“Though MGM produced many all-star pictures in the past (Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight chief among them), The Asphalt Jungle was its first true ensemble film. Sterling Hayden and Louis Calhern receive top billing, but neither were big stars at the time, nor were Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen (who two short years later would make her biggest splash – and receive an Oscar nomination – as squeaky-voiced silent star Lina Lamont in Singin‘ in the Rain), or a gorgeous young actress by the name of Marilyn Monroe, who makes a huge impression in two brief scenes as Emmerich’s nubile mistress. (Much of the movie’s poster art showcases Monroe to make her seem like the star, but nothing could be further from the truth.) Harold Rosson, who was married to another blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, 15 years before, beautifully photographs the 24-year-old Marilyn, bringing out both her innocence and allure, and under John Huston’s tutelage she files an affecting portrayal that belies her inexperience. The Asphalt Jungle would prove to be Monroe’s big break, and the actress herself cited the performance as one of her career highlights.”
The Asphalt Jungle will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of the prestigious Criterion Collection in December. With many special features, Criterion editions are a cineaste’s dream, attesting to its long-held status as the definitive heist movie. Directed by John Huston, The Asphalt Jungle gave Marilyn her first important role (although not a large one) and was her own favourite film.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary from 2004 by film historian Drew Casper, featuring recordings of actor James Whitmore
- New interviews with film noir historian Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey
- Archival footage of writer-director John Huston discussing the film
- Pharos of Chaos, a 1983 documentary about actor Sterling Hayden
- Episode of the television program City Lights from 1979 featuring John Huston
- Audio excerpts of archival interviews with Huston
- Excerpts from footage of the 1983 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony honoring Huston, featuring actor Sam Jaffe and the filmmaker
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien
Warner Archive have released one of Marilyn’s best early movies, Clash by Night (1952), as a made-to-order DVD for American audiences. If you’re outside the US, you can order it from Movies Unlimited.
Based on a play by Clifford Odets, and directed by the great Fritz Lang, Clash by Night is a melodrama with more than a hint of Film Noir. Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan and Paul Douglas give it their all, while Marilyn’s performance as cannery worker Peggy showed what a fine actress she could be when offered strong material. Bonus features include a commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich as well as an audio interview with Lang. Traditionally hard to find, the movie is a must for true fans.
Earlier releases can be purchased via Amazon (but be careful not to confuse it with the 1963 British movie of the same name.)
This boxset, containing no less than 17 of Marilyn’s finest films, is currently available on Amazon UK for the bargain price of just £18 as a deal of the week. Postage is free, so if you don’t own these already, it’s a golden opportunity.
Neil Lumbard’s detailed and insightful review of Love, Marilyn – released on DVD in the US today – has been posted at DVD Talk.
“Some might critique the documentary a bit negatively in the sense that some of the readings seem to have as much to reflect about the way the readers feel in providing narration towards the life of Marilyn Monroe, but I viewed it as another way in which our society and culture has tapped into Monroe’s life to such an extent that it has a strong connection for so many.
Working in cinema was a professional life goal of hers and one in which she had worked hard to expand her abilities and to take the kind of roles she wanted. Yet with her personality and public appearance often being summed up solely on her sexuality, she so frequently faced unfair disadvantages, both in terms of how the studio system treated her throughout the production of many films and in the way she was thought of at the time as uneducated and ‘dumb’ to many — despite her efforts to learn, her efforts to grow, and her constantly evolving ways of expanding herself in film and in life. Monroe was a incredibly intelligent and business-smart person who was often misunderstood within the Hollywood system. Yet it is to her credit that her work and her life is still at the discussion of so many individuals within and outside of the filmmaking industry.
The film also sheds light on how hard she worked to perfect things like her walk, voice, and other elements of her public persona which she even wrote about in her diaries — in one such example, she had written about how she walked to seem as if she was being lifted into the air from a pulling umbrella — and how this helped her persona in film and in public, something in which she would often ‘turn on’ somehow when trying to be the ‘Marilyn’ that the world had come to expect. Despite the fact that she was really a soft-spoken, sensitive, and emotionally resonant human being who was, in some ways, perhaps always looking for the love that she never received in her youth.
Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortensen, was always someone who the public — and even those closest to her — seemed to never fully comprehend. Love, Marilyn attempts to present her as herself as close as it can — through her own words and voice. As a result, I found great beauty and importance in this profoundly moving documentary work.”
Love, Marilyn will be released on DVD in the UK on Tuesday, October 28. (International release dates here.) Here are a selection of British and European reviews, firstly from Sight & Sound magazine:
“Documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus clearly has enough skill to turn the unprecedented access she has to all things Marilyn Monroe into something unique. Right off the bat Love, Marilyn is a very slick, high value production…Moving along at a steady clip and providing a constant stream of information, it’s a celebration as much as it is the tragic look at a pressured life.” – Filmophilia
“As for diehard Marilyn fans, there may not be any major revelations or shockers, but they are likely to appreciate the thoughtful overview of the person behind the myth…Overall though, the effect is a positive one and Garbus deserves credit for experimenting with an interesting style to delve deeper into the mystique of an already heavily scrutinised icon.” – Filmoria
“Those who simply know the name Monroe – to the most dedicated cinephile will find something in this film, a film, which spends it’s time challenging perceptions and opening out the vast and intellectual mind of Monroe. It is clear from those taking part in the project, that they each owe Monroe something so important and integral to their own careers, that their love shines through in this film and in their readings.” – Front Row Reviews
“Some things we’re sick of due to their inevitability and sheer volume but after Liz Garbus’ engrossing Love, Marilyn I can delete the first one from the list. It completes a loose trilogy of sorts for the director who is drawn once again to a troubled psyche like she was in Bobby Fischer Versus The World and There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane.” Entertainment Ireland
“There are some moments of wonderful clarity from various sources, including Monroe herself…a valiant attempt to make this investigation a more personal one in every aspect, something which we’ve not really been presented on the big screen before.” – Cine-Vue
“There aren’t many revelations here but revered writer Arthur Miller emerges in a surprisingly negative light…By contrast, another Monroe husband, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, a conservative figure who wanted Monroe to be a traditional wife and mother, is shown to have treated her with far more affection.” The Independent
“Their source material is two boxes of letters, poems and diary entries found at the home of the star’s acting coach and confidant Lee Strasberg. Monroe’s writing is beautifully succinct, but the cast deliver it with such mannered intensity that it comes across like the worst of Monroe’s performances: insecure, abstracted and ill-focused.” – The Guardian
“It’s a simplistic approach and a not particularly effective one. The constant parade of celebrities, each given lines from Monroe’s scribblings or relevant to a raft of observers that includes directors, studio chiefs and co-stars, is actually a distraction.” – Yorkshire Post
Good news for UK fans: O. Henry’s Full House (1952) is being released on DVD (Region 2) on November 12. It is a compendium film, based on the classic short stories of O. Henry. Marilyn stars alongside Charles Laughton in the episode entitled, ‘The Cop and the Anthem.’ The DVD can be pre-ordered now via Amazon UK.
Dangerous Years (1947), a B-movie about teen gangs featuring a brief appearance from Marilyn as a waitress in a diner – only her second movie role, and rarely seen – has now been released by Fox DVD-R (region-free, manufactured on demand) and is available to order on Amazon.com.
The DVD and Blu-Ray release of My Week With Marilyn is being rolled out worldwide over the next few weeks. Extras include a directors’ commentary and a short documentary, ‘The Untold Story of an American Icon’.
“Anchor Bay and The Weinstein Company have done a terrific job with the film’s high definition transfer. My Week With Marilyn really offers nothing new in terms of visuals but as the glossy biopic that it is, it couldn’t look better. Extras are scant, if practically nonexistent, and other than an efficient commentary with the director, all we get is a 20 minute documentary that consists mostly of the cast and crew saying how brilliant they all are. Best in show is Williams, who tries to hide the fact that by playing Marilyn like she did, she was committing one of the most unselfish acts in recent film acting—she was truly willing to disappear within a character, knowing that she probably would fail.” Jose Solis Mayen, PopMatters