Frank Tashlin’s 1957 satire remains delightful and relevant 4 Stars

In his 1957 production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, writer-producer-director Frank Tashlin throws just about everything at the screen, and miraculously, pretty much all of it sticks.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)
Released: 01 Aug 1957
Rated: APPROVED
Runtime: 93 min
Director: Frank Tashlin
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Cast: Tony Randall, Jayne Mansfield, Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell
Writer(s): Frank Tashlin (screen story and screenplay), George Axelrod (play)
Plot: To save his career, a writer for television advertising wants a famous actress to endorse a lipstick. In return, he has to pretend to be her new lover.
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Clear Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: ABC
Release Date: 02/19/2019
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 4/5

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Probably not, the film concludes, but it can make a person miserable.

Tony Randall stars as the titular hero, a lowly writer of television commercials looking to climb up the ladder of the advertising agency he works at. When Hunter finds out that his firm is due to lose their biggest account, from the Stay-Put Lipstick Company, Hunter comes up with a brilliant idea for a campaign to be fronted by a famous actress known for having kissable lips, the blonde bombshell Rita Marlowe (played by Jayne Mansfield in one of her signature roles). Rita is willing to do it, but only if Hunter pretends to be her boyfriend; Rita thinks her real-life boyfriend Bobo (Mickey Hargitay) isn’t paying enough attention to her and wants to make him jealous. (Rita still longs for her first true love, long out of the picture.) Once Rita announces that she’s seeing Hunter, he becomes an overnight sensation known as “Lover Doll,” and his employers are all too happy to take advantage of the publicity that it brings to their firm. However, Hunter’s fiancé Jenny (Betsy Drake) is not a fan of this arrangement. As Hunter becomes more successful at work due to this deception, his personal life falls apart, with each bit of fame extracting an additional toll.

The film, adapted very loosely from a stage play George Axelrod, gives writer-producer-director Frank Tashlin the perfect canvas to satirize, well, just about everything. The film eschews the traditional 20th Century Fox logo opening in favor of an amusing prologue featuring fake television commercials where the products being demonstrated fail at the worst possible moments. Once the story proper begins, each scene is packed with little references and easter eggs, each perfectly hitting its target. That Mansfield’s character is also a famous movie star allows Tashlin to drop real life references from Mansfield’s career into the film. And the casting of Rita’s original true love, which is revealed in the film’s final moments, is too brilliant to spoil here.

But for all of the film’s references and fantastic supporting cast (which also includes Joan Blondell as Rita’s personal assistant and John Williams as Hunter’s boss), a great deal of the heavy lifting falls onto Randall’s shoulders, and he’s up for the challenge. One of Randall’s great strengths as a comedic actor is his ability to to portray characters becoming increasingly frazzled and frustrated, but doing so in such a way that allows the audience to laugh at the situations, and on behalf of the character, without ever feeling the stress or strain that the character is suffering under. Randall’s performance here is the glue which holds everything together.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image is perfectly clean and clear, with excellent stability, strong detail and a pleasing film-like look. What may cause some controversy is the film’s use of the color blue and how that is represented in the transfer. There is no doubt that the film’s production design includes heavy use of the color blue, from shirts worn by main characters to colored gels used on studio lights to suggest nighttime settings. There are scenes in which a lot of the color palette seems to be blue, but upon closer examination, other colors can be seen as they should be. For instance, there is a scene with Mansfield in her hotel room late at night; at first glance, it might appear to lean blue, but on closer reflection, Mansfield’s nightgown is clearly white with blue trimming, and while the light coming from behind the window shade appears bluish, it’s meant to be nighttime, and the blue is representative of moonlight. However, there are also some scenes which do appear to lean more blue than is necessary. Those who are unfamiliar with the film will likely not notice any issue, and if the color isn’t exactly perfect, it’s still a very watchable transfer.

Audio: 5/5

Three different audio tracks are provided on the disc, all in the lossless DTS-HD MA format. The 4.0 track represents the film’s original theatrical audio, and is a lively track filled with directional dialogue and sound effects. The 5.1 track retains all of the dimensionality of the 4.0 track but sounds a little fuller and clearer, making it the preferred option. The included 2.0 track, while lacking some of the dimensionality of the other mixes, is nonetheless an acceptable option presented with good fidelity which is probably best suited for those limited to stereo playback.

Special Features: 3/5

Isolated Music Track – Cyril J. Mockridge’s original score is presented in lossless DTS-HD MA stereo.

Audio Commentary with Film Historian Dana Polan – Polan’s commentary covers a great deal of ground on the film’s production and Tashlin’s influences; academic without being dry, it’s a worthwhile listen.

