HTF REVIEW: "A Chorus Line" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 7, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    A Chorus Line





    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1985
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 118 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English, French and Spanish





    A Chorus Line is the most typical of backstage
    musicals, a celebration of the lives and hard times
    of the gypsy dancers who turn up by the hundreds to
    audition for a handful of jobs on Broadway. During
    its record 15 years and 6,137 performances at the
    Shubert Theatre on Broadway, A Chorus Line enchanted
    more than 6.5 million theatre-goers and went on to
    win ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the
    Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the New York Drama Critics
    Award for Best Musical, and five Drama Desk Awards.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    If any Broadway show was destined to go to the
    big screen it was this one! Problem is, from what
    I read, the film became a result of a variety of
    unwise deals made in many attempts to get the picture
    into production. It's also obvious that the filmmakers
    had no faith in the original vision of the play. Thus,
    A Chorus Line becomes the perfect example of a
    Broadway show that doesn't translate well to screen.
    Anyone that has seen this show on stage will be
    quite disturbed over the way the film has reworked
    many of the original dance numbers to the point where
    they just fall flat on their face.

    [​IMG][​IMG]


    It seems that A Chorus Line the film was more
    of an attempt to make a Michael Douglas movie than
    a musical. In the stage play, the role of Zach was
    on off-stage presence whose God-like voice boomed
    over the entire stage. Here, the filmmakers chose
    build an entire romance plot around Zach (Douglas)
    and Cassie (Alyson Reed), changing the entire focus
    of the play, even to the point of reworking the
    meaning of the show's most heartfelt song, What
    I Did for Love
    .


    How is the transfer?


    The film looks fairly decent. My major gripe is that
    visually, the film looks as lifeless as the production
    itself. The entire film takes place in an empty
    theater, on a huge stage adorned with mirrors. The
    film is wrapped in somber hues, looking sort of drab,
    with colors never looking overly vibrant. Flesh tones
    are very accurate and black levels are deep. There is
    the slightest detection of background mosquito noise
    in the dark walls surrounding the stage. There are
    small amounts of noticeable speckle scattered
    throughout. I think MGM did a reasonably good job
    with this transfer as (other than the blemishes) it
    best represents how the film looked theatrically.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Though presented in standard Dolby Digital surround,
    I was elated to find that this was somewhat of an
    enveloping sonic experience. The music seems to
    have some nice kick to it, coming across the front
    speakers with good dynamic range and bass response.
    Dialogue is very strong in the center channel with
    bleeds to the front. The rears really shine here,
    supporting the voices of the actors and events
    happening on stage. It's not uncommon to listen to
    any one of the song numbers and feel surrounded by
    a chorus of singers. The rears even manage to
    capture the ambience of the quick NYC exterior scenes.
    The soundtrack is certainly not as robust as what
    I would expect from a well mixed 5.1 musical track,
    but for a film that's nearly 20 years old, it holds
    its own very well.


    Special Features

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I didn't expect much in the way of extras on this
    title, but MGM managed came through with a rather
    nice little featurette....

    [​IMG]

    Marvin Hamlisch: Broadway to Hollywood introduces
    us to the famous composer who talks about how as a
    young boy he was able to watch his sister at piano
    lessons, only to mimic later what she had learned
    on his own. Such talent paved the way for an education
    at the Julliard School. By the early 70s Hamlisch
    had two big pictures under his belt, The Way We
    Were
    and The Sting. It was at that time
    that he was contacted by Michael Bennett who
    approached the composer about putting together a
    Broadway show about the lives of dancers. Of course,
    that show became the highly successful A Chorus
    Line
    . Hamlisch talks about his masterpiece
    and how he put together many of the songs, including
    the show-stopping tune One.
    (length: approx. 19 minutes)

    The film's original theatrical trailer is
    also included.

    May I also note here that MGM included no inner
    cover booklet for this film (at least my sealed
    copy had none), so finding a favorite song or
    chapter stop is going to be difficult.


