A few words about…™ King of Jazz — in Blu-ray

For cinema fans, this is one of the early wonders. 4 Stars

Yup.

Even “Stumpy,” from Rio Bravo was young-ish once.

Appearing in one of the quicky vignettes, you’ll find Walter Brennan.

How about a Bing Crosby in what I believe to be his first film appearance?

Universal has done cinephiles a huge favor. A major studio supporting the restoration of a film that on its face has more historical than entertainment value.

But today’s audiences discovered that the now 87 year-old production could be fun, as it toured the festival circuit.

Filmed in two-color (let’s please not call it 2-strip, as it was a single strand of film, with two exposures for each frame (over/under), King of Jazz is a beautiful artifact of the end of that Technicolor era.

Generally, used sparingly, and usually for sequences, we’ll put things in perspective.

In 1930, there appear to have been 29 films using the process, with 13 using it for sequences only.

Many don’t survive, or survive partially, in black & white, or as discs only.

Bottom line, for those with a desire to experience the process, at least in full quality, King of Jazz is a rarity.

Warner’s 1932 Doctor X, and 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum have survived as release prints.

King of Jazz is substantially based upon camera negative, with portions from other elements.

Possibly because it was also rarely used at Universal, survival (by chance or luck) leaves us in good stead.

The earlier sequence from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, survives as camera negative.

And if my sources are correct, it would not be until 1942 (with 3-strip) that the studio would again visit the technology with Arabian Nights, 1943 for Cobra Woman and the re-make of Phantom of the Opera and White Savage.

We can thank Criterion for licensing the project, and crating a superb Blu-ray, spine number 915, for those who keep track of such things.

For cinema fans, this is one of the early wonders.

Image – various – 4.5 – 5 for original material

Audio – 4

Pass / Fail – Pass

Highly Recommended

RAH

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Kevin Collins

administrator

92 Comments

  1. I really cannot wait to have this in hand. I LOVE those studio revues of the early sound era (well, Warners' Show of Shows not so much), and this is one of the great ones. I wish Universal would also restore and release Paramount on Parade as it really has some wonderful musical highlights, too.

  2. I think King of Jazz is also the first time a color cartoon was made. I asked Walter Lantz about it once and he told me that they didn't know what kind of paint to use on the cels. On King of Jazz they used house paint for the colors and it was a huge mess. The paint shrank and pulled back from the lines as it dried leaving gaps. Lots of corrections needed. But the animation by Bill Nolan is fantastic.

  3. bigshot

    I think King of Jazz is also the first time a color cartoon was made. I asked Walter Lantz about it once and he told me that they didn't know what kind of paint to use on the cels. On King of Jazz they used house paint for the colors and it was a huge mess. The paint shrank and pulled back from the lines as it dried leaving gaps. Lots of corrections needed. But the animation by Bill Nolan is fantastic.

    Weren’t there a couple of two-color Betty Boop’s that followed not too long after?

  4. The review mentions 1932 2-color "Doctor X" surviving as a release print.
    From what source does the Black & White version of 1932 "Doctor X" survive, as I would really like to see it.

  5. bigshot

    I think King of Jazz is also the first time a color cartoon was made. I asked Walter Lantz about it once and he told me that they didn't know what kind of paint to use on the cels. On King of Jazz they used house paint for the colors and it was a huge mess. The paint shrank and pulled back from the lines as it dried leaving gaps. Lots of corrections needed. But the animation by Bill Nolan is fantastic.

    This is quite possible. At the very least, it beat Flip the Frog in "Fiddlesticks" to release by six months.

  6. aPhil

    The review mentions 1932 2-color "Doctor X" surviving as a release print.
    From what source does the Black & White version of 1932 "Doctor X" survive, as I would really like to see it.

    It was somewhere here on HTF where I first heard that the B&W version was a differently shot, unique version. Back in the early 80's I can remember a B&W version of it playing on our local PBS station and the host mentioning that it was originally in color. Whether this was the differently shot black and white version or just a monochrome version of the original color version I don't know. I've never seen it anywhere since and it's never been released anywhere, to my knowledge. I would like to see it, too.

