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Wabash Avenue DVD Review

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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 26 2013 - 07:11 AM

Wabash Avenue DVD Review

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the major movie studios routinely remade their previous successes after a passage of time. Whether it was MGM (Grand Hotel became Weekend at the Waldorf), Warners (different versions of The Maltese Falcon), or Columbia (It Happened One Night musicalized into You Can’t Run Away from It), it happened all the time. 20th Century Fox was among the primary studios wringing every ounce of juice out of its properties. In 1950, it produced Wabash Avenue, a remake of its 1943 hit Coney Island with the same top-billed star Betty Grable. She had a different supporting cast, a different director, and a different score, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same movie in a new set of duds.


Cover Art


Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD

Subtitles: None

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.

Package Includes: DVD

Disc Type: DVD-R

Region: All

Release Date: 02/01/2013

MSRP: $19.98




The Production Rating: 3/5

Former business partners Andy Clark (Victor Mature) and Mike Stanley (Phil Harris) are constantly double-crossing one another attempting to claim a piece of the other guy’s good fortune. Mike’s Loop Café in Chicago is doing fantastic business, and one of his prime assets is showgirl Ruby Summers (Betty Grable) who has a dynamite figure but makes poor choices in material with her rather gauche presentation skills. Andy tricks his way into another partnership with Mike and begins working on Ruby’s act turning her from a peroxided chippie into a chanteuse who can really sell a ballad. Along the way, the two fall in love making Mike regret ever bringing Andy into the business. But he has his own double-cross to thwart their marriage plans and to keep Ruby close to him even as she accepts an invitation to play on Broadway in Oscar Hammerstein’s new show.

With basically the same story, the success of this remake boils down to the quality of its new elements, and despite pleasing direction by Henry Koster, the other rudiments here don’t quite match the material in the earlier film. The songs and dances are somewhat weaker in the new score (new music provided by Mack Gordon and Josef Myrow producing the pretty “Baby, Won’t You Say You Love Me” and the baffling Oscar-nominated “Wilhemina”), and there is far less reliance on old standards (“I Wish I Could Shimmy” and “Harrigan” are really the only two oldies that stand out). Miss Grable is once again partnered in several numbers by the man who did the choreography for the film (this time it’s Billy Daniel), but her dancing takes on a bit of stiffness here that wasn’t evident seven years earlier. Her two leading men – Victor Mature and Phil Harris – aren’t patches on her earlier co-stars George Montgomery and Cesar Romero (Mature in particular incompetently mimes playing the piano, and both men engage in too much forced grinning) though there are a couple of pluses this new movie boasts: Margaret Hamilton as a feisty temperance league protestor who steals the show in her one major appearance and the sloppy drunk played here by James Barton (Charles Winninger in the original) who does a superb tap dance early in the movie that puts most of the rest of the film’s dancing to shame.

Betty Grable was still queen of the Fox lot (though her star was fading; she had only one more year in the box-office top ten to come, and she’d soon be eclipsed by Marilyn Monroe), and while she could still pull off her brand of wholesome cheekiness as a showgirl, those years were ending, too. It must have seemed odd for her to be playing basically the same role again but with different men, costumes, and songs, but she does her usual reliable job. Neither Victor Mature nor Phil Harris sings a note in this musical (odd since Harris was famous as a singing bandleader at the time), and while they play their parts effectively enough, there’s not quite the spark or freshness that their 1943 counterparts demonstrated. Reginald Gardiner isn’t given much to do as Andy’s right-hand man Eddie, and he, too, doesn’t do any crooning.



Video Rating: 3/5  3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is unusually dark throughout, and color has been so saturated that skin tones take on unnatural shades of orange or deep, blooming pink. Sharpness, however, is excellent. But the film has a fairly consistent amount of colored noise and debris, and there are even a couple of reel change markers still in place. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 10 chapters.



Audio Rating: 3.5/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Once again, the volume level has been set uncomfortably high and will require some adjustment on the part of the viewer if he doesn’t wish to listen to a track riddled with distortion. There is some light hiss to be heard in quieter moments, and an occasional pop or two, but those are never problematic. Otherwise, this is a very typical sound mix of its day with a nice balance between dialogue, sound effects, and music. Fidelity at the proper volume level is rather good.



Special Features Rating: 0/5

There are no bonus features for this made-on-demand disc.