    Final Thoughts


    [​IMG]

    A Chorus Line is perhaps the most lifeless
    of all stage-to-screen movie musicals ever made. I
    would only recommend it for those that have witnessed
    the stage version and want to see how it has been
    poorly reworked for the screen. As for everyone
    else, I would suggest waiting for the this year's
    DVD releases of All That Jazz and Chicago.


    Release Date: April 15, 2003


    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    A fair review Ron, but I can't quite work out your last line: "As for everyone
    else, I would suggest waiting for the this year's
    DVD releases of All That Jazz and A Chorus
    Line
    ."
     
  3. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

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    My guess is that he means All that Jazz and CHICAGO.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Certainly one of those 5am in the morning, no coffee
    yet kind of typos. [​IMG]
     
  5. KerryK

    KerryK Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review. My mom's a huge fan of this movie (she owned the soundtrack and as a consequence I still know all the words to all the songs - thanks a lot for sticking "One" in my head for the next week or so!) and I've been thinking of getting the disk for her, but I was wondering if it was a worthy transfer. Thanks to my dad's kickass system, I think she'll see it like never before...and my poor dad will have "One" perpetually stuck in his head!
     
  6. PatrickL

    PatrickL Second Unit

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  7. Thomas T

    Thomas T Producer

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    I know I'm in the minority here but the stage version of A Chrous Line (and I've seen a ton of stage musicals) is pretty awful. It shamefully oversentimentalizes its subject (the Broadway "gypsy"), the dialogue is pedestrian to put it mildly and worse of all, the songs are duds, "What I Did For Love" is as bad as anything Andrew Lloyd Webber ever wrote. A Chrous Line's ace in the hole was and always will be it's choreography.

    So Richard Attenborough made a bad movie from a bad play and all this talk about how they "ruined" the play is just retro hogwash! I would be inclined to say that maybe they should have waited until the right director and concept came along but I doubt even Rob Marshall who did a fantastic job with Chicago could have resuscitated a corpse like A Chorus Line. Still, the movie is one of my guilty pleasures and the dancing is quite good.
     
  8. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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    But at least the stage play had some sense of irony in its final musical number, when all these characters who have spilled their guts become faceless chorus line clones, all for the love of theater.

    "What I did for love" is supposed to mean love of art and performance, not love for Michael Douglas. So even if the play is overrated (which I agree it is), the film still pisses on what sense of character and irony the play at least attempted to convey.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

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    Ron, thank you for reviewing this DVD! I love this movie and can't wait for it's release date which, ironically, is the day that I'll have to pay some taxes. Hope Uncle Sam leaves me at least enough to buy it. [​IMG]
     
  10. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

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    After reviewing the screenshots again, I did manage to find something disturbing about the film --- Cassie's haircut. Eeek! [​IMG]

    I wonder if the film would have faired better with a different actress playing that part. She came across as "bland"....I didn't see any chemistry between her and Michael Douglas.
     
  11. Peter McM

    Peter McM Supporting Actor

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    I know "One" is the catchy number, but how many of the girls in this forum have "Dance Ten Looks Three" going through their heads?

    All together now, ladies...[​IMG]
     
  12. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    I think if A Chorus Line were made today, they wouldn't drop the whole gay angle. Broadway is very straight in this film, kind of like science fiction or the Twilight Zone.
     
  13. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Wake up!
    And get happy.
    Could not be more pleased by the amount & quality of your reviews this year.
    Funny thing, Iam buying, and have fewer titles to look forward too, than ever before.
    Sure some "BIG" stuff is coming [The Beatles A, BHD SE, King Kong, etc], but I now go weeks between purchases. Where previously, it's was shopping two to three times a week, with five to ten titles purchased.
    Just think your doing a fantastic job or keeping the DVD flame burning!
     
  14. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    I did see "A Chorus Line" live in San Francisco and thought the movie did a better job. The live production seemed just an excuse to go from song to song, but the movie had some personality to it. The movie allowed us to get a lot closer to the actors and their stories - things that the live play could only do through song. (Maby I had bad seats or the cast was not very good.)

    So I'm glad that this movie is coming to DVD. This saturday as a release date? It's on my list to at least rent.
     
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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