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A sexy divorcée falls for an over-the-hill cowboy who is struggling to maintain his romantically independent lifestyle in early-sixties Nevada.
For more about The Misfits and the The Misfits Blu-ray release, see the The Misfits Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on May 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach, James Barton
Director: John Huston
» See full cast & crew
The Misfits Blu-ray Review
A fitting end.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, May 20, 2011
The Misfits has the somewhat unsettling distinction of being the last film both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe ever completed. Just two days after shooting ended in the Nevada desert, the 59-year-old Gable suffered a severe heart attack—he died ten days later from coronary thrombosis—and Monroe would be dead within a year and a half from an apparent suicide. This lends a sadness and sense of weightiness to the film, which has come to be seen as strangely prophetic about the personal lives of its stars. And this makes sense; The Misfits is a deeply personal film, especially for Monroe. The platinum starlet's then-husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller, wrote the script as a kind of present for his wife—who wanted to prove she could play more than just her usual dumb blond roles—but soon after the project started shooting, their marriage began to disintegrate. Miller worked on re-writes throughout production, and many of his additions were semi-biographical, hinting at various troubles in Monroe's private life. The shoot itself was turbulent. By this point, Monroe's prescription drug use was completely out of hand, and filming had to be stopped for ten days while she went through detox in an L.A. hospital. Temperatures on location soared past 100-degrees daily, and iconic director John Huston frequently drank and gambled on set. Yet, despite the behind-the-scenes chaos, The Misfits is very nearly a masterpiece. Not quite, but nearly.
Monroe plays Roslyn Tabor, an aimless and depressed recent divorcée who has split with her husband because "you could touch him, but he wasn't there." This is something of a key to her personality. Roslyn, a one-time dancer and dance instructor, is a creature of pure empathy. She feels life intensely—her life, others' lives, even the plight of animals—and she simply can't be with someone who's walled off emotionally. Immediately after her divorce, Roslyn is introduced to two "misfit" men—and, later, a third—whose spur-of-the-moment, live-for-today lifestyle intuitively appeals to her. Gay (Clark Gable) is an aging cowboy, a remnant from a bygone era who scrapes out a meager living wrangling up and selling the few wild mustangs that still roam the northern Nevada desert. Time has passed him by, and in Roslyn he sees a chance to start over, to do right where he failed in his first marriage. In an early scene, he reaches over to embrace Roslyn, and though she replies "I don't feel that way about you, Gay," he remains hopeful: "Don't get discouraged girl—you might." Roslyn does move in with Gay, who lives in a run-down house out in the middle of the desert, and they seem to exist semi-platonically, fixing the place up, starting a garden, and joyously living day-by-day. Gay's friend, Guido (Eli Wallach), however, a bitter mechanic and former Army pilot, is also infatuated with Roslyn. "You have the gift for life," he tells her, "the rest of us, we're just lookin' for a place to hide and watch it all go by."
Just when you think you're in for a standard-issue love triangle, a third man is added into the mix: Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift), a young rodeo cowboy whom Gay—a "real" cowboy—recruits for a horse-wrangling mission. Roslyn's innate compassion kicks in when Perce is lightly injured in a bull-riding tournament, and suddenly all three men—in their own ways—are vying for the vibrant blond's affections. She's desired physically, yes, but her function in their lives seems to be as more of a spiritual lifeboat. She gives them purpose. She brings light and softness into their gruff, workaday blue-collar routines. She seems to be a psychological panacea, a hope. Seems. Her unobtainableness actually has the opposite effect, especially in Guido, who grows even more hardened. When the four are at a bar together, Guido watches in derision as Roslyn dances with the handsome Perce. "Nothin' like being young, is there Gay?," he snorts, and when Gay asks what's eating him, you can practically see Guido's blood boiling: "Just my life." All of this anger and resentment and dissatisfaction bubbles beneath the surface until the final act, a hunt for mustangs out in the desert. This hunt serves as the film's principle metaphor, pulling together Miller's themes about changing times, the difficulty of being an individualist in a largely conformist society, and the idea that infatuation in relationships nurtures delusions that are painful to dispel.
