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HTF REVIEW: Week-end In Havana (Marquee Musicals Collection)
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Posted February 16 2006 - 07:58 AM
Release Date: February 21, 2006.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Alice Faye (Miss Nan Spencer), John Payne (Jay Williams), Cesar Romero (Monte Blanca), Carmen Miranda (Rosita Rivas), Cobin Write, Jr. (Terry McCracken)
Directed by: Walter Lang
Another film collection is hitting store shelves from 20th Century Fox home video. Welcome the Marquee Musicals Collection that features three films for this first wave of titles. It includes Daddy Long Legs, Pin-Up Girl, and the subject of this DVD review, Week-end In Havana.
The weather is fairly crappy outside today with freezing rain, I'm indoors. Even though the winter season is coming to an end fairly soon, I figured I'll check out Week-end In Havana for a little fun in the sun - short of actually travelling there (I'm allowed ). The story is about a sales girl named Nan (Alice Faye) who works in the hosiery department at Macy's department store. We don't actually see her selling it; we actually meet her for the first time on a cruise ship that's been beached because the captain of the ship was um...fooling around in his quarters... She's extremely angry that this happened to her because she's saved so much money to take her two weeks vacation and go on this cruise. A man representing the vacation she bought, Jay Williams, wants her to sign a form that will give her some of her money back.
This isn't good enough for Nan and she becomes difficult for Jay (probably because of his Clark Kent glasses). At the same time, she is only expressing her rights because the cruise company screwed up her vacation. Jay, who desperately needs the signature because of pressure above (his fiancee is the daughter of the owner of the company) does everything he can in the company's limits to guarantee Miss Nan a good time. She soon finds herself enjoying a free first class Havana holiday. Since she refuses to sign the form until after the trip (because she must be guaranteed that good time) Jay finds himself following along.
The story becomes a funny comedy while Nan mixes herself up with a debt-laden gambler on the hook from his boss and his entertainer girlfriend. Everyone has a plan to make sure Miss Nan has a good time while she is completely unaware of each others motives.
There are a few music numbers in this film. Alice Faye has only two and Carmen Miranda has more screen presence during numbers. Once of Alice Faye's scenes were cut from the film (Lollipop) and isn't included as a deleted scene. The commentary mentions that no one knows why it wasn't included in the original cut in the film. Based on the flow of these scenes in the finished film, it would have taken the "suspense" and surprise of Nan and Monte arriving at the same restaurant that Jay met Rosita at. That's my opinion. If that music number still exists today it would have been nice to see it. My guess that it's either lost or destroyed...
The film is almost 100% filmed on sets. There are no outdoor shots with the actors actually in Cuba or another tropical location imitating it. The film opens up with some on-location shooting of the streets of Cuba but we never see the actors on the island. It's all dressed up, my friends!
VIDEO QUALITY /
Filmed in three-strip Technicolor, the colours are eye-popping and gorgeous just as I had expected. With Fox in the front releasing many Technicolor films, the sets and the costume design were integral in promoting the use of the technology as well as to tell the story. This is easily noticeable towards the end of the film when Terry confronts Nan about the signature. The dress of Nan is more vibrant in colour spiriting the look of the wider and more "wild" audience compared to the upper class muted looking dress on Terry. Of course, with such an exotic setting as Cuba, you can expect the costumes put on Carmen Miranda to be very in-your-face.
This film isn't shot on location (except for a bit of stock footage) so the differences between sets and the stock footage shown behind the actors while riding in cars or the painting backdrop of water and palm trees are clearly visible. That is the beauty of moving towards high resolution. Does it take me out of the film? Never. I'm far more forgiving to films in this era than I am of today's motion pictures.
Film grain can be noticeable especially in the white parts of the picture. It's not distracting so I wouldn't worry about it too much, but it also causes a little bit of a digital look once in a while because of the compression reacting to that grain. Edge enhancement is not a problem with this title - at least on the DVD end. Some shots have false edges along people but it looks like it came from somewhere else in the chain at one point in this film's history. I can't blame it on the mastering of this DVD because it changes on a shot by shot basis and it doesn't look like the enhancement of that kind. The edge outline that I'm talking about is common on films of this time, although I will admit I'm not sure how it gets there.
The aspect ratio of this title is 1.33:1. The beginning and end credits are windowboxed to about 4% all around the picture so credits don't get cropped off at the edges of people's televisions. Unless you've specifically set up your display for very little overscan almost all of you will not notice the windowboxing.
AUDIO QUALITY /
The sound quality is excellent for this musical and much better than many other Fox titles I've seen of this age. Dialogue, sound effects, and music come across as very articulate and the mono soundtrack conveys more of the room presence around the actors' dialogue. While the manufactured stereo version gives the impression of a slightly wider soundstage, the presence around the dialogue is lost. At least the sounds and dialogue are centered properly and it doesn't sound undefined like earlier fake stereo soundtracks. I did not notice any discrete left-right sounds. The Alfred Newman score is subdued compared to the rest of the audio in the film except during the musical numbers.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
For fans of the film (or for history's sake) an audio commentary from Jeanine Basinger is included. You'll also get a very soft-looking theatrical trailer that's probably a good representation of what any previous release of this film has looked like. The theatrical trailers for the other two films in this Marquee Musicals Collection are also on this disc (Daddy Long Legs, Pin-Up Girl). Also expect to see 69 pictures in the still gallery as well as some lobby cards.
IN THE END...
Week-end In Havana is more of a cute movie than one that focuses on a good story. This movie will be enjoyable to anyone because of the many inferences in the dialogue as well as the funniness of the characters. Given that this is a good quality disc and the film gave me a good laugh, I will say this disc is worth checking out.
February 16, 2006.
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