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Classic ’59 ‘Some Like It Hot’ . . . as You Might Like It

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If “Some Like It Hot” is on your laser shopping list, you’ve got a few choices in vastly different price ranges. The classic 1959 Billy Wilder comedy, co-written with I.A.L. Diamond, is available with different amenities--a Criterion three-disc CAV edition ($125), a two-disc Criterion CLV disc ($60) and a two-disc MGM/UA CLV and CAV set ($30).

Depending on how much you cherish the film, its stars and its writer-director, each offers something that would seem to justify the price.

Marilyn Monroe fans will find the two Criterion discs give the most of Monroe.

The Criterion CAV edition boasts the best picture--a crisp and vivid black-and-white--and the still frames are wonderful. This is also the only version that comes with brief, but fascinating, amateur home movies of Monroe featuring her then-husband, playwright Arthur Miller; director Wilder; Tony Curtis’ then-wife Janet Leigh, and a baby Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as revealing production stills in both color and black-and-white.

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Both Criterion discs come with a second audio-track essay from UCLA film professor Howard Suber that offers a potpourri of facts about Monroe and the problems she had making the film (pregnancy, miscarriage, drug abuse) as well as a host of telling anecdotes. Curtis, when asked about his love scene with Monroe, notes that “it was like kissing Hitler.”

To listen to these stories, the intriguing snippets of a Jack Lemmon interview and Suber’s valuable insights into film comedy, you must also suffer through Suber’s amateurish and indulgent psychoanalysis of Monroe, which dominates a disproportionate amount of the essay.

Because Lemmon’s sound statements are so intriguing, one longs for similar tidbits from Curtis. Even more missed is the usually entertaining and loquacious Wilder. Other directors’ participation has added immensely to many Criterion Collection releases, and Wilder’s absence here is a real disappointment.

For those who just want a good copy of this tour de force at a reasonable price, the MGM/UA disc is probably the best bargain, even though the print isn’t quite as sharp or the letterboxing as dead-on as the two Criterion discs. The MGM edition does, however, come with nearly triple the number of chapter stops (69), which are a helpful guide through the highlights. All three versions include the original theatrical trailer.

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A different sort of “drag” comedy is the Criterion CLV release of “La Cage Aux Folles,” the 1979 French film that inspired the successful Broadway musical. The film, with Michel Serrault’s hilarious turn as Zaza, remains amusing, if slight. This is the first home-video release to show the film in its original aspect ratio, but the print and soundtrack appear mildly faded and tinny. There are no added features, save the arresting option of being able to watch the film dubbed or in the original French with subtitles.

* “Some Like It Hot,” 1959, (Criterion Collection): three discs, 121 minutes, CAV (full-feature format); second audio track with audio essay; letterboxed; 27 chapter stops; Lemmon interview; home movies; production and publicity stills; original theatrical trailer; $125. Also available in CLV (extended play) format: two discs, second audio track and essay; 27 chapter stops; letterboxed; original theatrical trailer; $60. * “Some Like It Hot” (MGM/UA): two discs (sides one and two, CLV; side three, CAV); letterboxed; 69 chapter stops; original theatrical trailer; $30. * “La Cage Aux Folles,” 1979, (Criterion Collection): one disc; CLV; two digital tracks (French with English subtitles; English-dubbed version); 23 chapter stops; original theatrical trailer; original aspect ratio; 97 minutes; $60.

Laser Bits

New movies just out: “Lethal Weapon 3" (Warner, $30): crisp print, letterboxed; “Alien c,6 3" (CBS-Fox, $40); “A Midnight Clear” (Columbia TriStar, $35).

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Coming soon: Next month, Criterion plans a $100 letterboxed director’s cut of Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” starring David Bowie, with Roeg commentary on an audio track. Robert Altman’s celebrated “The Player” is due in March from Criterion.

Older titles just released: “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (Criterion, 1989, $125): includes director Terry Gilliam audio commentary. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (MGM/UA, 1936, $40): Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland star in this classic version of the Tennyson epic poem set in colonial India.


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