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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: TCM American Classics - Musicals

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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Pulp_Queen



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Posted June 16 2009 - 06:18 AM


Singin’ in the Rain
The Band Wagon
Meet Me in St. Louis
Easter Parade

Studio: Warner Bros.
Original Release Dates: 1952, 1953, 1944, 1948
Run Time: 89 minutes
Genre: Musical

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Colour/B&W: B&W/Colour

Audio Formats (may not be on all):
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Digital mono
  • French Dolby Digital mono

    Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    Rating: PG

  • Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW

    Collection Rating: /

    My television is tuned to TCM daily whether it’s to watch a favourite film or a classic I’ve never seen before or catching a short documentary between films. So what I was looking for in this collection was something along the lines of what the TCM hosts offer: giving insight into the films through the special feature section. I find it a real treat to learn something about my favourite classic films. These films were made at a time where extra footage or deleted scenes were not saved (in most cases). There are no gag reels or interviews with the cast on the making of the film. So I was interested to see what I was getting with this collection.

    The films in this collection are feature-stripped of what appeared on the 2-disc special editions released in 2004 and 2005. If you want to view all of the features collected by Warner Bros. for each film, you’ll have to seek out the 2-disc release. To keep the set compact and the price low, Warner Bros. has put what would have been included on “Disc 1” of the 2-disc release of each film on it’s own side of a DVD in this set (a A-B flipper). They did not choose to go the route that Fox went with their Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, where each film that was previously released as a 2-disc special edition was repackaged in slimcases with both discs intact and put in a box set of six films. So, Warner Bros. appears to have had this set targeted to those who love musicals but not necessarily features, and offers the latest audio and video transfer. This is very valuable indeed if you just care about watching the film and worth the upgrade if you have a movie-only edition released in early days of DVD.

    Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

    Musicals don’t get better than this. The film takes place during a critical period of Hollywood: the transition between silent films and talkies. A leading screen couple (played by Gene Kelly and Jean Hagan) struggle with the challenges of talking pictures with great laughs for the audience. The special features included an audio commentary by many persons included in the making of this film: Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Stanley Donen, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, and audio/film historian Rudy Behlmer (wow!). It was interesting to learn that the songs for this film were selected and the writers had to construct a story around the songs. My favourite scene in this film is Donald O’Connor’s “Make 'em laugh” song/dance. Donald was known for being able to run up the side of a wall and summersault from it. When he did the Make ‘em Laugh routine, Gene Kelly asked “Do you think you can?” and his reply was, “I don’t know.” The commentary also gives insight as to how they shot the Gene’s famous dance in the rain: it was filmed during the day, pipes overhanging MGM lot #2, deliberate holes in the ground to accumulate puddles and the scene was originally intended Gene, Debbie and Donald, not a solo. The DVD also include a brief feature called Reel Sound about transition to talkies in Hollywood, as well as the original trailer, and specs on cast & crew. This release includes the 2002 audio/video transfer of the film.

    The Band Wagon (1953)

    I’ve never seen “The Band Wagon” before. What I was amazed to discover is that the now-classic showbiz song “That’s Entertainment” was written specifically for this film. Actually, according to the audio track, it was the only original song included in the film. This song has become an anthem for the American musical (yes, it spawned three musical collections under this title). But, it was great to see it performed in its original context (and looking back on the film as a whole I wonder why they didn’t call this film “That’s Entertainment”?). The film is about a retired movie actor, played by Fred Astaire. His colleagues are writing a Broadway show and they want him to star it in. He’s leading lady is the wonderful Cyd Charisse. The film highlights the mishaps between the two leading stars as they struggle with a terrible script, her fame (and his lack thereof), etc.

    The special features include an audio commentary by the director’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. She cites this as her favourite musical and she offers a ton of tidbits about her father, director Vincente Minnelli. Liza frequented the set at the age of six and draws on her experiences with the cast, the set construction and the beautiful costumes. Liza mentions a scene called “Two-Faced Woman” that was cut from the film and it featured Cyd Charisse dancing and singing. Since Cyd didn’t actually “sing” (her voice was always dubbed), the scene was tough for her to complete and her struggle was evident in the print. It was noted that years later, Cyd asked that this scene not be shown as bonus material. It was not included on the DVD and as curious as I am, I’m not disappointed with its exclusion. Rounding out the special features are a Fred Astaire trailer gallery. The film includes its original mono track and 5.1 remix, and it's video is sources from the 2005 image transfer.

    Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

    What I enjoyed most about this DVD was the film’s introduction by Liza Minnelli. Liza not only speaks about the film but she recounts her mother’s (Judy Garland) relationship with the film’s director, Vincente Minnelli. This film works on so many levels. Many consider it a holiday favourite. The film is divided into 4 parts: summer, spring, fall and winter as a family prepares for the coming of the World’s Fair to their home town of St. Louis. Although we anticipate the arrival of the fair, the film focuses on the relationships of Smith family. We hear favourite numbers like the title track, “The Trolley Song”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, etc. The entire cast is amazing to watch as well. The DVD features a rare ‘music only’ version of the film where all lyrics and dialogue is cut. There is also an audio commentary by several persons involved in the making of the film, including Margaret O’Brien. Within the audio commentary, there is mention of a documentary about the making of this film, not included in this single-sided release. that it’s included on the disc but it wasn’t. It leads me to believe that the commentary was done for a previous release where the documentary was included. I would have liked to have seen it included here as well. The transfer is the 60th anniversary ultra-resolution transfer with 5.1 audio all from restored elements.

    Easter Parade (1949)

    The final feature included in the collection is the only time Fred Astaire & Judy Garland worked together. The audio commentary by Fred’s daughter, Ava Astaire was full of interesting tidbits. The movie was originally intended for Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse with Frank Sinatra in the supporting role. However, due to injuries the film had to be re-cast. I’m always fascinated by casting changes. The movie appears to have everything working in its favour: a great cast, the songs of Irving Berlin and fantastic choreography. But essentially, the formula is old: Guy loses girl, finds new partner in hopes of creating jealously but ends up falling in love with his new partner. There was nothing glamorous about it, not even the finale. Granted the restoration was great. The colour was so great that it was evident that Ann Miller’s hairpiece didn’t match her actual hair. The best scene comes at the end of Ch. 10 when Fred encourages the frumpy Judy to attract the attention of male passer-bys. As for special features, in addition to the audio commentary, there is a Judy Garland trailer gallery.

    IN THE END...

    I was particularly attracted to this collection because it was produced by TCM. Overall, I was pleased with the films included in this DVD set. It allowed me to replace my VHS copies of Singin’ in the Rain and Meet Me in St. Louis. It also enhanced my DVD collection with The Band Wagon.

    Debrah Scarfone-Shaw
    June 16, 2009.

    #2 of 11 OFFLINE   RPMay



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    Posted June 17 2009 - 05:30 AM

    The only one of these four pictures where the reviewer got the release date correct was SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. BANDWAGON is 1952, not 1944, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is 1944, EASTER PARADE is 1948. Research, anyone? What else might be wrong from this reviewer? DM

    #3 of 11 OFFLINE   Edward Weinman

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    Posted June 17 2009 - 07:14 AM

    ...err, The Band Wagon is 1953 (sorry!).

    #4 of 11 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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    Posted June 17 2009 - 07:37 AM

    What else might be wrong from this reviewer of reviewers! Posted Image

    Can we play nice and keep the review technical corrections in the realm of polite and informative? I certainly would benefit from such a policy in my own reviews. If I encountered such antagonism after my first posted review I might never have attempted my second.

    [Nah! Who am I kidding. I am an egomaniac oblivious to the thoughts of others. I could see how actual human beings with feelings would be discouraged, though.]

    To be fair, Richard has offered up corrections to other reviews, including mine, that were both polite and informative, so this was an atypical expression of frustration (or maybe just a question of intended tone not transalting to electronic text).

    Ken McAlinden
    Livonia, MI USA

    #5 of 11 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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    Posted June 17 2009 - 08:27 AM

    Mr. May is an invaluable fact-checker. Unfortunately for us reviewers, the checking is a public one. Posted Image
    COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

    #6 of 11 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted June 22 2009 - 10:36 AM

    I'll take responsibility for this error. Debrah is well informed of the dates - trust me on this one - she's a lover of classic films. She gave me her review to format with HTML. I decided to plug in the dates of the films with my formatting. I visited a website that had this boxed set. I copied the dates from the website (which one was incorrect) and then shuffled the order of the films around...anyways, the end result is that I made a few date errors and unfortunately these things happen. Please, be kind. I haven't had a chance to check this thread until now or else I would have seen this earlier. I'll inform Debrah to edit the thread.

    Michael Osadciw

    THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator

    Video Contributor

    CANADA HiFi Magazine

    #7 of 11 ONLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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    Posted June 22 2009 - 10:55 AM

    The benefit of the doubt would have been the polite approach here.
    "Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
    My DVD Collection

    #8 of 11 OFFLINE   Pulp_Queen



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    Posted June 23 2009 - 06:10 AM

    Thank Mike. I know you were just trying to help by inserting the dates in my review (which I forgot to do) and I appreciate all your help. In the meantime, I've updated the review with the correct dates.

    #9 of 11 OFFLINE   Steve...O



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    Posted June 23 2009 - 06:24 AM

    Debrah, glad to have you aboard as a reviewer! Looking forward to reading more of them over time and wishing best wishes for lots of success at this. Steve
    Please help UCLA restore the Laurel & Hardy films: https://www.cinema.u...aurel-and-hardy

    #10 of 11 OFFLINE   Rob W

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    Posted June 23 2009 - 10:58 AM

    Cyd Charisse's deleted version of 'Two-Faced Woman' from 'Bandwagon' is available in 'That's Entertainment III' where it is shown side-by-side with the same vocal track being lip-synced by Joan Crawford in 'Torch Song'.

    #11 of 11 OFFLINE   Robin9



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    Posted June 23 2009 - 05:22 PM

    I'm surprised to learn that Cyd Charisse did not want her Two Faced Woman number to be made available. I had never heard that before. Two Faced Woman is on the original 2-disc DVD of The Band Wagon and is an excellent number. Cyd had nothing to be ashamed of.

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