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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Half a Sixpence

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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted April 07 2004 - 02:47 AM

Posted Image

Half a Sixpence

Studio: Paramount

Rated: NR
Length: 145 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0

English Subtitles

English Closed Captioned

Special Features: None
SRP. $14.99US
Release Date: April 6, 2004

Half a Sixpence is a musical that was never a smashing success on the London or Broadway stage, and the film version failed at the box office as well. It’s too bad, really – this is an underrated musical with some strong performances, even if the plot is a bit thin. Consequently, there are many people who have never had the opportunity to see this film. Thankfully, Paramount has just released a bargain-priced DVD of this musical for all to enjoy.

Tommy Steele stars as Arthur Kipps, a grown-up orphan working as a shop assistant. Picture Oliver Twist (from the musical, Oliver!, all grown up) but only if Oliver hadn’t been rescued from the London streets.

Kipps seems to have nothing to live for when, suddenly, his childhood sweetheart shows up. It is then that Kipps inherits a fortune from his grandfather and his whole life changes. Trying to fit in among high-society types, he neglects his girl and squanders his fortune. As he hits bottom, he learns a thing or two about love and decency that he had forgotten.

Based on the H.G. Wells novel, Kipps, Half a Sixpence is a bit short on originality and plot, but makes up for it with the exuberance of star Tommy Steele. And, while a few of the musical numbers are unmemorable, there are a few standouts, as well – including Half a Sixpence, Money to Burn, and If the Rain’s Got to Fall.

The Look
Half a Sixpence is brought to you in enhanced widescreen – 2.35:1. Aside from intentional soft focus effects occasionally used, the picture is nice and sharp with no distracting sharpening artifacts. The image has good detail and excellent color by Technicolor. You’ll find good contrast and good shadow detail, as well. Grain is almost non-existent, but you will see an occasional speck of dust. This is a fine transfer, visually.

The Sound
There is a 2 channel Dolby Surround track that delivers impressive directional cues and effects. The front soundstage is expansive, with use of rear channels for ambience only. The music strains against limited frequency response, making me wish for a clearer sound – but it isn’t bad for the era – a limitation of the original elements. High frequencies are a bit lacking, giving a very slightly muddy effect. Lower frequencies fare better. Dialog is always clear and intelligible. Audiophiles judging by today’s standards may be disappointed, but for a 35 year old film, it fares pretty well.

Special Features
There are no special features.

Final Thoughts
If you like musicals and you’re not familiar with Half a Sixpence, this is worth checking out. Suggested retail price is $14.99 USD, but you’ll probably see this in bargain bins at under $10. At that price, this is a steal.

#2 of 16 OFFLINE   TedD


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Posted April 07 2004 - 08:33 AM

Believe me, this DVD doesn't sound anything like it did in theaters. I saw it in NYC in a first run theater on Broadway, and the sound was excellent. According to Joe Caps, the original soundtrack elements were badly decomposed and barely made it through the transfer process. Anyhow I would have to give the audio a 2 out of 5 based on the high distortion levels. Ted

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   TonyDale


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Posted April 07 2004 - 08:35 AM

I am just so happy to have this finally on dvd, that even with the distortion, I'm quite pleased. I had forgotten how simply charming and charmingly simple this movie is.
We are just surrealist pilgrims, melting clocks in marble halls. . .

#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted April 07 2004 - 08:56 AM

I love this fiom and got slapped down for it on a nother news group today. The sound has deteriorated, but to me it still sounds pretty good and we are lucky we have this in stereo at all. A nice surprise was the end of Act One and ithe intermisson. Originally this was not going to be included. Sad, that we have no extras because there was a wonderful ten minute "making of" done at the time of the film. Now, Paramount - on to more musicals- On a Clear Day with at least the songs in stereo - Miss Streisand has teh stereo prerecords. Lil Abner Darling Lili - the uncut stereo version please. Martin Blythe - thanks for getting this release through and thanks for putting up with all of my phone calls about Half a Sixpence!!

#5 of 16 OFFLINE   TedD


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Posted April 07 2004 - 01:29 PM

I'll second that! Definitely! Joe's collection of titles would be great, particularly Lil Abner, which is my only remaining VHS. Ted

#6 of 16 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted April 08 2004 - 12:39 AM

It should be mentioned that one of the delights of Half a Sixpence is the superb cinematrography by Geoffrey Unsworth, which takes what might have been an ordinary musical to another level.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted April 08 2004 - 01:59 AM

Absolutely, Robert. My usual process of reviewing has been disturbed by a broken laptop computer. I'm lost without it... can't take nearly as many notes long-hand. The cinematography is excellent. I especially enjoyed the camera work during the Half a Sixpence and If the Rain's Got to Fall numbers... and during the race. -Scott

#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Paul Hillenbrand

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Posted April 08 2004 - 04:07 AM

Joe Caps wrote:
As one of the favorite musicals of my youth, I still have the LP record of the original sound track.Posted Image Has "On a Clear Day" been announced or in the works?

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#9 of 16 OFFLINE   Porter Faulkner

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Posted April 08 2004 - 05:15 AM

From a modest beginning Half a Sixpence ran for two years in London and two years on Broadway before being snapped up by Paramount and turned into a major screen musical. That seems pretty successful to me and obviously it did to Paramount at the time. The real star of this film is the cinematography and high production values. It looks just great on DVD!