    That SAME PBS channel also played MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM but obviously didn't realize it was supposed to be in color. When playing B&W movies in those days, channels would often reduce the "color" in the signal so as to avoid that annoying pink "shimmer" that would sometimes appear in B&W NTSC broadcasts (anyone remember Lucy Ricardo's dresses?) and they did that to WAX, resulting in there being just the TINIEST bit of color for the first two thirds. Someone obviously realized their mistake and it suddenly BLAZED into color for the finale. I was SO disappointed, heheh.

  7. Bob Furmanek

    No, it's a completely different version with alternate takes and camera angles. You can see some shots in the trailer.

    In the days before good duping stock, trailers were almost always made up of alternate, unused takes. We're going on more than that, yes?

    From imdb:

    Contrary to Technicolor's edict, Warner Brothers also shot a black-and-white version of the film. The Technicolor version was shot by Ray Rennahan and the B&W version by Richard Towers. The camera angles of the the two versions are considerably different, with the Technicolor camera given priority for the best compositions. Two of these, for example, are Lee Tracy and Mae Busch in the house of prostitution scene and the sequence with Tracy in the skeleton room.

    which sounds rather definitive (with the name of the cinematographer) that a second version was prepared. Again, I don't know it's whereabouts. Does anyone?

    Then there's wikipedia:

    During production, an alternative black-and-white version was shot and still exists, although side-by-side comparison shows that most takes between the two are the same. Differences in takes are minor, such as Tracy's ad lib with a skeleton in the closet, and Mae Busch's dialogue as a madam at a brothel. The black-and-white version was offered to exhibitors (much to Technicolor's dismay) as an alternative on the initial release of the film.

  8. All the clips I've seen look like a lot of fun. Something about two-color Technicolor adds this stylized element that really looks neat. Definitely looking forward to checking this out.

    Criterion and Universal also collaborated on the 1928 part-silent/part-talkie Lonesome, which is another obscure gem that got a terrific release.

  9. I have a copy of the B&W transfer, which used to be the more commonly-seen version of the film on TV until MGM/UA did a transfer of the color version in the late '80s. They're definitely two different films, with different camera setups, takes and editing flow. As far as I know, WB has the elements on the B&W version, too.

  10. Jack Theakston

    I have a copy of the B&W transfer, which used to be the more commonly-seen version of the film on TV until MGM/UA did a transfer of the color version in the late '80s. They're definitely two different films, with different camera setups, takes and editing flow. As far as I know, WB has the elements on the B&W version, too.

    It's too bad that the alternate Black & White version couldn't have been included as a bonus feature!

    CHEERS! 🙂

  11. One of my favourite 2-colour movies is 'Whoopee' with Eddie Cantor and a bevy of Ziegfield girls. It's had a Warners archive DVD release but it would be great to have a Blu ray. In the meantime, I'll guess I'll have to go for King of Jazz…..

  12. Brian Kidd

    Sorry to derail a bit, but there's a set of 6 fun early WB films that includes Dr. X and its sequel and is far cheaper than the double feature that was linked earlier in the thread. It's MOD, unfortunately, but the price is right around $24 as I write this post. I think I'm going to pick it up as I love the early Technicolor process, with all its faults. https://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Legends-Horror-Collection-Provided/dp/B01L30SDMM/

    This is a very good set (which I have had since the original non-MOD)
    and I wish it would come to Blu-ray.

    I don't want to derail the "King of Jazz" topic, but it was the place that made me wonder about the Warner Brothers elements for the black & white version of 1932 "Doctor X". I would like to see that restored and put on Blu-ray.

    Likely, I'm in a minority, but I have never seen a 2-Color Technicolor print/video/Blu-ray or other that I cared for —
    The Red/Green combo never appealed to me, but I do have the Criterion "King of Jazz" in my Netflix Queue so that I can see what a restoration looks like and if it will change my opinion.

    On the other hand, the 2-Color Red/Blue Trucolor of "Sunset in the West" really appealed to me. It's almost like a modern artistic choice for certain types of scenes. Before seeing the Kino Blu-ray of the Roy Rogers film, I had never experienced a non-faded view of the 2-Color Trucolor.

  13. aPhil

    Likely, I'm in a minority, but I have never seen a 2-Color Technicolor print/video/Blu-ray or other that I cared for —
    The Red/Green combo never appealed to me, but I do have the Criterion "King of Jazz" in my Netflix Queue so that I can see what a restoration looks like and if it will change my opinion.