Fox Movietone Newsreels (9:39, SD) – Black and white newsreel footage is presented mostly without sound or context; while it is wonderful that this material is still extant, the lack of even the simplest title card or text indication of what contains is a frustrating omission.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:23, SD) – This amusing trailer combines clips from the film with behind-the-scenes footage, and has been cropped to 16×9.

Booklet – Julie Kirgo’s insightful essay is included along with production stills and original poster art.

Overall: 4/5

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a delightfully bonkers satire of Hollywood, advertising and pop culture which holds up remarkably well more than sixty years after its original release. This very good Twilight Time release offers a solid presentation of the film while retaining the bonus features from the previous DVD and adding a new isolated score track.

There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

Published by

Josh Steinberg

editor,member

Bryan^H

Lead Actor
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2005
Messages
7,062
Nice review Josh.

I'm glad you didn't pick it apart because of the color timing. I was shocked that I didn't find the picture unnatural looking as I am usually very sensitive to such a thing. Is it a little too blue in some places, sure. But I found the video quality to be very impressive throughout.
 

haineshisway

Cinematographer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2011
Messages
4,645
Location
Los Angeles
Real Name
Bruce
It's actually not too blue. It's actually pretty terrific. The proof, as Josh rightly points out, is always in the other colors in any given sequence. Tashlin loved bold colors which is why the film is littered with them - and if the blue seems too much all one has to do is look at the reds, golds, greens, and browns, where you will see not a HINT of blue, just perfect colors. I have the UK Blu, which is brownish and has none of the pop of the TT. And the pop is pure Tashlin. There's a scene where all the shots of Mansfield are against a yellowish/gold wall - perfect color, not a trace of blue anywhere. The reverses on Tony Randall are against a bluish wall. Again, perfect color. It's very, very good, transfer-wise and the film is a joy from start to finish.
 

Flashgear

Screenwriter
Joined
Nov 23, 2007
Messages
1,793
Location
Alberta Canada
Real Name
Randall
Another great review, Josh! You really make me want to get this, sooner rather than later...even with loads of choice and highly desired films debuting on Blu in just the next few months, I might go broke getting them all. Your review has me reliving, in the pale gleams of my mind's eye, the many delights of 'Rock Hunter', and wanting to see them again in the splendor of this new TT release!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Josh Steinberg

Garysb

Cinematographer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2003
Messages
3,436
Only the title and the character Jayne Mansfield played were carried over from the Broadway play . Rock Hunter did not appear in the play. The play's title was going to be "Will Success Spoil Rock Hudson" but his manager threatened to sue. The movie plot was completely new.
 

Robin9

Producer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
5,443
Real Name
Robin
Only the title and the character Jayne Mansfield played were carried over from the Broadway play . Rock Hunter did not appear in the play. The play's title was going to be "Will Success Spoil Rock Hudson" but his manager threatened to sue. The movie plot was completely new.
Ah! I didn't know that. Thank you.
 

Dick

Lead Actor
Premium
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
8,454
Real Name
Rick
It's actually not too blue. It's actually pretty terrific. The proof, as Josh rightly points out, is always in the other colors in any given sequence. Tashlin loved bold colors which is why the film is littered with them - and if the blue seems too much all one has to do is look at the reds, golds, greens, and browns, where you will see not a HINT of blue, just perfect colors. I have the UK Blu, which is brownish and has none of the pop of the TT. And the pop is pure Tashlin. There's a scene where all the shots of Mansfield are against a yellowish/gold wall - perfect color, not a trace of blue anywhere. The reverses on Tony Randall are against a bluish wall. Again, perfect color. It's very, very good, transfer-wise and the film is a joy from start to finish.
Hi, Bruce. (Friendly handshake here).

I completely disagree with you regarding the color scheme of this release. It looks unlike any theatrical print I've ever seen of any movie, due to the blue lean that Fox Home Entertainment colorists are so damn in love with, which just makes the image look completely unnatural, causing flesh tones to look very brown and pasty and, to my eyes, very close to unwatchable. What should be white shirts are rendered bluish (1:17:15). Not acceptable.

I can hear you chuckling and throwing your hands into the air...you are, aren't you? Already preparing a retort, right?

But here's the thing, and why we're both off the hook here: We do not all share the same eyes. Some of us are somewhat colorblind, or at least have eyesight skewed toward particular color values. We may not even know it. What seems perfectly natural to us is deemed horribly distorted by others. Now, I can't say whether it's me or it's you who is incorrect when the matter of finding these Fox titles (also including THE KING AND I, CAROUSEL, DESK SET, etc.) inappropriately blue is in question, and maybe neither of us is because of our unique vision. But I have my display set at color and tint levels that work perfectly for 95% of the Blu-rays I watch, and most of the five remaining percent are Fox titles. Isn't that a pretty accurate guide? I am unable to adjust the color/tint on my display to make these Blu-rays look even close to reasonably accurate.

