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Without question, 42ND STREET ($25) is one of the best and most influential of all the early screen musicals. With its great score, outstanding Busby Berkeley choreography and its often-imitated plot, 1933's 42ND STREET really entertained audiences in a big way. Although the story is now cliché, the then trend setting 42ND STREET took its audience to the backstage drama that happens behind-the-scenes during the production of a new Broadway musical. The plot of 42ND STREET centers on a new production to be directed by Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), one of Broadway's most celebrated musical directors, whose lifestyle and workload has already driven him to one nervous collapse. However, needing one last hit show to guarantee his financial future, Marsh agrees to direct the new production.

Of course, whipping a new show into shape could drive the director once more to the breaking point. 42ND STREET also features Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer, a green chorus girl, who finds herself thrust into the spotlight, when the show's temperamental female star is unable to go on, on opening night. The excellent ensemble cast also features Dick Powell, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, Ginger Rogers, Ned Sparks, Allen Jenkins, Edward J. Nugent, Robert McWade and George E. Stone. As I stated above, the Busby Berkeley dance numbers are not to be missed and the classic score features such songs as Shuffle Off To Buffalo, You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me and 42nd Street

Warner Home Video has done a truly fine job with their DVD release of 42ND STREET. Although the film is rapidly approaching its 70th anniversary, the black and white film elements used for the transfer are in very good shape. There are some mild scratches and minor imperfections in the elements, but nothing is ever too distracting. Film grain is noticeable, but this is due to the limitations of the film stocks available when 42ND STREET was made and not the fine black and white transfer. The image is pretty sharp and offers a decent level of detail for a film of this vintage. There are moments where the image is a little soft, but those who are familiar with this movie will be pleased with the presentation. Blacks are an inky black, plus the picture provides good contrast, nicely rendered grays, as well as bright whites that don't appear blown out. Digital compression artifacts do not compromise the presentation on this cleanly authored DVD. For a movie that was made less than a decade into the sound era, 42ND STREET boasts a nice sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Frequency response is exceedingly limited; however there are no major distortions of the sound and audible hiss maintains a low profile. For its age, this soundtrack gives one very little to complain about, so feel free to apply a bit of amplification and enjoy the musical numbers. Subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD in English and French. 

There is a bit of music behind the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Extras include three short featurettes from the era: Harry Warren: America's Foremost Composer, Hollywood Newsreel and A Trip Through A Hollywood Studio. The featurettes make for an evening's entertainment, plus they give the DVD a feeling of what it was like to go to the movies way back when. Production notes on Busby Berkeley are also included on the DVD.

42ND STREET is a genuine classic musical that has been given a very good presentation thanks to the folks at Warner Home Video. Film buffs shouldn't hesitate to add this DVD to their collections.


42nd Street


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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