    I agree that it's a little jarring when compared to 3-strip Technicolor, but towards the end of its use, it's strengths and weaknesses were well known and talented cinematographers, set and costume designers had become fairly adept at exploiting those strengths so that the result was pleasing, if still not anything like what could eventually be accomplished with later color methods. Mystery of the Wax Museum, for example, looks pretty darned good.

    I found a short, but interesting overview of the two-color process made by the George Eastman House.

  14. Brian Kidd

    Mystery of the Wax Museum, for example, looks pretty darned good.

    But not, unfortunately, on either DVD or blu-ray. Both versions use the same old, INTERLACED transfer with colors inauthentically pushed towards blue. Ironically enough, the Laser Disc (and even the VHS!) was more accurate.

  15. Brian Kidd

    I found a short, but interesting overview of the two-color process made by the George Eastman House.

    Thanks, Brian.

    Very educational (and understandable) for someone like me who knows very little about these things.

  16. Will Krupp

    But not, unfortunately, on either DVD or blu-ray. Both versions use the same old, INTERLACED transfer with colors inauthentically pushed towards blue. Ironically enough, the Laser Disc (and even the VHS!) was more accurate.

    Interesting. I did not know that. Off to eBay I go! Glad I still have a LD player. 🙂

  17. Brian Kidd

    I found a short, but interesting overview of the two-color process made by the George Eastman House.

    Very cool! So "two-strip" Technicolor IS accurate – at least for the silent era.

  18. Robert Harris

    Yup.

    Even "Stumpy," from Rio Bravo was young-ish once.

    Appearing in one of the quicky vignettes, you'll find Walter Brennan.

    How about a Bing Crosby in what I believe to be his first film appearance?

    Universal has done cinephiles a huge favor. A major studio supporting the restoration of a film that on its face has more historical than entertainment value.

    But today's audiences discovered that the now 87 year-old production could be fun, as it toured the festival circuit.

    Filmed in two-color (let's please not call it 2-strip, as it was a single strand of film, with two exposures for each frame (over/under), King of Jazz is a beautiful artifact of the end of that Technicolor era.

    Generally, used sparingly, and usually for sequences, we'll put things in perspective.

    In 1930, there appear to have been 29 films using the process, with 13 using it for sequences only.

    Many don't survive, or survive partially, in black & white, or as discs only.

    Bottom line, for those with a desire to experience the process, at least in full quality, King of Jazz is a rarity.

    Warner's 1932 Doctor X, and 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum have survived as release prints.

    King of Jazz is substantially based upon camera negative, with portions from other elements.

    Possibly because it was also rarely used at Universal, survival (by chance or luck) leaves us in good stead.

    The earlier sequence from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, survives as camera negative.

    And if my sources are correct, it would not be until 1942 (with 3-strip) that the studio would again visit the technology with Arabian Nights, 1943 for Cobra Woman and the re-make of Phantom of the Opera and White Savage.

    We can thank Criterion for licensing the project, and crating a superb Blu-ray, spine number 915, for those who keep track of such things.

    For cinema fans, this is one of the early wonders.

    Image – various – 4.5 – 5 for original material

    Audio – 4

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Highly Recommended

    RAH

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  19. For me, THE KING OF JAZZ is – first and foremost – a highly entertaining film, and I applaud its merits on that level. But its historical value is reason enough for this extensive restoration to have been undertaken.

  20. I saw KING OF JAZZ at the American Film Institute shortly after the restoration was completed. It's quite entertaining, particularly when you know something about its history and creation. The AFI showing was presented by the film's restorers, who put on a pre-show slide show of the film's genesis. That will undoubtedly be recreated on the Criterion release. But for those who want more, a complete book has been released that goes into great detail on these matters:

    https://www.amazon.com/King-Jazz-Wh…8&qid=1520455034&sr=1-1&keywords=King+of+Jazz

    One of the book's authors, James Layton, is the narrator of the Eastman House Two-Color Technicolor short film posted above.

  21. His Goldwyn musicals, (available as a set from Warner Archive), are hilarious. I used to stay up all hours of the night to catch them before home video. I think he is just as funny as any of the other great comedians or teams of the 1930s.
    His obscurity unfortunately is probably because each movie has a black face number. I would be offended certainly if he was a modern performer, but this is the 1930s when these scenes were common. To my eyes, he is never disrespectful and often interacts with genuine black performers (Nicholas Brothers).

