Forever Marilyn

Forever Marilyn
At this point, Marilyn Monroe has been turned into a one-dimensional icon instantly recognisable for her blonde hair, pouty lips and tight-fitting dress. She's remembered for how she looked rather than the fact that she was actually a very good actress, when presented with the right roles, who left behind an impressive filmography. Forever Marilyn brings together seven of her movies and presents them on Blu-Ray for the first time, although it's hard to understand just why these specific seven were picked (rights, most likely), as there are a few that don't rank amongst her best performances or even her most famous films. But there are some other issues with this box. The pick of the bunch is Some Like It Hot, which is still one of the best screwball comedies around, thanks to the wonderful chemistry between Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Monroe steals every scene as Sugar Kane, a ukulele player with an all-girl band that Curtis and Lemmon have joined in order to escape gangsters. Plus, it has her performance of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" and that is as good a reason as any to watch it. In a very close second place is Monroe's final offering, The Misfits. Written by then husband Arthur Miller and directed by the great John Huston, it's a bleak look at life, focussing on divorce and death in a Western setting. It's hardly a barrel of laughs, but Monroe gives a superbly nuanced performance, as do Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift. It was apparently a very difficult movie to make due to all the tension on set, and Gable died less than two weeks after the film was completed. Both Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How To Marry A Millionaire are more typical fare for Monroe ― she gets to play the blonde in search of a husband, with comedic consequences. She's joined by Jane Russell in the former and Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall in the latter, and both films are a great deal of fun. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is also notable for Marilyn's performance of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," which Madonna ripped off for her "Material Girl" video. The Seven Year Itch was Monroe's first movie with Billy Wilder and contains one of her most famous scenes ― her standing over a subway vent with her white dress being blown up around her shoulders. The film is only good when Monroe is onscreen, as its basic premise isn't as interesting as it initially appears. River of No Return is one of her lesser known films. It's a Western directed by Otto Preminger that features Robert Mitchum as her love interest. There's clumsiness when the two are onscreen together and it hasn't aged very well. The best thing about the movie is the scenery. The film that stands out for all the wrong reasons is There's No Business Like Show Business. Although Monroe is present in many scenes, the star is Ethel Merman, but the story is a rather clunky, big budget musical where the songs are more important than the plot. It is the least crucial movie in the box by quite a margin. With five near-essential offerings, it's hard to complain too much about Forever Marilyn, but it would have been preferable to see Niagara and Bus Stop thrown in to replace the weaker offerings. And considering that last year saw some more definitive sets of her movies being released on DVD, this feels a little on the light side. Let's just assume a second volume will arrive sometime soon. However, the most disappointing part of this collection is how sparse the extras are. The majority of the films have only the original trailers and some very short newsreel segments. Fortunately The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot have commentary tracks and a decent collection of featurettes that contain interviews with cast and crew, and looks at the films' legacies. Most impressive is the interactive Marilyn Monroe timeline, which has more than an hour of film clips. But a collection like this needs a more substantial documentary to hold everything together, especially when the subject is such an important figure in the movie and pop culture. (Fox)