I Love Lucy: The Movie
Directed by Marc Daniels, Edward Sedgwick
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 81 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Subtitles: CC, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Review Date: April 14, 2010
In 1953 at the height of I Love Lucy’s popularity, executive producer Desi Arnaz got the bright idea to put together some series episodes tied together with some new bridging footage and release it as a feature film. The subsequent movie was ready to go near the end of 1953, but MGM (about to release the first feature film with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz since their huge TV success entitled The Long, Long Trailer) asked Desi to postpone the release of the I Love Lucy movie fearing it might cut into the box-office of their feature, a request that Desi was happy to honor. The I Love Lucy movie went on the shelf and stayed there for over fifty-five years. Now, Paramount has dusted it off, placed it on a DVD with some other unique I Love Lucy video memorabilia, and offer it as I Love Lucy: The Movie.
Three season one episodes were chosen for the compilation: “The Benefit” (Lucy wants to perform with Desi but she can’t carry a tune), “Breaking the Lease” (the best of the three episodes: a memorable battle with the Mertzes who won’t allow the Ricardos to leave their lease without paying five months’ rent), and “The Ballet” (Lucy, show-biz mad again, mixes up her ballet lessons with the ancient vaudeville routine built around “Slowly I Turned”). Though each of the shows is funny, it’s puzzling that such season one Lucy classics like “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” “Pioneer Women,” “Lucy Writes a Play,” “Lucy’s Schedule,” or “The Freezer” weren’t chosen instead of “The Benefit” or “The Ballet.” Perhaps because both of those episodes are music heavy and Desi might have felt the slapstick comedy could use a breather with some musical interludes might account for their inclusion. And there is plenty of music on hand in this film: “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” “Auf Wiederseh’n,” “Under the Bamboo Tree,” “Sweet Sue,” “Down Argentine Way,” and “Martha.”
Five new sequences were filmed to connect the episodes into a feature film: the first serves as an introduction to the movie (which ingeniously explains why there was audience laughter on the soundtrack), three new situational pieces connect one episode to the other with the actors appearing in the same costumes from the various episodes, and a concluding sequence when the last episode finishes playing. These connecting pieces do a more than respectable job in tying the episodes together with one another even if it’s impossible to disguise the episodic nature of the film’s framework.
But even if two of the three segments aren’t really prime Lucy, they’re all still hilarious and feature the superb comic timing and masterful interplay between Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley. In the years to come, many comic ensembles would match their outstanding collective work, but no show has ever surpassed it. They truly are matchless, and this film only offers further proof of their unique brilliance. And among the supporting players in the episodes are the always entertaining Mary Wickes and Barbara Pepper.
The television aspect ratio of the original series (1.33:1) carries forward in this compilation effort. The grayscale is adequately rendered here (and though I didn’t take out my first season of Lucy to do A/B comparisons, my memory seems to imagine that the remastered versions of the season one episodes look superior to the versions here even though the packaging insists the film was restored and remastered.) Sharpness is acceptable and sometimes better than that, but there is some minor flickering during the second episode that's a bit distracting. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Though the soundtrack is clear and free from noise or distracting age-related artifacts, it’s obvious that there won’t be much in the way of expansive sound for these early television sound recordings. The show sounds as it has always sounded with dialogue clear but with limited high and low ends with music and sound effects.
CBS/Paramount has done an excellent job in providing extensive production notes on the disc for the film and for all of the other bonus features on the disc. Some of the production notes even offer optional video examples of gaffes or interesting moments filmed during principal photography.
“Lucy Goes to Scotland” is a season five episode which has been colorized here based on extensive photographs and home movies taken during dress rehearsal to get the colors exactly as they appeared on the night of the filming. Though I am not a fan of colorization, I must admit the job here is as good and as natural-appearing as I’ve ever seen, the only telltale aspects of the process being a lack of shading on the faces of the actors (it’s obvious that the rouge blush on their faces has been ignored by the colorizers who lay on flat beige colors).
Lucy and Desi’s first joint TV appearance is presented in a 3-minute kinescope clip from a 1949 episode of The Ed Wynn Show. The duo have some fun with the star of the show who ad-libs at their line flubs and break-ups.
A 5 ½-minute clip at the Sixth Annual Emmy Awards finds Vivian Vance winning the first ever statuette presented for Best Supporting Actress. Lucy and Desi are also shown accepting the trophy for Best Comedy Series and imploring the Academy to add categories honoring writing (the Academy did so the very next year). By the way, Lucy lost Best Actress in a Series that year to Eve Arden for Our Miss Brooks (this isn’t mentioned in any of the production documentation). She had won the award the previous year and would win three more Best Actress prizes during her television career.
A 3 ¾-minute clip honoring the Archive of American Television which houses many of these Emmy clips and interviews with many television greats is also included in the package.
The live action and animated commercial introduction to the series sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes are presented in a 2 ¼ minute clip along with some other clips from the show which feature the commercial spokespersons John Stevenson and Johnny Roventini for the cigarette brand.
3.5/5 (not an average)
For I Love Lucy completists, this DVD of I Love Lucy: The Movie along with some choice additional rarities from the show’s archives would seem to be a must. You’ll have a fun time with the Ricardos and the Mertzes and learn a little something about the business of show business in the process. Recommended!