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HIGH SOCIETY

HIGH SOCIETY ($20) is a rather charming musical take on that silver screen (and Broadway) classic THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. This effortless confection maintains a lighter-than-air quality thanks to some wonderful songs by Cole Porter as well as the portions of snappy dialogue retained from the Philip Barry play and subsequent movie version of said play. HIGH SOCIETY also features an abundance of old time star quality that comes in the form of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly- the latter making her cinematic sawn song before abdicating from her place amongst Hollywood royalty, for that of real royalty. HIGH SOCIETY also moves the story's locale from Philadelphia to that of Rhode Island, enabling references to the Newport Jazz Festival, with featured appearances by Louis Armstrong and his band.

Like THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, HIGH SOCIETY tells the story of the pending nuptials of society darling Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly). Although Tracy plans to be exchanging vows with husband number two in less than twenty-four hours, her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby), has high hopes of changing Tracy's plans. Further complicating things is the arrival of Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm), two unwelcome reporters from Spy Magazine, whose coverage of Tracy's wedding, will keep the tabloid from doing an exposť on her fatherís latest sordid affair. Highlights from the Cole Porter score include "True Love," "Well, Did You Evah?" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". The cast of HIGH SOCIETY also features John Lund, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Margalo Gillmore and Lydia Reed.

Warner Home Video has made HIGH SOCIETY available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a really nice transfer and is probably the best that HIGH SOCIETY has ever looked in the home venue. The image is generally crisp and very nicely defined- I guess the fact that HIGH SOCIETY was shot in VistaVision might have something to do with that. However, some of the second unit shots look a bit off, and donít match up to the film proper, but that is related to the original photography and does not represent a flaw in the transfer. Colors tend to be nicely saturated with that old style Technicolor glow. Flesh tones have the homogenized look one generally associates with Max Factor, but they still hold up rather well. Blacks appear solid, whites are pretty pure and the contrast is pretty smooth. The film element used for the transfer displays some mild blemishes, as well as something of a noticeable grain structure at various times. Digital compression artifacts remain out of sight throughout the presentation.

HIGH SOCIETY comes with a very nice Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack, which should please fans of this film. A number of years ago, a lot of effort was put into upgrading the soundtrack for the MGM Laserdisc release of HIGH SOCIETY. This upgraded soundtrack incorporated the original stereo music recordings that were made in pre-production, but never utilized, because HIGH SOCIETY was eventually produced in VistaVision and released with the corresponding (directional monaural) Perspecta sound. Obviously, that stereo soundtrack served as the basis for the new 5.1 channel sound mix, with dialogue falling to the center, music passages being reproduced in stereo, and the surrounds supplying just a bit of musical fill. Overall, this is a very pleasant sounding track that should be amplified for the delightful Cole Porter tunes. Fidelity is on par for a mid-1950ís production, lacking full definition at the highest and lowest frequencies, but still sounding quite good. A French language track is also included on the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which feature access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Cole Porter in Hollywood: True Love is a nine-minute program hosted by Celeste Holm that offers a look back on the production of HIGH SOCIETY. Also included on the DVD is newsreel footage of the movieís premiere, plus Millionaire Droopy, an animated CinemaScope short, which is presented in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio (without the benefit of the 16:9 enhancement). Radio spots, production notes, as well as, theatrical trailers for HIGH SOCIETY and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY close out the supplements.

HIGH SOCIETY is an enjoyable little Hollywood confection that places a different spin of the movie classic THE PHILADELPHIA STORY by adding some Cole Porter tunes. Warner has done a fine job with the DVD, offering fans the best home presentation that the film has ever had. If you are a musical fan or movie buff, then HIGH SOCIETY is something that you will want to add to your collection.

 

HIGH SOCIETY 


High Society (1956)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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