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    At Long Last Love Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox

    Jun 07 2013 06:51 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Having experimented with several other genre films (most of them successful but not the period drama Daisy Miller which immediately preceded this movie) Peter Bogdanovich decided next to tackle the movie musical, a genre that had pretty much been given up for dead in 1975 (though Barbra Streisand could still bring in crowds for Funny Lady and later A Star Is Born). Rather than commissioning an original score, Bogdanovich set his story in the 1930s and used the song catalog of Cole Porter in crafting his sophisticated musical trifle At Long Last Love. Cut unmercifully before its disastrous theatrical release, the film is now being seen in its definitive director’s cut. It’s not an undiscovered gem, but there are certainly pleasures to be found among the dross that sometimes weighs down this musical bauble.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    • Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 3 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 06/04/2013
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 3/5

    Bored but wealthy New York playboy Michael Oliver Pritchard III (Burt Reynolds) meets musical comedy star Kitty O’Kelly (Madeline Kahn) and falls for her because she makes him laugh. Coincidentally, penniless heiress Brooke Carter (Cybill Shepherd) meets Italian gambler Johnny Spanish (Duilio Del Prete) at the racetrack where she loses her last few hundred dollars and he makes a bundle. When Brooke and Johnny attend Kitty’s opening night and Brooke and Kitty are reunited as old school chums, Oliver invites them all to his country home. While attending a party together, the couples switch partners, and Kitty and Johnny are so hurt about being abandoned by their amours that they concoct a plan to pretend to be madly in love with one another to make Brook and Ollie jealous. But the trick might just lead to the real thing as feelings become tangled with all of them.

    Peter Bogdanovich’s gossamer thread of a story is actually acted out in the film’s opening credit sequence by a pair of waltzing couples on a music box (one of several moments of real chic which he manages), and in spite of eighteen song numbers interspersed among the four principals and three supporting players, the story remains decidedly too thin to prop up this much song and dance. The director is also at the mercy of having two of his four leads not up to the full demands of a musical comedy (which the director insisted was to be sung live while filming as many early sound musicals were). To accomplish this successfully requires not only song and dance skills but that necessary but indefinable element, charm. Madeline Kahn certainly has it in spades: at ease with joking, singing, dancing, and ad-libbing (which the director seems to have encouraged even when the comments spill into other people’s singing). And despite language barriers which he handles rather astutely, Duilio Del Prete has it, too, even if his singing occasionally drifts a little below pitch. But the director’s two top-billed leads are both lacking in some essentials: Burt Reynolds confuses nonchalance with sophistication and ends up as something of a cipher while his lack of sustain in his singing makes all of his songs sound unimpressively the same. Cybill Shepherd has the better voice of the two by far: she can maneuver from her chest to her head voice, but a lack of training makes those leaps unwieldy and unattractive sometimes, and she’s completely lacking the kind of charm that would make her spoiled, snippy heiress character endearing rather than tiresome. The two supporting performers John Hillerman as Pritchard’s valet and Eileen Brennan as Brooke’s maid certainly carry a good deal of the droll, dry comedy of the piece, and their extended “But in the Morning, No” which starts and stops about three times during the course of the film while she pursues him and weakens his resolve is one of the movie's highlights.

    The trouble with writing a jukebox musical is that songs from a catalog must be fit into a new narrative even though they weren’t originally written for it, and sometimes the fit isn’t particularly smooth. Each of the leads gets an introductory song, and each conveys the personality of its performer rather brilliantly: “Down in the Depths” for Kahn, “Tomorrow” for Del Prete, “Which” for Shepherd, and “Poor Millionaire” for Reynolds. Later numbers, however, like “Well, Did You Ev’ah” at the party and “I Get a Kick Out of You” which was an obvious gift from the director to his star Shepherd (they were an item at the time) since the rest of the numbers seem scrupulously divided among the leads to favor none of them aren’t as carefully integrated. Since most of these Cole Porter songs are acknowledged classics, it’s terrific that for the first time in movies we get to hear all the verses and encores of some of the classic tunes like “Friendship” and “You’re the Top.” And in the film’s very best sequence, each of the four stars gets to warble a different verse of “At Long Last Love” on the morning after their house party, a rare instance of chic staging from the director and unselfconscious performing from each of the actors.

    Because it’s set in the 1930s, the film’s Art Deco look in fashions and furnishings is a delicious feast for the eyes: everything’s in shades of black, white, gray, and cream which almost makes this a black and white film in color. But in the final analysis, despite all these expensive trimmings, this two-plus hour film with such a slight bittersweet story and almost twenty musical numbers is just too top heavy for its own good. Perhaps if some of the singing were better, perhaps if the actors were better dancers and could really get into a production number to offer some variety from the few slap-happy taps that they attempt sometimes, the film might be more appealing. But as it now stands, it’s a beautifully wrapped box with only a small, rather inexpressive present inside.

