I remember all of the controversy and discussion that was stirred up when Judy Dench won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. It’s not that the public felt that she didn’t do a great job, it’s just that she was only in the film for approximately six minutes. What’s more, Cate Blanchette was in a film called Elizabeth that same year, in which she played the same historical figure, and was nominated for the role of Best Actress, which sh… did not ultimately win. Ahh, the drama and controversy that is Oscar.
A similar controversy brews on this DVD, though certainly not as strongly. 20th Century Fox has released this disc billed as a Marilyn Monroe movie. True, Marilyn is in the film, but let’s be honest… she’s only in it for about eight minutes. Granted, the film is only 76 minutes long, but still. Eight measly minutes. For me, the better story here is Robert Wagner. Yep, the cast includes Mr. Hart to Hart himself, in one of his first film appearances. Not only that, but he has a major supporting role in the film. In this case, I feel that Wagner should be on the cover of this disc, instead of Monroe
The film is an examination of one of those complicated situations that few families experienced in the fifties, but that many deal with today. The topic is divorce, and the players are many. In a nutshell, a couple is going through a divorce caused by the man’s gambling problem, when into the middle of the fray steps the woman’s childhood sweetheart, now a rich, single government agent. The wife must now chose between the adventure and romance of her youth, and the marriage that she has cultivated for so many years.
While some interesting ideas are presented in this film, and some plot twists exist, this movie never really takes off. Even with all the future star power in this film, the comedy never really clicks, and that indescribable Hollywood Magic is just not present. This film is definitely worth watching for its historical significance, but taken on its own merits, the film falls flat.
I always feel poorly about making critical comments regarding films as old as this one. I tell myself that the filmmakers were doing their best at the time, given the technology constraints that existed. It doesn’t seem right to make negative comments about something that couldn’t have been done any other way.
On the other hand, this soundtrack is certainly no Fellowship of the Ring. The dialog is a bit cloudy from time to time, which makes the film hard to follow. Furthermore, the audio track has been re-mastered into a stereo offering, but why? There is no real difference between the two options, other than the fact that the stereo track sounds a little wider. Nothing moves sonically across the screen. Nothing has a definite location. Sound just comes from everywhere at once. Now, I have no real problem with that, since this was originally a mono track, but it makes me wonder about why the stereo offering is here at all.
Given the times and the equipment, this is a fine audio offering. It’s certainly nothing special, but then again, it’s not horrible, either.
What can I say, the same argument that applies to the audio applies to the video. The full screen presentation available on this disc is the same as the original format of the film, so viewers aren’t missing out on anything here. The black and white transfer looks good, but not great. There is quite a bit of grain on the negative, which is especially apparent when the shades on the screen turn lighter. One short section of the film includes some severe problems with scratches and dust, but for the most part, blemishes are kept to a minimum. Most of these blemishes are directly attributable to either the equipment available to the filmmakers at the time, or improper archiving techniques.
The only real problem with the transfer itself comes with regard to plaid prints, which unfortunately show up on clothing with relative frequency. The smaller the check, the greater the noise. This is something that should have been looked at more closely during the DVD production process.
As with other films in this series, the special features include trailers for every title in this series (fifteen in all!), as well as an advertisement for The Diamond Collection, Volume One. This disc includes a little something extra, however, in the manner of a commentary by Robert Wagner himself. This is a real treat, as Wagner talks not only about the film, and about Marilyn, but also about Hollywood in the fifties, and the days of the studio system. It is rare to find an actor as articulate as Wagner on a chat track, and you can just hear the smile on his face as he reminisces about his days as a young man under contract with Fox. This charming track is more enjoyable than the film itself.
The movie may be nothing special, but it’s historical significance certainly makes it worth watching. The addition of the commentary track by Robert Wager changes this disc from a novelty release to something special for film buffs to enjoy. For anyone interested in the earlier days of Hollywood, the commentary track here is a wonderful experience, and it makes the whole disc worth checking out.
Special Features List
- Fifteen Theatrical Trailers
- Advertisement for The Diamond Collection
- Commentary with Robert Wagner