Starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, EASTER PARADE is an absolute joy of a classic movie musical. Combining the songs of Irving Berlin, the singing of Judy Garland and the dancing of Fred Astaire (not to mention Ann Miller), the blue-blooded pedigree of this delightful production is quite evident. The plot of EASTER PARADE finds entertainer Don Hewes (Astaire) being deserted by his dancing and romantic partner Nadine Hale (Miller) on a fine Easter morning. Claiming that he was solely responsible for Nadineís success, Don picks another girl at random to train as his new dancing partner. Of course, that the lucky girl is Hannah Brown (Garland), who just happens to need to wear a single garter just to tell her left foot from her right foot. The cast of EASTER PARADE also features Peter Lawford, Jules Munshin and Clinton Sundberg.
Warner Home Video has made EASTER PARADE available on DVD in a wonderful Ultra Resolution transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. This is an utterly superb looking transfer that restores the image quality of the film and does a marvelous job of recreating the IB Technicolor hues of the past. The image demonstrates more sharpness and better detail than it has in past incarnations and the colors have all the eye-popping appeal of the lost IB Technicolor process. Blacks are velvety, whites appear crisp and the picture boasts fine contrast. The elements from which EASTER PARADE was transferred appear virtually pristine and the fine grain gives the picture a film like character. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack does just fine by the musical numbers, with more than respectable fidelity for a movie approaching the sixty-year mark. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth sounding track. Dialogue is crisp and always understandable. A French language channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running audio commentary by Fred Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and Judy Garland biographer John Fricke, as well as a Judy Garland Trailer Gallery. On disc two, one will find a new making of documentary, Easter Parade: On The Avenue, which runs thirty-four minutes, as well as Judy Garland: By Myself, a two hour American Masters profile of the actress. Outtakes for the deleted musical number Mr. Monotony, plus a radio promo and a Screen Guild Playhouse production of EASTER PARADE close out disc two.
THE BAND WAGON
THE BAND WAGON is one of my favorite musicals and a film that I have really been looking forward to making its debut on DVD. A wonderful homage to the theater, THE BAND WAGON greatly benefits from director Vincente Minnelliís eye for detail, the witty screenplay from Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the superb dancing of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, not to mention impeccable comic support of Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray. The plot of THE BAND WAGON finds movie song and dance man Tony Hunter (Astaire) returning to his Broadway roots in a musical comedy production penned by longtime friends Lester (Levant) and Lily Marton (Fabray) (FYIÖ Lester and Lily are thinly disguised versions of Comden and Green). Also attached to the project, is self-important Broadway director Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), whose involvement in the production turns the Martonís light musical comedy into a grandiose modern version of Faust, much to the dismay of Tony. Adding to Tonyís dismay is his leading lady, ballerina Gabrielle Gerard (Charisse), with whom he has been clashing since her arrival.
THE BAND WAGON features another terrific looking 1.37:1 transfer that makes use of Warnerís Ultra Resolution process to recreate the Technicolor sheen of this delightful musical classic. The image appears pretty darn sharp and really nicely defined. THE BAND WAGON may not offer crispest looking picture to come out of the Ultra Resolution process, but itís still pretty fantastic and easily blows away my old Laserdisc edition. Colors are to die for; totally lush and vibrant- making one long for the good old days of glorious Technicolor. Blacks are perfectly inky, whites are clean and contrast is very smooth. Blemishes are virtually absent from the presentation and there is a hint of grain that serves to remind one they are watching a real film. The upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack offers a very nice spread to the music, especially across the front. Fidelity is better than expected for a film over half a century old, and is certain to please fans. Dialogue is always understandable and the voices are well preserved. The original English monaural track is also included for purists, as is a French language track, plus English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running audio commentary with Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein, as well as a Fred Astaire Trailer Gallery. On disc two, one will find a new making of documentary, Get Aboard! The Band Wagon that runs thirty seven minutes, as well as hour-long documentary The Men Who Made Movies: Vincente Minnelli. Closing out disc two is the cut musical number Two Faced Woman, as well as the musical short subject Jack Buchanan With The Glee Quartet.
While not quite as big a movie musical classic as THE BAND WAGON, BRIGADOON is another personal favorite from director Vincente Minnelli. Filmed entirely on the soundstages of the MGM lot, BRIGADOON is something of a cinematic confection that probably wouldnít taste as sweet, if a ray of actual sunlight crept into a single frame of the movie. Artifice seems to work in the films favor, and actually creates a bit of screen magic. Minnelliís touch can be felt in the screen compositions and the movieís impressive camera work, which gives one a foretaste of the directorís mastery of wide screen process, which he would demonstrate on later films. Featuring such wonderful songs as Almost Like Being In Love, The Heather On The Hill and Iíll Go Home With Bonnie Jean, BRIGADOON is a delightful film adaptation of the Lerner and Lowe musical about a magical Scottish village, which appears out of the mist for one day every hundred years. BRIGADOON stars Gene Kelly and Van Johnson star as American hunters who happen upon Brigadoon on the day that it makes its appearance. BRIGADOON also stars Cyd Charise as a beautiful Scottish lass with whom Kellyís character becomes enamored. The cast of BRIGADOON also features Elaine Stewart, Barry Jones, Hugh Laing, Albert Sharpe, Virginia Bosler, Jimmy Thompson and Tudor Owen.