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Much of the film looks beautiful with very good sharpness, accurate color, and flesh tones that look very inviting. Blacks are nicely rendered, and all the white in the production design never blooms. But there are some soft shots, and there’s one sequence that looks different from the others where darker color timing crushes blacks and increases the grain level appreciably. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix combines the dialogue, music, and sound effects expertly into a single track that features very good fidelity and no age-related artifacts to spoil the sound quality.

    Special Features: 2/5

    Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.

    Theatrical Trailer (3:25, SD)

    6-Page Booklet: the Twilight Time-like insert includes lovely color stills from the movie, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s essay which offers an appreciation for the film’s accomplishments.

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    This is the most complete rendition of At Long Last Love that I’ve ever experienced. Every scrap of music I’ve ever heard seems to have been included in this director’s cut. While the film won’t likely be celebrated as a lost cinematic masterpiece, it’s lovely to have the movie looking and sounding as good as it’s possible for it to be.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:



    32 Comments

    Sounds like this will do very well. Thanks to the good people at Fox for their belief in the title. "You're The Top!"
      • classicmovieguy likes this
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    lukejosephchung
    Jun 08 2013 02:20 AM

    Special kudos and thanks to the late James Blakely and Mr. Shawn Belston at Fox for reviving this title as an authorized director's cut edition blu-ray...Peter Bogdanovich never imagined he'd get the opportunity to revisit this lost project and correct the abuse heaped by the studio back in 1975 in their merciless chopping of the film, but it's finally been done and we get to enjoy the results, flawed though it may still be...

    As noted in the thread about the press release, this "director's cut" may be the first time a fan edit has been used in place of the original cut by a major studio.

     

    In case you missed that, Bogdanovich charmingly tells the story here:

     

    http://blogs.indiewi...long-last-love#

    But I still don't know WHAT is in the extra five minutes and the suspense is KILLING me!!!!!!   :o

     

    Did we get "It Ain't Etiquette"?

     

    What's the 90 seconds Bogdanovich said he wanted included that has never been seen because it needed restoration? (Could this be the section that looks less than the rest?)

     

    Matt Matt Matt help a buddy out!!!!!!!  :D

    But I still don't know WHAT is in the extra five minutes and the suspense is KILLING me!!!!!!   :o

     

    Did we get "It Ain't Etiquette"?

     

    What's the 90 seconds Bogdanovich said he wanted included that has never been seen because it needed restoration? (Could this be the section that looks less than the rest?)

     

    Matt Matt Matt help a buddy out!!!!!!!  :D

     

    We did not get "It Ain't Etiquette."

     

    I'm guessing that scene that looks like it was pulled out of the scrap heap is the scene he's talking about.

    Boo!!

     

    Well thanks for letting me know Matt (this is why you're the top!)  ;)

     

    What's in the scene that looks like it was pulled from the scrap heap, may I ask?

    Boo!!

     

    Well thanks for letting me know Matt (this is why you're the top!)  ;)

     

    What's in the scene that looks like it was pulled from the scrap heap, may I ask?

     

    It's later in the movie. I'd have to go back and look; I've forgotten already. The hazards of age.

    Well so much for Les Miserables' claim to be the first movie to record the singing vocals live!

     

    I've never seen this movie, undoubtedly due to its unavailability not to mention it has been held in such low regard. I'm curious to see it though I don't know that I want to own it. I am a big fan of Bogdanovich.

    Photo
    haineshisway
    Jun 08 2013 09:09 PM

    As noted in the thread about the press release, this "director's cut" may be the first time a fan edit has been used in place of the original cut by a major studio.

     

    In case you missed that, Bogdanovich charmingly tells the story here:

     

    http://blogs.indiewi...long-last-love#

    The cut that was originally released was Mr. Bogdanovich's - he had final cut on the film.  When it proved to be the huge bomb that it was, then the studio began hacking away at it - I vividly remember the ads for the film changing almost daily - the first had "X number of great Cole Porter hits!  The next had a lower number and the number kept getting lower - it was really funny.

    Photo
    classicmovieguy
    Jun 09 2013 12:57 AM

    Ordered my copy yesterday and Amazon shipped it out during the night, but their stocks must have been cleaned out AGAIN because the product page now reads "In Stock June 11th".

     

    Either this title has been *really* popular (good to hear) or Amazon is only receiving small batches at a time...

