When it rains it pours. Gene Kelly and Stanely Donen’s musical masterpiece makes its debut on Blu-ray with an impeccable video transfer, great lossless audio track, and a fantastic set of special features. Release Date: July 17, 2012 Studio: Warner Home Video Year: 1952 Rating: G Running Time: 1:42:40 MSRP: $84.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video AVC: 1080p high definition 1.37:1 Standard and high definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 1.0, German 1.0, Italian 1.0, Castellano 1.0, Portuguese 1.0, Czech 1.0, Polish 1.0 Various Subtitles English SDH, French, German, Italian SDH, Castellano, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Magyar, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish Various The Feature: 5/5 Considered by many (including this reviewer) to be the greatest film musical to come out of Hollywood, “Singin’ in the Rain” has so much going for it, it’s hard to know where to begin. Conceived by MGM Studios producer Arthur Freed, written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanely Donen, the film is set in 1927 as the movie industry is about to experience a massive revolution with the introduction of “the talkie” – a moving picture with sound. It stars Kelly as Don Lockwood, a celebrated silent film star learning how to adapt to the new technology; Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown, his longtime friend and musical partner; and Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden, an up-and-coming actress tailor-made for the new era of movie making. Jean Hagen portrays the film’s primary antagonist – Lina Lamont, Don’s dimwitted and self-serving co-star, who will ultimately find it hard to survive in the world of talking pictures. With 1920s Hollywood as its backdrop, the movie is a pitch perfect send-up of that era’s movie making industry and celebrity culture; since many of those elements remain to this day, the movie has kept amazingly well over the last 60 years. As celebrity image-making, our fascination with the famous, and the influence of technology on film don’t seem like they’ll be going away any time soon, the movie will probably remain relevant for a long time to come. Viewed as a purely song-and-dance piece, the film is a phenomenal showcase of Kelly’s skills as a singer, actor, and dancer / dance choreographer, epitomized by his iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” number. It’s also a fantastic vehicle for O’Connor and Reynolds, who not only keep up, but at times verge on overshadowing him (see O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” routine). Hagen’s role is kind of thankless, but without it the film would certainly lose many of its best comedic moments. A too-brief appearance by dancer Cyd Charisse also stands as one of the most indelible performances in film musical history. The songs used in the film, the majority of whose lyrics were originally written by Freed for previous MGM movies, are also cannily selected and integrated into the story. Though the term “jukebox musical” has a certain undistinguished air to it, there’s not many examples of one done so well or so memorably. So much so that most are surprised the songs didn’t originate with the film, though now they’ve been certainly immortalized by it. No doubt there’s plenty of competition for the title of “best” musical, but “Singin’ in the Rain” is definitely my favorite for its clever, and still-relevant, story combined with incomparable song and dance numbers. Outside of “Lawrence of Arabia” there’s probably no other title I’ve been looking forward to seeing on Blu-ray this year. Judging by the amount of activity in various HTF threads about the movie, I know I’m in good company. Video Quality: 4.5/5 The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer is properly framed at 1.37:1 and features excellent color depth and rendition, spot-on contrast, and impeccable black levels. Grain structure is intact, with a pleasing level of detail overall. There are some moments of softness, and a couple scenes (like the conversation following the “Good Mornin’” number) where it’s more apparent we’re looking at images generations removed from the original. However, most will be shocked to learn the entire transfer is up to four generations removed from the negative, as described in Robert Harris’s column on the subject. That the image looks as fine as it does after the loss of the negative, is indeed astonishing. If I were rating the video transfer based on the undoubted blood, sweat and technological wizardry behind it, it would get an easy “5/5.” But since I’m purely judging the final product and not the work put into it, a half-point from perfection seems like a fair estimation given the occasional, visible issues. Audio Quality: 4.5/5 Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear, detailed and intelligible. The musical numbers naturally benefit most from the lossless presentation, with strings and vocals sounding silky smooth. Surround activity is limited to some light support for the score, but sounds adequately balanced with the front channel activity. LFE is non-existent, but the track has a consistently pleasing depth and dynamic range. Purists may balk at the absence of a mono presentation, and indeed its omission is curious. However, the quality of the 5.1 track can’t be denied and most should find it quite pleasing. Special Features: 4.5/5 The extras include the majority of the items from the 50th Anniversary Edition DVD, along with a new hour-long documentary. Put together the collection of material is in-depth, diverse and entertaining. The items exclusive to the Collector’s Edition amount to several physical items – a hardcover book, poster reproductions, and – of all things – an umbrella. Given the price of the set, most will find the exclusives a bit useless (though I personally can’t resist a high quality book), so it’s fortunate Warner is also releasing a Blu-ray only version for those who can do without all the “stuff.” For those who own the previous DVD release, this will essentially give them an equivalent set of discs, minus the physical materials. Audio Commentary: Debbie Reynolds serves as the moderator for a commentary track assembled from interviews with Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, and author/historian Rudy Behlmer. Some of the clips used will likely sound familiar after watching the 2002 making-of documentary, though hearing them in context with the film does provide an added dimension to the information. Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation (50:41, HD): The new documentary features modern dancers, dance choreographers and directors talking about how the film inspired them and influenced their work. Analysis and evaluation of the sequences by dance professionals also provides some great insights into well-known scenes. Jukebox: Giving access to just the musical numbers, the jukebox feature allows the user to play all 17 selections, or pick and choose favorites. There’s also a function to save the selections for next time. Theatrical Trailer (4:07, SD) [DISC 2] Note: The second disc is a repressing of the second disc from the 50th Anniversary Edition DVD. Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM (1:26:03, SD): The feature-length documentary traces the history of the MGM musical, focusing on the work of producer Arthur Freed and his influence on films like “The Wizard of Oz,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “An American in Paris,” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” Produced in 1996, the piece features interviews with Freed’s daughter Barbara Saltzman, actors like Mickey Rooney and Leslie Caron, and creatives like Michael Kidd and André Previn. What a Glorious Feeling: The Making of Singin’ in the Rain (35:33, SD) Produced in 2002 and hosted by Debbie Reynolds, the documentary provides a history of the MGM musical, the inspiration for the film, its casting, and stories around the creation of key sequences. Interviews with Cyd Charisse, co-director Stanley Donen, and Reynold’s own anecdotes give the piece a great personal touch. Excerpts from Features Where the Songs Originated (50:12, SD): See how the songs used in the film were arranged and performed in previous movies. ”All I Do is Dream of You” from “Sadie McKee” (1934) ”Beautiful Girl” from “Going Hollywood” (1933) ”The Broadway Melody” from “The Broadway Melody” (1929) ”Broadway Rhythm” from “Broadway Melody of 1936” (1935) ”Good Morning” from “Babes in Arms” (1939) ”I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’” from “Broadway Melody of 1936” (1935) ”Should I?” from “Lord Byron on Broadway” (1929) ”Singin’ in the Rain” from “The Hollywood Revue of 1929” ”Would You?” from “San Francisco” (1936) ”You Are My Lucky Star” from “Broadway Melody of 1936” ”You Were Meant for Me” from “The Broadway Melody” ”Temptation” from “Going Hollywood” “You Are My Lucky Star” Outtake (4:06, SD) An alternative ending featuring Reynolds performing. Gallery (2:14, SD): Features 18 publicity and production photographs. Scoring Stage Sessions: Some of the original pre-recorded musical numbers made for the film, presented in their raw form and Dolby Digital 1.0 audio. You Were Meant for Me, Take 3 You Were Meant for Me, Take 5 Moses Supposes Fit as a Fiddle All I Do Is Dream of You – Reynolds Singin’ in the Rain You Are My Lucky Star Finale, Take 2 You Are My Lucky Star Finale, Take 3 Would You? – Duet Singin’ in the Rain – For Unused Main Title Good Morning Beautiful Girl – Original Version with Unused Bridge Montage You Are My Lucky Star – Deleted Debbie Reynolds Version You Are My Lucky Star – Deleted Debbie Reynolds Version without Dialogue Would You? – Debbie Reynolds Vocal Singin’ in the Rain – Debbie Reynolds Version Good Morning – Debbie Reynolds Vocal Make ‘Em Laugh Broadway Ballet, Part One (Two Takes) Broadway Ballet, Part Two (Two Takes) Broadway Ballet, Part Three Broadway Ballet, Part Four Broadway Ballet, Part Five (Two Takes) Broadway Ballet, Part Six All I Do Is Dream of You – Unused Gene Kelly Version Beautiful Girl – Unused Version with Kelly Interlude Demo DVD: The feature is presented with 1.37:1 MPEG-2 video and English 5.1 and Portuguese 1.0 Dolby Digital audio. Special features are limited to the multi-participant audio commentary, the “Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation” documentary, and the theatrical trailer. Packaging and Materials: The Blu-ray and two DVDs are housed in a four-panel DigiPack case. The Digipack case is housed in Warner’s typical commemorative box, measuring 11 x 8 x 2.5 inches. The box also has a screenprinted plastic slipcover with water droplet patterns on the front and release information on the back. Commemorative Hardcover Book: Includes cast/crew biographies, stories about the production, and numerous publicity and production photographs. Theater Display Posters: One-sixth scale reproductions of the 1952 posters – one each for Kelly, Reynolds and O’Connor – measure around 3.5 x 10.5 inches (the originals measured 20 x 60 inches). Full Size Umbrella with Umbrella Charm: Perhaps the most polarizing item in the set, the umbrella measures 11 inches in length when collapsed and has “Singin’ in the Rain 60th Anniversary” printed on both the sleeve and umbrella surface. The charm is attached to the umbrella’s plastic handle. Recap The Film: 5/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 4.5/5 Special Features: 4.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5 Warner Home Video delivers a truly amazing high definition transfer and a fine audio presentation for what many consider the greatest musical to come out of Hollywood. The special features bring over the majority of items from the 50th Anniversary Edition DVD, along with a few new pieces and generally appealing physical materials. However, those limited on shelf space and uninterested in things like a collapsible umbrella will be better off going for the disc-only release. Hats off to Warner for providing consumers with the option.