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The Seven Year Itch(1955)
It's every man's fantasy - a summer romance with the sexiest woman he can imagine. Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) is a happily married man whose wife and son are off on vacation when his tempting new neighbor (Monroe) sneaks in one hot summer night to cool off in his air-conditioned apartment. How does an ordinary man deal with this irresistible temptation after seven years of marriage? Find out in this 1955 treasure featuring Evelyn Keyes and Marguerite Chapman and directed by Oscar winner Billy Wilder.
For more about The Seven Year Itch and the The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray release, see the The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 2, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts, Robert Strauss, Oskar Homolka
Director: Billy Wilder
» See full cast & crew
The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray Review
She practically begs you to scratch.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 2, 2012
She was the innocent girl next door and a va-va-voom sex symbol. A "dumb" blond anxious to be taken seriously. The archetypal exploited starlet, a shrewd showbiz negotiator, and an on-top-of-the-world performer with a personal life in shambles. A flame snuffed out too soon and a 20th century pop culture icon forever immortalized on the screen. Marilyn Monroe was and is a glorious contradiction, and the enigma of her life, career, and death has inspired an ongoing stream of biographies and photobooks, critical commentary and general interest. As this year is the 50th anniversary of Monroe's probable suicide, the tributes have been coming in at an even faster pace, from Vanity Fair covers to NBC's Smash to the recent My Week with Marilyn.
20th Century Fox is getting in on the action with the Forever Marilyn collection, a seven-disc set that features a selection of films made between 1952 and 1962, the decade that took Monroe from a pretty up-and-coming face to the most recognized and highly paid actress on the planet. The films are also available individually—Some Like It Hot and The Misfits came out last year, the rest arrive simultaneously this week —and since the set includes no exclusive special features, it's really up to fans if they want to go all in or pick and choose which titles they want. (Unsurprisingly, you save a bit of cash with the boxed set.) Instead of writing up a single, epically long review of the Forever Marilyn collection as a whole, we've put up a sort of overview here of the packaging and contents, with links to these individual reviews.
The fifth film in the collection, 1954's The Seven Year Itch, is far and away one of the best, second perhaps only to Some Like It Hot. Both comedies were directed by Billy Wilder, who knew the power of the A-bomb sexuality he had at his disposal, and knew how to set it off on screen. The film's title is a reference to the "repressed urge in the middle-aged male" that occurs 'round about the seventh year of monogamy, an excitable itch to step out and sow some final wild oats. And who better to sow them with, of course, than Marilyn Monroe, by then the world's most recognizable objet du désir? She plays a nameless character known only as The Girl—straight away she's archetypal—and she's essentially an early version of the "manic pixie dream girl" character type, as coined by critic Nathan Rabin. That is, she exists solely to fulfill a fantasy for—or teach a life lesson to —her male counterpart. The Girl is temptation on legs that don't stop, sex in a skirt, and she drives Richard Sherman (Tom Ewall) crazy.
Sherman is a thirty-seven-year-old executive who works at the kind of publishing house that churns out pulpy trash for supermarket checkout lines. It's summertime in Manhattan and he's just sent his wife and kid north to Maine for a few weeks to escape the heat. He's determined, at first, to live clean; he's got a doctor-imposed moratorium on smoking and drinking, and he considers himself too noble to cheat, though—he says with a certain pride—he's had his chances. We even see three fantasy sequences, in which he tries to show his wife—with whom he's having an imaginary conversation—that he's irresistible to women but always faithful. But then he meets The Girl, who's subletting the duplex's upstairs apartment for the summer. She nearly drops a potted tomato plant on his head from the balcony, and when he looks up to see her standing there, obscured by plants but clearly naked, he's instantly smitten. He invites her down for a drink, and she casually reveals that she has to go to the kitchen first to change because when it's hot out, she likes to keep her "undies in the icebox." You can practically hear Sherman gulp.
