Blu-ray Review Bye Bye Birdie Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Richard Gallagher, Aug 12, 2012.

  1. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    Bye Bye Birdie is an enjoyable, high-energy musical which has been given a gorgeous high-definition transfer and is now available in a limited edition Blu-ray release by Twilight Time. Not the least of its appealing qualities is a breakthrough, very sexy performance by Ann-Margret. The film is based upon a hit Broadway musical of the same name which opened in 1960. It successfully spoofs the teen idol phenomenon, the often strained relationships between teenagers and their parents, and even the Cold War.





    Bye Bye Birdie

    Studio: Twilight Time
    Year: 1963
    Rated: G
    Program Length: 112 minutes                  
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
    Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
    Subtitles: English SDH

    The Program

    Bye Bye Birdie is an enjoyable, high-energy musical which has been given a gorgeous high-definition transfer and is now available in a limited edition Blu-ray release by Twilight Time. Not the least of its appealing qualities is a breakthrough, very sexy performance by Ann-Margret. The film is based upon a hit Broadway musical of the same name which opened in 1960. It successfully spoofs the teen idol phenomenon, the often strained relationships between teenagers and their parents, and even the Cold War.

    Although the Broadway musical focused primarily on the adults, the film opens with a seductive and compelling solo singing performance by high school student Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret), who is lamenting the fact that heartthrob singer Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) has been drafted into the U.S. Army. This number, which was not part of the Broadway show and was written especially for the film, sends a message that Bye Bye Birdie is going to be Ann-Margret's film, notwithstanding the appearance of many other fine actors.

    The fact that Conrad Birdie has been drafted is devastating news to teenage girls everywhere, but no one is more disappointed than New York City songwriter Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke). Albert, who has been down on his luck, has written a song which he has been hoping to have Conrad record, but it now is apparent that Conrad will not be seeing a recording studio anytime soon. Albert's accountant gives him the bad news that he is broke, and the songwriter fears that his secretary/girlfriend, Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh), is going to leave him for a new job. Albert and Rosie have been dating for six years, but a wedding does not appear to be in the cards because Albert is domineered by his widowed mother, Mae (Maureen Stapleton).

    However, Rosie has no intention of leaving Albert. In fact, she has gone to see television show host Ed Sullivan with an idea. Why not give Conrad Birdie a chance to say goodbye to all of his female fans on Sullivan's show? Rosie's pitch is that she will pick out a Midwestern member of Conrad's fan club to appear on the program. Conrad will then kiss her farewell on live television, a symbolic smooch for all of his female fans who are watching. This appearance also will boost Albert's fortunes, because Sullivan agrees to let him write a new song for Conrad to sing on the show.

    Kim is thrilled when she learns that she has been chosen, but her father Harry (Paul Lynde) is skeptical. Even more dubious is Kim's boyfriend, Hugo Peabody (teen idol Bobby Rydell in his first film role), who has just pinned Kim and does not like the idea of her being kissed by another man. Arrangements are made to have a remote feed from Kim's hometown in Ohio, but the plans are thrown into question when Conrad and his entourage make an audacious entrance which shocks and scandalizes the town's leading citizens.

    Bye Bye Birdie features a number of well-known songs which were written for the show by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams. Among them are "Put on a Happy Face" (sung by Van Dyke and Leigh); "Kids" (sung by Van Dyke, Lynde, Stapleton, and Bryan Russell, who plays Kim's young brother); and "A Lot of Living to Do" (sung by Ann-Margret, Rydell, and Pearson). The film also includes some well-executed dance numbers, including one in which Janet Leigh hoofs it in a meeting room populated by fez-adorned Shriners.

    The film is expertly directed by veteran director George Sidney (Pal Joey, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate, Viva Las Vegas, etc.). Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh are excellent in their roles, but Paul Lynde really stands out as the amusingly neurotic father of Kim. Bobby Rydell is only adequate as Hugo, although he does demonstrate some surprising talent as a dancer. Jesse Pearson is fine as Conrad, and why he did not go on to have a more successful career is something of a mystery (before he died of cancer at the age of 49 he directed two hard-core adult films). The undeniable star of Bye Bye Birdie is Ann-Margret. Sure, she does not look like a high school student (she was a few weeks shy of her 22nd birthday when the film was released), but who cares?). She manages to simultaneously project innocence and irresistible sexuality, all within the confines of a G rating (obviously, the film was not rated upon its release - I assume that the G rating was given upon a re-release).

