The formula for romantic comedies hasn't changed in one single way since 'Pillow Talk' hit theaters in 1959. Even before Doris Day and Rock Hudson got together on their party line, romantic comedies have been following the same rigid formula. Even though 'Pillow Talk' is one of the most memorable and thought about romantic comedies, it's important to point out that when compared to many other movies of the same ilk, it's certainly following the firm guidelines set by the genre.
Today, telephones have become widely popular, everyone has them (most likely in your pocket), but in 1959 some people had to share them. In a day and age of mobile phones we might forget that a few decades ago people used to have to share their telephone service with strangers. Someone could pick up a phone in a completely different home and hear intimate conversations they weren't supposed to be listening in on, like forced social networking.
Jan Morrow (Day) is a budding interior decorator. She likes her lonesome life and feels living independently from a man gives her freedom. She shares her party line with the suave-talking Brad Allen (Hudson). Brad seems to always be on the phone with a different girl at all hours of the day. Jan's line is constantly busy while Brad serenades foolish young ladies as he writes them "their very own song." Jan nags Brad to get off the phone, he thinks she's a shrill harpy. Then Brad finds out that Jan is quite the looker, so he concocts a scheme worthy of Barney Stinson. He creates a fake identity, Rex Stetson from Texas, hoping to lure Jan in with his rugged good looks and oozing charm.
From there, 'Pillow Talk,' like the innumerable other romantic comedies out there, follows the same tracks that all rom-coms must follow. The three acts never waver from the formula. In the first act Jan and Brad meet. In the second act they begin to fall for each other. The third act contains that fight that all rom-coms must have before the inevitable Happy Ending Kiss.
Sure Rock Hudson is charming and Doris Day is every bit as effervescent as we always remember. Sure 'Pillow Talk' is fondly remembered by just about anyone who has ever seen it, but I just couldn't shake the hard and fast formulaic approach. Some audiences crave that turgid approach to love, but I think I've grown weary of it. Give me a simple love story like 'Before Sunset' instead of two people embroiled in the wackiest of hijinks until the predictable ending smacks you in the face.
While I found much of the movie amusing in a "This Doesn't Entirely Drive Me Nuts" sort of way – Tony Randall's bit as Jan's rich, kind-of-creepy stalker is very funny – I found that I was merely watching the movie pass me by. I was annoyed with the idiotic subplot of a moronic doctor thinking that Brad Allen could indeed be pregnant, but who cares right? This is a romantic comedy. We're supposed to laugh and wait for the two lovebirds to get together. All that was missing was a "Happily Ever After" sign at the end to let us know everything turned out hunky-dory.
We have a tendency to look back on older, popular movies like this and see nothing but cinematic roses. When stripped down, 'Pillow Talk' really isn't all that original or clever. It's a star vehicle for the two leads who might as well be played by Bradley Cooper and Renee Zellweger in this time period. Excluding the idea of party lines 'Pillow Talk' is a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that amuses, but doesn't really engage.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Pillow Talk' is being released under the 100th Anniversary Collector's Edition label from Universal. It comes in a Digi-book format. The Digi-book contains 47 full-color pages which have everything from publicity stills to samples of the script printed on them. A BD-50 has been included along with a DVD copy of the movie. The release is a region free one.
Universal has done a splendid job restoring this film. 'Pillow Talk' has been provided with a 1080p picture which has been framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Barring a few nitpicks, the end product here will certainly delight fans when they pick it up.
Fine detail is very noticeable this time around. I remember watching this movie on DVD once and VHS numerous times (my mother was a big fan of it when I was growing up). Needless to say this Blu-ray blows either of those previous presentations out of the water. Here you're able to actually see the intricate lines on Rock Hudson's rugged face and the lacy ruffles on Doris Day's outdated nightgowns. Each shot has a very lifelike texture to it even though the whole film feels a bit diffused.
Like many older movies brought to Blu-ray, colors frequently fluctuate during a scene. They subtly appear one shade lighter and then one shade darker as the movie goes along. It isn't overly distracting, but it is certainly noticeable. While much of the movie does feature some great detail, there are also a lot of really soft shots that creep in amongst the wonderful detail. Blacks seem dark, but aren't extremely inky. Colors shine, however. DNR looks like it's been kept to a minimum too. There were a few times where faces looked a little too smooth, but I never encountered any wax statues when watching the movie. It isn't a perfect transfer, but you can tell care has been applied to get 'Pillow Talk' looking the best it ever has.
I was quite impressed with the DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix that was provided for this release. Sure you don't get the immersive feel you get with surround sound, but the high-def mono track certainly gives 'Pillow Talk' a very worthy audio presentation.
Dialogue is always clear and I never heard any hisses or other audio faux pas during the entire runtime. Universal has taken great care with remastering this audio. I did feel that the dialogue, at times, seemed a bit overbearing, but then I'm just splitting hairs. The clarity was surprisingly good considering the age of the source. Sound effects are on the shrill side, but most older movies sound that way just because of how they were recorded. The movie's soundtrack is given ample room to work its magic without stepping on the toes of Day or Hudson.
Overall, audiophiles and fans of the movie are going to be happy with what Universal has done here.
I can see the hate mail flowing in now. Let me just say that I didn't hate 'Pillow Talk' I was simply ambivalent about it. To call it a classic comedy is arguable, that's all I'm going to say. Sometimes it's considered heresy to put older films under the microscope, but often it's needed. The leads are congenial enough. The hijinks are just as wacky and as unbelievable as any other rom-com we've ever seen. 'Pillow Talk' wasn't the first to do what it did, and it certainly wasn't the last. If you're a huge fan of formulaic tales of twitter-pating love then this is the movie for you. However, I will admit that the care Universal has put into the audio and video really shine through. The features are a bit thin, since many of them are reruns of what we've already seen on previous releases, but this one still gets a light recommendation. I may not have been as enthralled with it as many fans, but I do recognize a quality release when I see one.