The Frank Sinatra Collection pulls together two films from the 1940s, one from the 1950s, and two from the 1960s into a career-spanning if somewhat random-seeming five disc box set. The big budget Samuel Goldwyn production of 1955's Guys and Dolls and the quintessential rat-pack caper film Ocean's Eleven are repackagings of previously released Blu-rays while 1945's Anchors Aweigh, 1949's On the Town, and 1964's Robin and the 7 Hoods (all also available separately) make their Blu-ray debuts.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/VC-1
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1, 2.40:1, 2.55:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 20 Min. (Anchors Aweigh); 1 Hr. 38 Min. (On the Town); 2 Hr. 29 Min. (Guys & Dolls); 2 Hr. 7 Min. (Ocean's Eleven); 2 Hr. 3 Min. (Robin & the 7 Hoods)
Package Includes: Blu-rayBox set with photo booklet and 5-disc Blu-ray case with two hinged trays in sturdy cardboard slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 05/05/2015
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Anchors Aweigh (1945 - MGM - 140 Minutes) ***½
Directed by George Sidney
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Dean Stockwell, José Iturbi
The first on-screen pairing of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in an MGM musical, Anchors Aweigh follows the exploits of two sailors on a four day shore leave in Los Angeles. The naive Clarence Doolittle (Sinatra) hopes to learn a lot in the ways of meeting ladies from the considerably more worldly Joe Brady (Kelly). Meanwhile, Joe's plans to hook up with a a female acquaintance are thwarted by increasingly less plausible circumstances involving a child (Dean Stockwell - age 9!) who runs away from home to enlist in the Navy, the child's fledgling singer Aunt Susan (Grayson), and attempts to connect Joe and Susan that involve securing the services of conductor José Iturbi (as himself).
The film's somewhat meager plot proves to be a rickety skeleton for some absolutely top-notch production numbers. While the particulars of the characters and their relationships are not likely to linger in the viewer's mind for any length of time, specific sequences leave lasting impressions. Among these are a fantasy sequence that culminates in an on-screen dance duet between Gene Kelly and Hannah-Barbera's Jerry Mouse, a sequence with José Iturbi leading a piano orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, a dance duet between Sinatra and Kelly to "I Begged Her" that almost certainly constitutes the hardest Frank Sinatra was ever caught working on-screen, Kelly incorporating both Tango and tap dancing into his choreography for a fantasy number to "La Cumparsita", and any production number where Sinatra or Grayson are called on to sing.
Sinatra receives top billing in the film's credits, but Gene Kelly is the lead actor by any standard Hollywood measure. Despite some obligatory plot feints, Sinatra is never presented as a serious romantic interest for leading lady Kathryn Grayson, and is given all of the standard Hollywood second banana traits. By this point in his career, MGM had enough confidence in Kelly to give him near free reign in staging his major production numbers, and he makes the most of it. Conductor José Iturbi was a regular in MGM musicals through the 40s despite the lack of apparent singing, dancing, or acting chops, but this was arguably the best use of him of all. He is given visually inventive music scenes in which to appear, and he is asked to play himself in a charming way that does not tax his limited acting skills.
The film's biggest weakness is its excessive length which is padded out by excessive spinning of plot wheels. The excellence of the musical production numbers combined with some interesting views of mid-40s Hollywood (in addition to the Hollywood Bowl set piece, you get a nifty behind the scenes glimpse of the MGM Studios) makes for an overall enjoyable experience that overcomes its turgid plotting to secure a place in the top tier of MGM musicals from the Joe Pasternak production unit.
On the Town (1949 - MGM - 109 Minutes) ****½
Directed by: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Starring: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen
Four years after Anchors Aweigh, Kelly and Sinatra again plays sailors on leave, but this time, instead of three days in Los Angeles, they have only 24 hours in New York City. When Gabey (Kelly), Chip (Sinatra), and Ozzie (Munshin) are granted a one day leave in Manhattan, they are determined to squeeze as much fun out of it as possible. After a chance encounter, Gabey becomes infatuated with Ivy Smith (Ellen), who appears in promotional posters around the subway as "Miss Turnstiles". As Gabey and his buddy's attempt to reunite him with Ivy, they come across taxi driver, Brunhilde (Garrett), who takes an immediate liking to Chip,and an anthropologist, Claire (Miller), who becomes fascinated with Ozzie due to his uncanny resemblance to the "prehistoric man" exhibit at her museum.
