- May 7, 2001
The Gene Krupa Story
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 101 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: Closed Captioned – No subtitles
Package: Keep Case
Once upon a time there was this huge movie studio. Back during the advent of DVD’s, they were instrumental, having been the first on the block to open the doors of its vault and release many great classic films, most of which were superbly done. Believe it or not, that studio was Columbia. Unfortunately many of their recent day decisions especially regarding new releases are questionable, but credit has to be given in terms of their classic library, as they might very well be responsible at least in part, for the surge of classic title releases we’re seeing today. Ironically, the studio that was thought of as the bargain basement studio many years ago was indeed responsible for so many of the classics we now love today.
Gene Krupa was perhaps the best and most innovative drummer of all time. Not only was he solely responsible for turning the drum kit in a solo instrument, he was also responsible for the arrangement of the drum kit as we know it today. The film starts off with a young Gene Krupa (played brilliantly by Sal Mineo) at odds with his parents who wanted him to become a priest, but defiantly, he goes off to form a band much to the dismay of his folks. Many of their gigs consisted of seedy Chicago nightclubs during the prohibition era where police raids were commonplace. Shortly after, he returns home only to learn that his father has died and after a promise he made to his father, joins the seminary to become a priest. Needless to say, his devotion to the priesthood is overshadowed by his love of music and drumming and a year later he drops out and moves to New York with his friend and fellow band member Eddie Sirota (played by Jimmy Darren) and his future wife, Ethel Maguire (played by Susan Kohner) to pursue his dream.
When they arrive in New York, he is introduced to the Dorsey Brothers which is the introduction that launches his career and included performances with George Gershwin and Benny Goodman as well as a number of record contracts. Unfortunately success comes too quickly and Krupa gets caught up in the fast life and the infidelity that usually accompanies that lifestyle. Ethel can no longer bear to sit and watch Gene and his self destructive behavior and decides to go back home to Chicago. Things go from bad to worse for the young drummer when he is arrested for possession of marijuana that inevitably sends his career spiraling.
After his release from jail he’s relegated to playing two bit hotels, chop suey parlors and strip clubs all of which are far from the glamour jobs he had become accustomed to. Krupa eventually shows up on the doorstep of an upcoming Dorsey performance and is invited to sit in with the band, a turning point that would go on to change Krupa’s life and put him back on the road to success after his recent brush with the law.
I started playing drums at a very early age and continued to play (how well, is open for interpretation…) up until ten years ago or so. I spent much of my younger years listening and emulating the likes of Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Bill Bruford, David Garibaldi and Neil Peart among many others so I have a pretty healthy amount of respect for what Mineo accomplished in this film. Not only did he have to act, but he was required to play (almost expertly) a musical instrument, synch it up with what was recorded by Krupa, and it had to appear real and natural, all the while, capturing perfectly the facial expressions and mannerisms Krupa was famous for. For the most part the film succeeds brilliantly. Obviously the young actor received a lot of instruction from the great drummer and it showed. It would have been near impossible for a professional drummer to have accomplished the feat, much less a troubled 20 year old from the Bronx. Interesting bit of trivia - Sal Mineo donated the drums he used in The Gene Krupa Story to a 13 year old David Cassidy, shortly after having dinner with him and his father, Jack Cassidy.
Columbia seems to take a lot of flack in terms of many of their recent decisions – most of which are indeed justified, however their output of classic titles, still for the most part, is impressive and they’re usually well done. My main concern with the company is their MSRP for these classic titles and they’d seem better served if they were to copy from a page of Paramount, WB and Fox who have dropped their exorbitant prices of their classic titles.
Finally another bit of daunting news is the fact the disc starts with three forced trailers upon insertion of the disc. The disc immediately goes into trailers for Gilda, It Should Happen To You and You Were Never Lovelier all of which are easily skipable using your FF feature. You would think if these were to be used as a marketing gimmick, they would have at least taken the time to clean them up to at least look and sound presentable. They don’t. These have simply been added in a wham-bam manner with little thought or effort and are (thankfully) not representative of the promoted films (as I have the first two). Columbia, if you’re not going to take the time to present these titles in the manner they should be, then don’t bother. Any prospective buyers are going to run for the hills after spending six minutes with these trailers.
This is absolutely beautiful. Presented in its original aspect ratio at 1.85:1 enhanced for widescreen, this is one on the nicest looking B&W transfers I’ve seen in a while.
The film boasted blacks as deep as could be, while whites were contrasted nicely, always stark and clean. There was a very impressive level of shadow detail and a grayscale that was a vast as some of the best B&W transfers out there.
The level of detail was mostly sharp with only occasional instances of softness and there was only a very minimal amount of fine grain present. The print was exceptionally clean with barely a hint of occasional dirt or blemishes. The image appeared to be very stable with on a couple of occasions of light shimmer which never became bothersome at all.
Thankfully, there were no compression errors to speak of nor where there any enhancement issues.
This transfer clearly exceeded my expectations. While I doubt much, if any, work was done to this transfer, the original elements must have been mummified since this looks amazing. Great job!
The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural track and if I were so inclined to give stars, this would hands down, receive all five. Perspective folks… Does it compare to Master And Commander? Of course not. Is it as good (perhaps better) than most of the monaural tracks we hear on a regular basis? Absolutely. As for a mono track, this is about as good as we could reasonably expect from the period.
With a natural quality to it, this track was as clean as we would expect. Never was it muffled nor did it ever become shrill like. Dialogue was always clear and bold and was always intelligible. There was a brief encounter at the very start of the film when Gene had an altercation with his father. I thought dad was a little bit difficult to hear but that was short lived and it may have been his Italian accent. Not a big deal.
Needless to say, there was a ton of jazz music throughout the entire film. There was a fairly impressive dynamic range as could be heard from the various drum solos from the quick splash cymbals to the depth of the floor toms… really impressive stuff for a 45 year old mono track.
Great job Columbia.
There is only one special feature included on this disc and it happens to be a group of three forced trailers that immediately play upon inserting your disc. The trailers are also accessible on the main menu by selecting:
[*] Previews which includes trailers for Gilda, It Should Happen To You and You Were Never Lovelier. They are in rough shape and have not received any form of work or cleanup – not to mention very loud and disturbing audio dropouts and pops. Not my idea of “promoting” a group of movies. Surprisingly, the trailer for the feature film isn’t included.
I realize this may be a stretch, but similar to the Fox Classics titles, a perfect inclusion to this disc would have been the A&E biography on Sal Mineo. Mr. Mineo’s life played out like a soap opera and was as tragic as anyone who was ever involved in the business including his own death, a victim of a homicide in 1976. Either way, if you ever get a chance to see it, do so.
It’s hard to say how much of the Hollywood effect had to do with the story that was being told and I suspect it was candied considerably. And in response to that, I’d say; so what! Sal Mineo does an absolutely marvelous and most convincing job at portraying one of the greatest jazz legends ever.
Aside from the almost featureless disc, the transfer for this picture is near perfect and I give this disc a very solid recommendation. For fans of percussion, jazz and classic film, I wouldn’t have the slightest reservation about highly recommending this disc.
Release Date: May 18th, 2004