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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: That's Entertainment - The Complete Collection (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 34 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted October 21 2004 - 06:32 AM

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That’s Entertainment
The Complete Collection





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1974, 1976 & 1994
Rated: G
Film Length: 531 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color/B&W
Languages: English/French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $49.92
Package: 4 disc boxed set in individual keepcases





The Feature:
Oh my, where do I begin…? Working on a single title for a review can sometimes be difficult enough. But what happens when you have clips from many of the finest films from one of the most illustrious studios of all time? MGM was the studio responsible for most of the greatest and celebrated musicals ever produced. The studio operated under the shrewd and brilliant direction of Louis B. Mayer who often boasted that his studio was home to “more stars than there are in the heavens”.

That’s Entertainment was released in 1974 on the heels of the successful MGM documentary, Hollywood: The Dream Factory. In fact, that documentary was so successful that initial plans were changed from the new compilation film being a T.V. release to that of a theatrical release, resulting in a smash success that even caught the producers by surprise.

Part I weaves in and out with various guests to narrate and introduce an assortment of segments from some of the most legendary musicals ever made. Among those who appear to introduce these clips and performers are Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli and Bing Crosby. Part II is slightly different in format, in that the film is hosted mainly by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Part II is also broader in the sense that the film not only showcases musicals but segments from other treasures among the studio’s greats including clips from various Marx Brother’s films, Abbott & Costello, and Laurel and Hardy among many others.

The third and final film of the series is slightly more along the lines of the original version, in that a multitude of stars narrate and introduce various segments and scenes from a variety of films. While Part III also focuses on the studio’s greatest musical moments, this version takes the extra effort to show behind-the-scenes footage including many split screens, as it highlights comparisons of several numbers. Among those who appear to introduce such pieces and highlights are June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Lena Horne, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Esther Williams.

This compendium of classic scenes and numbers from the great MGM musicals contains the most popular and celebrated, wonderful song and dance performances ever put to film. MGM produced the vast majority of the greatest musicals in movie history. The films take us through a journey beginning in the late 20’s with the advent of talkies through to the late 50’s when the popularity of the musical seemed to diminish. The choices were selected carefully as each of these wonderful routines featured in this consortium are instantly recognizable and shows as a veritable who’s who of the almost forgotten genre. As the film plays through, you almost want to stop it and insert the actual movie.

There are literally dozens of clips that are featured among the set including my personal favorite, Singin' In the Rain (1952) as well as clips from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954), which was recently released as a Two Disc Special Edition. Rightly so, there is great emphasis placed on the history of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly whose innovation and energy are indelibly etched in the minds of anyone even vaguely familiar with musicals. Featured are a number of their highlights including Royal Wedding (1951) and Anchors Aweigh (1945) as well their only performance together (other than their That’s Entertainment participation) in The Ziegfield Follies (1946). There are countless other gems featuring the likes of Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Red Skelton, Bing Crosby and literally dozens of others.

One would think that Part I uses all of the most memorable clips from their vast library – not so. The second installment also includes many terrific clips such as Gene Kelly’s wonderful roller skating performance in It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) and Bobby Van’s tirelessly hopping performance in Small Town Girl (1953). Aside from the expected musical numbers, you’ll also see clips from other MGM accomplishments such as Gone With The Wind (1939) and the hilariously funny stateroom scene from the 1935 Marx Brothers’ film, A Night At The Opera.

After an eighteen year hiatus, the third and final installment is a testament of the inexhaustible depth of the studio’s treasures. Part III follows a similar format to the original version but delves deeper with a vast amount of behind-the-scenes footage, a format that film buffs and those interested in the history of the studio and its performers are sure to appreciate. Clips from the final version include, but certainly aren’t limited to, Judy Garland in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), before she was replaced with Betty Hutton and Lena Horne singing in a bathtub during Cabin In The Sky (1943), as well as a clip from The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) without the credits that obscure it in the film itself.

The discs themselves come in individual keepcases housed in a box and each installment comes with a 6 page folded insert, listing all the chapter stops as well as a listing of the musicals presently available on DVD from WB. The fourth and final disc of the set is entitled Treasures From The Vault which doesn’t come with an insert (at least mine didn’t). The titles can be purchased individually for $19.97 but then you’ll miss out on the amazing collection of special features. It should also be mentioned that on the final page of the inserts, WB notes, “The Melody Goes On With Upcoming Titles In 2005!” and lists the following titles: The Band Wagon, Bells Are Ringing, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, Brigadoon (remastered), The Broadway Melody (1929), Easter Parade, Finian’s Rainbow and Love Me Or Leave Me. It would appear that WB has ambitious slate of upcoming musicals.

