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HTF REVIEW: "Singin' In The Rain" Special Edition (with screenshots)


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#1 of 54 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 09 2002 - 08:34 PM

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Singin' In The Rain
Special Edition







Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1952
Rated: G
Film Length: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish



"....I'm ha-a-a-a-py again!"

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Singin' In The Rain is considered to be
the greatest Hollywood musical ever made -- and
why not? -- nothing has ever come close to this
film in combining the perfect mixture of dancing
and humor as Hollywood takes a good look at itself.

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The setting is the end of the 1920s when films
were just making the transition to sound, a time
of uncertainty for many established silent movie
stars. At the gala premiere of a 1927 silent film,
adoring fans clamor for a glimpse of The Royal
Rascal's illustrious stars: Don Lockwood (Gene
Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). On-screen
they are the screen's most adoring couple, but
off-screen the romance quickly flutters.

One evening during a party hosted by Monumental
Pictures the guests are treated to a most curious
novelty--a talking picture demonstration. Though
most of the guests scoff at its potential success,
the talking format soon becomes the rage of Hollywood
and thus killing off the silent screen stars who
suddenly must find a voice in pictures.

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Monumental Pictures soon moves to make its first
talkie, The Dueling Cavalier. When a test
screening reveals Lina's high-pitched squeaky voice
is making audiences everywhere cringe and laugh,
the studio goes into a panic. In an attempt to save
the project, Don's true off-screen love interest,
Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), secretly dubs over
Lina's squeal, while his best friend and musical
genius Cosmo Brown (Donald O' Connor) lends a
hand by renovating the script into The Dancing
Cavalier
.

The most magical thing about Singin' In The
Rain
is that the film could have survived
on its own merits if it were solely a comedy or
a musical. Fortunately, the writing talents of
Adolph Green and Betty Comden were so greatly
complimented by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donens'
direction that the film was destined for greatness.

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Some of the most extraordinary musical sequences
ever filmed all appear here.....from Make 'Em
Laugh
to Moses Supposes to Broadway
Rhythm
to.....oh, yes....Singin' In The
Rain
. Remarkable music combined with awe-
inspiring dance numbers makes this a film that
will forever stand the test of time.

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Singin' In The Rain arrives in a brand
new two-disc special edition. A cardboard
slipcover contains a pull-out that opens to a
3-pane gatefold. Two DVDs (labeled ONE and TWO)
sit in plastic hub housing that sit above a 2-pane
photo of the lights from Broadway Rhythm. On
the far left pane resides the complete Scene Index
of the film. A back pane panel lists the Scene
Index from the documentaries that resides on
Disc TWO as well as a list of original movie
excerpts of Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown songs.


How is the transfer


Aaaaaahh, Technicolor! Glorious Technicolor!

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Get ready to be blown away! This is the most
jaw-dropping transfer of Singin' In The Rain
seen on any format to date....beating out MGM's
original transfer. In fact, going back to MGM's
transfer (which they greatly heralded) you can
clearly see colors that are pale and blurred. I
even noticed scratches and blemishes in the print
that I never noticed the first time around. This
is what happens after you see a transfer that is
so noticeably superior...and Warner is the winner!

First let me warn you that the film is presented
in a full-frame ratio of 1.33:1. No anamorphic
enhancement here. But there shouldn't be! This
is the film's original theatrical ratio. With
that in mind, let me talk about the absolutely
gorgeous technicolor transfer that takes vivid
reds, luscious yellows and a kaleidoscope of
colors to levels never seen before. If you ever
want to know just how good technicolor can
be, just spin up chapter 14 (Beautiful Girl) and
chapter 29 (Broadway Rhythm) to watch color as
you have never seen it. Something else to look
for -- and this cannot be seen on the MGM release --
Donald O'Connor's aqua eyes that seem to just
lightly sparkle in every frame he appears in.

Folks, this is as good as it gets!

