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CLASSIC MUSICALS
FROM THE DREAM FACTORY

ZIEGFELD FOLLIES

Although the film has classic stature, ZIEGFELD FOLLIES isnít as cohesively brilliant as many of MGMís other musicals of the same era. So much of ZIEGFELD FOLLIES is truly wonderful to behold, plus the film features an impressive visual flair that should leaves the Technicolor aficionado inside me salivatingÖPersonally, I like the conceit of melding of the grand entertainment of the Ziegfeld Follies with the legendary talent pool of the MGM studio to create a musical comedy review of dazzling Technicolor proportions, yet for some reason, the film leaves me somewhat cold. The basic premise of ZIEGFELD FOLLIES has the legendary impresario Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell) looking down from heaven and imagining staging an all new Follies, which unfolds for the audience in all its Technicolor splendor. The impressive talent pool of ZIEGFELD FOLLIES features Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice, Judy Garland, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, James Melton, Victor Moore, Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Edward Arnold, Marion Bell, Cyd Charisse, Hume Cronyn, William Frawley, Robert Lewis, Virginia O'Brien and Keenan Wynn.

Warner Home Video has made ZIEGFELD FOLLIES available on DVD in a very nice transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. Numerous optical fades are employed throughout the course of ZIEGFELD FOLLIES and for that reason much of the film appears ever so mildly soft. For the most part, colors are absolutely splendid and come close to reproducing the look of an actual IB Technicolor print, although there are some degrees of variation in the hues during the unspooling. Blacks are solid, white appear clean and contrast is smooth. The film elements do display minor blemishes, but they are not excessive. A grain structure is fairly noticeable, but never problematic. The remixed Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack does just fine by the musical numbers, with more than respectable fidelity for a movie produced over six decades ago. 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 monaural version of the track is also provided, as are 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 the fourteen minute featurette Ziegfeld Follies: An Embarrassment Of Riches, a twenty minute short subject The Luckiest Guy In The World, two cartoons The Hick Chick & Solid Serenade, plus Audio Outtakes and Theatrical Trailers for ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD, and ZIEGFELD GIRL.

*****

TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY

As far as film biographies of composers go, TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY isnít anything special. However, as a Technicolor musical review of the works of composer Jerome Kern, the film offers tremendous entertainment value. Other than missing the boat and not sailing on the doomed Lusitania, the composerís life is rather uneventful. Even the portions Kernís life invented by the Hollywood writers proves to be less than enthralling. Fortunately, Jerome Kernís songs are far more memorable than the man himself, plus they are opulently staged in glorious Technicolor in typical MGM fashion. The cast of TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY features June Allyson, Lucille Bremer, Judy Garland, Kathryn Grayson, Van Heflin, Lena Horne, Van Johnson, Tony Martin, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Robert Walker, Gower Champion, Cyd Charisse, Harry Hayden, Paul Langton and Angela Lansbury.

TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY comes to DVD in a terrific looking 1.37:1 transfer that blows away the previous (less than reputable) releases of the film in the digital medium. The image is generally sharp and nicely defined, although there are some mildly soft moments during the course of the film. Colors are beautifully rendered and come quite close to reproducing the lost look of IB Technicolor prints. In general, the hues are highly saturated and completely stable. There is some variation here and there, but nothing to complain about. Blacks are inky, whites are clean, and the picture produces smooth contrast. The film elements are in solid shape for a six-decade-old feature, with relatively few blemishes being evident. Additionally, the noticeable grain structure proves to be modest. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack sounds best during the all-important musical numbers, with the limited fidelity sounding quite pleasant for a film of this vintage. Additionally, the majority of background hiss and surface noise has been cleaned up in the mastering process. Dialogue is crisp and always easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English subtitles are provided.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the thirteen-minute featurette Till the Clouds Roll By: Real to Reel, the nine-minute short subject Glimpses Of California, Henpecked Hoboes cartoon, musical number Outtakes and a Theatrical Trailer.

*****

THREE LITTLE WORDS

THREE LITTLE WORDS is another one of those "Hollywood" styled musical biographies that have more to do with the imagination of the writers (and how to cram in the maximum number of songs), than it does with the real lives of the composers. Still, THREE LITTLE WORDS proves to be a highly enjoyable musical entertainment that supposedly chronicles the careers of songwriting team Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Fred Astaire turns in a funny performance as the hoofer, wannabe magician and songwriter Bert Kalmar, while Red Skelton mostly plays it straight as his baseball fanatic partner Harry Ruby. Vera-Ellen and Arlene Dahl appear as the ladies in their lives. The rest of the cast of THREE LITTLE WORDS also features Keenan Wynn, Gale Robbins, Gloria DeHaven, Phil Regan, Harry Shannon, Debbie Reynolds, Paul Harvey and Carleton Carpenter.

