The Misfits (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 13, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“The Misfits” will always be known for being the most expensive black and white film to be made but also for its problems behind-the-scenes in the making of the film. But will definitely be known for its pairing of legendary talent Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe and how this film would be their last film. It may not be a classic, nor may it be one of John Huston’s finest but for any cinema fan who has appreciated the work of John Huston, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, it’s worth watching for this one time collaboration.
Images courtesy of © 1961 Seven Arts Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Misfits
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1961
DURATION: 125 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:66:1), English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, French
RATED: NOT RATED
COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011
Directed by John Huston
Screenplay by Arthur Miller
Producer: Frank E. Taylor
Music by Alex North
Cinematography by Russell Metty
Edited by George Tomasini
Art Direction: Stephen B. Grimes, Bill Newberry
Set Decoration by Frank R. McKelvy
Costume Design by Jean Louis
Clark Gable as Gay Langland
Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Taber
Montgomery Clift as Perce Howland
Thelma Ritter as Isabelle Steers
Eli Wallach as Guido
A sexy divorcée falls for an over-the-hill cowboy who is struggling to maintain his romantically independent lifestyle in early-sixties Nevada.
In 1961, it was the pairing of two of America’s biggest movie stars. The legendary Clark Gable and the popular sexy actress Marilyn Monroe and a film directed by John Huston and a screenplay by popular writer Arthur Miller.
Just those names alone should be exciting for American cinema fans but unfortunately, “The Misfits” was a film that was marred by the trouble behind-the-scenes.
For one, the film was shot in the country and the talent and crew had to brave 108 degree heat in the northern Nevada desert. Director John Huston had been getting himself into trouble by drinking a lot and gambling to the point where he would fall asleep during the set and the production company would have to cover his gambling losses.
As for the the writer Arthur Miller, he and wife Marilyn Monroe were having massive marital problems to the point that Marilyn Monroe (who already had a reputation of being a difficult actress to work with) was also battling alcoholism and prescription drugs and was always late to work and sometimes not showing up at all. It was so bad that Huston had to halt production and send her to the hospital for detox.
And Clark Gable, he insisted doing his own stunts for this film and the 59-year-old would take on very physical scenes of trying to wrangle horses include being dragged on a lake bed. Unfortunately, this may have led to his death as Gable would have a heart attack two days after the end of filming of “The Misfits” and would die days later.
Because the film would take so long to film, it also affected the other talent on the film. Actor Montgomery Clift was in no better shape as he had been battling substance abuse after having a major accident that changed the look of his face and nearly killed him. In fact, even Marilyn Monroe has said of Clift, “The only person I know who is in worse shape than I am”. On the set, Clift would have problems performing due to an illness and even for Thelma Ritter, she would be hospitalized as she suffered from exhaustion.
For both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, “The Misfits” would not only be a unique pairing, it would also be the last film for both celebrities as Monroe would die from a result of overdose months after she completed filming “The Misfits”.
As for the film, unfortunately “The Misfits” was not a commercial success but it did receive critical praise for its screenplay and the performance of the film’s talent.
The film cost $4 million (this was the most expensive black and white film to be made at that time) to make and it only made that much in the box office but would earn more money thanks to video sales. And now, “The Misfits” receives its first HD treatment with a Blu-ray release in May 2011.
“The Misfits” revolves around Roslyn Tabor (played by Marilyn Monroe), a young woman who has recently gotten a divorce and lives with her aunt Isabelle Steers (played by Thelma Ritter, “All About Eve”, “Rear Window”). On the day of her divorce, she meets Guido (played by Eli Wallach, “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”), a guy who is looking to purchase her damaged car. When he asks why her car is damaged, her aunt Isabelle replies that it’s from all the accidental hits from guys who can’t get their eyes off Roslyn. And when Guido sees Roslyn, immediately he knows why…she is absolutely beautiful.
As Guido gives both Roslyn and Isabelle a ride to the courthouse, Guido runs into a cowboy named Gay Langland (played by Clark Gable).
Gay is a cowboy who has been with many women but now makes his money by rounding up and catching mustangs (sold to slaughterhouses for dog/cat good).
Both Guido and Gay run into Roslyn and Isabelle and both invite them to a home in the country to get away from life in Reno, Nevada and also to help Roslyn get her mind off her divorce.
As for Roslyn, she’s a woman who is trying to piece life together. Trying to understand herself and men, she is struck by Guido and Gay’s good nature.
While Guido has to return back home, Gay convinces Roslyn to stay with him in the country and for her to get accustomed to the country as it will be good for her.
Gay immediately is drawn by Roslyn’s beauty and falls for her but Roslyn begins to have problems of how things are done in the country. When a rabbit steals lettuce from his yard, Gay talks about getting the rabbit and killing it. Which causes Roslyn to be distraught.
Eventually, with now two men smitten with her, she meets Perce Howland (played by Montgomery Clift, “From Here to Eternity”, “A Place in the Sun”, “Red River”), a rodeo cowboy who helps Gay round the Mustangs and he soon, becomes smitten with Roslyn.