  22. TJPC

    His Goldwyn musicals, (available as a set from Warner Archive), are hilarious. I used to stay up all hours of the night to catch them before home video. I think he is just as funny as any of the other great comedians or teams of the 1930s.
    His obscurity unfortunately is probably because each movie has a black face number. I would be offended certainly if he was a modern performer, but this is the 1930s when these scenes were common. To my eyes, he is never disrespectful and often interacts with genuine black performers (Nicholas Brothers).

    They're especially fun to try to spot a young Lucille Ball.

  23. Watch yourself, for a while all I did was watch the background and ignore Eddie entirely, especially “Roman Scandals”. She certainly must have had dental work after this era.

  24. Mr Harris was right. Eddie was a veritable cyclone!
    My favourite moment is when, while singing 'Making Whoopee', he mimes picking up and speaking into a telephone. Being so very modern, he changes that mime-action from speaking into an old candle-stick two-part phone, into a 'modern' handset. So modern… just like Technicolor and sound!
    He was a natural … over-stated on stage to reach the balcony and back-stalls, but keeping his shtick to a minimum for the camera. Very prescient .. way ahead of his time.

  25. TJPC

    Watch yourself, for a while all I did was watch the background and ignore Eddie entirely, especially “Roman Scandals”. She certainly must have had dental work after this era.

    She's especially visible in the Young and Beautiful number. And you're correct in the dental work comment. LOL.

  26. WHOOPEE! used to run on HBO back in the early 80's, which is where I first became aware of Eddie Cantor. I became an instant fan. I haven't seen all of his films, but the ones I have seen have been incredibly enjoyable.

  27. When I was a kid I borrowed and read Cantor's autobiography from my elementary school's very limited library. I remember being captivated by his stories of vaudeville, burlesque and films. I had seen one of his films on TV so I had some idea of who Eddie Cantor was.

    For a long time now, I've had the WA DVD release of The Eddie Cantor Story in my Amazon cart but haven't yet pulled the plug. Cantor plays himself in the film. All this talk is making my trigger finger involuntarily constrict. :laugh:

    [​IMG]

  28. Mike Frezon

    When I was a kid I borrowed and read Cantor's autobiography from my elementary school's very limited library. I remember being captivated by his stories of vaudeville, burlesque and films. I had seen one of his films on TV so I had some idea of who Eddie Cantor was.

    For a long time now, I've had the WA DVD release of The Eddie Cantor Story in my Amazon cart but haven't yet pulled the plug. Cantor plays himself in the film. All this talk is making my trigger finger involuntarily constrict. :laugh:

    [​IMG]

    Cantor only had a cameo at the end. Otherwise this is a terrible film with an embarrassing lead actor doing a terrible impression. Much much better to get a real Cantor film, all of which are on disc, even “Ali Baba Goes To Town”, not his best, but one I looked for for 30 years ever since there was a short excerpt in “Day of The Locust”.

  29. TJPC

    “Ali Baba Goes To Town”, not his best, but one I looked for for 30 years ever since there was a short excerpt in “Day of The Locust”.

    Hahah, yes I think the same thing every time someone brings up Ali Baba! I always expect Karen Black…. 🙂

  30. Mike Frezon

    Yikes! Sorry everyone. My wires got crossed on that one. I must've seen his name in the cast list and figured incorrectly.

    Sincerest apologies. And, thanks for the correction.

    The only kind thing that I can say about the film is that the music is well presented. That said, Keefe Brasselle posthumously deserves a lifetime "achievement award" from the Razzies for one of the worst performances in the history of film (that may sound like hyperbole, but it really isn't it). I'm surprised that the director Alfred E. Green who did so well with The Jolson Story (hey Twilight Time, it would sure be swell to get the Jolson biopics on blu) would allow Brasselle to portray Cantor as an infantile and gross caricature of his stage persona with all of the mugging and eye rolling. Something seriously went wrong with the production, and I would love to know how this film got through the studio system without someone in the chain of command saying, "We have a clunker on our hands." Perhaps no one wanted to admit that the emperor had no clothes on.

