The Seven Year Itch Review
The Seven Year Itch is unfortunately one of those films in which the actual viewing experience doesn't live up to the film's own reputation. Marilyn Monroe's films achieved a far from consistent level, and this is certainly one of her most famous. The sequence in which Miss Monroe stands above a subway vent; the breeze lifting up her skirt, is certainly one of the most memorable images of twentieth-century Hollywood. Yet, as a film, The Seven Year Itch is a slow, dated and very tepid comedy about the temptations of marital infidelity.
The plot of the film tells of thirty-eight year old publishing executive Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) packing his wife and kid off to the hills for the summer, so that he can concentrate on doing his job in the blistering heat. However, Richard's attentions are driven to distraction by a blonde bombshell (Marilyn Monroe) moving in to the apartment above, and it isn't long before Richard is undergoing what the film refers to as 'the seven-year-itch', and is tempted by flirtations from this blonde woman.
The main problem with The Seven Year Itch isn't Marilyn but actually the character of Richard Sherman. For a protagonist that practically fills the screen from beginning to end, it's very hard to not be annoyed by his on-screen psychobabble or neurotic paranoia. Also, unable to escape George Axelrod's stageplay origins, Richard spends lengthy amounts of time talking out loud to himself, as if helping the audience through the duller moments. On stage you'd forgive such a device, but as a movie you have to ask yourself why director Billy Wilder didn’t use narration instead. The results on-screen appear calculated and lack any element of fluidity.
It's actually a breath of fresh air when Monroe is in front of the camera. If anything, she's a pleasure to look at, and she acts Tom Ewell off the set. She's like a bright spark shining amongst dull surroundings, and nearly fifty years later is the only charming element to remain from a charmless production.
Another problem the film has is it is severely restricted by a lack of location variations. This works for some films, such as Barefoot In The Park, as the dialogue is tight and free-flowing. The Seven Year Itch is a one-joke film, stretched out over an hour and forty minutes through only a few locations.
You expect more from Billy Wilder. Sure, the film appealed to a fifties' contemporary audience, but it hardly ranks as one of Wilder's best efforts. It strives for gimmick as opposed to wit, corny situation as opposed to dynamic plot structure, and it cops out on its conclusion, telling us very little about marital infidelity after all. Maybe the film's Cinemascope aspect ratio proves detriment to the overall effect. The scope field mostly has little to look at, and it's so wide that it cuts off a full-shot of Marilyn doing that famous standing-on-top-of-a-vent sequence.
Still, like all Marilyn Monroe films, The Seven Year Itch proves to be decent lightweight entertainment, even if it stands as an undistinguished career mark of both Monroe and Wilder.
Presented in 2.55:1 Cinemascope Widescreen, and with anamorphic enhancement, the transfer of The Seven Year Itch is very good, considering the lengths Fox undertook to restore the DVD. Images are sharp and clarity-filled, and the relative lack of hiss and dirt marks render the film's transfer relatively fresh.
Presented in Dolby Surround, the dialogue is confined to the central well with the occasional spatial channelling occurring with the music score on the front channels. Still, sound is crisp and generally devoid of hiss or defects.
Menu: A static menu of the same style as the other discs in the Marilyn Monroe Box Set.
Back Story: The Seven Year Itch: This is a good twenty-minute featurette that highlights the making of the film, featuring news footage and interviews with the cast and crew. Considering the bare-bones nature of most DVDs from this Marilyn Monroe Box Set, this is a nice bonus extra.
Movietone News: Sneak Preview: This is a thirty-four second Movietone News promo about the premiere of Seven Year Itch.
Restoration Featurette: A good restoration featurette showing the extensive process Fox engaged in to restore the film to its original glory.
Deleted Scenes: Two extended sequences are included that were cut for being slightly too racy for the time period. These sequences involve Marilyn in the bathtub, and an extended cut of the famous Subway Vent sequence.
Trailers: Both the English language and Spanish language trailers are included, and both are edited slightly differently and presented in anamorphic widescreen.
One Sheets: Five One Sheet publicity cards are presented as stills.
A dated film that doesn't live up to its reputation, The Seven Year Itch is still passable lightweight entertainment, and is given a surprisingly good disc from Fox, so maybe it will attract some fans of Miss Monroe.