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"...A Pot-Bellied Stove On A Frosty Morning..." Pillow Talk on BLU RAY (2012 COLLECTOR'S SERIES EDITION)
on 5 July 2012
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 BLU RAY 'COLLECTOR'S SERIES' BOOK PACK VERSION ***
In April 2012 Universal Studios was 100 years old - and to celebrate that movie-making centenary - they've had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. But it doesn't stop there. As many as 80 other titles will be given US re-launches across the year each featuring distinctive "100th Anniversary" gatefold card-wrap packaging - and in some cases a host of new features. 1959's iconic "Pillow Talk" is one of the thirteen singled out for full restoration (see list below) - and like the other BLU RAYS in this series so far - both the print and presentation are very tastefully done.
UK released Monday 7 May 2012 - "Pillow Talk Collector's Series" comes in a gorgeous limited edition 44-page 'Book Pack' (Barcode 5050582893144). The outer hardback holder has an awkward card wrapped around it which is attached at the front with a flimsy circular sticker - not the most eloquent of objects it has to be said and it contains info that isn't on the back sleeve of the book pack - so you don't want to lose it. It's hard to keep in place without damage - so I put the whole shebang in a plastic sleeve for protection. It's also worth noting that most of the AMERICAN issues are 'two-disc' sets containing the BLU RAY, the DVD and also means to obtain a Digital Copy via download. It appears that the UK issues will contain ONLY the BLU RAY in the Book Pack. However, if you want say "Out Of Africa" or "Buck Privates" (which have yet to be given UK releases) - the US issues are non-region coded so will play in all machines.
Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements - Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration - and the results are very good in places if not a tad underwhelming in others. The old footage was almost completely covered in scratches - wrecked from decades - so the new presentation is impressive to say the least. Faded colours have been given a new lustre and it's clean to the end. Unfortunately there's a sort of shimmering grain throughout that makes it less than pristine. When they're trying to get into the white sports car after leaving the Café Del Rio club - it's a night-time scene and the picture quality is gorgeous - but when she later exits a lift into her apartment block - the transfer quality is suddenly a lot rougher - and noticeably so. This happens throughout - fantastic one moment - only OK the next. Fans of the period however will also love the clothes, the apartment interiors, the restaurant sets, the taxis and cars, the New York streets - and the audio is crisp and clear too.
Genuine cinema chemistry is rare and Rock Hudson (real name Roy Fitzgerald) was perfectly pitted against Doris Day (Doris Kappelhoff) in "Pillow Talk". Coming off critically acclaimed parts in "Magnificent Obsession" (1954) and "Giant" (1956) - the six foot five criminally handsome leading man was looking for something new - and she too needed a way to break free from the mom's apple pie image the public had of her. Dressed by couture-designer JEAN LOUIS - Day is decked out in figure-hugging dresses and fur wraps. This is not a downtrodden wife at home waiting for Bill's return from his city desk - her Jan Morrow is a sophisticate - an interior designer with her own business and her own apartment. The only hiccup is a shared phone line with some annoying lady's man upstairs called Brad Allen (the shared line was known as a 'party line'). That irritant is Rock Hudson's character - songwriter and serial womanizer Brad Allen. And in steps the movie's other secret weapon. As beloved as Cary Grant - Rock Hudson could do no wrong in the eyes of the public - and when Day dreamily comments on him in her mind in the taxi "what a marvellous looking man" - the film-going world agreed wholeheartedly. The truth is that they both looked the part - handsome - young - fun - and most of all they exuded affection for each other that turned out to be real (even if it wasn't romantic). She stood by him in the later difficult years of coming out and his death from AIDS.
You throw in top supporting actors like Tony Randall (plays Jonathan Forbes) and Thelma Ritter (plays Alma) as the respective sidekicks - the bachelor's friend and the drunk Aunt - and you're on a winner. Randall would reappear alongside Hudson and Day in two more films "Lover Come Back" (1961) and "Send Me No Flowers" (1963) and was considered an essential part of the equation and success of the movie. He's most famously known for his role as the fusspot Felix Unger in the American TV version of "The Odd Couple" playing alongside Jack Klugman as the slob Oscar. Thelma Ritter began her acting career at 45 - so all she ever got were wisecracking mum and dotty aunt roles. But as a nod to her real skill - she received no less than 5 Academy Award nominations for such parts (and famously never won).
THE FILM ITSELF:
Apart from being a great romantic-comedy - in order to appreciate why "Pillow Talk" is such a big deal in cinema history - you have to understand the period in which it was made - 1959. The moral straightjacket of the Fifties is beginning to wane, but the wanton headiness of the Sixties isn't yet begun. But there is 'something' in the air - and it isn't the smell of your Aunt Gladys' Petunias - it's SEX. The Kinsey Reports had been published a few years back so the taboo subject was out in the open to some degree, but there was no contraceptive pill for women, feminist literature and freedom from male-tyranny was at least 4 years away and even married couples cannot be shown in bed together on screen. So writers and filmmakers had to devise ever more cunning methods to get across a bit of rumpy-pumpy - let alone tackle/comment on the saucy subject. And that's where "Pillow Talk" wins - the socially aware and brilliantly subtle script.