#10 of 16 OFFLINE   DeeF



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Posted April 08 2004 - 12:06 PM

I bought the DVD, never having seen the movie. Kudos for the cinematography, the direction (by the amazing George Sidney) the beautiful color and restored sound. But it isn't a good movie -- really just so so. Surprisingly charmless, hokey and unfunny. And the music is very ordinary. I'm not really surprised this movie wasn't a hit -- coming right during the Summer of Love, etc. No wonder these big musicals killed off the studios. Not much happened to Tommy Steele after this movie, and Finian's Rainbow (which at least has got great, great songs).

#11 of 16 OFFLINE   TonyDale


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Posted April 08 2004 - 03:30 PM

Well, Steele still had THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE ahead of him . . .but, previously in Great Britain, he was all the rage. EXPRESSON BONGO is a thinly disuised tale of Steele's rise to fame.
We are just surrealist pilgrims, melting clocks in marble halls. . .

#12 of 16 OFFLINE   RobertSiegel



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Posted April 10 2004 - 05:57 PM

Awesome movie...I had never seen it, not wanting to waste my time watching it in all of those mono broadcasts and VHS, and I am glad I waited. I never expected such a great musical. I have owned the theatre cast cd for some time and love the songs, but they're actually better in the movie thanks to the wonderful orchestrations and conducting of Irwin Kostal (Chitty, Poppins, Bedknobs, Sound of Music, ect). Tommy is truly a fine actor and entertainer. I am very impressed by the transfer, I did not expect such quality, especially the picture. I read some earlier posts stating the soundtrack was fair, but I consider it to be above that, certainly not spectacular but well separated and not bad fidelity. To get this and Lerner and Lowe's THE LITTLE PRINCE in the same day from Paramount was a real treat for me. Now, as said previously by Joe Caps, let's have the first video release of the complete DARLING LILI and ON A CLEAR DAY from Paramount (stereo PLEASE)!. I have read several places that Streisand is the reason we have no ON A CLEAR DAY or YENTL. I wish she would just lighten up (if this is true). Anxious for Tommy again in the new Disney label release of HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE, this time enhanced for 16x9 and from what I have heard it will be from a high def transfer.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!

#13 of 16 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted April 11 2004 - 01:10 AM

I'm hoping that Happiest Millionaire will have everything as a little bit of Act One was missing at the end of the Anchor Bay discs No exit music either. I'm glad that Paramount included the Intermission music in Sixpence. It has been put back in rather oddly. The last note of the intermission music should go right into Act Two. Here it fades out, then fades in again and you can hear that note a second time as part two of the film begins. At one time, I was trying to get this film released on Laserdisc, and trying to see if I could do a special edition of the film with some commentaries. To that end, I contacted everyone I could who was involved with the film, including the director. George Sydney, the lead dancer, Grover dale, and I got a phone number in England, which I thought was tommy steeles agent. To my surprise, it was to Mr. steeles home and he kindly kept me on the phone about five hours talking about the filming of Half a Sixpence, Happiest Millionaire, and Finians Rainbow. Anyway, Sixpence - Julia Foster, who plays Ann had her singing dubbed by Marti webb who had created the role on the London Stage. there was a big love song - Long Ago - from the original show - that was filmed and later cut. It was in teh scene where Tommy Finds Ann again in the servants quarters and they agree to marry. the song was also originally sung over the end credits by a chorus. when the song was cut, the chorus was changed to Tommy singing Flash, Bang, Wallop. Americna Grover Dale did not sound Cockney enough and all of his dialogue was dubbed by a british Actor. All of the musical numbers are very long in this film but wsome were even longer, Money to Burn was slightly cut before opening and an entire verse of Flash Bang Wallop was also cut. Famous chroeographer Onna White - you know her choreography from the films of Bye Bye Birdie, Mame, and Music Man - went to England to talk with the filmakers of Sixpence about recreating her broadway choreogrpahy for the show in the film version. She almost agreed until director Carol Reed asked her to do Oliver. She wnet with Oliver and got an Academy Award for it. Anyway, we get a new transfer of tommy Steele in Happiest Millionaire in June and possibly a dvd of Tommy in Finians rainbow later this year.

#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Mark B

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Posted April 16 2004 - 04:34 PM

I have read several places that Streisand is the reason we have no ON A CLEAR DAY or YENTL. ------------------------------------ Not sure about Clear Day, but Streisand recently stated that the YENTL dvd is done and ready. It's in the hands of UA now. Interestingly, she noted that the video release of YENTL used a print which was not properly color corrected, which she discovered years later. Can't wait to see what it looks like for dvd... Mark

#15 of 16 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted April 16 2004 - 06:50 PM

In the UK, it gets revived on a regular basis for amateur stage productions.

#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Jefferson


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Posted May 07 2004 - 07:16 AM

Just dropping in to give a thumbs up to what i feel is an utterly charming, and sadly underrated musical. i find it delightful. Yes, according to all my research it was quite successful on the stage in London and on Broadway. It was this film that i always assumed was not financially successful. Irwin Kostal indeed deserves credit for making the songs so much more splendid sounding than they are in the stage incarnations. I love the look of the picture on the dvd, but the sound, at least on my system is very distorted, especially the voices...very (for lack of a better technical term) "blaring"

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