Anyway, forums like this are designed for such such discussions/disagreements/friendly arguments, so I do not feel a need to extend any olive branches, but I do respect your POV...in this case, I happen to disagree with it entirely.

;)
 

Robert Crawford

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Dec 9, 1998
Messages
48,329
Location
Michigan
Real Name
Robert
If Fox is so wrong with this color scheme then how come they haven't made any corrections to their most recent transfers that keep coming out consistent with what they have been releasing for several years now? Perhaps their film documentation on these film elements support what they're doing and not what we think the color should look like based on previous video releases or showings of prints that may have been inaccurate. I'm just saying.
 

Dick

Lead Actor
Premium
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
8,454
Real Name
Rick
If Fox is so wrong with this color scheme then how come they haven't made any corrections to their most recent transfers that keep coming out consistent with what they have been releasing for several years now? Perhaps their film documentation on these film elements support what they're doing and not what we think the color should look like based on previous video releases or showings of prints that may have been inaccurate. I'm just saying.
I appreciate that this is a divisive issue. It keeps coming up, and I keep adding my two cents. Frankly, I do not think Fox believes it is wrong about this blue lean. But if they had a different colorist, I suspect the results would be wildly different -- maybe truer to the intended look, but also maybe improperly skewed in an entirely different direction. Makes me want to work for the company! Just saying back. :)
 
Last edited:

Robert Crawford

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Dec 9, 1998
Messages
48,329
Location
Michigan
Real Name
Robert
I appreciate that this is a divisive issue. It keeps coming up, and I keep adding my two cents. Frankly, I do not think Fox believes it are wrong about this blue lean. But if they had a different colorist, I suspect the results would be wildly different -- maybe truer to the intended look, but also maybe improperly skewed in an entirely different direction. Makes me want to work for the company! Just saying back. :)
It's not a divisive issue for me. How do you know different colorists aren't involved? We don't know what their film element documentation is noting regarding color scheme? We don't even know whether our previous viewings of these movies were accurate color-wise or not?
 

Billy Batson

Cinematographer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Messages
3,522
Location
London
Real Name
Alan
If Fox is so wrong with this color scheme then how come they haven't made any corrections to their most recent transfers that keep coming out consistent with what they have been releasing for several years now?
Obviously the people in charge of this stuff at Fox thinks everything is okay with these transfers, & love the new Fox "look". All strength to the few brave people here who put their head above the parapet & risk ridicule in saying that the king is in fact, in the all together :)
 

haineshisway

Cinematographer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2011
Messages
4,645
Location
Los Angeles
Real Name
Bruce
Just to be clear - only the BLUE shirts are blue. I keep saying the obvious, as Josh does in his review: Look at the other colors in any scene you think "leans blue" - they are perfect (as are the skin tones). Tony Randall's shirt is blue, not white - other shirts in the same scenes are WHITE. Do you think they colored in only Tony's shirt? And if you're seeing blue shirts on every person in a scene then yes something is either wrong with your eyes or your television. There are blue gels on lighting instruments - this is very clear because if you watch people's hair as they move about a scene, when they're standing under the gels their hair reflects that, and when they're not, it doesn't. Watch the scene I suggested, where Mansfield is agains an orange/yellow wall - no blue in her shots, not one IOTA of blue. In the reverses on Randall, there is blue, because that's the way that shot is lit. How do you account for zero blue in the Mansfield shots. How do you account for zero blue when Deborah Kerr first meets the King in his YELLOW chambers? You say it doesn't look like any theatrical print you've ever seen. How long have you been going to the movies? I've been going since around 1952 and I know what carbon arc projection looked and looks like, I know how prints were timed for that light source, I know what Technicolor prints looked like (I had one in 16mm for this film) and Eastman, too. And when you see a vintage color print that was timed for carbon arc but shown with today's light source (or any era post the change from carbon arc) of course it doesn't look right.

I also know that no one is going to change anyone's opinion on this. I think Fox is doing an absolutely perfect job for the most part. And I'm sure they see the complainers' posts and I thank them for doing their job and not bowing to the handful of complaints, as Kino did with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, with the result being they came out with The Ugly and all the complainers hated THAT, too. In other words, it's a no-win situation with certain films from certain studios and all they can do at Fox is use their notes and do their wonderful work and just know that the same twenty people are always going to trot out the "blue lean" or "TEAL" comments.
 