    As for the subject of this thread, I'm eagerly anticipating seeing King of Jazz in all of its restored glory. This may very well be the best representation we have of two-color Technicolor since very little original negative material exists on the films shot in the process. It is ironic that Universal, the studio infamous for purging much of its silent output in the late 1940s to reclaim the silver and shelf space, actually kept and maintained the negative for this film. If the silent films were destroyed for being obsolete, what could be said for an early talkie filmed in an obsolete color system that likely couldn't be printed even if a print was desired?

  31. I'm looking forward to the supplemental material, but admittedly with a little bit of mixed expectations. I understand why reference to 1930's sensibilities is to a certain extent unavoidable, but hopefully there won't be an overall apologetic tone running through the commentaries and documentaries. Keeping things in historical context is vital, and this can be done without calling unfavorable attention each time anything considered today as non-PC pops up. Personally, I find this practice distracting as well as attempting to influence my own reaction to the film. I take such opinionating with a grain of salt, but it can get rather tiresome when it's always being shoved in my face. I'm mature enough to realize tastes and modes change without someone zealously pointing it out for me in a way that's supposed to make me agree to cringe. When I finally watch Criterion's Blu-ray of THE KING OF JAZZ, I don't plan on cringing but only revelling in its newly restored glory.

  32. Casey62

    I'm looking forward to the supplemental material, but admittedly with a little bit of mixed expectations. I understand why reference to 1930's sensibilities is to a certain extent unavoidable, but hopefully there won't be an overall apologetic tone running through the commentaries and documentaries. Keeping things in historical context is vital, and this can be done without calling unfavorable attention each time anything considered today as non-PC pops up. Personally, I find this practice distracting as well as attempting to influence my own reaction to the film. I take such opinionating with a grain of salt, but it can get rather tiresome when it's always being shoved in my face. I'm mature enough to realize tastes and modes change without someone zealously pointing it out for me in a way that's supposed to make me agree to cringe. When I finally watch Criterion's Blu-ray of THE KING OF JAZZ, I don't plan on cringing but only revelling in its newly restored glory.

    I applaud your viewpoint, and agree with it. But we live in times where there are people whose mission in life is to be, as I call it, "professionally offended". In addition, learning history is seen as irrelevant by an appalling large percentage of the population (as well as learning FROM history, but that's off-topic).

    My latest cringe was the warning that a recent purchase "is intended for the adult collector and may not be suitable for children". The purchase? The Porky Pig 101 collection of cartoons from Warner Archive.

  33. hahahahaha I like that term, "professionally offended." I got into a near argument on Facebook with someone who is too cool for school with GWTW–considering it "unwatchable" for PC reasons. Um, okey doke. Anyway, I really celebrate this bluray release; I saw its re-premiere in Manhattan in 2016 and will never forget the heartfelt wave of applause as the main title appeared.

  34. Will Krupp

    We're veering dangerously close to a political discussion here…..

    I don't think so, Will. Our rule about religion/politics has always had that exception about the discussion of either when it comes to its role in the plot of a particular film. Here, we will usually also give leeway in terms of discussions of a film's place in historical context.

    The important thing for everyone to remember is just to be careful that we don't express our own political/religious views (as to what's right/wrong) and disparage others. Most problems are avoided that way. 😎

  35. My taste in entertainment spans a wide historical range, so I can say that I genuinely enjoy the musical numbers and comedic sketches as presented in THE KING OF JAZZ. Call it nostalgic charm if you will, but for me, there's more to it than that. Even almost 90 years on, the film's infectious enthusiasm still sucks me in, and I easily find myself tapping away to "When the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Get Together" and "Happy Feet", while getting a bit misty-eyed over "Monterey/La Paloma". When a movie gets me involved that way, its age is completely irrelevant. There's a jaded edge to so much of today's entertainment which I find to be absent in a film like THE KING OF JAZZ. It was an innovative era for motion pictures and the recording industry, and I can sense that fun spirit still coming through in this so-called, pop-culture relic. The Great Depression was gripping the nation, but you'd never know it watching this movie.

  36. I’m almost halfway thru King of Jazz and I’m extremely impressed. The color is overall quite pleasant and I’ve had no trouble adjusting to the two color process. The production techniques are impressive too. Some very inventive camerawork which seems more advanced than the revues from the other studios at the time. Looking forward to watching the rest. Great job Universal.

  37. Gary16

    Some very inventive camerawork which seems more advanced than the revues from the other studios at the time.