Now, let's talk about the all-new 5.1 digital
mix. You know, taking a movie filmed in the
1950s when Dolby Stereo wasn't even heard of,
and remixing it to today's high 5.1 standards,
is going to have its limitations. The problem
with this 5.1 mix is that it really dumbs down
the sound. In this mix, the center channel
levels rise well above all the other channels.
While dialogue certainly remains focused to the
center channel, so does most of the music. The
center channel robs the two front channels of
most of the musical thrust. The center isn't
meant to carry sound in this manner. The rear
channels don't add much ambience to the film,
adding more echo effects than anything else. In
fact, the rear and LFE levels are so low, that
you only faintly hear any response from either.


Special Features


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Disc One contains the entire feature. If
you have already seen this film, perhaps you should
immediately go to this area for an interesting added
feature...


Singin' Inspirations is an option you can
turn on, that will play the movie with additional
hidden footage. With this option enabled, a small
film reel icon will appear on your screen during
the film's playback. Click on that icon with your
remote to learn a little more about Singin' In
The Rain
and the films that inspired it.

Now let's talk about the full-length commentary
that features the likes of Stanley Donen, Debbie
Reynolds, Donald O'Conner, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen
Freeman, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph
Green, film historian Rudy Behlmer, and even
Baz Luhrmann, the director of Moulin Rouge.
It would have been great if all these individuals
were able to be in the recording studio at once
to record this commentary for the film's 50th
Anniversary. Unfortunately, these are all separate
recordings thrown together as one. The only real
person in the studio is Debbie Reynolds, who acts
as host, introducing the various interviews. We
have Betty Comden and Adolph Green who talk about
how they decided the best way to use the songs
was to write a movie about the transitional period
from silent to sound. Baz Luhrmann talks about
the great physical device that the movie begins
with -- the fact that Gene Kelly tells a story that
may not be entirely truthful. Later, Baz so
passionately talks about the heightened world we
are taken to in You Were Meant For Me.
Donald O'Conner talks warmly about actress Jean
Hagen who played Lina,the ditzy blonde. This was
her first approach at comedy, and her being a
serious actress brought a very special bonus to
the role. Historian Rudy Behlmer (who contributes
most to this commentary) talks about actor Oscar
Levant, who was originally chosen to play the part
of Cosmo Brown. There were scenes specifically
written for the actor and Arthur Freed had pushed
for him to get the part. Not quite sure how the
decision was made to select O'Conner instead. The
wonderful Kathleen Freeman talks not only about
the power of the film and what it meant to her,
but also what a grand time she had on the MGM lot --
going to lunch and seeing actors like Clarke
Gabel and Fred Astaire.

Although all of these recordings were made at
separate times, a very admirable job has been
done to place the comments at the very point of
the film that they pertain to. For this reason,
the commentary holds up quite well as accompaniment
to the film.


Reel Sound consists of a few text pages
that give insight into some of the major Warner
and MGM films that made the transition from silent
era to sound.

In addition to the original theatrical trailer,
There's a page dedicated to all the Awards this
film has received between the years 1952-2002.
Would you believe this was never an Academy Award
winner for Best Picture?!

Finally, a measly Cast and Crew area is
included that doesn't let you access any of its
stars or filmmakers. You can look - but you can't
touch! Sort of sad since some of Hollywood's
greatest are featured here.

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Disc Two has a wealth of extra material
here. Let's take a look....

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Musicals Great Musicals is a 96 minute
documentary that looks at the career of producer/
songwriter Arthur Freed. He was the man that
changed the look of musicals from ordinary to
extraordinary. Some of his talents include
On the Town, An American In Paris, The Harvey
Girls, Showboat
and The Wizard of Oz..
Speaking of Oz, it was Arthur Freed who insisted
that Judy Garland be selected to play the lead
part. He also saved Over The Rainbow from
being removed. Arthur Freed's music became the
pop music of the time. We are treated to many
clips from all of these wonderful films as well
as clips of Mr. Freed, himself. Various
historians, composers, lyricists, screenwriters
and actors (including Mickey Rooney) all join in
to celebrate this legend.

