Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) gave Marilyn her first dramatic lead role, and also marked the debut of future Oscar-winner Anne Bancroft. “It was a remarkable experience,” she said of working with Marilyn in the film’s powerful final scene. “Because it was one of those very few times in all my experiences in Hollywood when I felt that give and take that can only happen when you are working with good actors. There was just this scene of one woman seeing another woman who was helpless and in pain, and [Marilyn] was helpless and in pain. It was so real, I responded. I really reacted to her. She moved me so that tears came into my eyes.”
Anne, who died in 2005, is given a long-overdue retrospective in a new Region1/A Blu-Ray set from Shout Factory, with the approval of her husband Mel Brooks. “Not only was she truly gifted but she was smart in every way,” he tells the Chicago Sun-Times. “And these films are GREAT!”
Released today, The Anne Bancroft Collection includes Don’t Bother to Knock, The Miracle Worker, The Pumpkin Eater, The Graduate, Fatso, To Be Or Not To Be, Agnes of God, and 84 Charing Cross Road, plus bonus features and a 20-page booklet.
Incidentally, Don’t Bother to Knock – presented in 1080p High Definition (1.37:1) / DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, and accompanied by the original trailer plus isolated music score – was previously released as a stand-alone, limited edition Blu-Ray by Twilight Time Video in 2018.
4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Two audio commentaries from 2010, one featuring actor Celeste Holm, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s son Christopher Mankiewicz, and author Kenneth L. Geist; the other featuring author Sam Staggs
All About Mankiewicz, a feature-length documentary from 1983 about the director
Episodes of The Dick Cavett Show from 1969 and 1980 featuring actors Bette Davis and Gary Merrill
New interview with costume historian Larry McQueen
Hollywood Backstories: ‘All About Eve’, a 2001 documentary featuring interviews with Davis and others about the making of the film
Documentaries from 2010 about Mankiewicz’s life and career, the short story on which the film is based and its real-world inspiration, and a real-life ‘Sarah Siddons Society’ based on the film’s fictional society
Radio adaptation of the film from 1951
PLUS: An essay by critic Terrence Rafferty and the 1946 short story on which the film is based
Dennis Seuling has reviewed the new Criterion Collection edition of Some Like It Hot for The Digital Bits.
“Ms. Monroe is the heart of the film as Sugar, sweet-natured despite having had her share of hard knocks. She trusts Josephine and Daphne, gets a little tipsy, and confides her insecurities to ‘the girls.’ Ms. Monroe plays the role with a natural combination of sex appeal and innocence. Her comic timing is perfect, always aware of where the joke is and hitting the right emphasis effortlessly.
This Blu-ray release, with high definition 1080p resolution, is a new 4K restoration with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. An original 35mm camera negative was the primary source for the restoration with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Visual quality is pristine, in keeping with the Criterion Collection’s high standard for black and white releases. Detail is excellent, particularly in the nighttime car chase early in the film. Clothing patterns, strands of hair, and skin textures in close-ups stand out.
Audio is clean and clear, with dialogue coming through perfectly. In a scene that has Lemmon shaking maracas, Wilder wisely had him shake them between his lines so that the jokes could be heard. Machine gun fire is as impressive as in a modern gangster flick. Ms. Monroe’s songs, ‘Runnin’ Wild’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, are balanced well and the singer’s sultry voice dominates.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include audio commentary, three behind-the-scenes documentaries, a featurette about Orry-Kelly’s costumes, an appearance by Billy Wilder on The Dick Cavett Show, a conversation between Tony Curtis and critic Leonard Maltin, a French TV interview with Jack Lemmon, a radio interview with Marilyn Monroe, a trailer, and a booklet containing a critical essay.
Marilyn Monroe on the radio – In this 1955 interview with Dave Garroway on Monitor, Ms. Monroe discusses her role as sex symbol and the stereotyped role of the ‘dumb blonde,’ which she believes is a limited view. She discusses her plan to move to New York and her particular fondness for Brooklyn and its atmosphere. Her favorite singers are Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra (noting his new, jazzier style). Her goal is to be a good actress.”
