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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"I told you to get into the character...and that's wonderful. But now you've got to get out."
DVD ReviewWhen actors make films solely for the purpose of contractual obligation, it's safe to assume the results will be mediocre at best. Either the performer is desperately seeking his/her independence, so is willing to appear in almost anything, or the studio is using legal means to force him/her into what is usually an inferior film. In 1960, two famous actresses found themselves in similar circumstances with vastly different results. Elizabeth Taylor told the press Butterfield 8 "stinks," but she did it anyway to escape the binding chains of MGM. She ended up winning an Oscar for it, although almost dying from pneumonia during the voting period surely didn't hurt her chances. Marilyn Monroe wasn't so lucky. She owed 20th Century-Fox a film and producer Jerry Wald paired her with French sensation Yves Montand in the provocatively titled Let's Make Love. Unfortunately, the title is the movie's only provocative element. Needless to say, Oscar® gold eluded Monroe—and for good reason. For if Butterfield 8 stinks, Let's Make Love... well, let's just say it isn't very good.
Let's Make Love is available on its own or as part of the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection, Volume II, a boxed set featuring five Monroe films made for Fox. The other four films (Niagara, River of No Return, Don't Bother to Knock and Monkey Business) are well-worth owning, but Let's Make Love is the clunker in the group. Written by Norman Krasna and directed with atypical lethargy by George Cukor, the film drably chronicles the production of a topical off-Broadway revue. Amanda Dell (Monroe) and her boyfriend, Tony Danton (British singer Frankie Vaughan), star in the show, which plans to spoof such celebrities as Elvis Presley, Maria Callas and French billionaire playboy Jean-Marc Clement (Montand). Clement's publicist (Tony Randall) panics over the possible damage to the tycoon's image, so Clement decides to drop in on a rehearsal to assess the satire's deadly nature. Upon arrival, he's transfixed by Amanda, who's vamping her way through a sizzling rendition of Cole Porter's My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Smitten to the core, he's caught off-guard when he's mistaken for a struggling actor who just happens to possess an uncanny resemblance to Jean-Marc Clement. Before he knows it, Clement has accepted the role of Clement in the revue and changes his name to Alexander Dumas to preserve and prolong the deception. His motives, however, lean more toward pursuing Amanda than policing his reputation.
As rehearsals progress, he secretly enlists such high-profile tutors as Milton Berle, Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly (all wasted in dreadfully unfunny cameos) to teach him basic theatrical skills, which he also hopes will impress and bewitch Amanda. The two grow closer, but Clement frets about revealing his true identity, fearing his heavenly riches will turn off down-to-earth Amanda.
Let's Make Love should have been a ninety-minute romp, but each sequence lingers far too long, ballooning its running time to two hours. The result is a brutal exercise in tedium, as the film far outlasts the script's flimsy premise. Adroit editing might have saved it, but the cast approaches every scene with such stone-faced seriousness it's almost as if Cukor forgot to tell them they were making a comedy. The movie was designed as a Monroe vehicle (and only comes alive when she's on screen), but Marilyn is somehow reduced to a supporting player as Let's Make Love focuses unendingly on Montand. Stranger still, the co-stars engaged in a torrid love affair off-screen (almost ruining their respective marriages), yet their on-screen chemistry is tepid at best, robbing the movie of the romantic sparks necessary for its success. Monroe, while far from her best, does perk up the proceedings with a sincere, if subdued, performance, and Montand, in his American debut, projects the required charm. Unfortunately, neither can overcome the deficiencies of the script.
The songs save the day, especially My Heart Belongs to Daddy, the film's indisputable highlight and one of Marilyn's sexiest screen sequences. While often lauded as a deft comedienne and at times praised for her dramatic abilities, Monroe's musical contributions are often dismissed. But few stars are as mesmerizing when performing a song and dance as Monroe, whose smoky voice and magnetic presence inject spirit and electricity into several less than stellar films. Watching her enslave a brood of dancing boys in Daddy and purr "That little ol' man he just treats it so good!" at the number's climax almost makes Let's Make Love bearable—but not quite.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Fox has fashioned a pristine transfer for this release, restoring the film to its original luster. Shot in the cheaper DeLuxe color format typical of the times, rather than Technicolor, the film looks a bit pale, but colors are true and well modulated. A few specks and spots crop up occasionally but you really have to look for them, and while grain is noticeable, it doesn't overwhelm the image. Judging from the restoration comparison, which is included in the special features portion of the disc, Fox has succeeded in rescuing Let's Make Love from serious neglect. What was once a faded, scratchy mess is now vivid and clean, providing the viewer with a warm, smooth visual experience.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: A brand new Dolby Digital 4.0 track accompanies the restored print and provides bright and varied sound, seamlessly integrating the songs without any jarring level changes. Dialogue is crisp and surface noise totally absent. Stereo effects are noticeable across the front channels, but bypass the surrounds. It's easy to take this unobtrusive soundtrack for granted, but older films benefit immeasurably from even mild audio improvements. Let's Make Love is a perfect example.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Niagara, River of No Return, Don't Bother to Knock, Monkey Business, Diamond Collection
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsAlthough possessing a few bright moments, Marilyn Monroe's penultimate film sadly lacks the bounce and buoyancy of her earlier efforts. Her rendition of My Heart Belongs to Daddy should be required viewing for any Monroe devotee, and proves that Marilyn's magic can transcend even the most poorly conceived project. This DVD sports a beautifully restored video transfer and fine sound, but all of the medium's enhancements can't hide the fact that Let's Make Love just doesn't make the grade.
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