    The Broadway musical was inspired by the induction of Elvis Presley into the Army in 1958. By the time the film was released in the spring of 1963, the rock 'n' roll scene was undergoing profound changes. The Beatles had already begun their string of chart-topping singles in the U.K. and in less than a year they would be appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show while largely supplanting American teen idols on the Billboard charts. Nevertheless, even today Bye Bye Birdie does not feel like an anachronism, although younger audiences may be puzzled by the mocking of Russians. The film is a lot of fun, it has more than few catchy tunes and impressive production numbers, features an outstanding cast, and includes an eye-catching, memorable performance by Ann-Margret.

    All Twilight Time releases are limited to a run of 3,000 copies. The Blu-ray disc of Bye Bye Birdie can be ordered directly from Twilight Time while copies last.

    The Video

    The 2.35:1 1080p Blu-ray presentation of the Panavision image is nothing short of spectacular. The picture is consistently sharp and the bright, vivid colors almost leap off the screen. I saw no evidence of dirt or damage. As is typically the case with Sony titles, Bye Bye Birdie has retained an appropriate level of film grain and is free of excessive DNR and other digital anomalies. The framing appears to be accurate. Contrast is strong, black levels are solid, and shadow detail is excellent. Many viewers will recognize that much of the filming was done on Universal's lot. I do not have the 1999 DVD available to direct comparison, but I cannot imagine that it looks nearly as good as this Blu-ray.

    The Audio

    The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack does a wonderful job of reproducing the lively soundtrack. The musical numbers are given a wide and very pleasing soundstage and the soundtrack is free of distortion. Dialogue is clear and always understandable. English SDH subtitles are available.

    The Supplements

    As is usual with Twilight Time titles, the extras for Bye Bye Birdie are limited. We have the original theatrical trailer, which is in very good shape, and a teaser trailer which focuses exclusively upon Ann-Margret.

    The only other special feature is the isolated score track. It is not all music, however. The isolated track includes sound effects such as footsteps, crowd noise, traffic, etc.

    The Packaging

    The single disc is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case. Included is an informative, colorful booklet written by the always reliable Julie Kirgo. She notes that both Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh were unhappy with director Sidney's decision to de-emphasize the roles of the adults in the film.

    The Final Analysis

    Bye Bye Birdie is a highly entertaining musical which has been give first-rate Blu-ray treatment by Sony and Twilight Time. Fans of the film should have no reservations about picking up this release.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: August 14, 2012
     

     
  2. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Thanks, great job. I am now really looking forward to the title arriving tomorrow. It appears that the extras were the same as on the DVD or at least the edition I own or sometime this week owned.
     
  3. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    I knew Onna White, the choreographer of the film.
    She mentioned that the title number , sung by Ann Margret, against a blue screen, was added at the last minute. and was not staged by Onna.
    Columbia refused to pay for thenumber, so George Sidney paid for it himself.
    Ann sang it against a blue screen, because behind her was to be a newspaper montage of teens screaming what they would sacrifice for Birdie.
    But Sidney ran out of money, and it remained sung against the blue screen. However, the trailer has a test shot of Ann singing with a newspaper background !!!
    Anyway, this was ended so late in production, Onna Whit eknew nothing about it.
    She told me how shocked she was ehen she went to the premiere and there was a beginning to the film that was all new to her.
     
  4. jauritt

    jauritt Stunt Coordinator

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    Speaking of the newspaper montage, I just took a good look at a screencap of the "Conrad Birdie Drafted!" headline on the newspaper shown at the beginning of the movie - the article associated with the headline has nothing to do with Conrad Birdie. I guess back in '63 they never figured anyone would ever discover that or, if they did, care about it.
     
  5. TheVid

    TheVid Stunt Coordinator

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    Glad to hear the Twilight Time release is a dazzler. The prelude and epilogue with Ann-Margret belting out that title tune really did it for me when I saw this in a theater as a kid, and I have no qualms about the movie being shifted as a vehicle for her. I ended up with all her 60's recording sessions for RCA, where she was, at the time, their primo female pop star - and a remarkably good one.
    There are many pleasures in Sidney's BIRDIE, and I can't wait to listen to all those wonderful songs again this week, but the sex-kitten implications still loom largest for me.
     
  6. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    I didn't know that about the planned newspaper background for Ann-Margret's title song. Isn't it amazing how that stark image became such a powerful iconic one. You have to wonder if the background would have somehow lessened the impact a little bit over the years.
     
  7. Everett Stallings

    Everett Stallings Supporting Actor

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    This movie is great fun!
     
  8. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Holy moley. I just received it, and sampled several scenes.

    It looks -- and sounds -- MAGNIFICENT.
     
  9. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    So, having said that, whoever was waiting to chime in and tell me it doesn't really, there's your cue!
     
  10. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    Another interesting trivia fact: If you're wondering why Ann-Margaret has Yogi Bear and other Hanna-Barbera product plugs obsessively plastered all over her teen bedroom, director George Sidney had another tie-in deal to work with H-B at the time...Which connection eventually led to the well-remembered "Ann-Margrock" episode of the Flintstones. :)
    I remember seeing our high-school drama club put on the stage musical, and was disappointed to see how many musical numbers the movie cut, just so they could cram in the stupid plot of Van Dyke wanting to be an inventor. I can think of at least two ("All-American Boy"), but there must have been three.
     
  11. Dee Zee

    Dee Zee Second Unit

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    There was a Mad Men episode that used the opening of the film with a client wanting an ad based on that. So the Ad people film a copy cat version but the client rejects it as too sexy.
     
  12. KPmusmag

    KPmusmag Supporting Actor
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    Actually, there were five: An English Teacher (Rosie sings to Albert in first office scene), A Normal, Healthy, American Boy (Albert and Rosie trying to deflect negative publicity), What Did I Ever See in Him? (Rosie and Kim sing about their disappointments with their respective boyfriends), Baby, Talk to Me (Albert sings to Rosie over the phone when she gives him the silent treatment), Spanish Rose (Rose sings in frustration at Albert's mother - works only if Rosie is played as a Hispanic character).
    I like the movie and have it on order; it is colorful and fun and has terrific actors. But I have to admit that the hyperactive turtle and orchestra nearly derail it for me. IMHO, the script of the stage show ties things up in a neater package that makes more sense. Still, I am pleased to hear that this is a quality disc and I look forward to it.
     
  13. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    Like the "Producers" movie musical, I take it more as archival footage of famous Broadway performances than an actual movie--
    Dick Van Dyke as Albert and Paul Lynde as Dad are on the list of Broadway characters so identified with their casting, you can't do the roles anymore without subconsciously imitating them, so if we had to have any movie version for historical posterity... :D
     
  14. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Columbia also released HEY THERE, IT'S YOGI BEAR (1964) and A MAN CALLED FLINTSTONE (1966). Both Hanna-Barbera and Columbia had an ongoing relationship all through the 60's since Screen Gems, owned by Columbia, was the original syndicator of all of H-B product from the time they left MGM until the 70's, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound, etc. Not sure it was a George Sidney tie-in as much as it was a Columbia tie-in. As it would be better for Columbia to use H-B characters than say Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse.
     
  15. Virgoan

    Virgoan Second Unit

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    That's interesting, Joe, but I don't think Onna would have had anything to say about it even if she had still been on the film payroll.
    It wasn't a dance. It was Ann-Margret on one of those moving treadmill-like thingies quick-walking/hopping/lurching toward the camera and singing and swaying and being all sultry.
    No dance steps at all that I remember.
     
  16. bujaki

    bujaki Screenwriter

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    I very much enjoyed this movie as a teen. Then I bought the Original B'way Cast album and realized how much good music had been cut for the film version. Worse still, imo, was the casting of beautiful and talented Janet Leigh in the role of Rosie, originally a Hispanic character (Rosita) played on B'way by Chita Rivera, a singer and dancer. And both Chita (not a household name) or Rita Moreno (an Oscar winner for West Side Story) were available and could have been cast, thus preserving the true essence of the plot.
    Later on I saw a professional production of the show and was surprised at how much dancing had been lost as well in the transition to film.
    Nevertheless, I should be receiving the BD today and look forward to enjoying it for what it is, particularly after such glowing reviews.
     
  17. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    Dick Van Dyke says much the same in his recent autobiography. He recounts how a VERY pissed Janet Leigh cornered George Sidney in the lobby after the premiere demanding to know where the new scenes had come from.
     
  18. jseabough

    jseabough Agent

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    Got my copy today. Looks great.
     
  19. bestactor

    bestactor Auditioning

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    Does anyone know if the original theatrical release version of the Columbia logo for Bye Bye Birdie exists anywhere? Originally Bye Bye Birdie opened with Columbia holding the torch but she morphed into Conrad Birdie during the music before Ann Margret appeared. I remember this from my very first time watching in the theatre. I thought it was hilarious and immediately established the satirical comic tone for the whole movie. It stayed this way for TV broadcasts for about 10 years or so. Someone at Columbia must have really found this insulting because all video releases now have the sappy animated hearts. Also the credits have been shown in various states--often white instead of the original yellow. Can someone comment on the Blu-ray release about these elements?
     
  20. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    Watched mine today. Yeah, it's good and grainy--and as Kim and Hugo said, "That's the way it should be!"
    This is probably the best Panavision film I've ever seen on blu-ray. Whoever restored it worked their asses off, I can tell you that. And the sound is even better. Ann-Margret sounds like she's singing right there, live in your living room.
     

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