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What a Glorious Feeling is a new documentary
that takes a look at the making and impact of
this landmark musical. It begins with Debbie
Reynolds, our host, who talks about the
unexpected success of the film. Early footage
shows the MGM lot and various musicals that the
studio was releasing at the time talkies came to
be. We learn about lyricist Arthur Freed and his
influence on the future of the studio. It's
interesting to be brought through the development
of this film, learning about all the original
ideas that were meant to be included in the
musical - but weren't. For instance, the song
Singin' In The Rain was never originally
meant to be for Gene Kelly, but actually a song
for trio Don, Cathy and Cosmo. How much did O'Connor
and Kelly enjoy working with each other? Well,
you only need to look at their dance numbers that
show how much respect there was for each other's
talent. Kelly played off of O'Conner (and vise-versa).
There are lots of rare photos from the set, as
well as pictures of the script and various
internal MGM memos related to the picture production.
There's also a wonderful story that Donald
O'Conner tells about how the song Make 'Em Laugh
would come to be. There's also a wonderful (and
perhaps final) interview with the memorable
Kathleen Freeman about her memories of the film
and cast. An absolutely no-holds-barred look
at the greatest musical ever made from the people
that made it!
(length: approx. 30 minutes)

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So where did all the great songs from this film
originate from? Excerpts from features where
the songs originated
takes us through a dozen
movie clips from the 20s and 30s that featured
original versions of songs like Beautiful Girl
and Good Morning. Know what blew me away?
Take a look at the clip of Singin' In The
Rain
as originally seen in The Hollywood
Review of 1929
. We are introduced to Cliff
Edwards who sings the original song. And who did
this man go on to become? The voice of Jiminy
Cricket in Disney's Pinnochio. Now that
is cool!

Imagine this...there's an outtake from
the movie. It's a musical number called You
Are My Lucky Star
that features Kathy singing
the song to a billboard picture of Don Lockwood.

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A gallery presents approximately 17 stills
of rare photos of the cast on the set, in
wardrobe, and goofing around for publicity sake.

This was an incredible surprise! Here, on
this DVD are scoring sessions from the
film. These are the original recordings done
in advance of filming on MGM's scoring stage.
These are mainly multiple takes of material
either dropped or revised in the film. Over
two dozen of these outtakes are available for
you to listen to, complete with lots of throat
clearing. This is sort of like listening to the
bootleg Beatles material for the first time.


Final Thoughts

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Take your favorite musical and make a wish!
This Special Edition from Warner Brothers proves
that dreams do come true. We finally have a DVD
that truly captures the glory of this musical in
both transfer and supplements. It's great to see
that this film finally received the treatment it
was due, and it is my hope that it will serve to
introduce new generations to this timeless classic.

Highly Recommended!

Release Date: September 24, 2002

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 54 OFFLINE   Allan Mack

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Posted September 09 2002 - 09:48 PM

This should make a good demo disc for my 4:3 TV (as well as being a great movie). Thanks for the review, Ron...

#3 of 54 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted September 09 2002 - 11:03 PM

I think that MGM/WB did not have the luxury of having "Stems" or "Angles" material for all the film's musical numbers. Although the practice was to record the singers on one tape and the various orchestra sections on their own separate tapes, most likely those elements were lost or destroyed. This practice was not to make a final stereo audio mix but to balance the music for the final mono mix. The home video/DVD nomenclature of "5.1 stereo" can often be untrue. Taking mostly mono elements and making them "Chace Stereo" is simply not the same as real stereo. Dolby has nothing to do with whether a soundtrack is in stereo or not. It's just a method of reproduction to reduce tape background noise, nothing else. It can be mono as well. Some reconstructed "stereo" from surviving "Stem" elements have been used since the LaserDisc days on MGM musicals and they sound great. Much of the extra scoring material and alternate takes have already been available on a Rhino CD for awhile and the Debbie Reynolds outtake was previously released on Laser. Except for the new documentary all the other material was previously released on various LaserDiscs. But all in all, it sounds like a great release and the sharpness and color look outstanding.

#4 of 54 OFFLINE   Kurt N

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Posted September 10 2002 - 12:14 AM

Jeepers, Wally. Those screenshots look AMAZING. I think this just went from "get it within a couple weeks" to "be at Best Buy when they open the door." Thanks for another swell review.
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#5 of 54 ONLINE   Brian Kidd

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Posted September 10 2002 - 12:34 AM

When I see an old film made to look this good, it almost makes me cry. THANK YOU WB!
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Support Film Preservation before it's too late!
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#6 of 54 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted September 10 2002 - 12:46 AM

Now the question I have is whether this film has been preserved to film or just low resolution video. What will the Technicolor 35mm prints be mastered from that are due at the end of the year for a limited run?

