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GUYS AND DOLLS ($25) is one of the best big and boisterous Broadway musicals to ever make the transition to the silver screen. Based upon a colorful Damon Runyon story of New York gangsters, which was adapted for the stage by Jo Swerling, GUYS AND DOLLS follows the action at "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York." GUYS AND DOLLS stars Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit, the entrepreneur who runs the legendary floating crap game. While business is generally good, Nathan unfortunately has a couple of difficulties on his hands.

First of all, the police department has been turning up the heat all over town, making it difficult for Nathan to find a new location for his business venture. Second, Nathan’s fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), is making demands that he give up his business venture and settle down with her. When a possible solution to the first problem presents itself, Nathan is required to make a $1,000.00 wager with a high roller named Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), who tends to favor very unusual bets. The seemingly impossible wager requires that Sky Masterson have dinner in Havana Cuba, with the woman of Nathan Detroit’s choice. Trying to stack the deck in his favor, Nathan chooses Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) of the Save-A-Soul Mission, a prim and proper woman who is guaranteed to be immune to the charms of a notorious sinner like Sky Masterson. 

The performances in GUYS AND DOLLS are all top of the line. Sinatra brings a certain boyish charm to the role of Nathan Detroit. Seeing Marlon Brando sing and dance, as Sky Masterson, is something that all of his fans should experience at least once. Vivian Blaine is magnificent in recreating her stage role of Miss Adelaide. Stubby Kaye also makes the transition from the Broadway stage, recreating his wonderfully honed comic role of Nicely Nicely Johnson. The cast of GUYS AND DOLLS also features Robert Keith, B.S. Pulley, Johnny Silver, Sheldon Leonard, Danny Dayton, George E. Stone, Regis Toomey, Kathryn Givney and Veda Ann Borg. Frank Loesser’s immortal Broadway score includes such classic tunes as Fugue For Tinhorns, Adelaide’s Lament, Guy And Dolls, If I Were A Bell, Luck Be A Lady and Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat. Additionally, the film version of GUYS AND DOLLS features the exuberant choreography of the one and only Michael Kidd.

MGM Home Entertainment has done a nice job with their DVD edition of GUYS AND DOLLS. However, I feel they really should have gone the extra mile for a classic musical of this caliber. My biggest complaint about the GUYS AND DOLLS is the fact that wide screen presentation has NOT been enhanced for playback on 16:9 televisions. GUYS AND DOLLS is a big, wide CinemaScope movie that cries out for the anamorphic enhancement. Hey, anything filmed at 2.35:1 should deliver every last drop of resolution that the DVD format can muster. On a 4:3 monitor, the recycled wide screen Laserdisc master still looks quite good. The image is as sharp and detailed as it was on Laserdisc, although it isn’t as detailed could be had it been given a brand new anamorphic presentation. Colors are usually bright and very vivid, taking on that decidedly 1950’s look. Chroma noise is not a problem and the more intensely saturated hues did not bleed outside their borders in any appreciable way. Blacks are correctly reproduced, although shadow detail is limited to what 1955 film stock is capable of rendering. Contrast is smooth and pleasant. The film element used for the transfer displays very few age-related blemishes. GUYS AND DOLLS runs 2 hours 29 minutes, although thanks to the use of dual layer technology digital compression artifacts are kept from affecting the image in any appreciable way. 

The film’s soundtrack has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix, although it retains that big, brassy stereo sound of the decade in which it was recorded. Most of the sound remains in the forward soundstage, which lends the production a nice theatrical flavor. The music is well recorded for its era; playing back quite well with a goodly amount of amplification. Vocals are always very pleasing, plus the film’s dialogue is clean and intelligible. Overall, the soundtrack is very well preserved, without any serious flaws. French and Spanish stereo surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles. The interactive menus are fairly standard, providing access to the scene selection and set up features. A theatrical trailer is also included on the DVD and is accessible through the menu system.

Without the anamorphic enhancement, GUYS AND DOLLS is something of a missed opportunity for MGM Home Entertainment. Let’s hope they revisit the title in the future and do the right thing.




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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