And finally, my apologies to those who waited or anticipated a review of this set prior to the street date. Fact of the matter is, the set was delayed and was late being sent to the reviewers. The set was on my "priority list" but the delay was something beyond my control.

The Features: 5/5
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Video:
Compilation and documentary films are very difficult to rate in terms of A/V quality in that there are so many clips and segments taken from a wide variety of sources. Needless to say, there are clips taken as far back as the late 1920’s while the majority of footage dates from a vintage of the 40’s through the 50’s, and the recorded pieces for the films themselves date from 1974, 1976 and 1994.

The vast majority of the clips used for this compendium look terrific. Colors literally jump from the screen and were absolutely luscious. Blacks were rarely an issue, always looking inky, while whites were usually starkly white and clean. Contrast levels and shadow detail were near perfect.

The level of image definition was equally impressive throughout this series as the vast majority of included shots looked amazingly sharp while the close-ups of many of the leading ladies had the common and diffused softer look. The prints were amazing clean throughout and impressively free of any dirt and scratches. There were no issues whatsoever relating to any compression problems or any edge enhancement problems.

Of course, these are compilation films which include a myriad of different films and varying aspect ratios. Obviously decisions had to be made in terms of the presentation and how these were displayed, sometimes changing various aspect ratios by the image expanding to a W/S presentation. Having said that, keep in mind, these are compilations films and the presentation of these films is exceptional and in my opinion, and very effective. The DVDs are merely representative of the theatrical presentation. The widescreen presentation (OAR) of these films can be located on Side A. For those inclined, a standard presentation can be located on Side B.

I think it’s safe to say that these films have never looked better – great job..!!

Video: 4.5/5
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Audio:
All of the films are encoded and presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital and for the most part, the track does an outstanding job. Again, keep in mind, the films are a collection of sequences and clips of other films, many of which date back a number of years ago. The audio tracks on the “Treasures From The Vault” are encoded in mono and stereo.

All of the tracks are as clean as one would hope for and free of any hiss or other distracting anomalies. Most importantly, dialogue was always clear and exceptionally bold even throughout all of the music which frequently accompanied the segments.

There was a better than average level of range repeatedly demonstrated through the films from the various musical numbers to the action sequences that frequently played throughout, although separation wasn’t what I’d call a standout.

As for the surrounds, they were really only utilized in a manner of slightly enveloping with some music filler etc, but done so very tactfully. As we would expect, LFE was never prominent.

The tracks from all three films as well as the special feature disc are excellent and leave little, if any, room for complaints.

Audio: 4/5
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Special Features:
While each of the three films are limited to an introduction and a theatrical trailer, the fourth disc entitled “Treasures From The Vault” contains a huge amount of supplemental material. The set is comprised of the following:

That’s Entertainment – Part One:
[*] An Introduction by Robert Osborne Duration: 4:51 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included and is in reasonably good condition. Duration: 4:11 minutes.


That’s Entertainment – Part Two:
[*] An Introduction by Robert Osborne Duration: 3:55 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included and is in very good condition. Duration: 3:19 minutes.


That’s Entertainment – Part Three:
[*] An Introduction by Robert Osborne Duration: 3:37 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included and is in excellent condition. Duration: 1:29 minutes.

The Robert Osborne introductions can be selected from the main menu upon insertion of the discs and are all worthy of your time. Mr. Osborne jams as much useful and pertinent information as he can into these short but informative intros.


That’s Entertainment - Disc Four - Treasures From The Vault.


