Criterion Blu-Ray Review: Billy Wilder’s ‘Some Like It Hot’

Some Like It Hot can be an acquired taste, something I did not learn until I found negative opinions of it online. For years, I just assumed it was universally accepted it was one of the greatest comedies ever made. But the fact is, it’s not even one of the greatest comedies director Billy Wilder made. And that some do not find it all that funny is proof that crafting a perfect comedy that does appeal to everyone is nearly impossible.

The best way to approach Some Like It Hot, especially for those who like the film, is to go at least a few years without watching it before revisiting it. It had been several years since I last watched it before I started the new Criterion Collection disc. Coming at it as fresh as I possibly could, I realized that Some Like It Hot works for me. It’s not as polished and perfect as The Apartment, as snappy as The Major and The Minor or as hopelessly romantic as Sabrina. But it doesn’t have to be. Rather, it is a successful mix of everything that made Wilder’s best movies work, minus the biting cynicism of The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard or Ace in the Hole.

Since Some Like It Hot is one of the rare classic films that remains part of the popular lexicon at large thanks to Marilyn Monroe’s involvement, it seems a little wasteful to dive into the plot. Simply put, it’s about two guys (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) on the run from Chicago gangsters who dress as women to work with an all-girl band in Florida. Once they get there, one falls in love with Sugar (Monroe) and another gets engaged to a sugar-daddy (Joe E. Brown). It’s all expertly spelled out in Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s script, which takes inspiration from the 1935 French movie Fanfare of Love and its 1951 German remake.

Although 20th Century Fox Home Video released Some Like It Hot on Blu-ray several years ago, Criterion released a fresh Blu-ray in November 2018. The release includes a pristine 4K digital restoration that is leaps and bounds better than the 2006 2-disc DVD I can compare it to. Notably, the previous releases had the film at 1.66:1, while Criterion presents the film as 1.85:1.

Criterion’s collection of extras includes most of the material from previous releases, and adds a few essentials. Here’s the run-down:

  • Commentary: Criterion replaced the MGM/UA commentary that included interviews with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis with the 1989 commentary the label recorded for its laserdisc release. This one features Howard Suber breaking down the film and explaining why it works. It includes brief remarks from Lemmon. For the most part, it’s a good track, although Suber seems a little too obsessed with Monroe.
  • The Making of Some Like It Hot
  • The Legacy of Some Like It Hot
  • Memories of the Sweet Sues – These three all appeared on previous MGM/Fox releases. The first two are 20-minute pieces of talking heads on the making and influence of the film, and importantly feature interviews with those involved in the making of it. Memories of the Sweet Sues is a neat, 12-minute extra featuring surviving members of the film’s all-girl band.
  • Costumes by Orry-Kelly – Oddly enough, the only brand new supplement Criterion produced for the disc covers the amazing costumes created by legendary designer Orry-Kelly. Costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman and archivist Larry McQueen provide a fascinating look at the costumes in this 19-minute feature.
  • Dick Cavett and Billy Wilder – Criterion included Billy Wilder’s full 1982 interview with Dick Cavett. This is a priceless addition, as Wilder had some amazing stories to tell. His story about the one time he met Sigmund Freud is a riot.
  • Tony Curtis – This is a complete, 31-minute interview between Leonard Maltin and Curtis that appeared on past MGM/Fox editions. Part of it is included in the earlier extras, but it’s nice to have the full conversation here.
  • Jack Lemmon – As usual, what’s a Criterion disc without a French TV interview? This brief clip from Cinema cinemas dates from 1988 and features Lemmon reminiscing about working with Monroe.
  • Marilyn Monroe – An underrated extra here is this brief 1955 radio interview with Marilyn Monroe.
  • Trailer
  • “How to Have Fun” – Author Sam Wasson provides another critical look on the film in the insert.

Criterion did not port over the previous MGM/Fox commentary. The 2-disc DVD also included galleries and an interactive pressbook, which are also not included here. However, considering how in-depth everything we do get is, those do not feel like big omissions. There’s a lot crammed onto this disc, ensuring that fans of the film will still want it even if they have previous editions.

Thanks to Criterion for providing this disc to review.

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