THREE LITTLE WORDS comes to DVD in a really sweet looking transfer that frames the film in a proper 1.37:1 transfer. The image is pretty crisp and offers good definition. Colors are vibrant and come very close to capturing the original IB Technicolor flavor. Blacks appear accurate, whites are clean and the contrast is relatively smooth. The film elements are in good shape, very clean and displaying only minor anomalies. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is in very nice, offering smooth sound quality. Fidelity is limited by early 1950ís recording technology, but is enjoyable nonetheless. Dialogue is fairly crisp and always understandable. Subtitles have been provided in English, Spanish and French.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the fifteen-minute featurette, Three Little Words: Two Swell Guys, the nine-minute short subject Roaming Through Michigan, Ventriloquist Cat cartoon, a radio promo for the film and a Theatrical Trailer.

*****

SUMMER STOCK

SUMMER STOCK is the film that marked movie musical star Judy Garlandís swan song at MGM. Featuring some great musical numberís including Garlandís iconic rendition of Get Happy, SUMMER STOCK comes off as an uneven outing because of a "B" caliber script that only Judy and leading man Gene Kelly seem to overcome. Originally devised as another "letís put on a show" vehicle for Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, the script is about as creaky as the floor board that is prominently featured in one of Gene Kellyís solo numbers. The plot of SUMMER STOCK finds Judy portraying Jane Falbury, who is desperately trying to keep her head above water on her failing family farm. When Janeís younger sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven), suddenly arrives home with a troop of performers, Jane discovers that her sister has been bitten by the acting bug and intends to use the family barn to launch a new production. The cast of SUMMER STOCK also features Eddie Bracken, Marjorie Main, Phil Silvers, Ray Collins, Nita Bieber, Carleton Carpenter and Hans Conried.

SUMMER STOCK has been made available on DVD in a really nice looking transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. The image is fairly crisp and offers good definition. With some mild variations, the hues come close to producing the look of an IB Technicolor print. Blacks appear accurate, as do the stable whites. Contrast is generally smooth. The film elements show some minor blemishes, plus a grain structure is noticeable in places, but is never excessive. SUMMER STOCK comes with a solid Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that doesnít betray any excessive signs of age. There is no noticeable background hiss or other sonic anomalies at average listening levels, and the dialogue is always easy to understand. Fidelity is quite good for a fifty plus year old musical, with the songs coming across in a rather pleasant manner. No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the sixteen minute featurette Summer Stock: Get Happy!, a vintage seven minute Pete Smith specialty short Did'ja Know?, The Cuckoo Clock cartoon, plus an Audio Outtake and Theatrical Trailer.

*****

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER

Many consider IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER to be a pseudo sequel to ON THE TOWN, although this time out, Betty Comden and Adolph Green come up with a story with a cynical edge, in place of the wide-eyed enthusiasm found in the first production. Because of its slightly jaundiced view of the world, IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER tends not to be as well remembered as so many other popular MGM musicals, but then again, the film may just be a victim of timing, being produced at a time when the studio system begun to collapse and the movie musical was falling out of fashion. Personally, I love the movie and delighted that it has finally found its way to DVD. The plot of IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER replaces the sailors on leave found in ON THE TOWN, with three Army buddies returning from the war and planning to reunite with one another ten years to the day after they are discharged from the service. Of course, Ten years later when the three reunite, these formerly fast friends quickly discover they no longer have anything in common and seem to take an immediate dislike to one another. The cast of IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER features Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Dolores Gray, Michael Kidd, David Burns and Jay C. Flippen.

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER has been given a very nice widescreen presentation on DVD, which has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The framing comes very close to the filmís original 2.55:1 early CinemaScope aspect ratio, with very little of the left side of the frame appearing compromised. Sharpness and detail are generally good, but shots that include opticals are somewhat softer. Eastmancolor is certainly not Technicolor, but the hues in this transfer appear pretty vivid. Again, colors are also put off somewhat by the optical work. Despite the minor inconsistencies, this is the absolute best that IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER has ever looked in the home venue. Blacks are fairly deep, whites are clean and the contrast is smooth. The film elements are in great shape, displaying few signs of age. IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER comes with a nicely remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The music has good fidelity and has been given a nice spread throughout the channels. Directionality is minimal, but the music is always lively. As for the dialogue, it is crisply rendered and maintains full intelligibility. No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the sixteen-minute featurette It's Always Fair Weather: Going Out On A High Note, excerpts from The MGM Parade television program featuring Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse, two vintage cartoons Deputy Droopy & Good Will To Men, plus musical number Outtakes and a Theatrical Trailer.

Warnerís CLASSIC MUSICALS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY is a highly entertaining package of films that fans of the genre are certain to want to add to their collections. The presentations are all first class and have been complemented by thoughtful extras. Recommended.

CLASSIC MUSICALS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY is available on DVD for $59.98, while each film is available individually for $19.98.

 

CLASSIC MUSICALS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY 


Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory (Ziegfeld Follies / Till the Clouds Roll By / Three Little Words / Summer Stock / It's Always Fair Weather) (1946)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 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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