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Second Chorus on Blu-Ray - a fan's review of Astaire film

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by David Weicker, May 22, 2013.

  1. David Weicker

    David Weicker Well-Known Member

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    Second Chorus, Fred Astaire on Blu-Ray.

    This was a 1940 Paramount production. It was Fred Astaire’s 13th film. It was re-issued in 1947 by Astor Pictures Corporation. Somewhere along the way, it fell into Public Domain.

    Fred’s co-stars were Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, and Artie Shaw.

    It is not one of Fred’s best films – it is probably a 3rd tier, or even a 4th tier Astaire. In my opinion, it is not his worst (as some stories put it). For my reckoning, that dishonor belongs to Let’s Dance. Even so, it has many moments to enjoy. Some very good music by Artie Shaw and his orchestra, some fine dancing by Fred, and some ok dancing with Fred and Paulette. Its not that there is anything ‘bad’ about the film, its more a case of not enough good stuff. It’s a decent 40’s flick

    Now, Second Chorus is making its debut on Blu-Ray courtesy of Film Chest, Inc. and HDCinemaClassics.com. This is only the second US release of a Fred Astaire musical on Blu-Ray (along with Easter Parade), and only the fourth in total (Europe has Funny Face and Daddy Long Legs).

    Now, since this is a PD film, there are multiple versions available – both on VHS, and on DVD. Most of them are pretty bad when it comes to quality. I’ve also seen the TCM broadcast, and it is OK, but not much of a step up from the PD DVDs.

    So, how does the Blu-Ray look and sound. In a word, good. Now, I am pretty forgiving when it comes to picture quality, but there were moments when it looked very good. My eyes are not good at spotting digital manipulation, so I can’t say if any was done. My guess is that probably some was done – whether it was fiddling with the contrast or the sharpness, but if left alone, I think this would have looked worse (or at least as bad as some of the prior DVDs). Supposedly this was a new scan from a fine-grain 35mm nitrate print. It is nowhere near pristine, or reference quality, but it looks a whole lot better than I ever expected, given what I’ve seen from other releases or tv broadcasts.

    As for the sound, it was very clean – I didn’t hear any hiss or static or muffled sound.

    I can’t say whether anyone will like the film. I am too biased towards Fred Astaire to speak objectively, but if you know and like the film, this is the version to buy. It is currently priced a bit higher than I expected – currently about $15, but the quality of the transfer warrants that, even if I didn’t expect the film itself to be in that price range.

    Now one additional note. I started by saying this was a Paramount production. The source for this print apparently is the Astor re-issue. The title cards say Astor, not Paramount (TCM’’s version says Paramount), So, this is not the original title card, it is the theatrical re-issue title card.

    Also include is a DVD of the film. I have not watched that, so I can’t comment on its quality.


    David
     
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  2. Malcolm Bmoor

    Malcolm Bmoor Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the review as it increases my anticipation for its arrival - I ordered it last week. About a year ago I threw away a dreadful DVD (can't remember whose) and having enjoyed the film look forward to seeing it.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Astaires-Fred-Adele-Kathleen-Riley/dp/0199738416/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369294616&sr=1-1&keywords=kathleen+riley
    As an Astaire admirer you'll enjoy this, which I've only just started to read. And if you don't know the obscure DAMSELS IN DISTRESS I saw it last week & love it.
     
  3. Eric Vedowski

    Eric Vedowski Well-Known Member

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    At one point Laureate in the UK was going to put out a version of "Second Chorus" including a deleted song (Me and the Ghost Upstairs) that they got from Hermes Pan himself. I believe the market was too saturated with PD versions. You can see the number on youtube.
     
  4. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Well-Known Member

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    I am a big fan of Fred Astaire and have recently bought Daddy Long Legs. I have not seen Second Chorus but may now pick it up because, as you say, there are not many of his films available on blu-ray.

    My favourite (and perhaps he deserves his own thread!) is Three Little Words which I would love to have on blu-ray. For me his best partner was Vera Ellen with, I think, Leslie Caron next.
     
  5. Bob_S.

    Bob_S. Well-Known Member

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    Glad to hear this made it to BR and with a decent transfer. I never would have expected this to get released this early or at all for that matter. Certainly a B picture for Astaire but I really like the "Ain't Hep To That Step" number.
     
  6. David Weicker

    David Weicker Well-Known Member

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    I would love to have all 31 of his musicals on Blu-Ray (even Let's Dance). But I don't realistically expect all of them to make the transition.I don't know who owns the rights to all his films. The majority fall under WB.I do think we will see the ten Fred & Gingers (9 RKO, 1 MGM). I also think we will see The Band Wagon (since it went through the Ultra-Rez process). I could see Twilight Time getting the two Hayworth titles (You'll Never Get Rich and You Were Never Lovelier) since they were both Columbia titles. Probably Holiday Inn, since has had several DVD releases and is deemed a good seller (and can be tied to Christmas).Beyond those is anyone's guess.David
     
  7. JoHud

    JoHud Well-Known Member

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    I'll probably wait for a second opinion on this one. Film Chest has a history of using way too much DNR on their video releases, though I hear their release of Suddenly is a curious exception (DNR'd, but not completely overboard). Hopefully this is another exception.
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    In addition to Fred's RKO and MGM output, I'd really love to see Blue Skies on Blu-ray.

    I also think Vera-Ellen was his best partner. #2 would be a close race for me between Cyd Charisse and Lucille Bremer. I really love the Astaire-Bremer numbers in Ziegfeld Follies and Yolanda and the Thief.
     