    I agree. I have on DVD the other studio revues of the day – Warner's THE SHOW OF SHOWS, Paramount's PARAMOUNT ON PARADE and MGM's HOLLYWOOD REVUE of 1929. Universal's offering is easily the most ambitious and creative of the lot. I see in THE KING OF JAZZ hints of things to come in the great Busby Berkeley musicals. The "Happy Feet" number anticipates the grande finale from 42ND STREET, and "A Bench in the Park" is very similar to "Pettin' in the Park" from GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933.

    I may be stretching it a bit, but the scene of Paul Whiteman ominously lit from below, vigorously stirring the "Melting Pot of Music" with those elipses rising from the cauldron reminds me a lot of the climax in another two-strip Technicolor classic, DOCTOR X, where Preston Foster is applying synthetic flesh to his head and face. Same angle, same lighting, same color scheme.

  38. Just finished watching this and the trumpets cannot blow loud enough. First of all, it's REALLY entertaining and the dancing is kind of mind-boggling actually – my jaw dropped a few times. The sets and costumes are amazing and the whole thing is just a weird and wacky phantasmagoria and I loved every minute of it. And the transfer and restoration are also mind-boggling – the camera negative stuff is breathtaking and the two-color Technicolor is ravishing and has such incredible texture. Don't sit around reading about this thing, buy it now.

  39. Well, I must say, this release has exceeded all of my expectations. Criterion couldn't have done a better job in giving THE KING OF JAZZ the long-awaited justice it deserves. The 4K restoration is truly astonishing – it's simply the finest example of two-strip Technicolor I've ever seen. In some shots, I got the impression I was watching a color movie from the early '50s, this despite the lack of a three-matrix spectrum. The audio fidelity as well, given its technical limitations, is surprisingly clean and vibrant. I particularly noticed how well the velvety quality of Bing Crosby's voice registers in the "Bluebirds and the Blackbirds" number.

    Seeing that THE KING OF JAZZ is among my all-time favorite films, it's easy for me to gush with unabashed enthusiasm over how wonderful this presentation is.

  40. Having never seen the film, but hearing the name over the years and loving two-color Technicolor, it was a blind buy for me. I got up early this morning to watch it and was blown away.

    While not every segment works, the majority of it is just incredible. Whiteman and his orchestra were consummate performers, just oozing charm and talent. The dancing, as Bruce mentioned, was some of the most impressive I've seen in any film or on stage. The gargantuan sets and elaborate costumes are the kinds of extravagant touches we never see in films (or on stage) these days. As for the photography itself, I could not believe what I was seeing. This was the work of Director, designers, and technicians who were 100% in command of the Technicolor process. Everything was designed to the smallest detail to exploit the abilities (and play down the limitations) of two-color Technicolor. Seeing this restoration really made me aware of the gorgeous result that could be obtained from the process. The material sourced from the negative was incredible. You could have told me that it was filmed yesterday and I would have believed it. It was beautiful.

    I'm so glad I took the plunge and bought this release. It really transported me to another time and place and got me excited for what is possible with modern restoration tools. Universal and the restoration team need to be commended for making this happen.

  41. Brian Kidd

    Having never seen the film, but hearing the name over the years and loving two-color Technicolor, it was a blind buy for me. I got up early this morning to watch it and was blown away.

    While not every segment works, the majority of it is just incredible. Whiteman and his orchestra were consummate performers, just oozing charm and talent. The dancing, as Bruce mentioned, was some of the most impressive I've seen in any film or on stage. The gargantuan sets and elaborate costumes are the kinds of extravagant touches we never see in films (or on stage) these days. As for the photography itself, I could not believe what I was seeing. This was the work of Director, designers, and technicians who were 100% in command of the Technicolor process. Everything was designed to the smallest detail to exploit the abilities (and play down the limitations) of two-color Technicolor. Seeing this restoration really made me aware of the gorgeous result that could be obtained from the process. The material sourced from the negative was incredible. You could have told me that it was filmed yesterday and I would have believed it. It was beautiful.

    I'm so glad I took the plunge and bought this release. It really transported me to another time and place and got me excited for what is possible with modern restoration tools. Universal and the restoration team need to be commended for making this happen.

    I’ll second your comments 100%. Amazing!