While much of On the Town presents the usual MGM backlot view of New York City, co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen were able to secure five days of actual location shooting in New York City which helps to set it apart from all previous MGM musicals. On the Town was the first feature directorial credit for both Kelly and Donen, and they hit the ground running. While one might expect the fantastically staged production numbers given their backgrounds as choreographers, they also exhibit a surprising gift for comedy and editorial timing that helps to propel the film along at a frenetic and entertaining pace.
The screenwriting duo of Betty Comden and Adolph Green deftly adapted their hit stage play into a cinematic souffle that rollicks along so entertainingly to the beat of wonderful music by Leonard Bernstein and Roger Edens that viewers hardly have time to be bothered by the almost complete lack of story. Even when a late in the film plot contrivance involving Kelly's Gabey being set up on a date with Brunhilde's roommate threatens to bog down the proceedings, it becomes a broadly comic set-piece thanks to the efforts of Alice Pearce as the enthusiastic but sinus-challenged roommate.
On the Town is filled with wit and invention and one of its most impressive innovations is the spectacular ballet sequence near the film's climax. Interrupting the film's narrative with an extended fantasy ballet in which four of the principal characters are replaced by dancers was a risky move that could have confused audiences and stopped the film in its tracks. Instead, the artistry on display elevates and enhances the film, providing an emotional climax that complements the somewhat screwball actual climax.
Guys and Dolls (1954 - Goldwyn - 149 Minutes) ****
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring: Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine, Robert Keith, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, and Johnny Silver
Guys and Dolls adapts the successful Broadway musical based on a Damon Runyon story to the big screen. The central story involves an improbable romance between high-rolling gambler Sky Masterson (Brando) and prim and proper Christian missionary Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons). The catalyst setting this romance in motion is Nathan Detroit (Sinatra), the facilitator of the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York”, who is trying to find a location in Manhattan where an unusually dense convergence of high rollers can shoot craps without the unwanted attentions of New York Police Lieutenant Brannigan (Keith) or of Nathan’s long suffering fiancee Adelaide (Blaine).
Joseph L. Mankiewicz was not exactly known for musicals, but he acquitted himself well on his one and only cinematic foray into the genre. Mankiewicz’s strengths as a director and writer were great dialog and a sympathetic touch with actors. If he had a weakness, it was that he was not much of a visual stylist. In the case of Guys and Dolls, Mankewicz and Producer Samuel Goldwyn secured the services of Michael Kidd to adapt his theatrical show choreography for the CinemaScope screen. This wise decision provides for dramatically staged and visually exciting musical sequences that nicely complement the narrative scenes that hold them together. Mankiewicz’s screenplay retains much of the stylized Damon Runyon adapted dialog from the stage show, but tweaks things a bit to beef up the dramatic scenes involving the dual romances between Sky Masterson/Sarah Brown and Nathan Detroit/Adelaide.
Mankiewicz went out on a limb a bit by casting Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons in the lead roles of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown. Both were known more for their dramatic chops than their dancing and singing, but Mankiewicz refused to use vocal doubles during the musical numbers. Simmons proves to be a decent singer and an even better dancer. Brando struggles a bit with both, but gets through with a “talk-sing” style that is somewhat akin to what frequent Mankiewicz collaborator Rex Harrison would be doing in the following year’s hit stage production of My Fair Lady. Brando’s vocals were reportedly the result of compositing multiple individual studio takes. His dancing during the Havana sequence may not be especially slick, but like most of his acting performances, he approaches it with a combination of fearlessness and playfulness that comes across on screen.
Musical chops are certainly not in short supply for Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine, who acquit themselves well as the second leads. Sinatra was reportedly disappointed not to be cast as Sky Masterson, but he did not let that detract from his performance as Nathan Detroit. The part is beefed up considerably from the stage musical, with a bit more nuance to his relationship with Blaine’s Adelaide, expanded involvement in some of the musical production numbers, and a newly commissioned song from Frank Loesser called "Adelaide" that gives him a chance to do that voodoo that he does so well. Blaine knew the Adelaide part inside and out from her association with the hit Broadway production and strikes the right balance of comedic and sympathetic as Nathan’s long suffering fiancee.