Overall Rating: 3/5

Wabash Avenue is dependable entertainment for those who enjoy star Betty Grable’s singing and dancing talents. Otherwise, Coney Island provides the snappier, more entertaining version of this story, but likely fans of the star will want both versions so they can do their own comparisons.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   marcco00

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Posted March 26 2013 - 11:19 PM

this is one of the dvd titles that i have to adjust my tv settings for---- boosting up contrast to 100, dialing down the brightness and color seems to help.... at least it's comparable to the fox movie channel print that i dvdr'd last year.

 

i have found it helpful that i keep a little notebook where i jot down the tv settings for some dvd titles whose transfers i find too dark, grainy, etc.

 

 i LOVE betty grable musicals, and on the whole the fox archives have released some decent transfers of her films..... i keep my fingers crossed they will continue that trend, i have already pre-ordered 'meet me after the show' and 'call me mister'.


Edited by marcco00, March 26 2013 - 11:24 PM.


#3 of 9 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 27 2013 - 06:46 PM

I enjoy her films, too. I was a bit disconcerted during the Fox Blu-ray vote that my favorite film of hers Mother Wore Tights did so poorly in the voting.


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#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Doug Bull

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Posted March 29 2013 - 04:44 PM

Yet another Fox Archives disaster.

 

It looks truly awful. Everything Matt says is correct.

I'd mark it 2/5

 

"That Lady in Ermine" has the same problems and is also a 2/5 

 

"Sweet Rosie O'Grady", "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" and "Coney Island" are only slightly better.

Those 3 have odd moments where the colors actually look nice, but I emphasise "odd moments"

The rest is.....

 

Doug.



#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 29 2013 - 06:06 PM

Yet another Fox Archives disaster.

 

It looks truly awful. Everything Matt says is correct.

I'd mark it 2/5

 

"That Lady in Ermine" has the same problems and is also a 2/5 

 

"Sweet Rosie O'Grady", "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" and "Coney Island" are only slightly better.

Those 3 have odd moments where the colors actually look nice, but I emphasise "odd moments"

The rest is.....

 

Doug.

 

I plan to work on a review for The Shocking Miss Pilgrim tomorrow.



#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Doug Bull

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Posted March 29 2013 - 09:28 PM

I look forward to your review Matt.

 

I haven't watched it right through yet, but what I saw of TSMP it looked better than some of the previous releases, although, like the others it still appears to be plagued with the problems associated with an ancient or non improved video transfer.

 

I find the problem with nearly all of these Fox Archives discs and indeed even on properly pressed older Technicolor Fox titles (30s, 40s & 50s) is their tendency to deliver overbearing crushed blacks.

It is almost impossible to improve the image because of these detail destroying BLACKS!.

 

Other studios manage great grey scales, why can't Fox.

This heavy black problem goes back to the Laserdisc days, but then I guess they are still using the same transfers. :rolleyes:

The original Fox Technicolor 35mm nitrate and safety prints, that I have seen do not have this problem.

 

Doug. 



#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted March 30 2013 - 10:46 AM

I look forward to your review Matt.

 

I haven't watched it right through yet, but what I saw of TSMP it looked better than some of the previous releases, although, like the others it still appears to be plagued with the problems associated with an ancient or non improved video transfer.

 

I find the problem with nearly all of these Fox Archives discs and indeed even on properly pressed older Technicolor Fox titles (30s, 40s & 50s) is their tendency to deliver overbearing crushed blacks.

It is almost impossible to improve the image because of these detail destroying BLACKS!.

 

Other studios manage great grey scales, why can't Fox.

This heavy black problem goes back to the Laserdisc days, but then I guess they are still using the same transfers. :rolleyes:

The original Fox Technicolor 35mm nitrate and safety prints, that I have seen do not have this problem.

 

Doug. 

Why were the original nitrate and safety prints that you mentioned not used for image harvests, then? Do they no longer exist? Based on the info in these reviews, the image harvests were probably done from those crappy CRI dupes from the 1970s. Bleh!



#8 of 9 OFFLINE   Keith Cobby

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Posted March 30 2013 - 11:20 AM

It is disappointing when the picture quality of these Archive films is not to the standard we want. However, we would simply not have the opportunity to see many of these films given the apparently poor sales of Betty's DVDs if it was not for programmes like this. Her fan base is not getting any younger and the recent voting would have given Fox a pretty good idea of her current popularity - unfortunately.



#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted March 31 2013 - 12:25 PM

It is disappointing when the picture quality of these Archive films is not to the standard we want. However, we would simply not have the opportunity to see many of these films given the apparently poor sales of Betty's DVDs if it was not for programmes like this. Her fan base is not getting any younger and the recent voting would have given Fox a pretty good idea of her current popularity - unfortunately.

Sadly, this is true







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