P.S. Is "Make 'Em Laugh" a steal from Cole Porter's earlier song "Be A Clown"? Posted Image

#7 of 54 OFFLINE   Jeff Bamberger

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:02 AM

I have to tell ya, Ron's reviews of this, Amadeus, and Cuckoo's nest clearly make me notch Warner Brothers up, even to the point where I can almost forgive them for snapper cases. I have been waiting on the SE of Cuckoo since I got my DVD player way back when. And I have been toying with getting Amadeus. But SitRain was not even on my radar screen. The screenshots look so amazing. And the supplemental materials sound grand. Thanks Ron for a great review and making me want to spend more money......

#8 of 54 OFFLINE   BrettB

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:25 AM

Thanks Ron, this is the one I was most interested in right behind Unforgiven. Is there not going to be a review of Unforgiven? Posted Image

#9 of 54 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:30 AM

Brett, I have literally 2 dozen DVD titles sitting here to be reviewed, all representing different studios. I usually pick only a few of what each studio sends me because I am only one guy here, as opposed to other websites that employ multiple reviewers. Actually, I went out of my way to do 4 of the 5 Warner releases because I thought, well, they were that special. Unfortunately Unforgiven was the one I had to leave out. I don't like to promote other websites, but DVDFILE.COM has posted a review of UNFORGIVEN today and since its written by Peter Bracke, I trust that it will be a very honest and informative review. He is one of my favorite on-line reviewers and I wish I could write as well as he does.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#10 of 54 OFFLINE   Jens Raethel

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:34 AM

This is defenetly a must buy DVD!
Thanks Ron!!Posted Image


#11 of 54 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:49 AM

Thanks again Ron for a great review

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#12 of 54 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:51 AM

One comment on Ron's excellent reivew. Under the name "Studio" he puts WB. In all fairness, this marvelous film was made by MGM. WB is currently the owner of the film and distributor not the originator. In the 50s WB would never make a film like this.

#13 of 54 OFFLINE   Kajs

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Posted September 10 2002 - 02:55 AM

I cannot wait!

#14 of 54 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted September 10 2002 - 03:24 AM

Thanks Ron! Posted Image Clearly a must buy.
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#15 of 54 OFFLINE   Rain

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Posted September 10 2002 - 03:32 AM

So is the 5.1 track the only audio track on the disc?

Also, Ron, do you have the old DVD for comparison? I would be interested to hear your comments regarding the framing.

This link to comparison screenshots was posted in another thread. Based on these, it looks like the framing is cropped particularly on the right side and the bottom.


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#16 of 54 OFFLINE   josh4040

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Posted September 10 2002 - 03:50 AM

need volunteers to help with the overflow ron? Posted Image

#17 of 54 OFFLINE   BrettB

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Posted September 10 2002 - 04:08 AM

Thanks for the explanation Ron, and thanks for the DVDFile heads-up. Actually, seeing as how you had done 4 of the 5 I was thinking there might have been some sort of snafu and you didn't receive Unforgiven at the same time or something. Please know that I wasn't doggin' ya. All your efforts are very much appreciated. Posted Image

#18 of 54 OFFLINE   michael deakin

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Posted September 10 2002 - 04:52 AM

Thanks Ron.
This is one of my wife's favorite films. Can't wait to show her this puppy.
mikePosted Image

#19 of 54 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted September 10 2002 - 04:53 AM

According to DVDFile there is an original mono track on the disc.

#20 of 54 OFFLINE   Rain

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Posted September 10 2002 - 05:03 AM

[quote] According to DVDFile there is an original mono track on the disc. [quote] Wonderful! Posted Image

Now if I could figure out what the deal is with the framing, I will sleep better tonight. Posted Image

"Imagine all the people, living life in peace..." - Imagine by John Lennon




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