Other holdovers from the Broadway cast include Stubby Kaye and Johnny Silver as Nathan’s amusingly Runyonesque sidekicks, and B.S. Pully as similarly amusing heavy “Big Jule”. Where Mankiewicz uses the Broadway actors, he generally allows them to play their characters in the somewhat broadly comic manner they did on stage. In the case of Brando, Simmons, and Sinatra, he alternates their dialog and performances between the stagey Runyonesque approach and a slightly more subdued tone when dealing with the romantic scenes. The end result fits appropriately in the backlot Manhattan reality of the film.
Ocean's Eleven (1960 - Warner Bros. - 127 Minutes) ***
Directed By: Lewis Milestone
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Cesar Romero, Patrice Wymore, Joey Bishop, Akim Tamiroff, Henry Silva
In Ocean's Eleven, Frank Sinatra plays Danny Ocean, a natural born leader and former paratrooper who assembles a team of his old Army Airborne buddies to pull-off an elaborate heist. The plan, conceived by high-strung criminal mastermind Spyros Acebos (Tamiroff), involves the simultaneous robbery of the five biggest casinos on the Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve. The group of disciplined and highly trained non-professional criminals is a dream team for pulling off the elaborately timed heist, but even the perfect crime is not above a little bad luck, especially in Las Vegas.
Ocean's Eleven is about as pure a vanity project as any Hollywood star has ever convinced a studio to finance. While the result is not necessarily the most coherent and well-plotted film ever conceived, there is a certain positive vibe conveyed by the large ensemble cast (prominently filled with member's of Sinatra's "Rat Pack") who are so clearly enjoying themselves that it spills over to the viewer and puts them in a forgiving mood. That's just as well because the filmmakers offer up a lot for the viewer to forgive. There's a completely gratuitous subplot involving Sinatra, Angie Dickinson as his estranged wife, and Patrice Wymore as a jealous woman scorned that in no way impacts anything else going on in the film. There's a seemingly complete lack of interest by the filmmakers in the mechanics of the heist which sucks about 85% of the potential suspense out of the film's key set-piece. Uneven pacing unbalances the comic and melodramatic plot turns (the latter mostly involving Richard Conte's character). As a topper, there's even a protracted black face gag with a couple of groaner punch lines delivered by Sammy Davis Jr.'s character.
In addition to the aforementioned fun factor, the positive side of the ledger is filled out by a playful and enjoyable score from composer Nelson Riddle, some similarly fun and frothy cinematography perfect for showing off the neon glitz of Las Vegas circa 1960, and a very good ending, the discussing of which would spoil it. Devotees of Sinatra, fans of the Las Vegas that was, or fans of anyone in the cast will all likely enjoy at least one aspect of the film. As oddly paced as the plot is, Sinatra and veteran director Lewis Milestone are generous to the supporting cast, giving just about everyone a chance to do what they do well. The cast in turn respond to this generosity by giving performances on a level that the screenplay hardly merits. Martin and Davis are given musical numbers and, as one would expect, they perform fabulously well. More surprising to me was Peter Lawford, who I have seen give a lot of uninspired performances in films both good and bad, but I have to admit is very good as a bored second generation money Mama's boy.
In a film with so many stars, Cesar Romero manages to stand out as the closest thing to an antagonist the film has to offer. He brings exactly the right tone to the role of Lawford's underworld-connected future father-in-law who figures out what is going down and proceeds to play all sides against each other to maximize his personal benefit. As a viewer, I wanted him to fail, but I also thought he would be a fun guy with whom to spend a weekend in Vegas. It is possible that I was over-impressed by Romero because he was the key figure in the only truly interesting plot thread in the film's entire 127 minutes, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964 - Warner Bros. - 123 minutes) ***
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Falk, Barbara Rush, Victor Buono, Bing Crosby
Robin and the 7 Hoods loosely adapts the Robin Hood legend into a 1930s gangland Chicago story. When Mob Boss Big Jim Stevens (an unbilled cameo I will not spoil) is gunned down at his own party, ringleader Guy Gisborne (Falk) muscles into his South Side rackets. His only serious rival is Robbo (Sinatra) who controls the North Side and was out of town when Big Jim was gunned down. Robbo was fond of Big Jim and has no intention of knuckling under to Guy's pressure. Robbo and his gang including the gun-happy Will (Davis) and the recently arrived in town John (Martin) do their best to hold off Gisborne and the corrupt Sherriffs under his employ, but the game is changed by a couple of wild cards including big Jim's decidedly unmaidenly daughter Marian (Rush) and Allen O'Dale (Crosby), an orphanage director who helps Robbo convert a spur of the moment act of charity into massive publicity and public goodwill.