  42. I agree with Michael Feinstein's assessment that the film embodies more traditional musical styles of the time as well as what was beginning to emerge. As with any revue of this type, the segments will vary in their individual appeal to each viewer's taste, but even my least favorite doesn't fail to fascinate me at some level. There is a definite "so old it's new" vibe that I get when I watch this movie.

  43. I saw this restoration at Il Cinema Ritrovato a couple of years ago and was just as impressed with the work done and the film itself as everyone here. My head was spinning with a kaleidoscope of sounds and images as we exited the theatre. If the film has one drawback, it's that's there are simply too many riches to absorb in one sitting. Rather like looking at every painting in a vast art gallery in a single visit.

    I'm looking forward to revisiting it in a home theatre environment where I can pause, rewind and, if necessary, break it up into more easily digestible chunks. If anyone is still not convinced by all the gushing praise here, get off the fence and see the bloomin' thing for yourself!

  44. I can only echo everyone's praises. I have a special affection for the Sisters G, and the "Happy Feet" number; this sequence alone makes the movie immortal, in my opinion. I saw its re-premiere at MOMA in 2016, and a more wonderful welcoming back of a movie I've never witnessed. I had the VHS cassette from the early '80s, and even that managed to captivate, since it was also my key introduction to early musicals.

    On a sidenote, way back in the '70s Bing Crosby was being interviewed, and the interviewer said she had a clip from KOJ to show him. Bing looked so startled! I bet he hadn't seen it since 1930, if at all. Yes, it was a banged up looking clip, but I'm sure it moved him, though I don't recall further details.

  45. BarryR

    I can only echo everyone's praises. I have a special affection for the Sisters G, and the "Happy Feet" number; this sequence alone makes the movie immortal, in my opinion. I saw its re-premiere at MOMA in 2016, and a more wonderful welcoming back of a movie I've never witnessed. I had the VHS cassette from the early '80s, and even that managed to captivate, since it was also my key introduction to early musicals.

    The Sisters G are big part of what makes KOJ special for me as well. In fact, after seeing them in this film I was inspired to soak up whatever info I could about them. They appear in most of the numbers, and come close to scene stealing with their iconic Louise Brooks haircuts. As shoddy as that MCA VHS tape was, the infectious quality of the film was still able to cast its spell on me.

  46. Casey62

    The Sisters G are big part of what makes KOJ special for me as well. In fact, after seeing them in this film I was inspired to soak up whatever info I could about them. They appear in most of the numbers, and come close to scene stealing with their iconic Louise Brooks haircuts. As shoddy as that MCA VHS tape was, the infectious quality of the film was still able to cast its spell on me.

    As it happens, not until I saw the restored version did i realize how many times The Sisters G were in the movie!

  47. It looks beautiful. Unfortunately many parts are still lost and they had to had photos over the soundtrack. It's interesting to see how bawdy the comedy sections are. Apparently they were considered so dirty, they excised them from the next release. This is a buried treasure. It would be fun for Warner Bros. to release DOCTOR X (both versions still survive) along with MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM in HD.

  48. If there's one thing – and it's minor – I might quibble about, it's Criterion's choice to not include the original trailer as an extra. Curious, since it's intact and in good shape.

    Maybe this was already discussed in another thread, but I heard (at TCM.com and one Amazon reviewer) that there was some color enhancing done to this HD transfer, like adding blue in some scenes. I don't know if there's any truth to this – it doesn't look like it to me. In their book, "The King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue", James Layton and David Pierce don't say that any colors that shouldn't be there were added during the restoration process itself.

  49. I went through all the extras and can't recall any mention regarding the foreign version with Lugosi as mcee. I don't think that footage even exists – only stills. It seems like the French version may still exist, as frame enlargements from a nitrate release print appear in Layton and Pierce's book.

  50. Really thrilled about the restoration. I'd seen KOJ several times, but not in the past 15 to 20 years. The restored sharpness added so much to the viewing experience, helping me notice and appreciate things so much better, from the dazzling set décor to the sheer spectacle of it all. In a way, the film causes almost a sensory overload. By the close, when Whiteman is stirring his cauldron and the golden-clad dancin' gals emerge from the melting pot, I feel like I've been shot into orbit.

