn’t always sustained. Some of that feeling stems from the unavoidably dated attitudes within the script, but Lemmon’s signature madcap panic overcomes those lulls. Plus, it’s lush in black and white, furthering the sense of age, plus maintaining a period feel.

Video

Brilliant Dolby Vision grading adds life to this classic, giving the shadows sensational depth, weight, and power. The cinematography never looked this firm on Blu-ray, even if the contrast receives only a minor lift; there’s still dimensionality in droves, aided by a meticulously calibrated gray scale. Depth, depth, and more depth are the standout features.

Grain intensity fluctuates, dimming fidelity a touch in places, and likely unavoidably so. Kino’s encode deserves credit, holding together even when faced with challenges from the grain and smokey interiors combined. Facial texture thrives in these circumstances, close-ups dazzlingly sharp, as is Some Like It Hot as a whole. The definition makes full use of the available resolution, although there’s an argument others from this era – say, Anatomy of a Murder – offer even greater precision on this format. But, differences in film stock and styles account for much.

A near spotless source print dodges debris and scratches. Restoration efforts pay off.

Audio

Pick mono, pick 5.1 – both come in DTS-HD. Additions to the modern surround mix include excellent, natural spacing in the front soundstage, evident immediately in the opening chase. Vehicles smoothly sweep between the available channels flawlessly, and it sounds as if said motion was always present. Music is afforded additional presence in the mix as well.

Either way, fidelity fairs equally so. It’s nothing extravagant, holds to its age, mixed a bit low, but overall pleasingly crisp. Some static persists through a number of scenes, offset by the firm bass coming from Lemmon’s instrumentals.

Extras

Two commentaries open the bonuses, the first with Billy Wilder bio author Joseph McBride. The second brings in screenwriter I.A.L Diamond’s son Paul to join writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (this track also includes archival interviews with Curtis and Lemmon). A making-of, four featurettes, a I.A.L Diamond tribute, and chat between Wilder and Volker Schlondorff complete the extras.

Some Like It Hot
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Billy Wilder directs his cast to give Some Like It Hot’s sitcom-level premise a proper injection of energy.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 48 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: