DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Meet Me In St. Louis (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 26, 2004.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Meet Me In St. Louis – Two Disc SE





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1944
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 113 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
    Audio: DD Mono / DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $26.99
    Package: Three panel Digipak with cardboard slipcover





    The Feature:
    On April 6th, fans of Judy Garland should be ecstatic with the celebrated 60th Anniversary release of Meet Me In St. Louis. The film will be released as one of Warner’s coveted Two Disc Special Editions sporting an all new remastered picture from newly restored film elements and a bevy of special features to complement the 1944 MGM classic. In addition to the feature film, For Me And My Gal, In The Good Old Summertime, Love Finds Andy Hardy and Ziegfeld Girl, will all be released on the same day.

    It was once commented that Judy Garland was “The biggest thing to happen to the MGM musical”. The actress was a long time contract player for MGM, which was maintained up until 1950 when she decided to leave the studio to return to Broadway. In 1968 she admitted to Johnny Carson that MGM had been the single greatest influence on her career. She was undoubtedly responsible for much of the success the studio achieved and sustained from the mid 30’s and into the late 40’s.

    The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli who wound up marrying Judy Garland just after the production of the film was completed. Even though she had initially agreed to do the project, just after her recent separation from her first husband and her reluctance to undertake yet another teenager role, she approached MGM Studio head, Louis B. Mayer and pleaded with him to allow her out of the project but he was much too shrewd to allow the young actress out of her agreement knowing her presence would virtually guarantee the film’s success. Needless to say, it did.

    Set in 1903, Esther Smith (played by a 21 year old Judy Garland) is the highlight of this musical which focuses on the all-American Smith family and their experiences during the year leading up to the St. Louis World’s Fair. Esther is infatuated with the boy next door, John Truett (played by Tom Drake) and is devastated by the news of her father (played by Leon Ames) to learn they are about to move to New York City so he can head the office of his law practice. However, on Christmas Eve, they decide not to move which results in Esther being able to pursue her neighborly feelings and allows the family to attend what will be the biggest event in the history of the city, the upcoming 1904 World’s Fair.

    Mom is played by Mary Astor and younger sister, Tootie is played by Margaret O’Brien. The film would go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards but was unsuccessful in all categories although Margaret O’Brien was awarded the Honorary Juvenile Award, a miniature Oscar statuette which was awarded only to child stars up until 1960. This movie is also legendary for some of the songs which were performed such as "The Trolley Song", "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "The Boy Next Door", and the duet with Garland & O'Brien, "Under The Bamboo Tree".

    This is one of three Special Editions to have been given what Warner Brothers refers to as a “Ultra Resolution” process (the previous two were Singin’ In The Rain and The Adventures Of Robin Hood). It’s a process that’s described by WB which allows viewers to see parts of images that were not visible previously in sharper detail than conventional Technicolor release prints. From their press release:

    More than seventy years after the introduction of Technicolor, Warner Brothers Studios is employing the “Ultra Resolution” process that begins with scanning the original Technicolor 3-strip black and white “records” at extremely high (2k) resolution. The black and white records are then combined electronically to create the color images which are also electronically re-registered, steadied and cleaned before the final DVD’s are produced.



    Video:
    You’ve heard of “glorious Technicolor”…? Well let me tell you, this is a “glorious” sight to behold. It is absolutely breathtaking.

    Black levels are as dark as imaginable while whites were contrasted clean and crisp. Let’s talk about colors. I can only think of a handful of movies that look as visually stunning as this is in terms of colors. Needless to say, the film is full of extravagant costumes and set designs to allow the colors to be showcased and they look superb. “Lushishly vibrant”, really doesn’t do them justice.

    Image detail was also exceptionally impressive, particularly for a 60 year old film. Typical of the period, many of the Garland close-ups were a tad on the soft side but always looked incredibly impressive. There is also a great sense of dimensionality to the film which appears almost 3D like in many scenes, particularly when the girls are on the front porch overlooking Kensington Street. Absolutely gorgeous.

    There is a very slight and appropriate amount of grain present and the transfer looked virtually clean of any dirt, dust or scratches. There were some slight instances of shimmer which was only noticeable on a few of the facial shots but it didn’t persist nor was it particularly bothersome. I noticed some ever so slight haloing during the trolley car scene but it was minimal and I also noticed some very slight artifacting which was visible when looking at the exterior of the houses from the street. These were barely noticeable and worthy of only an observation rather than that of criticisms.

    This is an absolute vision of beauty. To put things into perspective, this is on par with last years release of The Adventures Of Robin Hood and falls just short of the other great MGM musical, Singin’ In The Rain and that’s high praise indeed.



    Audio:
    Not only is the original DD Mono track included, but WB has also supplied a newly remixed 5.1 track as well. Actually the menu indicates a 5.0 track, while the box indicates a 5.1 track, but clearly there is no LFE info to speak of.

    I listened to both tracks for the review. As somewhat of a purist, I was obviously most interested in the mono track. It was very limited, but it performed flawlessly. There was a slight hint of hiss but the track sounded very clean and untampered with. Sure, the track still sounds slightly thin but was never fatiguing nor did it become strained during any of the musical numbers etc.

    On the other hand, the 5.1 track was only slightly different but it did allow the front end to open up allowing for a somewhat enveloping and wider front soundstage, never sounding gimmicky or artificial, nor was any of the hiss present.

    I’m sure purists will want to stick to the Mono track that’s included but don’t be too quick to dismiss the newly created 5.1 track it does a superb and tactful job at pulling you in during many of the great musical numbers throughout this film.



    Special Features:
    Needless to say, this set is packed with special features. They are:


    Disc One:
    [*] An Introduction By Liza Minnelli who offers up some interesting tidbits about the film relating several stories from her mother and father (Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli) including Louis B. Mayer’s skepticism after hearing the initial storyline. Nice to have Liza do the introduction in light of it being her favorite film of her mothers. Duration: 04:59 minutes.
    [*] A Commentary By John Fricke, With Margaret O’Brien, Irving Brecher, Hugh Martin, Barbara Freed-Saltzman. This is basically narrated by Garland biographer John Fricke which includes other snippets and records from the rest of the participants which have been added in throughout the duration. Although he sounds a little stiff, Mr. Fricke obviously possesses a great deal of knowledge pertaining to Garland as well as MGM and does an admirable job at keeping this predominantly academic history lesson, most interesting. Great job!
    [*] Music Only Track. Fans of movie music scoring will be pleased with this all only music track feature. Duration: 113 minutes.
    [*] Up next is a Vincente Minnelli Trailer Gallery which boasts eight trailers from the great director. They are: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944 – the 1955 re-issue), Father Of The Bridge (1950), An American In Paris (1951), The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father (1963), Gigi (1958), The Bad And The Beautiful (1952), Brigadoon (1954), Designing Woman (1957). All of these look pretty darn good.


    Disc Two:
    [*] The first feature on disc 2 is Meet Me In St. Louis – The Making Of An American Classic which features tons of clips and interviews with many of the films participants, including the O’Brien’s Honorary Oscar acceptance speech and older footage of Vincente Minnelli. The feature delves into great detail pertaining to the set that was created on the back-lot as well as the set decorators and costumers. A solid feature. Duration: 30:46 minutes.
    [*] Hollywood: The Dream Factory Narrated by Dick Cavett, this is a great documentary on the MGM studio which starts with a bio on Louis B. Mayer and the history on the original Ben Hur leading to the studio’s “do it big, do it right” motto. It features many of the studios “assets” as well as the great films the studio produced through the golden age of film. Although it’s not necessarily related to the film specifically, its relevance and inclusion is appropriate. I’d never seen this before and it is my favorite feature on the disc. For fans of classics, this shouldn’t be missed. Duration: 50:27 minutes.
    [*] Becoming Attractions: Judy Garland is hosted by film historian Robert Osbourne, this is a quasi-biography on Judy Garland which is told by way of many film trailers through her collection of work while under contract at MGM.
    Duration: 46:09 minutes.
    [*] The next feature Meet Me In St. Louis TV Pilot, is the Pilot for the short lived TV show from 1966 – complete with laugh track... Duration: 26:31 minutes.
    [*] Bubbles is a Vitaphone short from 1930 thought to be some of the
    earliest footage of Judy Garland captured on film. Duration: 7:52 minutes.
    [*] Skip To My Lou is a rare 1941 “soundie” which features future Meet Me In St. Louis songwriting team Martin and Blane as part of a singing group known as the Martins. The arrangement performed is the same as the version they interpolated into their score of the film three years later. Duration: 3:12 minutes.
    [*] Audio Vault gives us two options. The first is an outtake of “Boys and Girls Like You and Me”, which was a number that was cut from the final cut of the movie done by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Also included is an audio only Lux Radio Theater Broadcast from Dec. 2nd, 1946.
    [*] And finally there is a Stills Gallery which features dozens of photos relating to the film and those who were involved in it’s production.

    There are a number of very good, highly informative special features on this disc, particularly the “Making Of” and MGM documentaries. Although there are some topics which overlap with the various discussions and featurettes, fans of this film will want to take most of these in.



    Final Thoughts:
    Without question this was not only one of the highlights of Judy Garland’s long and successful career but most certainly a highlight for the studio that became famous for the extravagance of such productions. It’s a very simple yet wholesome story of a regular family growing up which plays out like a Norman Rockwell painting.

    With a presentation that is absolutely wonderful complemented by a number of fabulous special features to keep you occupied for many hours, coupled by a film which might very well be one of the best musicals ever made, makes my decision to recommend this package a very easy one.

    Highly Recommended…!!!




    Release Date: April 6th, 2004
     
  2. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Thanks for the review, Herb. It looks Warners has hit another grand slam with their 2-disc SEs. I've actually never seen the movie, so to put it in the current spirit of March Madness, this is Blind Buy City, baby!
     
  3. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Great to hear the disc is of such high quality. I've been waiting to own this one for a long time.
     
  4. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    i'm excited as this will be my first viewing of the film also.

    great review Herb!
     
  5. Conrad_SSS

    Conrad_SSS Second Unit

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    WOW!

    Thanks to Herb for another outstanding and insightful review. It looks like Warner Brothers has hit another grand slam!

    I can't wait to pick this one up & all the rest of the Garland films that are coming our way next month.

    (Incidentally, PBS premiered a wonderful 2-hour AMERICAN MASTERS show about Garland a few weeks back that is must-see for anyone interested in her life and career.)
     
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Great work Herb, as always [​IMG] Can't wait for this.

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  7. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Herb-

    I just can't WAIT! OooohhAhhh. gonna have me a Meet Me in St. Louis DVD party!

    dave [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  8. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

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    Great Review Herb. Looking forward to a great new version of this classic film. [​IMG]
     
  9. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the review! This and In the Good Old Summertime are definite purchases for me.
     
  10. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    For the longest time I could not imagine a better version of this film than my 50th Anniversary CAV Laserdisc. This DVD seems to be it![​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] I can't wait to watch it. [​IMG]
     
  11. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Herb,

    I never saw this film either.

    Going to preorder it today. It sounds like
    a "must have" for anyone collection classic film.
     
  12. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    For the purposes of accuracy I'd personally would list the filmas Studio:MGM and add the line DVD Distributor: WB. WB during this period would never have put out a musical such as "Meet Me In St. Louis". They simply didn't have the talent to do so. Just my opinon of course.

    P.S. It's Richard "Rodgers" not "Rogers". A common mistake.
     
  13. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    I envy all of you who are going to see this for the first time.....it is arguably, the best film Judy Garland ever did (and this is coming from a hardcore Oz fan.) It is one of those films that you don't want to end; you feel as if you are a part of the family. You get the feeling you are young again, and the world is full of promise. And "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is a classic, and never more so than in its debut here. The movie is full of great humor that still works, and great sentimentality that never seems forced. And I dare anyone who watches this not to feel pure joy during "Skip to My Lou" and "The Trolley Song." "St. Louis" reminds you just why MGM was so great in the '40's, and why Hollywood is known for its magic.
     
  14. PaulBigelow

    PaulBigelow Stunt Coordinator

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    No thought needed here. Wonderful movie, wonderful music, wonderful Technicolor.
     
  15. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Screenwriter

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    This is one of my favourite films of all time, so I naturally will be picking this up! I envy you Herb, that you got to see it in advance! Long Live Judy Garland!

    Andy
     
  16. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Stunt Coordinator

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    FYI: That excellent American Masters PBS special that Conrad referenced above is tenatively set to be a bonus feature on Warner's release of Easter Parade next year...how 'bout that kids? [​IMG]

    Meanwhile, it sounds like we've got an excellent kick off to this first round of Judy reissues...Terrific job, Herb! Here's hoping you or one of your fellow writers won't be long in delivering a sneak peek at For Me And My Gal (next to Oz and Babes In Arms, it's one of my favorites).

    Jeffrey
     
  17. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I'm not really a fan of musicals but the special features on this DVD make it a "must have" for me!
     
  18. PaulEB

    PaulEB Stunt Coordinator

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    Sounds like another must for the collection. Thanks Warner Brothers!
     
  19. Josh Simpson

    Josh Simpson Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review Herb. Great job! Wow, this looks like a great disc. Original mono track and 5.1, isolated music track, and loads of extras. I don't own any musicals, but this one has a special place in my heart as I was in this musical in middle school and played the part of Pee Wee Drummond. A must have for me.
     
  20. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Cannot wait for this disc! It is truly one of the GREAT musicals. It's easily Judy's best film, next to The Wizard of Oz. It's just perfect.
     

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