[box cover]

The Misfits

The Misfits (1961) is the kind of film in which every line feels important — like the characters' words have about five more levels of meaning than the things regular people say. Of course, part of that is because it was written by Arthur Miller; his words generally do mean something more than other folks'. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright based the screenplay on a story he wrote while awaiting a quickie divorce in Reno in 1956 — he married the movie's star, Marilyn Monroe, just three weeks later. Of course, by the time Misfits was released in 1961, Miller and Monroe had already gotten their own divorce and Monroe had little more than a year to live, which makes watching the film even more bittersweet. Monroe does some of her best work as lost, tenderhearted divorcee Roslyn Tabor — she's still breathless and blond, but her vulnerability has an edge, and she's not playing dumb for laughs. Roslyn's heart is big enough to care for anyone who needs her help or a shoulder to cry on; she takes every hurt and joy seriously, and all she demands in return is kindness and love. So it's no surprise when she takes aging cowboy Gay Langland (a craggy Clark Gable, in his last screen performance) under her emotionally damaged wings. Along with the rest of the film's "misfits" — an eclectic group of Reno denizens that includes angry pilot/mechanic Guido (Eli Wallach), soulful drifter/rodeo star Perce (Montgomery Clift), and wise-crackin' landlady Isabelle (Thelma Ritter) — Gay finds in Roslyn something beautiful and pure and hopeful. Despite her rocky past and somewhat unstable nature (which makes her a misfit herself), Roslyn is an oasis in the Nevada desert for this motley crew. And because she lets herself join his group — because she believes in the affection he offers her — Roslyn feels all the more betrayed when Gay proves to be cavalier about the violence of life, from Perce's rodeo injuries to the struggles of a wild mustang stallion Gay hunts down. A man so desperate to retain his freedom in the face of a changing world that he's willing to deprive others of their liberty, Gay needs Roslyn in order to find redemption, which is ultimately what The Misfits is all about. The black-and-white film, adeptly directed by the legendary John Huston, is crisp and clean on MGM's DVD release — Huston's play of light and dark on the barren landscapes is stunning. The Dolby Digital sound (2.0 mono) is solid as well, and other language options include French and Spanish dubbing and subtitles. Theatrical trailer, scene selection. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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