Don’t Bother to Knock – Review (Spoiler Free)

There will always be a debate over whether Marilyn Monroe could act or not, and when either side provides examples to defend their opinion, this film normally comes up. An unusual little film; it takes place over the course of one night, when a woman named Nell (Monroe) is given the task of babysitting a young girl in a hotel room, whilst the parents attend a function downstairs. Nell soon attracts the attention of Jed (Richard Widmark) who, just having been left by his girlfriend, immediately begins to pursue Monroe’s character, only to discover that she is rather emotionally disturbed. As I said before, Monroe divides opinion and if you have reacted negatively to her acting before, but are looking for a different side to her rather than the dumb blonde persona, then you should probably try watching The Misfits instead of this one. That’s not to say that she gives a bad performance here, she does well with what she is given, but therein lies the problem; this isn’t a good film. Considering the short running time (Approx 74 minutes), things take a long while to get going and when they do, Richard Widmark proves to be competent but strangely, rather dull. The film ambles through some motions and as our lead, he just ambles along with it. It’s an interesting film not because of its plot, but because of its eventual place in Hollywood history as Monroe’s first leading dramatic role.

Monroe really saves this film; any scene where she is absent feels lifeless and unnecessary, pretty much all other scenes are being used to set up an emotional close to the film, but it is one which doesn’t wind up carrying any emotional weight. As events unravel a lot of the tension hangs on Monroe’s character to become chilling and threatening, but it is a difficult thing to make an emotionally disturbed babysitter thrilling enough and the script just isn’t up to the task. Monroe does well enough with these parts but she is far more effective when showing her character’s emotional vulnerability. Marilyn feels very genuine in her emotional scenes and is definitely this film’s soul. It aims to be a thriller, but succeeds more as a tragic, sad little film.

Really this film serves as a curiosity piece; it’s interesting to see a possible alternative direction for Monroe’s career, one which never took off and I kind of wish it had. It also features Anne Bancroft’s first film role which is fun to see, she plays Jed’s girlfriend and is decent enough. Any modern viewer brings a whole lot of additional knowledge to the film regarding Monroe’s own emotional problems, I guess this adds to the experience, however I was convinced enough by her performance to momentarily push all that to one side. It’s a good film to watch if you have an interest in either Hollywood’s or Monroe’s history but it isn’t much beyond that. If you’re looking for your first Marilyn film, don’t make it this but instead, either Some Like It Hot or The Misfits.

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7 comments

  1. Interesting post, I agree the debate of her talent will be ongoing. I haven’t seen this one but will give it a look to see what I think.

  2. Thanks, have you seen The Misfits?

    1. Yes but it was ages ago, thanks for reminding me of it though.

  3. Just googled this film after a re-watch and found this. I love your review since it is pretty much spot on. Marilyn could act!

    1. Cheers! Have you seen The Misfits? That’s further proof in my eyes that Marilyn could act, and very well in fact.

  4. I’ve seen The Misfits and Bus Stop. They both prove your point indeed, my friend.

    1. Yeah Bus Stop does as well. I should see that again, it’s been quite a while.
      Thanks for commenting!

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