Side A:
[*] The Masters Behind The Musicals – is a documentary which features a number of former MGM cast and crew members such as Angela Lansbury, Andre Previn, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Donald O’Connor and film historian, Rudy Behlmer. They spend a great deal of time discussing the “musical unit” and the studio’s three greatest producers, Jack Cummings, Joe Pasternak and Arthur Freed. The participants reflect and offer up a number of personal experiences and historical tidbits relating to the three producers and their time with the studio. The MGM Music Department is also featured showcasing Johnny Green and His Orchestra, Lenny Hayton (including his marriage to Lena Horne). Other highlights include brief bios and facts relating to Kay Thompson (vocal coach), MGM choreographers Hermes Pan, Busby Berkeley, Michael Kidd and Robert Alton as well as various MGM directors Charles Walters, George Sidney, Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donan. A super little documentary for those interested in the historical side of the studio. Duration: 37:32 minutes.
[*] The next feature entitled, The Musicals Outtakes Jukebox includes a healthy collection. They are:

Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett from Take Me Out To The Ballgame (1949)

An Easier Way by June Allyson, Patricia Marshall and Chrous from Good News (1947)

A Lady Loves by Debbie Reynolds from I Love Melvin (1953)

Last Night When We Were Young by Judy Garland from In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

Little Big Shot by Jimmy Durante with Sharon McManus from This Time For Keeps (1947)

The Lock Step by The Dodge Twins from The March of Time (1930)

Love And Kisses by Bert Lahr and Marjorie Main from Rose Marie (1954)

Mr. Monotony by Judy Garland from Easter Parade (1948)

My Intuition by Judy Garland and John Hodiak from The Harvey Girls (1946)

One Love Of Mine by Kathryn Grayson and Mario Lanza from That Midnight Kiss (1949)

Warm Hands, Cold Heart by Mel Torme from Duchess of Idaho (1950)

Why Is Love So Crazy and Sea Of The Moon by Esther Williams from Pagan Love Song (1950)

Why So Gloomy? By Jane Powell from Holiday In Mexico (1946)

You Belong To My Heart by Yvonne De Carlo & Vittorio Gassman from Sombrero (1953)

You Get Looks by Lena Horne from Meet Me In Las Vegas (1956)

You Won’t Forget Me by Lena Horne from Duchess Of Idaho (1950)

Total Duration: 49:10 minutes.


Side B:
[*] MGM’s 25th Anniversary – Is a short feature which was shot during the 25th anniversary of MGM. This was a huge dinner party hosted by the studio head in which a myriad of the studios greatest talents assembled in a converted soundstage for the gala event. The segment starts with an introduction of a number of huge stars and the dinner party is captured on film as the camera moves up and down each of the tables showing each of those in attendance. The short feature concludes with a speech from Louis B. Mayer. Duration: 10:32 minutes.
[*] That’s Entertainment – includes two segments entitled:

- That’s Entertainment: 50 Years Of MGM. Is a T.V. special that was produced for the studio’s Golden Anniversary and upcoming film. The special is hosted by George and Alana Hamilton. Again, there were a number of stars and various MGM participants. You’ll see many of the same clips that are shown throughout Part I of That’s Entertainment, but the quality isn’t on par with the film itself, nor are the clips of the films during the opening sequence, still this is interesting if you are interested in seeing some of the big names from the past. Duration: 66:18 minutes.

- Just One More Time is a brief look at how the initial film came to be and those who were involved with the process. Duration: 8:46 minutes.
[*] That’s Entertainment: Part II

- The Lion Roars Again is a collection of stars and press people that congregate in Culver City, California 1975 for the International Press Conclave. The inclusion exists for the purpose of introducing That’s Entertainment II, hosted by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Duration: 16:53 minutes.

- Excerpts From 02/20/1976 Broadcast of the Mike Douglas Show. As Mr. Douglas arrives at the studio, he is greeted by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire as well as a number of other MGM contract players as they discuss the sequel in a rather informal format reflecting on many of their experiences pertaining to their arrival of the studio years ago. Duration: 21:09 minutes.
[*] That’s Entertainment: Part III Behind The Screen. This feature starts with the Peter Fitzgerald (Executive Producer) and George Feltenstein (Executive in charge of the production) as they discuss getting Bud Freidgen and Michael J. Sheridan on board for the project as well as the retrieval of material for the final installment. Again, a number of short clips as various stars recount their experiences working at MGM. There’s a portion where a number of MGM stars sing their positive praise, working under Louis B. Mayer with a consensus that’s virtually unanimous, then there is a 5 second clip of Mr. Gene Kelly sitting in a director’s chair who says very curtly, “I didn’t like him, he didn’t like me. It was mutual”… Priceless. Duration: 52:58 minutes.

Overall, in a word; outstanding…!!

Special Features: 5/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
Even though the vast majority of MGM’s musical masterpieces are captured here, the That’s Entertainment compilation will never replace the individual titles that are represented. Surely, fans of these classic musicals will want to enjoy these gems, how they were intended to be watched – in their entirety. The set is a celebration of the accomplishments and dreams that were created throughout the years at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. What we should hope comes from this set is a renewed interest, particularly from younger film fans, in the form of appreciation for an art, that’s all but lost.

The set is absolutely remarkable. It is abundantly obvious that a lot of work and effort has gone into this collection. Not only is the presentation outstanding, but the extras are superb. And on top of everything else, to own almost nine hours of the best MGM musicals ever made can be had for as little as $35 bucks. This set needs to be in every serious film collector’s library – it’s that simple.

Overall Rating: 5/5 (not an average)
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Highly Recommended…!!!




Release Date: October 12th, 2004


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My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 34 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 21 2004 - 06:38 AM

Thanks Herb. I catch snippets of one of the documentaries on my local public tv station once in awhile, but can't say I have seen the whole thing. I can pick this up for $32 at CostCo and was curious about the specifics of the set. I think it would make a great gift too!
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#3 of 34 OFFLINE   Conrad_SSS

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Posted October 21 2004 - 06:50 AM

I am already loving this set and have watched it several times in the last week.



Seeing Herb's wonderful and thoughfully-written review is so exciting, because this is truly an item that those HTF members that may not be familiar enough with these films, will hopefully be motivated to give this great set a try.



Bravo, Herb!

#4 of 34 OFFLINE   ArthurMy

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Posted October 21 2004 - 09:31 AM

I second most of Herb's well-thought-out comments. It's a must-have set for anyone interested in film history, musicals, or just plain great entertainment value. I love the first film, which I saw the day it opened in the theater, and the DVD is a perfect replication of that experience (as Herb rightly and thankfully points out). The full-frame version, for me, is a useless space-waster, although it was good of Warners to include it.



The sound on the first two films took my breath away - really showing off how great these things were recorded and how wonderfully they were remastered for 5.1. The third film has always been the least interesting for me, for a variety of reasons - it seems more "home video" than feature quality, I hate the anonymous narrator at the beginning - why was that necessary with all those great stars at your beck and call? The fact that it's directed by the editors of the first two films just shows that editors don't always make interesting directors. I think III is more the product of the home video department, and for me, it shows. Also, the sound is not nearly as good on III - and I must say I don't think Marc Shaiman's orchestrations and arrangements have near the luster or brilliance of Henry Mancini's or Nelson Riddle's, both of whom provided astounding work on the first two films.



Those are minor caveats, however, and the set is a glory and should be bought by everyone who professes to have a love for classic film.

#5 of 34 OFFLINE   danak

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Posted October 21 2004 - 09:31 AM

Nice review Herb. I ended up buying the set because it looks like Netflix won't carry the bonus disc. The only negative that I've found so far is that Part 2's cover art is really out of whack with the other 3 discs (it's white while the others are black). Otherwise, it's a really nice set.



Dana in MD

#6 of 34 OFFLINE   Mark B

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Posted October 21 2004 - 10:26 AM

Thanks for listing all of the outtakes. I've been dying to know what they were going to be, and feared there would be nothing "new" here, but there are 3 I don't have and 2 are full versions of numbers from the third film. Of course, having them on DVD makes them all exciting. Can't wait to get the set. I'm holding out hoping that I'll be one of the 25 winners at the TCM website. Yeah, right. I can dream, can't I?



Mark

#7 of 34 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted October 21 2004 - 04:04 PM

This set is long-awaited. An excellent review, Herb! images/smilies/thumbsup.gif



My fourth disc was also sans insert. A shame considering how nicely-done the inserts for the first three discs are. Too bad.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#8 of 34 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted October 21 2004 - 11:57 PM

Herb,

Great review as always like some others I have been enjoying this dvd set for about two weeks now.

Crawdaddy

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#9 of 34 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted October 22 2004 - 08:42 AM

From the video assessment:

quote:


Compilation and documentary films are very difficult to rate in terms of A/V quality...Of course, these are compilation films...Having said that, keep in mind, these are compilations films

So let me get this straight: What kind of films are these again? images/smilies/biggrin.gif

Just funnin' ya. Great review of a great set. I mentioned it in the other thread, and I'll mention it again here, the 16:9 enhanced sides appear to be new transfers with a lot of improvements to the clips, some more significant than others. The 4:3 side appears to be an older transfer, possibly from the previous laserdisc set. Consequently, the advantages of watching those versions on a 4:3 set are not as great as they might seem at first blush.