When playboy Rock Hudson (as Brad Allen and alter-ego Rex Stetson) watches Doris Day (as Jan Morrow) shimmy across the dance floor in a backless white dress that shows off her posterior to great advantage - he says in his mind - "So that's the other end of your party line!" When a woman calls to his door at night she says - "We've received a complaint." He smiles back at her and says in a husky voice - "I've never received a complaint before..." She smirks. And all the girls know what he means and why she's smirking. When a child sees Rock carry Doris down the street to go back to their apartment to sleep together - he asks his mother - "What's that man doing with that woman?" She pulls him away from the sight and says - "I'll tell you when you're older!"
I mention the script because it's dazzling - and a great deal of the time too. Randall describing a former wife - "She was not a stripper! She was an exotic dancer...with trained birds..." Pondering his finances - "I started out with eight millions dollars and I've still got eight million dollars! I can't seem to get ahead!" When Brad is conning Jan into thinking he's the Texas goody-two-shoes ah-shucks Rex Stetson - "I get a nice warm feelin' bein' near you...it's like a pot-bellied stove on a frosty morning..." (dialogue above) and when Jan asks her aunt Alma for advice on Rex - she says "Takes only one sip of wine to tell it's a good bottle..." It's hardly surprising that Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin won the Oscar.
The 40-page booklet is pure eye candy as you can imagine. It opens with a page appreciation by film-critic and historian Leonard Maltin, has reproductions of the script, Advert campaigns and posters from around the world, pieces on each of the stars including Hudson and Day's off-screen friendship, "Pillow Talk" at the Academy Awards etc. It's lovely to look at...
The 22-minute "Back In Bed With..." and the 5-minute "Chemistry 101" are very informative and peppered with knowledgeable types ruminating on the film's place in the 'battle of the sexes'.
To sum up - I've loved re-watching this timeless classic - and if you'd told me a few years ago that I'd be buying a Doris Day movie on Blu Ray - I might have checked your pulse. But I'm so glad I took a chance on this. It's also heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of their movie legacy - and be proud about doing so too. I'm collecting the whole series - and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.
In the words of Doris Day's character "It's so nice to meet a man you can trust..." - well trust me bedfellows - you want to own this tasty reissue of a great movie.
BLU RAY Specifications:
1. Back In Bed With Pillow Talk (22 minutes)
2. Chemistry 101. The Film Duo Of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. (5 minutes)
3. Theatrical Trailer
4. Feature Commentary With Film Historians Jeff Bond, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman
5. 100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics. A look at the intricate process of fixing the fading negatives (scratches, tears, colour loss, grain) and audio (overbearing hiss) by the experts involved (10 minutes)
6. 100 Years Of Universal: The Carl Laemmie Era
7. 100 Years Of Universal: Unforgettable Characters
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American Spanish DTS Mono 2.0
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish and Traditional Mandarin
PS: UNIVERSAL RESTORED CLASSICS ON BLU RAY
If you search Listmania on Amazon UK for "Universal 100th Anniversary - Restored Films To Blu Ray"
It will give you my visual list of the following 20 titles. The list also contains fuller details on the releases, region coding, packaging etc.
As noted below - some are reviewed too...
1. Abbott And Costello in Buck Privates (1941) BOOK PACK
2. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) BOOK PACK
3. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) BOOK PACK [see Detailed Review]
4. The Birds (1963) [no individual release as yet - but the restored version is part of the "Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection" Box Set]
5. The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
6. Dracula (1931)
7. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
8. Frankenstein (1931)
9. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
10. The Invisible Man (1933)
11. Jaws (1975) [BOOK PACK version is USA-only - see visual list]
12. The Mummy (1932)
13. Out Of Africa (1985) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
14. The Phantom Of The Opera (1943)
15. Pillow Talk (1959) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
16. Schindler's List (1993) Release date to be advised...
17. The Sting (1973) [BOOK PACK] [see Detailed Review]
18. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) [BOOK] [see Detailed Review]
19. Universal's Classic Monsters - The Essential Collection
Released both USA and UK (non-region coding so will play on all machines) in October 2012 - this superb 8-disc box set contains Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), The Phantom Of The Opera (1943) and The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954). There's also a 'Coffin' shaped version of this box set that is a limited edition. Both come with booklet and poster prints for each of the movies.
20. The Wolf Man (1941)
PPS: For a list of the 'USA' titles in the "100th Anniversary" series to date (Oct 2012) see the 'comment' section attached to this review (60+ BLU RAY and 90+ DVD)
There are a large number of great films available Stateside that have no UK or European release date as yet. However, most are Region Free so will play on UK machines - but check this first to be sure...