HTF DVD REVIEW: I Love Lucy: The Movie

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Apr 14, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough

    I Love Lucy: The Movie

    Directed by Marc Daniels, Edward Sedgwick

    Studio: CBS/Paramount
    Year: 1953
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Running Time: 81 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
    Subtitles: CC, Spanish

    MSRP: $ 19.99

    Release Date: April 27, 2010

    Review Date: April 14, 2010

    The Film

    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.

    Video Quality

    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.

    Audio Quality

    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.

    Special Features

    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.

    In Conclusion
    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!

    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
  2. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

    Jan 6, 2004
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    Since I was one of those that supported the individual seasons as they were released, I am glad this "box set" extra is being released seperately. I will definitely pick it up.
  3. Joe Lugoff

    Joe Lugoff Cinematographer

    Feb 4, 2005
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    Could someone who has seen this "movie" tell me something (which can be labeled as a spoiler)?

    The reviewer says this:

    "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) ..."

    I'm dying to know what the ingenious explanation is that explains why there was audience laughter on the soundtrack.
  4. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor

    Jul 20, 2007
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    Timothy Ewanyshyn

    The movie is a show within the show with the studio audience being present as Desi plays Ricky, and so forth. The original episodes (with audience laughter) are cut into bridging sequences filmed at Desilu which includes the introduction of the cast to the audience by Desi prior to filming of the show. For those of us who never had the chance to see the show being filmed live, the bridging sequences are the next best thing for seeing what the studio and soundstage looked like in 1953.
    The bridging sequences were actually filmed a couple of years after the episodes were filmed (and the studio was on a different street from the original) but the bridging sequences create an illusion that it was filmed at the same time.
  5. Larry.P

    Larry.P Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 23, 2005
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    That's actually not quite true. The bridge sequences were filmed in the May 1952 time frame, just a few months after the last of the 3 episodes were filmed ("Breaking the Lease" was filmed on January 5, 1952). If you watch Desi's audience warm-up, you can clearly see the set from "The Handcuffs" episode over where the kitchen set would normally be. It is the set where they finally remove the handcuffs from Lucy and Ricky. Although "The Handcuffs" aired in Season 2, it was a holdover from season 1. It was filmed on May 16, 1952. Thus, the bridging scenes were still on the original sound stage.

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