• Let's Make Love (Twilight Time Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Twilight Time
    Release date: June 19, 2018
    Directed by: George Cukor
    Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall, Frankie Vaughan, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Joe Besser
    Year: 1960
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    Let's Make Love - Movie Review:

    Womanizing billionaire Jean-Marc Clement (Yves Montand) learns from his public relations lawyer (Tony Randall) that an off-Broadway musical is going to be including him as a character in a humorous skit. Considering shutting the production down, he visits the theater during auditions and is mistaken for an actor trying out for the role. Because he looks so much like the ‘real’ Clement, he’s hired, but before he can protest, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Amanda Dell (Marilyn Monroe), the play’s female lead. Unfortunately, she appears to be smitten with the play’s male lead (Frankie Vaughan), a young singer just breaking into theater. In an effort to win Amanda from his more-talented and youthful opponent, Clement continues his charade (Amanda has little interest in money, and he fears that revealing himself may push her further away) while also hiring a comedian, a singer, and a dancer to teach him the theatrical ropes.

    Let’s Make Love was the second film under Fox’s contract with Marilyn Monroe after it’s renewal in 1955. It followed on the heels of the highly successful and critically acclaimed Some Like It Hot (1959)—made for Mirisch and United Artists—which sparked a renewed interest in the actress. Fox insisted that Monroe honor her contract and cast her in The Billionaire (later to undergo a name change to Let's Make Love), a film she didn’t want to make despite the fact that her then-husband, Arthur Miller, rewrote parts of the script to expand her role. Monroe and Miller also got approval on who was cast as the leading man after a number of big-name actors bowed out. The part finally went to French actor, singer, and dancer Yves Montand, though his inability to speak English fluently (or at all, depending on which source you believe) led to difficulties. Those weren’t the only difficulties the production faced, as Hollywood went through two strikes, one from actors and another from writers. It didn’t help that Monroe continued to resist the part and virtually refused to speak to George Cukor, a director famed for his ability to work with and coach amazing performances from his female stars. Legend has it that, as with so many other productions of the period, Monroe rarely arrived on time to the set and had difficulty remembering her lines. That said, the contemporary popular press reported that Monroe and Montand got along famously, and once their spouses left the production to work on other things, they began a passionate but short-lived affair, one that Fox used to the film’s marketing advantage.

    The film opened at number one at the North American box office, but it didn’t hold on to the spot for long. Despite that, it nearly doubled its production costs; while it was far from a runaway hit, it was still a moneymaker for Fox.

    An opening narrative sequence tells the history of the Clements, a line of Frenchmen obsessed with getting rich and getting laid. Among their preoccupations are balloons of every sort, including hot-air balloons and breasts, lots and lots of breasts. But though they do get rich and their wealth is successively passed from Clement to Clement, each one also tends to die as a result of his fixations.

    This sequence sets the tone for the film to follow, reveling in locker-room jokes that are as witty as they are obvious. Cut to modern times and modern man Jean-Marc Clement, who dates women for a few weeks, gets what he wants (while they get a diamond bracelet), then discards them for the next woman to come along. Montand is perfect in the role, just as Monroe is perfect in and for her part despite the alleged issues behind the scenes. It’s easy to see why someone like Clement would fall for the young and carefree Dell in a way he’s never fallen for a woman before. Her sweet nature, disinterest in luxury, and attraction to getting an education while working hard to become a better actress are endearing qualities, all of which are helped by her singing talent and gorgeous looks. If the film has any serious fault, it’s that Dell’s interest in Clement is never established nor hinted at until the final denouement.

    The film’s original theatrical trailer teases three surprise appearances, and the opening credits don’t spoil them. For that reason, we have not included their names in the credits listed above nor in the discussion that follows. Needless to say, all three are terrific and contribute to the droll and relaxed atmosphere. Also giving the film a considerable boost is the high quality of its musical numbers (from such topnotch songwriters as Cole Porter and Sammy Cahn, among others). For these reasons and so many more, Let’s Make Love is an engaging film, an example of Hollywood excess at its best. Too bad Monroe disowned it not long before her death in 1962.

    Let's Make Love - Blu-ray Review:

    Let’s Make Love comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition, in its original Cinemascope ratio of 2. 35:1. Before we get to the bad, let’s discuss the good: The image is extremely detailed. Wallpaper, furniture, interior and exterior structures, faces, clothes, all of them are crystal clear and super-sharp. You can see the most minute of fine details in an image that holds a massive amount of information. Grain is minor, and black levels are okay. The real problem from a visual standpoint is the color. While it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that both the set designer and the costume designer opted for brownish and costumes, the extent that we see it here is highly unlikely. Rather, the film appears to suffer from serious fade. At no point do the colors pop, and remember, this was 1960, long before directors began to use filters are design for specific, toned down color schemes to make a statement (least of all director George Cukor). Reds appear either orange or pink, pinks appear a light mauve, aquamarine tends toward a drab blue, and so on. Brick buildings look as if they’ve been bled of color; and almost everything else appears brown and dirty, the sets entirely earthen. The best indication that the issue is one of fade and not stylistic directorial choices, however, is skin color. It tends to be a very light peach or pink, and, in some cases, almost white. So, the tradeoff seems to be excellent detail offset by serious fade.

    Audio has a few issues as well, though nothing too serious. Presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the sound design is properly balanced, with dialogue being higher and more central to the mix than secondary effects and ambient sounds. Voices are still a little low, particularly Monroe’s, so viewers might want to have the remote handy. Songs are clear and hiss-free, though there’s an occasional and slight tininess when the music goes loud. The track is also provided in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, though the 5.1 is actually closer to the original sound design. Optional English subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired are included as well.

    Extras are sparse. An original theatrical trailer is included (3:10), as is a music-only track. Given that the film is full of terrific songs and music, the latter is a nice option to have as it allows viewers to listen to the songs minus distractions, and while the dialogue for the film isn’t included, the dialogue for the songs is. The music-only track is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.

    Also included is an 8-page booklet containing original art, publicity photos, and stills from the film as well as liner notes by respected film historian Julie Kirgo. Kirgo begins her notes by discussing director George Cukor before launching into an exploration of Marilyn Monroe’s late-50s career, her relationship with husband Arthur Miller, and her relationship with George Cukor. Of course, there are other nuggets as well, but we’ll let you discover them for yourselves. Suffice it to say, the notes are well-researched and a fascinating, though all-too-brief, look at the film’s production.

    Let’s Make Love is region free and limited to 3,000 units.

    Let's Make Love - The Final Word:

    Let’s Make Love is a funny and engaging musical comedy with solid performances from a cast of great actors. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray features exquisite detail offset by faded color. Yet, it’s doubtful that the film has ever looked better (except, perhaps, for its initial theatrical run) or that Fox will give it the kind of restoration it deserves anytime soon. Until such a day arrives, this will likely remain the best presentation of the film on home video to date.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2019.

    Click on the images below for full sized Let's Make Love Blu-ray screen caps!