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CALAMITY JANE ($20) is a big, boisterous delight of a musical from Hollywood’s golden age. Doris Day stars in this western musical as the title character, whose talent with a gun is second only to her talent for exaggerating her Indian fighting exploits. However, fighting Indians is nothing compared to the trouble Calamity Jane finds herself in when she promises to go to Chicago, and bring a famous actress back to her hometown of Deadwood. Having never seen Adelaide Adams (Gale Robbins), Calamity Jane goes to the actress’s dressing room after her final performance in Chicago, but instead of finding the actress, Calamity stumbles on her maid Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie), who is wearing one of the actress’s castoff costumes. Mistaking Katie for her employer, Calamity Jane makes Katie an offer that appeals to the pretty maid’s show business ambitions.

Katie appearance in Deadwood immediately attracts the attention of the town’s two most eligible bachelors- Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) and Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), whom the tomboyish Calamity Jane secretly loves. Not wanting to hurt her new best friend, Katie tries to avoid the Lieutenant’s attentions and even helps transform Calamity Jane into the kind of feminine beauty that catches the eye of every man in Deadwood. Heck, the startling change in Calamity Jane’s appearance even makes Wild Bill Hickok stand up and take notice.

CALAMITY JANE features plenty of rollicking musical numbers, which have been exuberantly staged. In addition, the score to CALAMITY JANE features the Academy Award song Secret Love, which was one of the biggest hits and best-remembered songs of Doris Day’s career. In addition to the leading players, the cast of CALAMITY JANE also includes Dick Wesson, Paul Harvey and Chubby Johnson.

Warner Home Video has made CALAMITY JANE available on DVD in a very good-looking full screen transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The transfer of CALAMITY JANE displays much of the movie’s IB Technicolor beauty, with only minor flaws to remind one that the movie is almost fifty years old. There are some small scratches and bits of debris on the film element, but nothing too objectionable. The only other problem is in the film’s postproduction work, with the optical fades appearing a tad blurry. Otherwise, the image is pretty sharp and nicely defined, with not too much by way of noticeable film grain. Colors generally display the vibrancy of the old IB Technicolor process, although outdoor and processed shots don’t look as good that those photographed under carefully controlled studio lighting. Blacks are accurately rendered, contrast is very good and shadow detail is on par with other Technicolor productions of the same era. Clean authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from making their presence known.

CALAMITY JANE is presented in a nice sounding Dolby Digital monaural. While there are definite limitations in the fidelity of these nearly half-century-old recordings, background hiss and other signs of age related distortions are not readily apparent. Actually, the film’s bouncy score is rendered in a very pleasant manner and does remain good sounding with a fair amount of amplification applied to the track. Additionally, dialogue is crisp, clean and fully intelligible. A French language soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Japanese subtitles. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as a theatrical trailer, some Calamity Jane related newsreel footage, production notes, cast listing and a Doris Day biography.

As I stated above, CALAMITY JANE is a genuine delight of a musical. Doris Day fans should be quite pleased with Warner Home Video’s fine presentation of this western/musical classic- making this a DVD that they and other film buffs in general will want to check out.


Calamity Jane (1953)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 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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