Warner has given BRIGADOON an upgraded transfer that restores almost all of the filmís original 2.55:1 CinemaScope framing, as well as offering the movie in its first 16:9 enhanced presentation. The image on DVD produces a fairly sharp and nicely detailed image that isnít hampered by the flaws in the early CinemaScope lenses. Colors are very nice indeed, producing fairly vibrant colors throughout. Although BRIGADOON was shot in Ansco color, I believe release prints were made by Technicolor; so I want to comment that the hues on the DVD seem a little off full IB brilliance, but at no time seem subdued or faded. Blacks are accurate, whites appear clean and the contrast is just fine. Flaws in the film elements are minimal and there is little apparent grain. The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel makes the most of the music, putting a nice spread across the forward soundstage and augmenting it with some fill in the rears. Fidelity is fine for a fifty-plus year old production and the music sounds quite pleasant when amplified through a home theater system. Dialogue is always easy to understand, even through the Scottish accents floating about. A French language track has also been provided, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as three cut musical sequences, an audio outtake and a theatrical trailer. Unfortunately, the flat version of BRIGADOON, which was shot at the same time as the CinemaScope version has not been included.
BELLS ARE RINGING
As Vincente Minnelli movie musicals go, BELLS ARE RINGING is sweet, romantic fun; however, the director would seem to have phoned in his contributions to the movie. Of course, that statement is somewhat ironic, as the plot of BELLS ARE RINGING focuses on the exploits of a woman who works for a telephone answering service. Minnelli attention to detail isnít quite as focused as it was on the majority of his other films, but BELLS ARE RINGING still shines thanks to the luminous presence of leading lady Judy Holliday, who starred in the Comden and Green penned Broadway production for nearly three years. In BELLS ARE RINGING, Judy plays Ella Peterson, an operator at the Susanswerphone answering service, who becomes entangled in the lives of the subscribers. Ella is something of a muse who helps the subscribers live out their dreams, and even becomes so wrapped up with one of them, that she manages to fall in love with a voice over the phone. Dean Martin is the man who rings her bells, a playwright whom she browbeats into finishing an important play after he loses all confidence in himself. The cast of BELLS ARE RINGING also features Eddie Foy Jr., Jean Stapleton, Frank Gorshin and an uncredited Hal Linden.
BELLS ARE RINGING has been given a solid 2.35:1 transfer that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The image appears pretty crisp and rather nicely defined. Colors are pretty vibrant, although a bit inconsistent in a couple of places. Blacks are deep; the whites are stable and contrast is smooth and the picture produces more than respectable shadow detail. The film elements are free from excessive blemishes and display only some mild grain. As expected, the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack highlights the musical component of the track, as well as offering a nice spread into the outlying channels. Fidelity is just fine for this forty five year old film. Dialogue is clear and completely intelligible. A French language track has also been provided, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as an eleven-minute making of featurette Bells Are Ringing: Just in Time, two cut musical numbers, an alternate version of another musical number and a theatrical trailer.
Francis Ford Coppola is certainly a brilliant director, with his share of classic films under his belt. When FINIAN'S RAINBOW is considered alongside the directorís other films, one is left with the impression that musicals do not appear to be a genre that truly evidences his talents. With that said, FINIAN'S RAINBOW still proves to be a reasonably charming modern fable laced with a bit of social commentary, as well as a fine score and memorable performances from two of its leading players. Starring the always-wonderful Fred Astaire, FINIAN'S RAINBOW provides the legendary entertainer with a cinematic musical swan song, which showed that he had talent to spare even though he was approaching seventy. While not of the same ilk as Astaireís earlier classic musicals, FINIAN'S RAINBOW will offer his long time fans more than a wee bit of enjoyment. In FINIAN'S RAINBOW, Astaire portrays Irishman Finian McLonergan, who moves to Rainbow Valley, Tennessee with his lovely daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) and a pot of gold that he has stolen from the leprechauns. Burying the pot of gold near Fort Knox, Finian hopes his investment in the ground will sprout a bit of magical interest. The cast of FINIAN'S RAINBOW also features Tommy Steele, Keenan Wynn and Don Francks.
FINIAN'S RAINBOW has been given a very nice 2.35:1 widescreen presentation on DVD, which has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a pretty great looking transfer that is certain to please Astaire fans, as well as those that are fond of this particular movie. The image appears crisp and really nicely defined. Colors are strongly rendered and the flesh tones are consistently appealing. Blacks are deep, whites are clean and the contrast is quite smooth. The film elements are in excellent shape and grain is minimal. FINIAN'S RAINBOW features a nicely remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack, which emphasizes the fine score and beautiful original recordings. Fidelity is great for late sixties era soundtrack, which has a pretty strong top and bottom ends. Dialogue is clean and always understandable. A French language track has also been provided, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as introduction and running audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola. The World Premiere Of Finian's Rainbow runs twenty-five minutes and offers a look at the filmís premiere, as well as interviews and clips from the film. A theatrical trailer closes out the extras.
Warner Home Videoís CLASSIC MUSICALS COLLECTION offers another set of delights from their vaults. As expected, Warner delivers quality presentations and fine extras that movie buffs are certain to enjoy. If you love musicals, then Warnerís CLASSIC MUSICALS COLLECTION is something youíll wand to add to your personal film library. Recommended.
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