Regards,
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#10 of 34 OFFLINE   Doug Bull

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Posted October 22 2004 - 10:20 AM

After a slight delay from my on-line supplier, my TE discs are now finally on a plane somewhere over the Pacific.



Reading the excellent review, I just can't wait for them to arrive.



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#11 of 34 OFFLINE   BarryR

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Posted October 22 2004 - 12:31 PM

I know it wasn't part of the series per se, but there's always that "orphaned" sequel of sorts, THAT'S DANCING! (1985). If that was somehow included in the set, well, then it'd be quite a bonus feature!



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#12 of 34 OFFLINE   Derek_McL

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Posted October 22 2004 - 01:08 PM

Sounds absolutely superb, surprisingly really as I love musicals I was wavering a little on this. Now I know I've got to get it ! I've seen these films many times but the extras look worth the price alone.
By the way discuss these wonderful films and others at my New Message board on Classic films from the silents to the latest releases.

http://p090.ezboard....nageofhollywood

#13 of 34 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted October 22 2004 - 02:11 PM

You won't regret it, Derek. It's pleasures are addictive!

#14 of 34 OFFLINE   RobertSiegel

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Posted October 22 2004 - 06:12 PM

WOW! I just got my copy today and I can't believe how much work they put into this set. Compared to the laserdiscs, it looks to me as if each film clip was completely remastered, cleaned up, and inserted back in. Never before have these clips looked so good to me...and sounded so good. What a great series of films. I'd never seen any of the three completely, and what a great experience it is. The extras are great too, that great movie nostalgia that is top rate. Even the shorts used before look somewhat remastered. Highly recommend!!!!

I agree with an earlier post, THAT'S DANCING would have been a great addition to this set, even at a slightly higher price.

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


#15 of 34 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted October 22 2004 - 06:40 PM

Although I'd buy it separately, I'm very glad they didn't sully this set by including THAT'S DANCING.



THAT'S DANCING is not about MGM or the MGM musicals.



It has some fine MGM clips in it, but more of the film is not about MGM, than is, and it wouldn't have belonged here at all. THAT'S DANCING has some wonderful moments, but as a whole piece, it's a big disappointment. I attended the NY premiere, where audiences walked in on a high, and extited like it was a wake.



Any film that sends you out of the theater with Michael Jackson's Thriller was doomed for failure!

#16 of 34 OFFLINE   Mark B

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Posted October 23 2004 - 12:57 AM

I agree. THAT'S DANCING! had way too many mediocre segments, and has no place with these three fims. The only highlight for me at the time was the "If I Only Had a Brian" outtake, and some clips in widescreen that I only knew in P/S. Other than that......zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.



Mark

#17 of 34 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted October 24 2004 - 04:17 AM

Despite the fact that its flaws are numerous, a separate release of THAT'S DANCING would still be nice...just so long as it's not promoted with the T.E. films or indicated as an MGM compilation, which it most certainly is not.



There are still pleasures to be had in it, the Busby Berkeley sequence, the numbers from WEST SIDE STORY and SWEET CHARITY, and one of mt favorite MGM numbers of all time, THINKING OF YOU with Astaire And Vera-Ellen.



I hear the THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT collection is selling very well (many stores sold out). so hopefully this bodes welll for more musicals. even mediocre ones like THAT'S DANCING. The great option with DVD is that you can scan through the boring parts of TD (of which there are many!).

#18 of 34 OFFLINE   Chris Lockwood

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Posted October 24 2004 - 04:58 AM

> I know it wasn't part of the series per se, but there's always that "orphaned" sequel of sorts, THAT'S DANCING!



And don't forget the horror compilation THAT'S KILLING. images/smilies/smile.gif



This set should be great for finding old movies to check out.

#19 of 34 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted October 24 2004 - 05:27 AM

There's also the spoof trailer in KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE...

"That's Armageddon!"

#20 of 34 OFFLINE   Chris Cheese

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Posted October 24 2004 - 07:49 AM

I've never seen this, but I'm considering it as a gift for my girlfriend who loves musicals. After this review, I'm pretty confident that she'll love it. I do have one question though. How are the songs handled in the documentaries? Are they just clips of songs or are they the full songs?