“Don’t Bother to Knock offers the 26-year-old Monroe an especially rigorous dramatic workout as an emotionally disturbed young woman whose inner demons come to the fore while she’s babysitting a six-year-old girl in a New York City hotel … Despite her limited acting experience, Monroe tackles the tricky role well, juggling naïveté, passion, rage, and emotional distress with surprising aplomb. She also displays a heartbreaking vulnerability that makes us feel for Nell’s predicament despite her shocking and reprehensible actions. Though still rough around the edges and a bit studied, Marilyn’s work has a disarming authenticity, especially in her emotional scene … Don’t Bother to Knock, which runs a brief 76 minutes, begins sluggishly and the tale isn’t particularly well developed. Still, this throwaway B movie flaunts an impressive pedigree. Director Roy Baker, who would later helm the classic Titanic docudrama A Night to Remember, nicely builds tension, while cinematographer Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) beautifully photographs Marilyn, maximizing the impact of every close-up.
Let’s Make Love is a pleasant, innocuous diversion, but it lacks the effervescence of more spirited romantic comedies. Though peppered by a few pointed barbs, Norman Krasna’s script meanders along, and the direction by the esteemed George Cukor is anemic at best …The only reason Monroe consented to do this inferior film was because she was desperate to fulfill her contractual obligations to Fox, which never really respected her talent and often saddled her with vapid, ornamental roles designed to exploit her sexuality. Yet despite looking a tad zaftig and occasionally glazed here, Marilyn does her best to rise to the occasion. She handles her free-spirited part like a pro, exuding marvelous warmth, sensitivity, and some welcome spunk. She’s at her best in a couple of lively musical numbers, the finest of which is her dynamite opening salvo, a coyly sexy, tongue-in-cheek take on Cole Porter’s ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ that stands as one of Marilyn’s finest screen moments.”
“Let’s Make Love is simply a harmless, silly comedy. Marilyn Monroe does what she does best, singing and dancing in some very provocative outfits. Her role in the film is the usual sweet and soft spoken type … the musical numbers are entertaining, well-staged, and a pleasure to watch … It has been stated elsewhere that Lets Make Love isn’t Marilyn Monroe’s best film. Whether that is true or not is up for grabs, but it’s a catchy film that’s worth a look on a lazy weekend afternoon. Besides, how can one not enjoy the gorgeous presence of Marilyn Monroe?”
“A pop culture curiosity for sure, Love is worth seeing but not for the usual reasons … there’s a melancholy pall over the entire outing that’s hard to shake when you’re watching it. Thus, it’s at least somewhat memorable as a kind of prelude goodbye to the kind of screen outing that had made [MM] a star … Her garb is, shall we say, a lot more revealing than anything Greer Garson wore the same year playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, and the Jack Cole choreography further pegs this as a Fox production through and through.
Somewhat surprisingly, [MM and Montand] don’t exhibit a whole lot of chemistry on screen, yet their characters are likable enough individually, which is just enough to carry something of a high-profile oddball whose Blu-ray rendering is more successful than not at fighting DeLuxe limitations of the period. (I’ve noticed that the very earliest color Scope movies from Fox — say, ’53 through ’57 — always look better than expected in high-def, but not so much the ones from later in the decade and early in the next).”
“Marilyn Monroe’s penultimate (completed) feature, Let’s Make Love (1960) isn’t as good as it might have been but it’s also better than one might have expected.
Two labor strikes, more work on the script by Hal Kanter, and Monroe’s usual personal issues during shooting notwithstanding, the resultant film came out okay. It has many plusses and a few minuses, and Montand’s performance both helps and hurts the film; Gregory Peck would have been a far better choice.