For the mid-'50s, this was racy, censorship-baiting stuff, and Wilder was even reportedly forced to keep a Hays office representative on set to guard against "indecency." The relationship that develops between The Girl and Sherman is almost entirely physically chaste—they certainly don't make love, as they do in the hit Broadway play on which the film was based—but the flirty innuendoes and pent-up, hot-under-the-collar dialogue give the film a throbbing undercurrent of sex. The Girl, seemingly unaware of her intense magnetism, shows Sherman pictures from her skimpy swimsuit photo- shoot, innocently asks if she can spend the night downstairs with him—he's got air conditioning, see—and showers in his bathroom, making him simultaneously horny, mad at himelf, and paranoid with desire. Of course, the film is most famous for the iconic "subway breeze" scene, where Marilyn stands over the sidewalk vent and lets the wind blow up her white skirt. In the film, the dress isn't blown quite as high as it is in the publicity photos, but regardless, this is an image that's now forever stuck in our collective pop-culture consciousness. "Isn't it delicious?," Marilyn asks, and yes, I think we all can agree that it is.
One interpretation of the film—and this is entirely possible, allowing for some psychological stretches—is that the whole affair takes place in Sherman's over-active imagination, that The Girl is simply a manifestation of his extramarital fantasies and subsequent guilt. This is certainly suggested by the presence of Austrian character actor Oskar Homolka, who plays the Freud-like Dr. Brubaker, a quack psychoanalyst whose manuscript on male desire Sherman is proofreading. It's also hinted at in the way that The Girl seems to be the perfect woman from a stereotypically male perspective— sexually available and tantalizingly within reach. Ewall, who starred in the Broadway production, brings his comedic expertise to the film, but no surprise here, it's Marilyn—at her drop-dead sexiest—who steals our attention in every scene.
The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray, Video Quality
From the Saul Bass title sequence to the madcap conclusion, The Seven Year Itch looks fantastic on Blu-ray, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer of a restored print that's now almost entirely free of specks, other age-related issues, or compression concerns. The integrity of the image is untouched by excessive digital noise reduction or edge enhancement, and the picture quality improvement over DVD is apparent from the first frames. Though perhaps not quite as breathtaking as Technicolor, the film has that inimitable mid-century Deluxe look, a melange of vivid, eye-catching hues, creamy highlights and soft neutrals. There are some minor color/brightness/grain fluctuations here and there, but otherwise the print is very stable, with strong blacks and good contrast. While overall clarity isn't sharp sharp by modern standards, it is consistent with other Cinemascope pictures from the '50s available on Blu-ray; everything—from facial features and clothing to sets and props—looks tighter and more refined here compared to standard definition editions. If you're fond of the film and looking forward to a visual upgrade, you should be pleased by Fox's remastering efforts.
The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Seven Year Itch's original sound design has been given a slight multi-channel expansion, by way of a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Purists, be not concerned; nothing extraneous has been added to the mix—no goofy new sound effects—and the rear channels are only used for quiet New York City ambience and bleeding room for the score. Alfred Newman's music sounds great considering when it was recorded —there's no shrillness in the highs, and the bottom-end is relatively rich—but the mix is really all about the dialogue, which is always cleanly recorded and clearly reproduced. As you'd hope, there are no distracting hisses, pops, crackles, or other audio anomalies. A perfectly functional vintage soundtrack. The disc includes a Dolby Digital 3.0 track for comparison, along with a large assortment of dub and subtitle options.
The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Billy Wilder's smart and sexy comedy The Seven Year Itch is home to what is arguably Marilyn Monroe's most memorable performance— innocently teasing, naively sexual, and utterly irresistible. It also gave us the subway breeze skirt-blowing scene, and for that, we're forever grateful. If you're only going to buy a few of the individually released titles from Fox's Forever Marilyn set, make sure this is one of them. It's a damn good film, the high definition transfer is excellent, and the disc comes with an assortment of worthwhile special features. Highly recommended!
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The Seven Year Itch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Forever Marilyn: The Blu-ray Collection (Updated) - June 1, 2012
In July, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will bring the Forever Marilyn Collection to Blu-ray. Timed to mark the fiftieth anniversary of screen icon Marilyn Monroe's tragic passing, this box set contains seven of her most beloved features, five of which ...
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