    Musically, this is all pretty familiar territory for me. When I was still in 6th grade or so, I had rescued the family Victrola, and was regularly spinning old Whiteman discs, along with those of Isham Jones, Ben Selvin and the like. Eventually collecting slews more by the time I was in high school. When it came to "Song of the Dawn," I was actually more familiar with the George Olsen version for many years before encountering the Whiteman/Crosby disc. Always loved the tune, along with "Happy Feet" (with fun versions also from Trumbauer's small group as well as Cab Calloway).

    Back to the film, I think the restoration really made the 'Bridal Veil' sequence really pop visually. Ditto 'Monterey.' Always adored the 'Ragamuffin Romeo' bit. So many amazing parts to this film. Only some of the comedy was rather mildewed (although I do have a weird affection for the 'Nellie' quartet bit, which I'm probably a minority). Anyway, it's been an absolute joy revisiting this, and now having in my fairly modest Blu-ray collection.

  51. Robert Harris

    Yup.

    Even "Stumpy," from Rio Bravo was young-ish once.

    Appearing in one of the quicky vignettes, you'll find Walter Brennan.

    How about a Bing Crosby in what I believe to be his first film appearance?

    Universal has done cinephiles a huge favor. A major studio supporting the restoration of a film that on its face has more historical than entertainment value.

    But today's audiences discovered that the now 87 year-old production could be fun, as it toured the festival circuit.

    Filmed in two-color (let's please not call it 2-strip, as it was a single strand of film, with two exposures for each frame (over/under), King of Jazz is a beautiful artifact of the end of that Technicolor era.

    Generally, used sparingly, and usually for sequences, we'll put things in perspective.

    In 1930, there appear to have been 29 films using the process, with 13 using it for sequences only.

    Many don't survive, or survive partially, in black & white, or as discs only.

    Bottom line, for those with a desire to experience the process, at least in full quality, King of Jazz is a rarity.

    Warner's 1932 Doctor X, and 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum have survived as release prints.

    King of Jazz is substantially based upon camera negative, with portions from other elements.

    Possibly because it was also rarely used at Universal, survival (by chance or luck) leaves us in good stead.

    The earlier sequence from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, survives as camera negative.

    And if my sources are correct, it would not be until 1942 (with 3-strip) that the studio would again visit the technology with Arabian Nights, 1943 for Cobra Woman and the re-make of Phantom of the Opera and White Savage.

    We can thank Criterion for licensing the project, and crating a superb Blu-ray, spine number 915, for those who keep track of such things.

    For cinema fans, this is one of the early wonders.

    Image – various – 4.5 – 5 for original material

    Audio – 4

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Highly Recommended

    RAH

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    I just watched the (1927) version of "The Cat and the Canary" and found out the actress that starred in that film, Laura La Plante appeared in "King of Jazz". She was very attractive that unfortunately, didn't have a great career after silent film era.

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  52. The neat thing about this movie is that you can go to any given point and nothing is ever out of context – you can skip around and enjoy the segments as totally independent vignettes.

  53. TJPC

    Like skip the interminably dull Bridal Veil production number!!

    This is where I differ with the general consensus, as I came to better appreciate the Bridal Veil number after seeing it restored. The intricate details in the costumes and closeups of Jeanette Loff and the brides are quite stunning. All of this was missing before, which robbed the sequence of its true visual splendor. The entire piece is akin to a Ziegfeld Follies, Earl Carroll's Vanities or George White's Scandals stage production of that era. Call me sentimental, but I also find the lyrics to "My Bridal Veil" hauntingly poignant. It makes a good tonal counterpoint to some of the other, more upbeat numbers.

  54. TJPC

    I love a lot about “The King of Jazz”, but that number is so grating, and the singing is so terrible, we must agree to disagree.

    That's what I mean about a viewer feeling fully satisfied by the film, even though he or she might skip over certain segments. The parts you love can exist as separate entities.

  55. The only part of the film that I didn't find enjoyable at all was the bit with the guy who kept pulling a card out of his pocket. Good lord, was he unfunny. Stopped the movie cold. The rest ranged from fun to amazing.

  56. A noteworthy detail in the "Happy Feet" number is when the chorus girls are going through the miniature city set, the traffic they're stepping over is in motion. You can clearly see the tiny models of cars and pedestrians being automated along tracks in the same manner as the miniature effects in METROPOLIS (1927) and THINGS TO COME (1936).

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