    The cut that was originally released was Mr. Bogdanovich's - he had final cut on the film. When it proved to be the huge bomb that it was, then the studio began hacking away at it - I vividly remember the ads for the film changing almost daily - the first had "X number of great Cole Porter hits! The next had a lower number and the number kept getting lower - it was really funny.


    Just like the previous decades STAR! It disappeared in parts daily. If you saw it Friday, it was not the same film on Saturday.

    I know when I finally saw ALLL it was in its shortest release version. I had the two LP soundtrack before I saw the film and was disappointed so many songs were cut. None of the first run Theatres played the title in Jackson, MS. It ended up in a discount sub-run house. The operator of the theatre was so proud that he had a first run film. That was until he saw the weekend business.

    Yes, the movie I saw (which was first run) did not have all the songs that were on the soundtrack album, a great disappointment to me. At least now, all of those songs are here  plus a couple of others that didn't appear on that release.

      • ahollis likes this
    Wonder if its time for a release of the soundtrack as a CD?

    Wonder if its time for a release of the soundtrack as a CD?

     

    I would be on board with that. I always enjoyed the LP release even though I thought the movie had serious problems.

    Photo
    Lromero1396
    Jun 09 2013 08:43 PM

    Well so much for Les Miserables' claim to be the first movie to record the singing vocals live!

     

    I've never seen this movie, undoubtedly due to its unavailability not to mention it has been held in such low regard. I'm curious to see it though I don't know that I want to own it. I am a big fan of Bogdanovich.

    My Fair Lady was one of the first to do any live vocal recording.

    My copy is on it's way.

    I can't wait to see it again.

    Photo
    classicmovieguy
    Jun 09 2013 09:31 PM

    My Fair Lady was one of the first to do any live vocal recording.

    Judy Garland also performed a song live on-set for "I Could Go On Singing" in 1963.

    I've always thought that Doris Day and Howard Keel performed "I Could Do Without You" live while filming Calamity Jane. Certainly seems like on-set recording.

    Live singing isn't as uncommon as it seems.  If it works for the song, it's sometimes done on the set.  For example, Rosalind Russell sings "Mr. Goldstone" in Gypsy live.  And, of course, all those early talkie musicals were done live.

    Photo
    Eric Vedowski
    Jun 10 2013 04:34 AM

    According to Frank Capra's autobiography all the songs in "Riding High" (1950) with Bing Crosby were recorded live on set.

    Photo
    classicmovieguy
    Jun 11 2013 01:34 PM

    And as another person has already mentioned, for the film version of "My Fair Lady", Rex Harrison performed his songs live via a wireless microphone hidden inside his cravat.

    Watched this last night and not nearly as bad as I remembered it. A very different type of film that maybe time has been good to it. The seven leads are all energetic and Mildred Natwick is the scene stealer as always. Good to see Liam Dunn playing newspaper seller. He is another that takes up the whole screen when he is on.

    Watching Madeline Khan is infectious and allowed me to ponder what we missed by her untimely passing.

    I think it misses its mark trying to recreate the Astaire/Rogers films since, to me, the dancing is just ok. But then the stars were not hired for their dancing. They weren't hired for their singing either, but they actually do a very decent job with it.

    My list of movies not on DVD or Blu-ray is shrinking. By the way has there been any complaints that this is Blu-ray only?
      • Will Krupp likes this

    For me, Kahn, Natwick, and Brennen are the film's most valuable players.

      • ahollis likes this

    Great Review.  Thank you.  What a thoroughly enjoyable film. I saw this when it came out and liked it very much and could not understand the critical derision.  And then --- it disappeared.  Over the years I had to settle for my LPs of the soundtrack.

     

    We watched the new Blu-Ray last night and were thoroughly delighted and amused from start to finish. To see stars of this caliber, at the top of their form,  in this kind of material, would never happen today. Perfect? No. But it doesn't matter.

     

    I understand the "dark, grainy" scene, although I don't see why it couldn't have been restored along with the rest of the film. And what happened to the Twentieth Century Fox logo and opening titles at the beginning? Looks terrible.  Just nit picking. The film was a lot of fun, and I'm grateful to have it on Blu-Ray.

    Watched it last night.

    I think this is either the 4th or 5th cut that I've seen and I have to say that, to me at least, it is the definitive version.

    It seemed to flow better than ever.

     

    What a joy this Blu-Ray is.

     

    Picture quality and the mono sound ( even allowing for the stupid decision to record live) cannot be faulted.

    It is head and shoulders above every other version I've seen on Film, TV or Video.

     

    It's also wonderful to hear the Cole Porter background score complete and in Stereo.

     

    This is now one of my favourite Blu-Ray discs and I fully recommend it to all those who love fun and good music.

     

     

    Doug.

      • ahollis likes this