The inconsequential, but pleasant experience of watching Sinatra and his pals have a good time on screen from Ocean's Eleven is still present if not quite as effective in Robin and the 7 Hoods. The film's production was reportedly soured when President John F. Kennedy was shot (a point elaborated on in detail in the commentary from Frank Sinatra, Jr. that accompanies this release). While Sinatra occasionally seems to be going through the motions, other cast members tear into their parts with Gusto. Peter Falk is very well cast as Sinatra's chief antagonist, Victor Buono amuses as an opportunistic sheriff, and Barbara Rush has a lot of fun as Marian attempting with varied results to wrap men around her finger. Sammy Davis, Jr. has a thankless role as a trigger happy member of Sinatra's gang until he is given his own musical number ("Bang Bang") where he suddenly becomes the best thing in the picture. Dean Martin leans heavily on his breezy charm, but viewers susceptible to it will not mind. Bing Crosby paradoxically manages to play both to and against type in his last performance in a film musical.
The musical numbers seem oddly shoehorned in as the film does not feel like a musical for much of its running time. There are some great songs from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen including "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)", "Any Man Who Loves His Mother", and the aforementioned "Bang! Bang!". Unfortunately, with the exception of "Bang! Bang!", they are not staged in a particularly creative manner, and they more often than not stop the film in its tracks without progressing plot or illuminating character. That being said, it is hard to argue with the historical significance of seeing Sinatra, Martin, and Crosby all performing together in the same production number ("Style"). Gene Kelly was reportedly in the running to direct this film at one point, which certainly makes one wonder what it might have been like with a bit more creativity and hard work applied to the staging of the musical sequences.
Frank Sinatra 5-Film Collection Playlist
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Anchors Aweigh ***
Anchors Aweigh is rendered on disc by an AVC encoded HD 1080p presentation pillarboxed to its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. It's chief deficiency is the almost complete lack of detail in dark areas of the image. It does not look like a video setting issue as much as a characteristic of the element used for transfer. Color saturation is otherwise very nice and light grain is a constant presence.
On the Town **
On the Town also gets an AVC encoded HD 1080p presentation pillarboxed to its original 1.37 ratio, but does not fare quite as well as Anchors Aweigh. Colors are inconsistent from sequence to sequence with particular difficulty in rendering of a consistent shade of white in the Navy uniforms worn by the three lead actors. Contrast is higher and colors are less saturated. The previously available DVD had a lot more visible film wear and tear and was noticeably softer. This Blu-ray release is certainly better than its predecessor, but it does not represent the level of improvement one has come to expect from the best vintage films on Blu-ray
Guys and Dolls ****
This 1080p AVC-encoding is letterboxed to the film’s original Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.55:1. This presentation improves on previous home video renderings of the movie in a number of ways, inclusive of extremely fine detail that allows for an aliasing-free rendering of the various elaborate suit-coat patterns with little or no filtering. Grain is reasonable and generally uniform. The heavy cropping that plagued the most recent MGM DVD of this title is not present on this Blu-ray from Warner. Contrast features bright whites that are free of blooming. Occasionally, dark parts of the image, such as black and navy blue suits display a lack of shadow detail. I have never seen the film theatrically, so I have no point of reference to say if this is “right” or “wrong”, but the color timing looks a bit odd to my eyes. Bright reds, greens and blues are deeply saturated and “pop” off of the screen, but this results in occasionally off-kilter looking flesh tones and backgrounds.
Ocean's Eleven ***½
Video is presented in VC-1 encoded 1080p letterboxed to the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. Opticals look a bit soft, which impacts the film's opening title sequence in particular, but aside from that, the majority of the film looks quite nice with balanced color and contrast, less noticeable film wear and tear than the 2001 DVD, and light natural looking film grain. Essentially, it looks like a near-flawless film print circa 1960, but with lower contrast and less element wear.
Robin and the 7 Hoods ****
Video is presented in AVC-encoded 1080p video letterboxed to the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. This presentation is a slight but noticeable step-up from Ocean's Eleven, and aside from some quibbles I have about the color timing (in their efforts to render pure whites, the colorists seemed to let other tones tilt a bit towards yellow) will provide a more than satisfactory viewing experience for fans of the film and 1960s cinema in general.
Audio Rating: 3/5
Anchors Aweigh ***
Anchor's Aweigh features a very solid rendering of its mono soundtrack via a Lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0 track. Noise reduction is applied with a light touch, erring on the side of leaving in a little bit of hiss and preserving the tracks frequency range and dynamics. Alternate language tracks are provided in Dolby Digital 1.0 in French, Spanish (Latin), and Spanish (Castillan). Available subtitle tracks are English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), and Spanish (Castillan).
On the Town **
The DTS-HD MA track for On the Town does not fare as well as Anchors Aweigh. Distortion is a bit heavier with less dynamic range and a less wide frequecy response. Language and subtitle options are identical to Anchors Aweigh.
Guys and Dolls ****½
The film's sound mix is provided courtesy of a DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 encoding. The mix features wide stereo dialog, so viewers are advised to keep their front left and right speakers close to the edge of the screen if possible. Surrounds are used sporadically but very noticeably when employed. The Nelson Riddle orchestrations are the biggest beneficiary of the lossless encoding, with a wide frequency response conveying a very “present” feeling to the score. Critical listeners will notice some noise reduction artifacts and will be able to clearly discern the difference in technical quality between the music and dialog/vocal recordings. No alternate language tracks are available.
Ocean's Eleven ***
Audio is courtesy of a lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track. The lossless encoding mainly benefits the playful score of composer Nelson Riddle, which is OK by me as it is one of the highlights of the film. Interestingly, one can easily hear differences in recording quality between the film's score and some of the musical numbers. By way of example, at the two points in the film where Dean Martin can be seen on stage performing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head", the musical recording sounds slightly more compressed and has a reduced frequency range compared to the film's score. On a compressed optical track, this would probably not be as noticeable. Alternate Dolby Digital 1.0 language dubs are available in French, German, Spanish (Castellano), and Portuguese.
Robin and the Seven Hoods ***½
This DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track is the best of the mono tracks in this collection with excellent music fidelity and subtly but noticeably better production audio than Ocean's Eleven. Once again the musical score is the primary beneficiary of the lossless encoding. Alternate language tracks are provided in Dolby Digital 1.0 in French and Spanish (Castillan). Available subtitle options are English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), and Spanish (Castillan).
Special Features Rating: 3/5
All of the extras are presented in standard definition 4:3 video with DD 2.0 audio unless otherwise indicated below;
Anchors Aweigh **½
Hanna & Barbera on the Making of The Worry Song [From MGM: When the Lion Roars] (2:09) is a clip from the larger documentary that includes archival interviews with George Sidney, Joseph Barbera, and William Hanna telling the story of how the live action/animation hybrid production number featuring Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse came to be.
Football Thrills of 1944 (8:30) is a vintage 1945 short from the “Pete Smith Specialty” series featuring Smith’s wry narration over college football highlights from the preceding season.
Jerky Turkey (7:32) is a 1945 Tex Avery directed MGM cartoon that gives an Avery spin to the first Thanksgiving by depicting the pursuit of a Jimmy Durante-modeled turkey by a constantly outwitted pilgrim. It gets the standard Warner Home Video 45 second disclaimer card at the beginning thanks to a couple of gags involving Native American caricatures.
Trailer (2:30) is a pretty standard promo emphasizing the stars and musical production numbers.
On the Town **½
Mr. Whitney Had a Notion (10:47) is a vintage short from the MGM “Passing Parade” series that dramatizes (with narration by John Nesbitt) the late 18th century story of how Eli Whitney (played by a young Lloyd Bridges) pioneered the concept of mass production with a military contract to manufacture 10,000 muskets in two years.
Doggone Tired (7:36) is a vintage Tex Avery animated short in which a rabbit goes to great lengths to make sure a hunting dog does not get a good night’s sleep.
Trailer (3:01) is a lengthy promo with narration by MGM travelogue host James Fitzpatrick. The on-screen titles inform audiences that they are due for a “Torrent of talent and tunes” that is “twice as gay as Anchors Away”.
Guys and Dolls ***½
Under the somewhat awkward heading of “Behind the Scenes: A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys and Dolls” are the following featurettes:
The Goldwyn Touch (23:54) is a fairly concise “making of” featurette featuring a mix of interview, film clips, and behind the scenes photos. Topics covered include the enduring popularity of the stage musical, the appeal of the show to Samuel Goldwyn, Goldwyn in his later years, the choice of Joseph L. Mankiewicz as Director, the film's opening sequence, the "Runyonesque" style, changes made for the cinematic adaptation, the casting of Marlon Brando, the casting of Frank Sinatra, Sinatra's and Brando's contrasting personalities and working styles, the casting of Jean Simmons, Mankiewicz's insistence that the actors do their own singing, and Brando's singing (inclusive of coaching from Frank Loesser and stitching together the songs from multiple takes). On camera comments are provided by Susan Loesser (Daughter of songwriter Frank Loesser), Choreographer Michael Kidd, Actress Jo Sullivan Loesser (Wife of Frank Loesser), John Loesser (Son of Frank Loesser), Sam Goldwyn Biographer A. Scott Berg, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., and Tom Mankiewicz (son of Joseph L. Mankiewicz).
From Stage to Screen (26:40) is more or less a “Part Two” that picks up where the previous featurette left off. Topics covered include the Adelaide's Lament musical number, Viviane Blaine's recreation of her signature Broadway role, the mesh of Sinatra and Blaine's styles, the colorful supporting characters and cast, Stubby Kaye as "Nicely Nicely" Johnson, the Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat musical number, The Goldwyn Girls, Frank Loesser's active involvement in the film, songs that were dropped from the stage musical, songs that were written specifically for the film, Mankiewicz's expansion of the Havana sequence for the film, Brando's and Jean Simmons' dancing, the production numbers that were adapted closely from Michael Kidd's stage choreography, Broadway dancers used in the film, Kidd's use of the camera, the style of dance in the film, the uniqueness of Goldwyn's style compared to other studios, and the changes to the film's ending compared to the stage show. On-camera comments are provided by Susan Loesser , John Loesser, Kidd, Berg, Tom Mankiewicz, and Goldwyn, Jr..
Short Feature: More Guys and Dolls Stories collects outtakes from the interviews used for the above documentaries that provide additional behind the scenes anecdotes. They are individually selectable with no “Play All” option available. Descriptions follow:
- "Adelaide" (:50) Tom Mankiewicz explains the significance of the song to his family.
- Brando Dance Lesson (1:34) Michael Kidd discusses working on the film's choreography with Marlon Brando
- Goldwyn's Career (2:38) A. Scott Berg provides an overview of Samuel Goldwyn's career
- On the Set (1:12) Tom Mankiewicz reflects on his summer visits to the film's set when he was a teenager.
- Rehearsing "Adelaide" (1:29) Michael Kidd relates an anecdote illustrating Frank Sinatra's aversion to rehearsal and multiple takes
- Fugue for Tinhorns (1:42)
- I'll Know (5:01)
- Guys and Dolls (3:26)
- Adelaide (3:34)
- Luck be a Lady (3:14)
- Sue Me (3:15)
Ocean's Eleven ***
Ocean's Eleven special features are all carried over from the 2001 DVD release of the film:
Under the heading of Behind the Story is the following special feature:
Commentary with Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson is a feature length commentary with most of its running time devoted to input from Frank Sinatra Jr. The commentary has a few more gaps of silence then I would like and a few too many bits where Sinatra Jr. lapses into narrating on-screen action, but for the most part, he presents a well-researched screen specific behind the scenes look at the film and its development that is worth a listen if only because it is the only real behind the scenes extra on the disc. Angie Dickinson pops briefly up when her character appears (also briefly) and offers some personal reminiscences of her co-stars and how she came to the project.
Under the heading of Extras are the following special features:
Tonight Show with Johnny Carson with Guest Host Frank Sinatra (3:45) is a brief clip from when Sinatra filled in for Johnny Carson in 1979 and had Angie Dickinson as a guest. Sinatra and Dickinson reminisce about the making of the film and specifically discuss its ending. Warner Bros helpfully advises viewers right on the Blu-ray menu that this extra should not be watched until after you have seen the movie.
Tropicana Museum Vignette (1:40) is a very brief video piece in which "Legends of Las Vegas Museum" Curator Steven Cutler talks about Las Vegas in the good old days and how his museum, located in the Tropicana, preserves those memories.
Interactive Las Vegas Then and Now Map is a menu driven feature that launches a mini-map of the five Las Vegas hotel/casinos central to the plot of the film which is a replica of the one used by Danny Ocean. Selecting any of the individual hotels launches a brief featurette discussing the history of that particular hotel/casino and Las Vegas in general. Specific details follow:
- Sahara (1:24) features an unidentified voiceover narrator offering minimal information accompanied by vintage film ans stills
- Riviera (3:45) features reminiscences from Auditor Carmen A. Peterson and Cocktail Waitress Doreen Leonard
- Desert Inn (3:12) features reminiscences from Dancer/Dealer Joey Tomaszewski
- Sands (4:49) features reminiscences from Showgirl Margo Tomaszewski and Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson
- Flamingo (3:55) features reminiscences from Joey Tomaszewski and Cocktail Waitress Patty Schmidtberger
Trailer #1 (3:12) is an extended trailer with a lot of details about the film and its cast.
Trailer #2 (1:02) is a brief teaser without any narration.
Robin and the Seven Hoods ***
Commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. runs the length of the film and is on par, and maybe even a little better, than the commentary he provides for Ocean's Eleven. He loses a bit of steam as he gets deep into the movie, but it contains enough interesting anecdotes and behind the scenes tidbits that it i worth a listen.
What they Did to Robin Hood (6:34 - 16:9) is a vintage behind the scenes featurette on the making of the Robin and the 7 Hoods film. The footage includes shots of Choreographer Jack Baker and Director Gordon Douglas at work.
Robin Hood Makes Good (7:47) is a vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon from 1939. Directed by Chuck Jones when he was in his cute and cuddly Disney-influenced phase, it features a group of three squirrels who decide to play Robin Hood and a Fox who decides to take advantage of the situation. The runty squirrel who proves to be the hero is voiced by Margaret Hill-Talbot who also voiced the title character in Jones’ series of “Sniffles” shorts and also voiced “Andy Panda” for Walter Lantz.
Robin Hood Daffy (6:39 - HD) is a vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon from 1958. Directed by Chuck Jones, it features Daffy Duck as a clumsy Robin Hood who has a tough time convincing Porky Pig’s Friar Tuck that he is the real legendary outlaw.
Rabbit Hood (7:57 - HD) is a vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon from 1949. Directed by Chuck Jones, it features Bugs Bunny in conflict with the Sheriff of Nottingham after he attempts to eat one of the King’s carrots. Keep an eye out for a live action cameo from one of Warner Bros. biggest stars.
Trailer (3:29) is a lengthy promo with goofy narration underlining the cast and songs.
The DVD case is bundled in a carboard case with a 32-page hardcover Frank Sinatra Photo Book that contains vintage behind the scenes photos and promotional art from all five films in the collection.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Warner Bros.' Frank Sinatra: Five Film Collection box set is a bit of a hodge podge as it mixes two previously released titles with three making their Blu-ray debut. It consists of two of Sinatra's three 1940s Gene Kelly collaborations, two of the 1960s "Rat Pack" features in the Warner catalog, and rounds it our with 1955's Guys and Dolls. On the Town offers disappointing audio and video, although it is a noticeable improvement over its DVD predecessor primarily due to digital clean up of previously visible negative and positive film damage. All of the other titles fare much better. Warner also throws in some vintage shorts and cartoons that were not previously available on the DVDs of Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, and Robin and the 7 Hoods. For fans interested in all phases of Sinatra's cinematic career, it does provide a cross-section with compact but attractive packaging. On the other hand, It presents a questionable value proposition for fans who already own Guys and Dolls and Ocean's Eleven on Blu-ray.
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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