Wild young cowboy Bo decker leaves the Montanan ranch on which he was raised for (virtually) the first time ever, in order to enter a rodeo in Phoenix, Arizona. On the long bus ride there, he’s informed by his pal/guardian of sorts, Virgil, that he ought to use the trip to find himself a wife as well. The naïve Bo decides he’s going to do just that, but not any woman will do. He’s going to find himself an angel. And wouldn’t you know it, he sets his sights on a Hollywood-bound saloon singer named Chérie, played by Marilyn Monroe.
When we first meet Bo, you’d swear the boy had never even seen a woman before, much less successfully wood one. Coupled with his near total ignorance of social norms outside a ranch setting, I walked away from the film’s earliest scenes thinking that Marilyn Monroe may be a bit too much for this particular hayseed to handle. And yet he turns out to be too much for her! Unencumbered by social graces, Bo’s country bravado allows him to make an instant impression on Chérie, who dreams of stardom but finds herself instead working in a saloon for some verbally-abusive ass. Unfortunately for Chérie, the same bravado that attracted her to him in the first place quickly results in a forced engagement, as Bo decides he’s going to marry her. And although his unwavering persistence comes off as funny at first, we and Chérie come to realize that he intends to take her back to Montana even if it’s against her will.
Thus, after about an hour of his amusing shenanigans, the film takes a surprisingly dark turn as Bo becomes downright antagonistic toward Chérie. Ultimately, and more than a tad horrifically, his unremitting terrorizing of the poor woman results in him brazenly kidnapping her in public about an hour into the film. The tonal shift comes on suddenly, sure, but it’s certainly not unfounded. Although Bo feels justified in his actions, it’s absolutely no way for a man to behave. And while any other movie might find Cherie slowly coming to accept him for his faults and his social ineptitude, Bus Stop takes a decidedly more honest approach and gradually reframes his comedic conduct as wholly unacceptable in any context. This makes Bus Stop’s transition from comedy to drama incredibly natural, and asks us to reflect critically on the film’s prior events to fully appreciate it. Moreover, in order to adequately address Bo’s lunacy narratively, the cast of characters find themselves stranded overnight at a country diner/bus stop on their return trip to Montana, where Bo, Virgil, and their fellow bus passengers butt heads over Bo’s treatment of Cherie. This sequence accounts for the film’s remaining half hour and makes for a terrifically intense climax.
With its fascinating tonal shift, centrally-located climax, wholly satisfying conclusion, and terrific performances (particularly from Monroe, who portrays this particular ditzy blonde character with great dignity and nuance), Bus Stop simply demands repeat viewings. Fortunately, we’ll now be able to watch it time and time again in full HD as of July 30, 2013, when the film debuts on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The transfer here looks and sounds every bit as terrific as Fox’s other recent/concurrent classic releases such as Love Me Tender and Blood and Sand, and includes a collection of Marilyn Monroe trailers by way of special features.