But the picture deviates a lot from the standard 1950s Monroe vehicle, and the script and George Cukor’s direction give it a subtlety and sophistication unusual for musicals of the period. The recently released-on-Blu-ray Les Girls (1957) strains for something similar but fails badly. Let’s Make Love, by comparison, succeeds almost effortlessly, if in small ways.
Monroe, heavier here than any film before or after, is nevertheless very sexy, and far more natural and less affected than in her earlier Fox films. Apparently she wasn’t all that happy with the script that was finally settled upon, but her performance is sweet and charming, even if after all the fuss Clement is still the main character and dominates the screentime, despite her top billing.
Video & Audio
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, licensed from Fox, presents the film in its original 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio, with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes approximating the original 4-track magnetic stereo release prints. The image looks pretty good throughout, though some color tweaking seems to have been done, most obvious on the flesh tones of Monroe and others. A limited edition of 3,000 units, this offers optional English subtitles and apparently is region-free.
The limited supplements include a trailer and isolated music track, along with Julie Kirgo’s usual booklet essay.
“It is STUNNING! Honestly worth it for the packaging alone! I’ve had a sneak peek and it’s very well done, although the only down side is that the inclusion of the wonderful documentary The Mortal Goddess as a special feature is just the 45 min version, not the full 90 min version.”
“Filmed on three or four simple sets and clocking in at just 76 minutes, Don’t Bother to Knock is an unusual movie for Marilyn Monroe to have made just as she was on the brink of the Twentieth Century-Fox superstardom that was obviously on Darryl Zanuck’s mind (along with, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear, one of two other things). Though professionally speaking, Julie Kirgo notes in another of her well-researched Twilight Time essays, that he did make Monroe test for the part, a lesson that one wonders if he forgot when it came to Bella Darvi.
Knockwas one five movies that marked Monroe’s 1952 output — along with two Fox comedies, a cameo in the opening segment of the studio’s all-star anthology O. Henry’s Full House and a loan-out to RKO for Clash by Night. Though the last was a drama, she didn’t have to carry large chunks of it, but in Knock, she has to bring off a case of frightening bonker-dom brought on by her lover’s death — an emotional condition that ends up threatening a child’s life.
It’s a somnambulant performance somewhere between effective and one she gets away with — though some will tell you that I’m underrating it, and possibly so. Call Monroe’s approach a second cousin, say, to Kim Novak’s deadpanned dialogue deliveries in Vertigo, though the passage of time has pretty well rendered Novak’s turn a complete success, no matter how she and Alfred Hitchcock got there. Monroe, of course, just got better as she aged, which more people should have told her at the time.”
One of my favourite Monroe movies, Don’t Bother to Knock will be released on Blu-Ray by Twilight Time Video on March 20. It’s a limited release with a high-def transfer, and it’s Region 0 so should be compatible with most Blu-Ray players. Special features include the excellent documentary, Marilyn Monroe: The Mortal Goddess.
“Made early in her blazing movie career before the full range of her comedic and dramatic gifts were fully explored, it’s intriguing to note that many later reappraisals of the Marilyn Monroe thriller Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) cite the storyline of a mentally fragile woman whose personal insecurities and sad delusions trigger dangerous behavior seem to prefigure her later-in-life struggles. It does endure as a neatly executed noir exercise with a richer than usual bench of character portrayals from Monroe’s colleagues Richard Widmark, young Donna Corcoran, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus and Verna Felton, and in that company, Monroe impressively delivers the goods … Monroe reportedly struggled with the role and caused some consternation with her director and castmates, but 66 years later, that very process of struggle seems to vindicate the promise of her undeniable talent on screen, while subsequent assessments of Don’t Bother to Knock, which got no critical love in its time but now seems all the more “on the cusp” of greater things henceforth, not only for Monroe (who would show further evidence of her dramatic chops as a scheming wife contemplating spousal murder in the following year’s Niagara), but for Baker and Bancroft too.”