Although part of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection Volume II, MONKEY BUSINESS wasnít a starring vehicle for the legendary star. Actually, Howard Hawksí MONKEY BUSINESS is a delightfully daft comedy that showcases the comedic, and occasionally the acrobatic talents of another legendary star- Cary Grant. In some respects, MONKEY BUSINESS is a throwback to the screwball comedies of the thirties and forties, which both Hawks and Grant participated with great aplomb. As for Marilyn Monroe, while her name does appear over the titles, she is relegated to a supporting role in which her primary function is to serve as amusing eye-candy.
In MONKEY BUSINESS, Grant portrays chemist Barnaby Fulton, an absent-minded professor of sorts, who is working a formula that will rejuvenate older consumers. Barnabyís boss, Oliver Oxley (Charles Coburn), is especially interested in the formula- and not just for its commercial value to his company. Oxley has his eye on his beautiful young secretary Miss Laurel (Marilyn Monroe) and is desperate to be rejuvenated himself. Although Barnaby has been toiling over countless permutations of a basic set of ingredients, it is an escaped lab monkey that accidentally mixes a formula that works.
Of course, the monkeyís mixture ends up in the laboratoryís water cooler and is dispensed with comic results. After a sample of the water, stuffy Barnaby spends the day running around like a mad teenager- getting a youthful haircut, flashy new clothes, a hot rod and spending the afternoon in the company of the lovely Miss Laurel. After the formula wears off, Barnabyís wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) manages get past, the haircut, the new clothes and even the hot rod- however, her husbandís behavior with the beautiful Miss Laurel is something she wonít tolerate, so she takes the next dose of the formula and lets him watch the results. As you might expect, Edwinaís bout of immaturity is even more pronounced than her husbandís, which leads to another set of comic complications. The cast of MONKEY BUSINESS also includes Hugh Marlowe, Henri Letondal, Robert Cornthwaite, Larry Keating, Douglas Spencer, Esther Dale and George Winslow.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made MONKEY BUSINESS available on DVD in a very nice looking full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The black and white image on the DVD is crisp, nicely defined and it shows almost no signs that the movie is a half a century old. There is some noticeable grain in the presentation, but it is nothing objectionable and renders the image with a very film like quality. Blacks have a rich velvety quality and the picture produces pure, stable whites. Additionally, contrast is pretty smooth and the image has a nice sense of depth. Digital compression artifacts are well disguised on the cleanly authored, dual layer DVD.
MONKEY BUSINESS is presented on DVD in Dolby Digital stereo. This being a fifty-year-old soundtrack, there are the expected limitations in fidelity; however, the track isnít plagued by age related anomalies. Extraneous noises and background hiss seem to have been cleaned from the track, so the soundtrack remains nice sounding, even with fair amount of amplification. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and is always completely understandable. Whatever stereo imaging has been applied to the soundtrack is very mild, with the track sounding more like a thickened version of monaural than actual stereo. The original English monaural and a French monaural soundtrack have also been encoded onto the DVD. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and Spanish.
The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. The most interesting extra on the DVD shows a comparison of how MONKEY BUSINESS looked in previous video incarnations and how it now looks with a new transfer, from newly created film elements, and a bit of video restoration. Theatrical trailers for MONKEY BUSINESS, DONíT BOTHER TO KNOCK, NIAGRA, RIVER OF NO RETURN and LETíS MAKE LOVE have been provided on the DVD. A still gallery closes out the DVDís extras.
MONKEY BUSINESS is a delightful Howard Hawks comedy that has thankfully been released on DVD as part of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection Volume II. Monroe fans will want the DVD, as well as those movie buffs also interested in the films of other Hollywood legends Cary Grant and Howard Hawks.
MONKEY BUSINESS is available individually on DVD for $19.98 or as part of the Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection Volume II for $79.98.
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