The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (3:19)
Featurette-Movietone News: Sneak Preview (0:34)
Featurette-Back Story: The Seven Year Itch (23:27)
|Year Of Production||1955|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (53:09)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Billy Wilder|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.55:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.55:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Yes, this is the film with that scene in it! There is probably no more famous, nor replayed scene, in Hollywood than that famous scene over the subway vent, a scene that drove male Marilyn Monroe fans wild. Just how wild? Well, check out the featurette in the extras section for some indication, and a good reason why - one that did not make the film. Looking back on the scene, and indeed the film in general, with the benefit of forty seven years of movie making, it is a little hard to understand what was so provocative about the scene, and indeed the whole film.
Yet really it should not be that hard. After all, to some extent Hollywood is still the most restrained movie-making place on Earth. You rarely see mainstream films from Hollywood willing to tackle the "hard" subjects, nor embrace a more liberal presentation of film. In many ways, Hollywood has not progressed far from the restrictive days in which this film was made. Back in the 1950s, risqué could be found basically in one place - theatre. With its longer traditions, it had tended to push boundaries, and had been allowed to push boundaries, much further than film and certainly more than the fledgling television. So with its foundation in adultery, The Seven Year Itch was always likely to be a very popular play. However, trying to make it into a film was always going to be an issue. It took a lot of hard work, and a lot of compromising, to get the film passed by the censors of the day. So when you watch the film from the aspect of the general morals of our age, the whole thing comes across as quite tame. Even that famous scene reveals very little other than a pair of legs (not bad ones though), yet in its day raised howls of protest from the moral majority (otherwise known as a few religious zealots). It was all good publicity though, and it is doubtful that a more instantly recognisable Marilyn Monroe film exists.
Of course one of the reasons why the film could be made was Marilyn Monroe - she did not need to cavort around semi-naked to get the temperature rising. Just lounging around fully clothed, showing just a modicum of leg, was enough to put plenty of suggestion in the minds of the male population, which is precisely what makes this film what it is. There is nothing the slightest bit "naughty" here but there is plenty of very well-handled suggestion. There would have been very few female leads in movie history who could have carried this role off as well as Monroe.
The story is centred around one man in one apartment in that well known den of iniquity, New York, during the customary summer period when the heat drives the wives and children away to the cooler climes. The man in question is Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role), and he has just seen his wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes), off to Maine for the summer with his son, Ricky. So he now joins the thousands of unattached males in the heat of a New York summer with plenty of time on their hands and no marital restrictions. Let the party begin. Mind you, Richard has good intentions of giving up smoking, giving up drinking and not chasing skirt all over town. This good-intentioned plan lasts just as long as it takes to find out that the upstairs neighbours have let their apartment to a young lady whilst they are overseas. The Girl is all we call her and she is of course played by Marilyn Monroe. Okay, so you are a summer bachelor and Marilyn Monroe lives upstairs from you - are you really going to be a monk?
That is the story - the wrestling of Richard with his devotion to his wife and the obvious attractions of The Girl upstairs. Having once suffered the heat of New York in the middle of summer, I can attest to the effect it has on a person. If you have ever stood outside the Guggenheim Museum and looked down Fifth Avenue and seen that fifty or sixty metres of brown gunk that hangs above the street, you might have an inkling of what it is like. So, the effect of heat upon a man when in the (close) presence of a goddess would come as no surprise. Whilst the film basically comprises two roles only, it is fair to say that the biggest role is that of Marilyn Monroe. Proving that the current infatuation with anorexic-type bodies is completely unfathomable, she exudes sexuality with just about every look or move. It is certainly a cliché and a half but they sure do not make them like Marilyn anymore - more's the pity. Take her out of this film and there would be little left to watch. Try as hard as he can, Tom Ewell can only just keep up. That is a pity as he really is very good, but is just overshadowed by the presence of Marilyn Monroe.
This is not the only time that Marilyn teamed up with Billy Wilder, and is also not the only time that they hit the jackpot. It has to be said that their other combination (Some Like It Hot) is a far superior film in just about every way, but I have yet to meet a Billy Wilder film that I did not enjoy.
Whilst this occasionally comes across as a play rather than as a film, the mere presence of Marilyn Monroe is guaranteed to raise the temperature. Just in case you are wondering, 71:37 is where you can find that scene.
Whilst it has to be said that the transfer here is not as good as that afforded How To Marry A Millionaire, it is still an impressive enough transfer for its age. The only one disappointing area is the consistent colour bleed found in the transfer, most notably during what would have presumably been the third reel of the film - between 51:00 and 65:00 in particular.
This is yet another of those very widescreen CinemaScope films - the theatrical aspect ratio was 2.55:1. The transfer we have here has a measured ratio of 2.51:1, which is pretty much on the money. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.
Once again the restoration has done a pretty good job of bringing the transfer back to its original glory. The definition is generally very good throughout, although there seemed to be a few places where the transfer tended towards the soft side of things. An example can be found around the 83:00 mark. Shadow detail is not much of an issue here, notably due to the fact that the film was shot in such a way as to not highlight the shadows that much. Grain is not much of an issue here either, with very little to impinge upon the generally excellent clarity of the transfer. There are no problems with low level noise in the transfer.
