The I Love Lucy Colorized Collection puts the sixteen episodes which have been colorized to this date into one convenient package along with a few bonus treats.
The Production: 4/5
Pioneering producer and performer Desi Arnaz always wanted I Love Lucy to be in color. In 1955 when color televisions became available for public consumption, he assessed the situation, but as much as he wanted color for his glamorous redhead, he found it cost prohibitive to shoot the show on 35mm color film and felt that widespread adoption of color televisions into households was too far away to make shooting in color economically feasible. Neither Desi nor Lucy lived to see the “Christmas Show,” the first episode of the series to be colorized, make its way to CBS network air garnering smashing ratings and instituting a Christmas tradition. In the years since that first 1990 colorized effort, the process has undergone massive improvements: that original attempt at colorization has been redone digitally along with fifteen other episodes over the years which have undergone the colorization treatment. While purists naysay the results, the public seems to approve with CBS receiving high ratings each time at Christmas and in the spring a new episode or two of I Love Lucy joins its sibling episodes in an ongoing series of special broadcasts. The I Love Lucy Colorized Collection puts the sixteen episodes which have been colorized to this date into one convenient package along with a few bonus treats, and while it might have been better to have them released in high definition (the network broadcasts are in 1080i), these DVD transfers must make do for fans.
The two-disc set includes the colorized episodes “Pioneer Women,” “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” “Job Switching,” “The Million Dollar Idea,” “Bonus Bucks,” “L.A. at Last,” “Lucy Gets in Pictures,” “The Fashion Show,” “The Dancing Star,” “Harpo Marx,” “Lucy Visits Grauman’s,” “Lucy and John Wayne,” “Lucy Goes to Scotland,” “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” “Christmas Show,” and “Lucy and Superman.” Almost all of these episodes rank among the very finest or certainly among the most memorable of the series, and one must credit the CBS producers for choosing several specific episodes in which color accentuates the program’s visual appeal. It’s seems impossible to imagine that there would ever be a time when Lucy’s progressively drunken stab at delivering a television commercial, her desperate attempts to keep up with an increasingly sped-up candy conveyor belt, or her succession of encounters with a stream of Hollywood stars would ever fail to elicit gales of laughter from eager viewers. The added color doesn’t hamper any of these brilliantly conceived and performed comedy classics.
Colorization has come a long way from the crude early analog attempts that Ted Turner foisted on the public with half-colored dud versions of classics like 42nd Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. Here the colorizers from West Wing have used their advanced digital technology to go to the trouble of coloring eyes and tongues and hair (though Lucy’s brassy henna-colored locks sometimes seem more popsicle orange rather than the deep, rich henna from her movie days, an anomaly that varies from episode to episode), but the various wardrobe pieces by Oscar-winners Elois Jenssen and Edward Stevenson colorize quite glamorously in these episodes and demonstrate the star’s interest in stylish and form fitting clothes (the Don Loper dresses in “The Fashion Show” likewise look sensational). Overall, the color in “Bonus Bucks” looks the richest and most stable, “Lucy Gets in Pictures,” on the other hand, looks occasionally washed out while “Lucy Goes to Scotland,” the earliest of the colorized episodes here, offers the flattest and least vivacious color. The original analog color work on “Christmas Show” was redone years ago using digital tools and the flashback episodes within the show got their own color work a few years after that. For the younger generation, many of whom can’t stand black and white films and television shows, this attempt at bringing a new look to a classic television show is an understandable attempt to introduce them to the outstanding comedies of their fathers and grandfathers. And though the black and white originals are not offered here as they were in previous individual releases of the colorized specials, they are certainly readily available everywhere for those who don’t like these versions of the shows.
3D Rating: NA
The program’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is replicated here, and the show’s grain structure coming from film is also retained without digital manipulation (“Lucy Goes to Scotland” seems to have less grain than the other episodes). Because colorization works best with pristine masters, the episodes are spotlessly clean and sharp, and thus the colorized skin tones are appealing and more lifelike than one has any reason to expect (the skin tones displayed during “Harpo Marx” are especially impressive). Sharpness and detail are first-rate even if these are standard definition transfers and not the high definition masters of the network broadcasts. Because of the lack of high definition, there is some small amount of line twitter in tweed clothes and a tiny bit of flashing in outfits with wide stripes. There is only the tiniest trace of aliasing in this presentation.
The disc offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The mono mix offers era-appropriate blends of dialogue, music, and sound effects with most of the episodes free from age-related audio problems. Occasionally one will hear a bit of soft hiss, and “The Dancing Star” has some strange muffled dialogue for a few brief seconds.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Redhead Tales (25:46): executives from West Wing and CBS discuss the decisions and results of these colorized Lucy specials and some behind-the-scenes footage shows how the eight-week work process proceeds on each episode after research and collaboration fashions decisions about colors chosen and applied. Among those speaking are Ken Ross, Tom Watson, Jonathan Argus, Stan Rutledge, and Rick Carl.
Vintage Animation (1:04): Lucy-Desi stick figures colorized and interacting with their Philip Morris spokesman.
“Jingle Bells” (3:05): a colorized variation on the ending of the “Christmas Show” with the quartet singing the Christmas carol and being joined by an unexpected guest.
Audio Commentary: Doris Singleton, Keith Thibodeaux, and Steven Kay share remembrances of filming “Lucy and Superman.”
Colorized I Love Lucy? Why not? The results of the sixteen attempts to bring vivacious color to black and white original classic comedy episodes are now collected in one box for all to see. Apart from reservations about this being a standard definition release instead of a high definition one, recommended!