Monkey Business (1952)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:40)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (0:41)
Gallery
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1952
Running Time 92:59 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Howard Hawks
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Cary Grant
Ginger Rogers
Charles Coburn
Marilyn Monroe
Case ?
RPI Box Music Leigh Harline


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Italian
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Talk about silly! This is one of those films that wears its silliness with ease and revels in it. The fact that despite the silliness the film actually works, and still works if you let it, is testament to some good direction, a good story and a fine bunch of actors determined to do the right thing by it. Mind you, the inclusion of the film in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection is pushing things a little - this is a very minor role for the greatest siren of the silver screen. Mind you, Marilyn Monroe being what she is still manages to harbour the limelight with her appearance in a bathing suit.

    The silliness here begins with your quintessential absent-minded professor, Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant), who is trying to perfect a new chemical formula with the potential to be a fountain of youth, of sorts. His poor suffering wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) has to some extent accepted the eccentricities of her husband despite the constant reminder of a former suitor. One of those eccentricities is that when he starts thinking too much about work, he gets completely absent-minded - which is shown to great effect in the farcical opening sequence of the film. After one especially absent-minded evening where once again the couple have been unable to make it out of the door of their home, Barnaby hits upon the solution to his current problem. Next day at work, he seems normal - at least normal by his standards - when visiting his boss Oliver Oxly (Charles Coburn), whose secretary Lois Laurel (Marilyn Monroe) is something of a prototypical blonde, having problems with her punctuation. Whilst visiting his boss, one of Barnaby's test subjects, a chimpanzee, runs amok in the laboratory, fuelling hopes that the youth elixir has been successful. But soon all are disappointed and Barnaby and his team return to the slog of perfecting the formula. Unbeknownst to them though, during their absence from the laboratory one of the chimpanzees has perfected the formula and promptly dumped the result into the water dispenser. When Barnaby tries his own "revised" formula, which is promptly washed down with the tainted water, his reactions are the stuff of scientific non-advancement. Under the influence of the combined formulas, Barnaby reverts to an earlier age and mayhem ensues - mayhem that includes Lois as opposed to his wife.

    Subsequently, the mayhem is compounded when Edwina becomes a willing test subject and they both revert to an even earlier age - which really gets Edwina confused as well as bemused.

    The stars of the show here are Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers and they both really get into the spirit of the occasion. Whilst the silliness sometimes gets more towards the absurd later in the film, it has to be said that both actors do a grand job in evoking the child-like qualities that the story demands. Charles Coburn does his usual steady job as the boss, whilst Marilyn Monroe in a limited role plays the dumb blonde to perfection. The whole thing is well held together by Howard Hawks.

    Whilst it is not the best film in the Marilyn Monroe filmography, since she hardly has a huge role in the film, it remains a genuinely silly film. If you are in the mood for ninety minutes of silliness, then this will more than serve the purpose!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After the visual delights of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, this comes a something of a disappointment. It is not just the fact that it is a black and white film but rather that the restoration job appears to have been a little perfunctory. The restoration featurette indicates that the film was in remarkably good condition, requiring minimal restoration in the overall scheme of things. On the evidence here, the description "remarkably good condition" has a different meaning than that I would normally ascribe.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format that equates very closely to the Academy aspect ratio (1.37:1) of the theatrical release. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Really, this is nothing much more than a slightly better than average transfer, even for a film of this age. Sharpness is a little variable but generally is quite reasonable. The transfer does however fall a little towards the diffuse side of things on occasion with the result that definition is not bad but hardly spectacular. Shadow detail is reasonable but there are obvious instances where something better would have been preferred. The main problem with the transfer is the grain - especially early on in the film. At times - such as at 11:03 - this gets incredibly grainy and very difficult to watch. The problem seems to improve later in the film. This could be very difficult to watch on a large screen.

    The "colours" on offer are not exactly the best either. The problem is that the black and white tones are not very well defined at all and the definition across the grey scales as a result is pretty ordinary. Whilst there are few places where the tones get really poor, it is a fact that I have seen films older than this with much better tonal definition across the board. This definitely could do with a good dose of solidity to the blacks.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are a few film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, mainly some aliasing in things like window blinds (49:00) and jackets (35:55). There are plenty of film artefacts in the transfer, but very few of them are really intrusive at all.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD but again the exact layer change point has eluded me. As soon as I can identify it, I will update the review. Suffice it to say that wherever it might be, it once again is not disruptive to the flow of the film!

    There are fourteen subtitle options on the DVD, including four titling options for the extras package. Once again they are pretty good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    The audio transfer is not very good and the dialogue often descends into an echoic sound that is not exactly the clearest way to listen to dialogue. In some parts this gets very difficult to listen to and to understand. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Leigh Harline, and to some extent draws upon the music afforded some of those zany comedies of the 1940s and earlier. Nothing too great about the whole deal, but within the context of the silliness of the film, it does the job of supporting the film quite well.

    This is not a great mono soundtrack at all, and as indicated descends into an echoic style that is not at all enjoyable. As a result of the echoic nature of the soundtrack, the dialogue comes and goes a little which really makes listening to this a chore more than a pleasure. When the sound gets close to something like normal mono, tweaked obviously to play out of the two front surround speakers, it is quite acceptable even if it could do with just a bit more air in it. Congestion does become a bit of a problem at times.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A little light-on this time round, which is something of a pity.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although reasonably classy looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:40)

    The quality on offer here can be summed up in one word - grain. Plenty of it too. Presented in a Full Frame format, which is of course not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound of the mono variety, this is not a pretty sight at all. One of the poorest quality extras yet included on any DVD seen from the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (0:41)

    Talk about short! Whilst the format is the same as that we have seen in every release so far from the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection, the length leaves plenty to be desired. This effort features two split screen comparisons after the obligatory self running notes about the restoration. The first comparison is between the existing video master and the restored film elements plus video restoration. The second compares the restored film elements alone with the restored film elements plus video restoration.

Gallery - Stills

    Comprising nineteen stills, mostly from the film itself. Nothing much to write home about.

R4 vs R1

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:

    In broad terms there is nothing significantly different between the two releases, so call this one even.

Summary

    The problem with Monkey Business is that it harkens back to a slightly zanier time in film-making and a fairly unsophisticated one at that. I would suspect that nowadays many would just find this annoying rather than funny, a penalty for the sophisticated times we live in I guess, which is a great pity for this really is superbly done silliness, with every one getting in on the spirit. The result is really a stress-relieving antidote for modern living that is a quite pleasant way of whiling away ninety minutes. The film does not pretend to be anything other than what it is and that is perhaps where devotees of an older era of film-making will find the greatest enjoyment. Switch off the brain, grab the popcorn and just join in the silliness. Whilst the transfer could perhaps have been better than it is, the result is nothing terrible.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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