Miller's script is emotionally perceptive and subtle in a way that few Hollywood films are, and his literary background comes through in dialogue that's frequently "elevated," that is, more ornate and poetic at times than the language your average cowboy drifter would actually use. This is common in literature and on the stage, but it's never been as readily accepted in film. Still, this gives the otherwise naturalistic movie a kind of mythic, Faulknerian quality—it feels larger than life, more laden with meaning. The real problem with the script, and the film as a whole, is that the storytelling seems disjointed in places, as if unfinished. This is most apparent in the character of Isabelle (Thelma Ritter), an older divorcée and friend of Roslyn who plays an important role in the first two thirds of the film but then disappears completely and is never mentioned again. While this and other narrative hiccups may have kept the film from being the classic it could've been, there are countless reasons why The Misfits continues to be watched today. John Huston's camerawork—with cinematographer Russell Metty—is intimate and brisk, and it feels influenced by the rapidly changing style of European cinema at the time, even while being distinctly American. And then there's the brilliant cast. Aside from his untoppable turn in Gone With the Wind, Clark Gable is at his career best in The Misfits—lonesome, grandfatherly, and unexpectedly tender. Eli Wallach seethes—sometimes cartoonishly, but always convincing—and Montgomery Clift is perfect as the sensitive young bullrider. But this is Marilyn's film. Her last. She gives an enigmatic performance that somewhat uneven, but always luminescent. In an interview after her death, John Huston explained what we were seeing onscreen: "She had no techniques. It was all the truth. It was only Marilyn."
The Misfits Blu-ray, Video Quality
I'm convinced it's very unlikely that The Misfits will ever look better than it does here, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's practically flawless. MGM's catalog releases have been spotty lately, with recycled remasters and no attention paid to restoration, but The Misfits is a definite exception. The film looks simply stunning in high definition. To start with, the image is almost pristine. Debris is limited to a few scattered white specks, and besides some minor brightness flickering in a few scenes, there are no other print-related issues. Likewise, the film's grain structure is rich and natural, with no evidence of DNR or excess edge enhancement. There's been no tampering or boosting here—just a picture that's clean, natural, and crisp. Clarity gets a significant boost over prior standard definition releases, as facial textures and clothing details are more readily visible, and even softer shots—there have always been a few—look more tightly resolved. The film's grey scale is excellent as well. Blacks are deep without overwhelming shadow detail, whites are bright without ever seeming overblown, and the gradient in between is smooth and wonderfully contrasted. I didn't catch any obvious compression issues; the only thing you may notice is that the checked pattern on Clark Gable's cowboy shirt sometimes exhibits a slight moiré shimmer, which is probably unavoidable. All around, this is a great black and white transfer.
The Misfits Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Instead of trying to wrangle a 5.1 presentation out of The Misfits' rather spartan soundtrack, MGM has wisely opted to go with a faithful-to- source DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix. As you'd expect coming from Arthur Miller, dialogue is the most prevalent element here, and for the post part it sounds clean and strong, with no muffling or crackling. I did notice some slight modulations in vocal volume during the early part of the film, but these could possibly be an intentional part of the sound design. (The actors' voices seem to lower whenever the camera cuts away.) It's hard to say, but regardless, it's not a big enough distraction to matter. Alex North's moody score has as much depth and expressiveness as a single-channel mix can deliver, and the few effects that are called for—mostly during the rodeo and horse-rustling final act—have decent presence.
The Misfits Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, the sole bonus feature on the disc is the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 3:43)
The Misfits Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A gloominess hangs over The Misfits; it's about characters who don't fit into a world that has passed them by, and it was the last film for Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, who would both die soon thereafter. The darkness is fitting, though, and in a way it adds to film's lasting beauty. Arthur Miller's too-loose script holds The Misfits back from classic status, but this is still a movie that demands to be seen. Thankfully, MGM has done a brilliant job with this Blu-ray release, lack of special features aside. Recommended!
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The Misfits Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Silver Screen: The Misfits - May 10, 2011
After a string of successful films at 20th Century Fox had made her a world-wide sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe teamed with United Artists and Clark Gable for The Misfits. Drama and laughter took over the set of this amazing picture. Join us for a look at the production ...
• The Misfits Blu-ray Coming Up - March 28, 2011
According to retailer information, MGM Home Entertainment, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, will release The Misfits on Blu-ray on May 10. This 1961 drama, directed by John Huston, featured the final film perfomances of movie stars Clark ...
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