  9. classicmovieguy

    classicmovieguy Well-Known Member

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    I second Vera-Ellen being regarded as Fred's best dance partner. Recently watched "The Belle of New York" (1952), which has some absolutely stunning routines for the pair - Vera-Ellen even performs can-can kicks whilst balancing on the back of a horse (and Fred flies).
     
  10. Malcolm Bmoor

    Malcolm Bmoor Well-Known Member

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    I've just sent this email to FILM Chest, the producers of this new version of SECOND CHORUS

    Dear Film Chest,My copy of SECOND CHORUS arrived half an hour ago and I abandoned work to see some of it, because about a year ago I threw away a dreadful PD DVD and was looking forward to enjoying the film 'properly'.The moment the menu + music began (Blu-ray & DVD versions) I knew that the sound had been wrecked by someone who had no idea how to use digital noise reduction and manipulation.It's over processed to sound like a 40mps .mp3 with that characteristic undersea phasy unlistenable effect.I'm sure you've done a better job on the picture and the few minutes I saw seemed rather good but what's the point of an unlistenable musical?Had that digital process been simply switched off rather than mis-used by an incompetent engineer the results would have been infinitely preferable. The working process with CEDAR & everything else involves applying the processsing too far and then reducing it until the original is enhanced but not damaged.Sincerely,Malcolm Blackmoor
     
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  11. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't be stunned to see a blu release of his last musical, Finian's Rainbow. While it wasn't a big hit (musicals were out of fashion when it was released, and would have been improved by being 20 minutes shorter), it does have a few things going for it: major/well-known stars (Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele, Keenan Wynn), a name director (Francis Ford Coppola), and the fact that it's owned by a company that doesn't consider "catalog" to be a bad word (Warner).

    I'm not predicting it will happen, just that I wouldn't be surprised if it did.
     
  12. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Well-Known Member

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    I would also give a mention to Silk Stockings which I have watched recently. The picture quality of the DVD is very good and would look good on blu-ray. I have always preferred this film to The Bandwagon as I find Jack Buchanan and Oscar Levant very hard to watch. I also think Janis Paige is wonderful in Silk Stockings.
     
  13. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Well-Known Member

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    To those fans of Vera-Ellen I recommend the book 'Vera-Ellen: The Magic and the Mystery' by David Soren.
     
  14. Rob_Ray

    Rob_Ray Premium
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    While The Band Wagon remains my favorite post-Ginger Astaire film and perhaps my favorite MGM musical, I do think that Janis Paige is absolutely hilarious in Silk Stockings. ("There's no truth to the rumors. We're just good friends.") I'd gladly purchase either on bluray.
     
  15. verneaux

    verneaux Well-Known Member

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    WB controls most of the Astaire catalog. I think the reason we don't see more Astaire on Bluray is Astaire's widow Robyn. She has a stranglehold on the rights to any clips or extra material. I believe that Astaire felt that his work was being exploited and so coached his wife on never letting anything out for free. I can understand, but this makes it less attractive for film companies to release anything but a bare bones film release.

    Jo Loesser has a similar hold on her husband Frank's work. Which is why we have never seen a dvd of the wonderful Where's Charley? with Ray Bolger. Jo Loesser considers it an inferior score.
     
  16. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Well-Known Member

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    Warners could put out all the films they have released on DVD onto blu-ray. I would be satisfied to have 'bare bones' releases if this would speed things up. Perhaps the Archive is the future for blu-ray releases of his work.
     
  17. Rob_Ray

    Rob_Ray Premium
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    Fred Astaire's work can stand on its own. He doesn't need extras. And WB can still create an extra-laden package of his films by using the "Warner Night at the Movies" method of including a short, cartoon and newsreel with the feature, rather than anything that focuses on Astaire himself. Add a commentary track by Ava Astaire McKenzie, Miles Kreuger or any other musical historian and you're done.
     
  18. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Well-Known Member

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    My top three Vera-Ellen films:

    1. Three Little Words
    2. White Christmas
    3. The Belle of New York

    My top three Vera-Ellen dances:

    1. Nevertheless (Three Little Words with Fred)
    2. The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing (White Christmas with Danny)
    3. Thinking of You (Three Little Words with Fred)

    I could go on and on and on but will stop now!
     
  19. David Weicker

    David Weicker Well-Known Member

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    I listed the remaining film that IMHO had the likeliest chance of being released on Blu.The titles I would put at least likely (based purely on their DVD history) are:Let's Dance - no DVDA Damsel In Distress - only Warner ArchiveThe Sky's The Limit - only Warner ArchiveEvery other title is a candidate. And my guesses were just that - guesses.I agree with the extras - everything on prior DVD releases should be available. (frankly, I'd forego every other extra in the entire world if Robyn would allow the TV specials out)As for partners, well Ginger always tops my list. After her, I prefer either Cyd or Rita. (Vera is OK)
     
  20. Garysb

    Garysb Well-Known Member

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    I think anything that has been put out on DVD can be put out on blu ray. As with the recent Gangsters Classic set just released they could include what has already been released as extras in the DVD versions of the films. Before the economy went south there was talk that the Astaire Rogers films were headed for blu ray. It's not just Astaire that is under represented on blu. Gene Kelly's work as an actor has been limited in blu ray to Singin' In The Rain and the limited edition Cover Girl. Judy Garland to just the Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St Louis, Easter Parade, and A Star Is Born. Sadly as the years go by, there is less interest in these films or perhaps less people willing to pay for these films they can see on TV or stream from Netfix, Amazon prime, or the Warner Archive.
     

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