Billy Wilder’s outrageous middle finger to the Hays Code has never looked better — see for yourself!
This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older MGM Blu-ray transfer with the new Criterion restoration. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.
1959 — what an incredible year for film. Fun fact – North By Northwest, Sleeping Beauty, and Some Like It Hot, all three among our most enduring classics, were all released that year, and not one of them even nominated for Best Picture (though the incredible Ben-Hur was the big winner that year, so I’m not too broken up about it).
Some Like It Hot may be my favorite of the bunch. I first watched this one as a kid and stuck with me — it was the most “modern” feeling black and white film I’d ever seen — it was dangerous, funny, and sexy, with mean gangsters and an outrageous cross-dressing scheme, and of course I fell in love with Marilyn.
I didn’t realize it at that time, but that modern sensation that I latched onto was the blow that broke the Hollywood Production Code. This isn’t just one of the greatest comedies of all time, but also one of the most historically significant.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray of this classic film boasts a stunning new 4K digital restoration that absolutely blows away the prior Blu-ray release: sharper, clearer, full of gorgeously rendered grain, and framed closer to the published original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
The film’s opening sequences with the gangsters feature a lot of noirish, low-light photography. The new transfer brings so much more clarity to these scenes, not only with increased sharpness but bringing more visibility in the darker environments.
One big difference in the transfers is the framing and aspect ratios. The old transfer was slightly inset, grabbing more of the frame but not filling out the full width of 1.85. Criterion’s transfer spreads out to fill your TV with some vertical loss (note the bottom two buttons of Tony Curtis’s coat). I like this impulse to fill out the width, but I’m a bit perplexed that Criterion’s transfer put black bars on the top and bottom (however slight). This is my sole complaint, and it’s a minor one.
Out, damn spot! Criterion’s digital restoration process cleans up imperfections in the print while resolutely defending the integrity of the image. I don’t know if these transfers were commonly sourced, or whether most the blemishes on the older print were on the original materials or introduced digitally, but I can say without question that the the new transfer is certainly cleaner. Here’s an isolated frame highlighting some differences. Obviously these are very tiny, practically insignificant blemishes, and only visible for a fraction of a second, but the additive impact in motion is one of overall better image fidelity and less visual noise on the new edition.
Close-ups demonstrate a considerable boost in textures in skin and clothing.
A few more shots just to get an overall sense of the film in general — improved clarity, better texture, beautiful grain, and Marilyn has never looked more stunning.
Criterion’s edition ports over most of the features from the prior edition, and adds some new ones, but there’s one notable omission that might make fans consider hanging on to their MGM discs — that disc’s audio commentary, assembled from interviews with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, paired with modern commentators Paul Diamond, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandell, didn’t make the jump.
Here’s the full list of special features, as provided by Criterion:
- New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary from 1989 featuring film scholar Howard Suber
- New short program on Orry-Kelly’s costumes for the film, featuring costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis and costume historian and archivist Larry McQueen
- Three behind-the-scenes documentaries
- Appearances by director Billy Wilder on The Dick Cavett Show from 1982
- Conversation from 2001 between actor Tony Curtis and film critic Leonard Maltin
- French television interview from 1988 with actor Jack Lemmon
- Radio interview from 1955 with actor Marilyn Monroe
- PLUS: An essay by author Sam Wasson
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.