Jump to content



Sign up for a free account to remove the pop-up ads

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests and remove the pop-up ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: MGM: When the Lion Roars



  • You cannot start a new topic
  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

    Producer



  • 6,093 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted January 16 2009 - 08:16 AM

ronsreviews_covers_1431674.jpg

 

MGM: When the Lion Roars

Directed By: Frank Martin

Starring: Patrick Stewart

 

Studio: Warner Brothers

Year: 1992

Rated: NR

Film Length: 366 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Subtitles: English SDH, French

Release Date: January 20, 2009



The Film

MGM: When the Lion Roars is a documentary miniseries that first aired on the TNT cable network in 1992. It tracks the history of the classic MGM studio beginning with its origins in the 1920s through its eventual dissolution through the 1970s and 1980s. Along the way, the viewer learns about the vast stables of stars, several behind the scenes production and technical wizards, and a good deal of the backroom machinations that led to the studios meteoric rise, extended glory period, and eventual downfall. The documentary consists of a dazzling array of film clips and behind the scenes footage coupled with both new and archival interviews from MGM personalities from both sides of the camera. This material is all tied together by host segments and voiceover narration from Patrick Stewart.

The program is broken up into three segments, all running a little over two hours each. They are arranged roughly chronologically with some shifting back and forth in time when they are profiling personalities that span eras. The first segment is entitled "The Lions Roar", and it covers the early history of Louis B. Mayer, the founding of the company in 1924, early successes such as "Ben-Hur" and "The Big Parade", the rise to prominence of Mayer and "boy wonder" production head Irving Thalberg, the dawn of "talking pictures" in the late 1920s, and the first generation of MGM stars such as Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Joan Crawford, and Clark Gable. It ends with Thalberg's untimely passing in 1936.

The second segment is entitled "The Lion Reigns Supreme", and it covers the next ten years of the studio's history where, after working through productions Thalberg had left in the pipeline and the departure of David O Selznick to form his own company, Mayer's sensibilities drove almost every aspect of their productions. This period saw the emergence of a second generation of MGM stars, and the documentary includes the expected discussion of the hit productions of the era such as The Wizard of Oz, The Philadelphia Story, Ninotchka, The Women, and Mrs. Miniver and the studio's massively lucrative distribution interest in Gone with the Wind. Topics also include behind the scenes contributions from camera and production design craftsmen such as Cedric Gibbons and the emergence of successful modestly budgeted series films such as "The Thin Man", "Andy Hardy", and "Dr. Kildare". It concludes with the war years during which MGM was successful with both stirring propaganda pieces and escapist entertainments even while some of its biggest stars such as Clark Gable and James Stewart were serving in the military.

While the closing narration of "The Lion Reigns Supreme" suggest storm clouds on the horizon for Louis B. Mayer, the final segment, entitled "The Lion in Winter" begins by circling back to cover a few cheerier topics including the prolific and successful musical production units headed by Arthur Freed and Joe Pasternak with related discussions of Gene Kelly, Director Vincente Minnelli, Judy Garland, and Esther Williams. It then picks up in 1948 when two consecutive poor financial years and a perception that Mayer is losing touch with the studio's operations lead Loewe's chief Nicholas Schenck to force Mayer to take on Dory Schary, a former MGM writer recently departed from RKO, as production head. Schary's affinity for liberal-minded message pictures was antithetical to Mayer's taste for classy, wholesome, escapist fare, and the conflicts between them lead to Mayer's ouster in 1951. The documentary covers initial success under Schary's guidance with the always reliable musicals and grittier, more independently minded, fare such as Blackboard Jungle and Somebody up There Likes Me. The filmmakers then track the downward trajectory that sets in by the mid-1950s aggravated by the emergence of television and the forced divestiture of theaters from movie studios, ultimately resulting in the departure of most of the studio's contract stars and culminating in the liquidation of many of the studio's assets through the 1970s after a takeover by casino mogul Kirk Kerkorian. The occasional studio successes over this era are documented including Gigi, a Ben-Hur remake, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Patrick Stewart makes for an affable host, meeting the essential requirement that his voice be eminently listenable even when saddled with narrative dialog that borders on corny. He is also game enough to appear in his various segments in a series of period costumes with props and backdrops relating to the Hollywood era on which he is elaborating.

The documentary's goal is comprehensiveness. Given that this is impossible to achieve, even with north of six hours of running time, it is impressive how much ground is covered. Certain aspects of the studio, such as its animation division are ignored (William Hanna and Joseph Barbera talk about animating their mouse Jerry to dance with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh, but that is it.). While certain stars such as Robert Taylor and Fred Astaire get short shrift by not having feature segments devoted solely to them, they, and the the majority of the most enduring MGM personalities, do get at least a mention or two.

Interview participants include (but are not limited to) Lew Ayres, Freddie Bartholomew, Ernest Borgnine, Jackie Cooper, Stanley Donen, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Helen Hayes, Charlton Heston, Van Johnson, Producer Samuel Marx, Roddy McDowall, Ricardo Montalban, Luise Rainer, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, media mogul Ted Turner, Esther Williams, and Richard Brooks. I quite enjoyed hearing so many first hand accounts of the MGM experience and surprisingly frank comments on the larger than life personality of Louis B. Mayer. I was sobered when contemplating how many of these legends have passed on since the documentary was produced (Brooks and Bartholomew before the series even aired on television and Montalban just this past week!).

In addition, there is plenty of archival footage of interviews and public appearances by a myriad of other MGM luminaries inclusive of Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, Norma Shearer, Dore Schary, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Myrna Loy, and "More Stars than there are in the Heavens". Even financier Kirk Kerkorian gets a few words in via archival footage.

The Video

However it was shot, the project was finished on video, and the softness of the 4:3 full frame presentation of the documentary reflects its standard definition video master origination. The various film clips from MGM productions have not been updated to the level of the most recent video masters, and look exactly as they were broadcast on TNT in 1992. The compression is more than up to the task of presenting the slightly soft video image, and image quality naturally varies with the quality of the various archival clips. Clips from films from the post 1951 widescreen era are presented in a variety of ways ranging from properly letterboxed to various amounts of squeezing distortion, to panning and scanning in order to fit into the 4:3 frame.

The Audio

The sound is presented via an effective Dolby Digital stereo track which mainly benefits the score by Steve Goldstein. Audio quality naturally varies with the many archival clips.

The Extras

The documentary itself is more or less a mammoth extra for every classic MGM title I have ever seen, so I was not expecting additional supplements. My lack of expectation was met.

Packaging

The program is spread across two double layered DVD-9 discs. The first disc contains all of the "The Lion's Roar" and the first half of "The Lion Reigns Supreme". The second disc contains the second half of "The Lion Reigns Supreme" and the complete "The Lion in Winter". I was initially not crazy about splitting the second episode in two, but it ended up not bothering me too much. DVDs are packaged in a standard Amaray-sized case with a hinged tray allowing for the accommodation of both discs.

Summary

MGM: When the Lion Roars is an impressive six hour plus made for television overview of the history of Hollywood's legendary "Dream Factory". It is presented across two discs with a transfer consistent with its video origins and a modest but appropriate Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track. No supplemental materials are included, and after over six hours of viewing, I was okay with that.

Reviewer's Note: This review has been posted in the "SD DVD - Film and Documentary" forum since even though the program was initially made for television, it is primarily of interest to fans of classic theatrical films.

Regards,


Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 18 ONLINE   Dave B Ferris

Dave B Ferris

    Supporting Actor



  • 767 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 27 2000

Posted January 16 2009 - 08:24 AM

Very nice review, but I would have sworn this documentary/film debuted on TNT, back before TNT showed so many sports events, reruns of TV shows, etc. I remember a whole week devoted to this documentary/film, during which a 'chapter' would be aired each night, followed by an airing of some of the full-length MGM movies discussed in that night's chapter.

#3 of 18 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

    Producer



  • 6,093 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted January 16 2009 - 08:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave B Ferris
Very nice review, but I would have sworn this documentary/film debuted on TNT, back before TNT showed so many sports events, reruns of TV shows, etc. I remember a whole week devoted to this documentary/film, during which a 'chapter' would be aired each night, followed by an airing of some of the full-length MGM movies discussed in that night's chapter.
You are correct. I meant to type TNT, but my defective brain would not let me for some reason. It was more recently aired on TCM, but it definitely debuted on TNT. The review is now corrected.

Thanks!
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Art_AD

Art_AD

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 151 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 12 2001

Posted January 16 2009 - 09:39 AM

Have it on order but disappointed again there are no extras. What is going on with Warner. Other than the Forbidden Hollywood Three I do not see much added extras to their classic releases (Although maybe there is something on their upcoming Gypsy & one or two of the Doris day films collection, I just can't remember at the moment).

#5 of 18 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul



  • 40,579 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 03 1997

Posted January 16 2009 - 10:14 AM

Great review!

My copy shipped today and I have set an entire day aside
early next week to plop my ass on the couch and watch this
in its entirety.

Can't wait!

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

 Click Here for the latest/hottest Blu-ray Preorders  Click Here for our complete Blu-ray review archive

 Click Here for our complete 3D Blu-ray review archive Click Here for our complete DVD review archive

 Click Here for Blu-Ray Preorder Release Schedule  Click Here for forum posting rules and regulations


#6 of 18 OFFLINE   didi-5

didi-5

    Auditioning



  • 7 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 07 2008

Posted January 17 2009 - 10:46 PM

Still have this taped from TV at the time it aired - but how nice that it finally gets a DVD release. About time!

#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

Robert Harris

    Archivist



  • 7,598 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 08 1999
  • Real Name:Robert Harris

Posted January 18 2009 - 12:07 AM

Joni Levin's When the Lion Roars is a beautifully crafted documentary, with an Emmy to its credit as Best Informational Documentary - 1992.

It exists only as created, which I believe is as standard def D2. It was made for the purpose of being viewed on monitors generally not larger than 35".

If one stays within practical tech parameters for playback, WtLR will still shine.

RAH

"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


#8 of 18 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul



  • 40,579 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 03 1997

Posted February 03 2009 - 09:47 PM

I am 3/4 of the way through this documentary and loving it. The
most enjoyable part of watching this is the fact that it contains
interviews with many legends who have now passed, who were
originally associated with the studio in its heyday.

Was wondering why the picture quality was not very good. Robert
Harris explanation is all I needed.

I am up to Ben Hur right now and will watch the rest of this over
the next few days. Just wanted to chime in that I am loving this!

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

 Click Here for the latest/hottest Blu-ray Preorders  Click Here for our complete Blu-ray review archive

 Click Here for our complete 3D Blu-ray review archive Click Here for our complete DVD review archive

 Click Here for Blu-Ray Preorder Release Schedule  Click Here for forum posting rules and regulations


#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

Simon Howson

    Screenwriter



  • 1,779 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 18 2004

Posted February 03 2009 - 09:49 PM

My copy arrived today after a month in the post. It only reached Sydney last week! Have half the U.S postal service been sacked?

#10 of 18 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul



  • 40,579 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 03 1997

Posted February 04 2009 - 02:52 AM

Quote:
Have half the U.S postal service been sacked?

Yes, actually. Things are quite bad with the Postal Service.

Doing some research on this title since I wanted to find out what
year it was made (19920. Apparently, according to IMDB, all the
Fred Astaire footage including him dancing with Gene Kelly was edited
from part 3. I wonder why.

So far this is a tremendous documentary, but I could really live
without the "over-the-top" production involving Patrick Stewart
in various garb, lighting cigarettes and dodging costumed
extras. Looks extremely cornball.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

 Click Here for the latest/hottest Blu-ray Preorders  Click Here for our complete Blu-ray review archive

 Click Here for our complete 3D Blu-ray review archive Click Here for our complete DVD review archive

 Click Here for Blu-Ray Preorder Release Schedule  Click Here for forum posting rules and regulations


#11 of 18 OFFLINE   Billy Batson

Billy Batson

    Screenwriter



  • 1,497 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 19 2008
  • Real Name:Alan
  • LocationLondon

Posted February 04 2009 - 03:15 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
Yes, actually. Things are quite bad with the Postal Service.

Doing some research on this title since I wanted to find out what
year it was made (19920. Apparently, according to IMDB, all the
Fred Astaire footage including him dancing with Gene Kelly was edited
from part 3. I wonder why.

So far this is a tremendous documentary, but I could really live
without the "over-the-top" production involving Patrick Stewart
in various garb, lighting cigarettes and dodging costumed
extras. Looks extremely cornball.

There's something about that in the Amazon customer reviews. I think his widow asked for the scenes to be cut out.

I like the Patrick Stewart stuff, it's cheesy, but Hollywood cheesy.

#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Garysb

Garysb

    Screenwriter



  • 1,446 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 31 2003

Posted February 04 2009 - 03:40 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy Batson
There's something about that in the Amazon customer reviews. I think his widow asked for the scenes to be cut out.

I like the Patrick Stewart stuff, it's cheesy, but Hollywood cheesy.

Since his death Fred Astaire's widow has required that a license fee be paid to use his image. The first I had heard about this was when the Kennedy Center
honored Ginger Rogers shortly after Fred died. The Kennedy Center had never paid a license fee before so refused to do so. When the Kennedy Center Honors aired that year Fred Astaire clips were removed . They edited the Astaire Rogers clips to remove Fred. It is odd that Fred Astaire clips were removed from the DVD as I believe the clips are included in the VHS set that I have of When The Lion Roars. I have to confirm that the VHS includes Fred Astaire but I had never heard that it was missing. Over at TCM.com it is mentioned that the Astaire clips were not on the laser disc.

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

Michael Elliott

    Lead Actor



  • 7,155 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 11 2003
  • Real Name:Michael Elliott
  • LocationKY

Posted February 04 2009 - 04:49 AM

I loved the documentary but I'm sure another six-hour documentary could have been made about the darker side of the studio. This documentary rightfully paints how great the studio was but they were also known for blacklisting stars, ruining reputations, cutting films to shreds, started what was known as saving money by destroying silents and they certainly killed the careers of many greats like Keaton.

#14 of 18 OFFLINE   CineKarine

CineKarine

    Supporting Actor



  • 672 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 24 2007

Posted February 04 2009 - 05:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Garysb
Since his death Fred Astaire's widow has required that a license fee be paid to use his image.

Yes, I've known about this for years - a rather greedy decision on the part of said person.... Anyway, if the documentary is missing the Astaire parts - I will not get rid of my TV-taped copy from the original TV broadcast in 92. I pre-ordered the DVD of course (it shipped Monday), so I am looking forward to it, but will immediately notice what is missing. I have watched this documentary quite a few times. I love it and I like the "Hollywood cheesy" parts too - somehow it works for me.
Sing your worries away, smile, be kind and accentuate the positive!
DVD wish list: The Accused (48), Margie (46), I'll Get By (50), The Constant Nymph (43), The Voice of the Turtle (47), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (34), Her Twelve Men (54), The Lost Moment (47), I Walk Alone (48), The Glass...

#15 of 18 ONLINE   bgart13

bgart13

    Supporting Actor



  • 927 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 04 2008

Posted February 05 2013 - 05:45 PM

Sorry to dredge this up, but the strangest thing just happened to me today. This dvd -- or rather the disc itself for pt 1 with pt 2 on the flip side -- was on my desk at home. But the thing is I've never bought this! Did it come with something else I'm not even aware it was included with? I'm the only one here that even buys dvds, really, so for it to be around baffles me! I am so confused... :confused:

#16 of 18 OFFLINE   Jay*W

Jay*W

    Second Unit



  • 328 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 28 2003

Posted February 06 2013 - 11:14 AM

It came in some of the Warner big box Ultimate Collector's Sets, like "Gone With The Wind" and "The Wizard Of Oz", as a flipper disc. The separate release was a 2-disc set.

#17 of 18 ONLINE   bgart13

bgart13

    Supporting Actor



  • 927 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 04 2008

Posted February 06 2013 - 05:49 PM

Huh. Don't have either of those. Thanks for responding though!

#18 of 18 OFFLINE   ahollis

ahollis

    Producer



  • 5,852 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 01 2007
  • Real Name:Allen
  • LocationNew Orleans

Posted February 07 2013 - 04:11 PM

Well don't look a gift lion in the mouth :)
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman



Back to DVD, Blu-ray & Digital HD Reviews



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: DVD Reviews

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Forum Nav Content I Follow