The colours here tend a little towards the muted end of the scale, but not disturbingly so in the context of the film. Much of it is shot indoors, mainly in the apartment and the muted colourscape suits this well enough, even though skin tones tend towards being a little too pale. Whilst there are occasions where you could have wished for a bit more in the way of dazzle in the colours, this is a significant improvement upon all earlier incarnations of the film I have seen and is probably as close to the original theatrical presentation as there has been since 1955. The one issue is, as previously mentioned, the colour bleed and this is especially noted during the times indicated above due to one main culprit: Richard's tie. It is very poorly dealt with and always has a red tinged with yellow bleed to it. It becomes quite distracting after a while and is very disappointing. There is also some bleed in the flesh tones around the face in the same sequence. The fact that it is predominant during these fourteen or so minutes is perhaps indicative of some underlying problem with the source material that the restoration could not fix. Certainly it is indicated on some US review sites that this is the case. There is also the colour pulsation that we tend to expect in transfers of this age, although again just a little more noticeable than I would like here. Oversaturation is not a problem in the transfer.
The only indication of any MPEG artefacts in the transfer is a slight loss of resolution in the pan shot at 47:05. There were just a few more instances of film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, notably aliasing that was more obvious than in How To Marry A Millionaire. Examples can be clearly seen at 8:05 (hat), 27:20 (furniture), 48:08 (chest of drawers) and 66:51 (hose), amongst others. There were also some extraneous colour flashes, one being at 66:09, that would appear to indicate some sort of problem in the printing process carried through from the source material. Once again, the clean up of the transfer has been successful and there were very few film artefacts to be seen.
This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 53:09. It is again very well hidden in a black scene change and is virtually unnoticeable and completely non-disruptive to the flow of the film.
There are thirteen subtitle options on the DVD. It is a bit perplexing to me that if the DVDs are supposed to form part of a coherent Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection why there is no consistency in the presentation of subtitles and soundtracks. I stuck with the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts, which are once again a little disappointing. They again miss a fair bit of the dialogue at times, which might again impact a bit upon the nuances of the film for those with hearing impairments.
There is, somewhat inconsistently, only one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack which has a configuration of L-C-R. Since the DVDs in the series are all likely to feature remastered soundtracks, it seems odd that a consistent presentation has not been offered.
The audio transfer is more than acceptable and does a good job of presenting the dialogue in a clear and easy manner. There does not appear to be any problem with audio sync in the transfer.
The original music once again comes from Alfred Newman. This is another unpretentious effort that ultimately does the job of supporting the film very well - although the repeated motif during the film is of course drawn from Sergei Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, a great classical work used quite effectively in the film.
There is nothing else to report about the soundtrack, with my notes being entirely devoid of any reference. Obviously lacking any LFE channel activity, and equally obviously lacking anything in the way of distortion or hiss. The configuration of the sound indicates a quite frontal sound which is what we get and altogether an apt one too.
|Surround Channel Use|
Once again some effort has been made with the extras package and whilst it obviously cannot compete with the likes of recent blockbusters, there is some interesting stuff here.
Fairly basic efforts, although looking pretty classy and they are 16x9 enhanced.
This is the US trailer and it has to be said not the best. It is grainy at times and there is a strong background crackle to the Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
This is the Spanish trailer and it is virtually identical to the US trailer except in the aspect ratio! Here it is in a ratio that looks like 2.35:1, which is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
Another moderately interesting look at the restoration of the film. After some self running notes about the extent of the restoration required, the featurette ends with a split screen comparison. This compares the previous video master with the original film restoration alone and video restoration. There is also an example of before restoration and after restoration, just to demonstrate how worthwhile restoration actually is.
Another fairly typical effort for Movietone News footage, meaning not exactly lacking in film artefacts and fairly strident, mono sound. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0.
Now this is where it gets interesting. This is a modern show, made for television I would suspect, looking at the problems of making the film. In its rather shortish length is packed quite a deal of information and it adds enormously to the understanding of the difficulties of bringing a provocative play to the big screen. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0. Whilst some of the source material used is very grainy, as a whole this is very much the main attraction in the extras package.
Not so much deleted scenes but rather extended scenes that were referred to in the above featurette. Since they were mentioned, it is nice that they are included even if to some extent they duplicate material in the featurette. They are presented in an aspect ratio appearing to be 2.55:1, they are not 16x9 enhanced and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Considering they were lost in the vaults for quite some time, they really are of quite good quality from a technical point of view. The two scenes are an extended Bathtub scene (1:22) and a version of the Subway scene (2:08).
Well, now I have been educated. One sheets are posters, and here we have five of them demonstrating various aspects of the promotion of the film. They are 16x9 enhanced.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:
The Region 1 version misses out on nothing.
In broad terms there is nothing significantly different between the two releases, so call this one even too.
I would suspect that thanks to that scene, The Seven Year Itch is probably one of the best known films of the greatest screen sex symbol. Funnily enough, I don't rate it as highly as, say, How To Marry A Millionaire, but like most of Marilyn Monroe's films, there is certainly plenty to enjoy. The transfer is not quite to the same high standards as that afforded How To Marry A Millionaire, but still remains generally above average for a film of its age. As such, despite the qualms, it remains a recommendation.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|