With each of these men falling for Roslyn, will any of them be the perfect match? And can Roslyn ever see herself being with these misfits and living out in the country?
“The Misfits” is featured in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:66:1). Presented in black and white, not sure if this film has went through any remastering but it does show mild flickering at times and also white speckles. It’s also important to note that the Huston shot Marilyn Monroe’s closeups with a soft focus, so when the camera is focused on the other talent, you can see a good amount of detail but when it’s focused on her, you can see the softness. But that softness was intentional for Marilyn Monroe’s scenes. I do want to add that the mustang rounding scenes was filmed quite exceptionally well by Russell Metty (“Spartacus”, “Touch of Evil”, “Bringing Up Baby”).
For the most part, the film does look good at times, with good amount of detail of the talent, there is a good amount of grain and there are times where the contrast is very good with strong blacks and good amount of white and grays. But I do feel that the film could have underwent some form of remastering and look even better if corrected.
But for now, this Blu-ray looks much better than its older DVD counterpart. You get more clarity and detail with this Blu-ray release of “The Misfits”.
“The Misfits” is presented in English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish Mono and French Mono. The film is center-channel driven but if you have a modern receiver, you can easily select stereo on all channels if needed. But for the most part, dialogue was clear and understandable.
“The Misfits” comes with the following special feature:
- Theatrical Trailer – (3:14) The original theatrical trailer for “The Misfits”.
As a big fan of Marilyn Monroe and also Clark Gable, “The Misfits” has always been an intriguing film for me.
Mainly because you had John Huston involved as director, Arthur Miller as the writer, Russell Metty as cinematographer and you have screen legends, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in the film but also even a cameo by cowboy Tex Ritter. But you have also stars like Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach… on paper, this is an impressive collaboration of talent!
Unfortunately, it was probably bad timing as there were considerable problems during the making of this film. While Gable has had problems (especially after his wife, actress Carole Lombard was killed in an airplane accident) in his career, it’s bad enough that your director, screenwriter and talent were facing personal problems in their life. And interesting enough, many of the talent would not survive that long after the film was completed. Gable would die in 1960 (days after the film was completed and his work on the film was blamed for his death), Monroe would die in 1962, Montgomery Clift would die in 1966 and Thelma Ritter would die in 1969.
But if you were to eliminate all difficulties that happened behind-the-scenes, you have to give credit to John Huston and Arthur Miller for taking on a film and completing it. You read about films that were literally difficult, films that were held up in production and “The Misfits” is one of those films that is high up on that list of problematic films that were made. And while the payoff would have been remarkable if it succeed commercially, unfortunately “The Misfits” didn’t.
While some fault the change in storyline as the first half would be more comedy and fun, while the second half would become more of an emotional drama as it became less of a four-way love-triangle but a film about Rosalyn being disgusted when she finds out that the three men that she did like, were involved in wrangling mustangs that would be slaughtered for the use of being dog/cat food.
For me, I go a step further in thinking of the promotion of the film and how it showcased an older Clark Gable with Marilyn Monroe. I personally feel that many feel the Gable mystique to be around the ’30s and ’40s and to have the older actor become a romantic cowboy going for the younger Marilyn Monroe, it probably didn’t make a lot of sense to people. And while this is nothing new to Westerns as we have seen John Wayne and other older talent being hooked up with younger actresses, in this case, Gable and Monroe are too big names that one doesn’t think of when it comes to romance. Clark Gable and Myrna Loy or Clark Gable and other actresses during the ’30s or ’40s, they made sense and the chemistry was right. It’s really hard to find the chemistry between both Monroe and Gable.
If anything, it’s a film about three cowboys who have a city girl with them who has some major personal issues. She is emotional, depressed and vulnerable and perhaps the film was a bit too close to Marilyn Monroe’s real life and it makes you wonder if Arthur Miller purposely wrote that in to the film for Monroe.
But there is something off about the film that just doesn’t seem right.
Film critic Pauline Kael wrote of film, “An erratic, sometimes personal in the wrong way, and generally unlucky picture that is often affecting.”
And even in her review, she couldn’t help but talk about the problems that this film had went through. And when you have so many problems especially with your cast, there is only so much you can do. I often wonder how much was deviated from the original script and how much of a different film “The Misfits” would have been without the delays, without the personal problems.
As for the Blu-ray release, it’s not the best picture quality you will see for a black and white film but it’s the best looking version of “The Misfits” to date. Unfortunately, there are no special features but the trailer included and for a 50th Anniversary Release, you hope to get more. May it be featurettes, commentary but there are none. So, it’s more or less a near barebones Blu-ray release.
Overall, “The Misfits” will always be known for being the most expensive black and white film to be made but also for its problems behind-the-scenes in the making of the film. But will definitely be known for its pairing of legendary talent Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe and how this film would be their last film. It may not be a classic, nor may it be one of John Huston’s finest but for any cinema fan who has appreciated the work of John Huston, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, it’s worth watching for this one time collaboration.
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