Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?: The Masters of Cinema Series
There are some films that you really don't know where they're going even nearly half an hour into the picture -- There Will Be Blood is probably the most recent examples -- and others we know right off the bat what you you can expect from the next 90 minutes. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (known in America as Oh! For a Man!) Is one of those as, when the 20th Century Fox logo appears, Tony Randall is at the bottom corner of the screen with a variety of instruments playing along to the music before addressing the audience ("Oh, the fine print they put in an actor's contract these days!") and then letting the film play as normal.
Tony Randall plays Rockwell Hunter, a man who is a middle ranking advertising executive on Madison Avenue with ambitions to marry his secretary, Jenny, who lives on the floor above his apartment, and gain the necessary promotion to give him a key to the executive washroom. He also has problems with his niece (who lives with him) as teenagers aren't what they were there when he was that age and Violet is obsessed with music and actors. The one that particularly interests Violet is the blonde bombshell Rita Marlowe whose turbulent relationship with her boyfriend Bobo Branigansky (played by Jane Mansfield's real-life husband Mickey Hargitay) ends up with Rita Marlowe going into 'seclusion' (something that she thinks is a dirty word) and hiding out in New York City.
Hunter's advertising agency is in trouble and so is his job as the contract with Stay-Put lipstick is hanging by a thread but, with a famous actress in town and his niece knowing exactly where she is staying, Hunter comes up with the idea of having Rita Marlowe endorse Stay-Put lipstick, thus saving the agency and perhaps giving him everything he needs for a promotion.
In dealing with diva movie stars though, nothing is as simple as it seems and when Rockwell Hunter calls on Rita Marlowe, she gets the idea of using this ad-man to make Bobo jealous and Rockwell is an absolutely no position to deal with someone like Rita Marlowe. Before he knows it, he is all over the news as the new flame in Rita's life, known to her and everybody else as 'Lover Doll', something that doesn't go down at all well with Jenny.
When you think of a film starring Jayne Mansfield, the first thing that comes to your mind isn't a satirical sideswipe at the advertising industry but that is what you get here with Mansfield beautifully sending up the 'dumb blonde' stereotype, squealing and acting like a precocious and spoiled film star with her assistant acquiescing to just about every whim. This isn't necessarily unsurprising considering the Jayne Mansfield had an IQ of 163 so probably knew exactly what she was doing when being what some cruelly termed her 'the poor man's Marilyn Monroe'. Certainly, Mansfield isn't as good an actress as Monroe could be but was probably far less demanding on set and much more reliable.
Based on a play by George Axelrod, just as The Seven Year Itch was, this is from almost exactly the same mould with a man out of his depth with a beautiful woman who is in complete control of the situation whilst the man is panicking about what to do. Although this has the same jaunty and lightweight comedy feel, it doesn't have the same feel of quality that comes with a film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe in one of the most famous roles. That being said, this is far smarter than I anticipated with a terrific performance by Jayne Mansfield. However, this is really Tony Randall's film as he puts in a quite wonderful piece of acting playing both himself and Rock Hunter and there is one moment in the middle where he completely breaks the fourth wall and the aspect ratio changes so that television viewers won't feel left out, watching on their 21" screen and even for radio listeners with Randall providing a breakdown of what has happened and what may happen later on in the film.
I didn't really expect to enjoy this but I did, finding it funny, charming and (despite being fairly predictable) utterly endearing.
Joe Dante on Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (6:42: HD) was filmed on August 10, 2010 and is an interesting piece because Joe Dante is such an enthusiastic speaker, is very cine-literate and clearly not a great deal about Frank Tashlin, director to whom he has been repeatedly compared.
Rounding off the disc is the theatrical trailer and a short Movietone piece about Jayne Mansfield on a promotional tour.
The set comes with a booklet which comprises three articles by David Cairns and an interview with Tony Randall as well as complete credits and 'notes on viewing' to make sure that you're watching it and write aspect ratio.
As this was filmed in CinemaScope, anything other than a 2.35:1 ratio would be a travesty and the picture looks absolutely stunning here with the correct aspect ratio, glorious colours, superb skin tones and excellent contrast levels.
To maintain the slightly hyperreal feeling, director Frank Tashlin issues the traditional fade to black in between scenes and instead fades to a bright red or bright blue screen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack does a splendid job with the dialogue, presenting it clearly through the centre channel and when Jayne Mansfield lets out that little squeal that she does, it really does sound like the sort of thing that could break class!
There is a nice, jaunty score by Cyril J. Mockridge that helps to keep things moving at a fair pace and emphasise the emotional and comedic aspects.
The disc also comes with a music and effects track so you can really get the most out of Mockridge's score and all of the sound effects that go into making this such a great comedy film.
I'm not sure where Eureka get their ideas from and how they decide which films to release as I'm certainly not one of those who would have bombarded with letters and e-mails demanding to have Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? given a high definition release on Blu-ray Disc. On the other hand, I'm very glad that it has been released as it is a hugely enjoyable film and one that has been treated extremely well, restored to an extremely high standard with superb AV package and decent, but not terrific, set of extra features.
For those of you who like Jayne Mansfield's films and movies like The Seven Year Itch, this disc comes highly recommended.