Dick

Lead Actor
Premium
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
8,454
Real Name
Rick
It's not a divisive issue for me. How do you know different colorists aren't involved? We don't know what their film element documentation is noting regarding color scheme? We don't even know whether our previous viewings of these movies were accurate color-wise or not?
All true, Robert, all true. I am simply rather profoundly annoyed that a movie I have always really liked such as this one has been rendered in such a crap fashion. There have been many here who have groaned about the Blu lean in the British HORROR OF DRACULA release. But that is simply peanuts compared to the transgression Fox perpetrated on WSSRH and others of their Blu-rays. Again, though, it's all subjective.
 
  • Like
Reactions: plektret

Dick

Lead Actor
Premium
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
8,454
Real Name
Rick
Obviously the people in charge of this stuff at Fox thinks everything is okay with these transfers, & love the new Fox "look". All strength to the few brave people here who put their head above the parapet & risk ridicule in saying that the king is in fact, in the all together :)
I don't mind risking ridicule (Hell, I'm almost 70)...there have certainly been enough instances when I have deserved it due to my not researching properly or simply making unsupportable suppositions. But this blue thing I have with Fox is ongoing and I don't think I'm completely off base. I want so much to like their transfers, as they are releasing many of my favorite classics on Blu-ray, but it just seems weird to me that more people aren't finding these releases unpleasant to look at. Truly, it makes me question my own eyesight, but as I indicated above, nearly all the films I run on my display look fabulous without having to adjust anything. These specific (and not all) Fox titles simply look like shit to me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: plektret and ThadK

haineshisway

Cinematographer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2011
Messages
4,645
Location
Los Angeles
Real Name
Bruce
Original color timing notes?

LOL

These are being done in New York by a guy that is VERY fond of that teal look. A number of his timings have been rejected, but not all.
Well, since there is no teal in this transfer, I'd need you to illuminate all of us a little more. LOL. Let's hear all about it, Bob. Let's hear the rejected titles (and rejected by whom) and why some aren't rejected. I'm sure everyone in this thread will look forward to hearing all about this major news.

I want to be very clear here: You are saying Fox and Mr. Belston farm their transfers out to some guy in NY who likes "teal" and that Mr. Belston has nothing to do with these transfers at all, takes no responsibility for what they look like when they come back to him? Is that what you are saying? Because frankly I'd be happy to forward all of this to Mr. Belston and see what he has to say.
 

Bob Furmanek

Producer
Insider
Joined
Dec 10, 2001
Messages
5,960
Real Name
Bob
Now, Bruce, you know better than that. I'm not publicly mentioning any titles.

Several years ago, I did see a 35mm answer print of one major Fox title that was restored from the 35mm camera negative and it looked beautiful. Then I saw the digital master from that same 4K preservation scan and it was a teal disaster. YIKES!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark B and plektret

Bryan^H

Lead Actor
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2005
Messages
7,062
Just to be clear - only the BLUE shirts are blue. I keep saying the obvious, as Josh does in his review: Look at the other colors in any scene you think "leans blue" - they are perfect (as are the skin tones). Tony Randall's shirt is blue, not white - other shirts in the same scenes are WHITE. Do you think they colored in only Tony's shirt? And if you're seeing blue shirts on every person in a scene then yes something is either wrong with your eyes or your television. There are blue gels on lighting instruments - this is very clear because if you watch people's hair as they move about a scene, when they're standing under the gels their hair reflects that, and when they're not, it doesn't. Watch the scene I suggested, where Mansfield is agains an orange/yellow wall - no blue in her shots, not one IOTA of blue. In the reverses on Randall, there is blue, because that's the way that shot is lit. How do you account for zero blue in the Mansfield shots. How do you account for zero blue when Deborah Kerr first meets the King in his YELLOW chambers? You say it doesn't look like any theatrical print you've ever seen. How long have you been going to the movies? I've been going since around 1952 and I know what carbon arc projection looked and looks like, I know how prints were timed for that light source, I know what Technicolor prints looked like (I had one in 16mm for this film) and Eastman, too. And when you see a vintage color print that was timed for carbon arc but shown with today's light source (or any era post the change from carbon arc) of course it doesn't look right.

I also know that no one is going to change anyone's opinion on this. I think Fox is doing an absolutely perfect job for the most part. And I'm sure they see the complainers' posts and I thank them for doing their job and not bowing to the handful of complaints, as Kino did with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, with the result being they came out with The Ugly and all the complainers hated THAT, too. In other words, it's a no-win situation with certain films from certain studios and all they can do at Fox is use their notes and do their wonderful work and just know that the same twenty people are always going to trot out the "blue lean" or "TEAL" comments.
Oh come on now. I think this transfer is great, but even I noticed a blue tinge throughout the film, and yes I took into account the ambient light for some scenes.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Brent Reid