[box cover]

Don't Bother to Knock

Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection, Vol. II

  • Don't Bother to Knock
  • Let's Make Love
  • Monkey Business (1952)
  • Niagara
  • River of No Return
  • In Marilyn Monroe's first starring vehicle, 1952's Don't Bother to Knock, there is a prophetic sadness permeating her performance as a delusional babysitter freshly released from an insane asylum. Knowing all we do about the troubled star, it most likely wasn't a stretch for the then-relative newcomer to understand the pathology and despondency of her character Nell, a beautiful young woman burned by love who can't handle the breach between reality and fiction. A film noir of sorts, though not containing enough elements of that genre to be classically considered as such, director Roy Baker's part-thriller, part-character-study is a tense tale with plenty of pathos geared toward Marilyn, who wasn't the full-blown MM superstar yet. As Nell, a mysterious girl who takes on a babysitting job in a hotel where her creepy, sad-sack uncle (Elisha Cook Jr. — who else) works, Monroe enters the picture in plain clothes, dark blonde hair, and little makeup. Though she's no plain-Jane, she looks like a "nice girl" — nice enough for hotel guests the Joneses (played by Jim Backus and Lurene Tuttle) to allow a stranger to watch over their cute little daughter Bunny (Donna Corcoran). After quickly putting the girl to bed (clearly she's not interested in the kid), Nell plays dress-up in Mrs. Jones' fine silk robe, perfume, and diamond jewelry. Meanwhile, cocky, self-absorbed airline pilot Jedd Towers (Richard Widmark) gets dumped by the hotel chanteuse (a young, gorgeous Anne Bancroft) but finds some new action across the courtyard when a lonely Nell signals him from her room. He comes over for a good time, likes what he sees, and basically puts up with her strange behavior until it gets too strange. Like when she hangs Bunny out of the hotel window. But Nell doesn't really mean any harm. She's just disturbed and frequently suicidal, desiring a man to take care of her without hitting her or striking down her desires to look pretty and be "normal." Monroe portrays this beautifully, and we wonder if her real life is seeping into this — we wish she could just get out of that hotel, doll herself up and have some fun with a man who understands her (perhaps a Peter Lorre type?) The always excellent Widmark is smirky and sexy but essentially a good heart, especially when it comes to the child's welfare, and Cook Jr. is his usual, wonderfully depressing, smarmy self. Interestingly, the moral of the story comes at Nell's expense — Jedd becomes a better person by not giving into temptation with a supposed psycho. Poor Nell, and poor Marilyn. In real life, most men wouldn't resist. Fox's DVD release of Don't Bother to Knock offers a strong full-screen transfer (1.33:1) with audio in both Dolby Digital Stereo (2.0) and Dolby Digital Mono (2.0). Supplements include trailers from Monroe's other Diamond Collection films, a stills gallery, and an impressive restoration comparison. Keep-case.
    —Kim Morgan



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