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THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

Although she is billed only as "The Girl" and her character can almost be considered as secondary, Marilyn Monroe dominates THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, both on the screen and in the memory of everyone who has seen the film. It is because of Marilyn's luminescent screen presence that she practically steals the film away from Tom Ewell, who not only played the leading role on the screen, but also originated it on the Broadway stage.

 

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH is based upon the naughty Broadway farce by George Axelrod, which tells of a married man's indiscretion during a hot July in Manhattan, while his wife and child are away for the summer. Since the film version of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH was made during the 1950s, the production came under the watchful eyes of the censors at the Hayes office, who required that numerous changes be made to both the subject matter and dialogue. What was an all out indiscretion on the stage was transformed into an innocent flirtation on the screen, climaxing with a few chaste kisses. Much of the plot of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH takes place in the fevered imagination of its central character- a somewhat ordinary book editor named Richard Sherman (Ewel). Richard imagines himself to be highly desirable to women and gets to play out that fantasy when he meets the beautiful girl (Marilyn), who is subletting the apartment above his for the summer. Although nothing really ever comes of his clumsy overtures, paranoid fantasies of his wife discovering his "affair" begin to run rampant through his mind. Much of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH is truly hilarious thanks to Ewell's comic flair, in addition to the way that director co-writer Billy Wilder and Axelrod sidestepped their way around the censorship of the time.

Wilder's direction is crackerjack sharp, making the most of the jokes, without ever trying to milk them. Although Marilyn had a reputation of being somewhat problematic on the set, I don't know if THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH would have been as successful had any other actress played the pivotal role. Would THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH been all that memorable if another actress had her skirt blown up by a passing subway train- highly doubtful. In addition to Marilyn and Ewell, the cast of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH also includes Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts, Robert Strauss, Oskar Homolka, Marguerite Chapman, Victor Moore, Donald MacBride and Carolyn Jones.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH available on DVD in a 2.55:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. As with the other films found in Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection, THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH has been given a high definition transfer directly from recently restored film elements that were prepared specifically for this release. Before the hi-def transfer was down converted to NTSC, an extensive video restoration also took place in the digital domain. It should be noted that the film elements for THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH were in the worst shape of any of the Monroe movies in the collection. The image on the DVD is as sharp and well defined as any CinemaScope production that was shot on the film stocks that were available during that period. Certainly not at the level of clarity of today's motion pictures, but very, very pleasing nonetheless. In general, the colors do look nice, but there are moderate problems due to the age of the film and the technology of the period. Shots that don't involve optical dissolves or other special effects have solid colors that appear very stable, as well as respectable flesh tones. However, any time an optical crops up, the colors appear somewhat faded and shift away from the look of the rest of the scene. At no time do the hues have the rich saturation that one finds in Technicolor prints, but then again, the De Luxe color doesn't appear particularly faded. Blacks are fairly inky and the image does have good depth. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from becoming noticeable.

The Dolby Digital 3.0 channel soundtrack would appear to be a direct port of the film's original stereo sound mix. There are no overt flaws in the sound presentation. Fidelity is limited by the age of the recordings, but since THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH is a dialogue driven comedy with limited music and sound effects, this isn't a significant issue. What music there is does sound pleasant enough and creates a nice stereo image across the forward soundstage. Dialogue does move across the front, but continues to maintain full intelligibility, no matter the position. Directional sound effects also pan nicely across the forward channels. An English surround and French monaural soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. As with the other films in Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection, THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH includes a brief split screen segment that compares the differences between how the film looked prior to and after its restoration. Also included on the DVD is a twenty-four minute segment from AMC- Backstory: The Seven Year Itch. This program details the censorship problems encountered in bringing THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH to the screen, as well as what Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewel brought to the project. The program features a recent interview with writer George Axelrod and an older interview with director Billy Wilder. Also included on the DVD are theatrical trailers for this film, as well as trailers other Monroe DVD titles. A brief still file containing publicity materials, plus a snippet of newsreel footage from the film's opening fills out the DVD’s extras.

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH is classic Marilyn Monroe that will appeal to her fans and film buffs in general. Fox has done a fine job with the DVD and the extended extras certainly makes it enticing to those who have never experienced a Marilyn Monroe film and want a little behind-the-scene introduction.

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH is available individually on DVD for $24.98 or as part of the Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection for $99.98.

 

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection

 


The Seven Year Itch

Marilyn Monroe - The Diamond Collection

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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