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ON THE TOWN ($25) is one of the most exuberant musicals to come out of the MGM dream factory. The film also boasts a bit of historic significance as well. Hollywood musicals were always made in you guessed it- Hollywood, with the back lot and soundstages being substituted from every conceivable place on the planet (and off). However, ON THE TOWN set a precedent by taking its actors to New York City for several days of location shooting at many of the landmarks that make the city what it is. Even though most of ON THE TOWN was shot in Hollywood, the location footage incorporated into the body of the film gives it a New York flavor that just couldn’t be faked.

The premise of ON THE TOWN is simple enough, three W.W.II era sailors on leave in New York City have only twenty-four hours to take in all the sites, as well as become romantically entangled with three city girls. The screenplay by Adolph Green and Betty Comden is a pure effervescent delight, as are the film’s songs, which include the classic New York, New York. Behind the camera, one finds the co-directing team of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, who were responsible for many of MGM’s best musicals. ON THE TOWN also has talent to spare in front of the camera. Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin portray the three sailors on leave, while Betty Garrett, Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen are the girls they meet during their one-day pass in New York City. Every single frame of ON THE TOWN is pure entertainment, with the film whizzing by in a dizzying blur of comedy, songs and dance numbers that scarcely leave the viewer with an opportunity to catch their breath.

Warner Home Video has done a terrific job with their DVD release of ON THE TOWN. Even though ON THE TOWN was a 1949 theatrical release, the film element Warner has utilized for the transfer is in wonderful shape. There are very few age-related anomalies or noticeable instances of film grain anywhere in the presentation. Predating wide screen, ON THE TOWN is presented in its proper 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer itself is sharp, well defined and the image is very clean looking. Color reproduction is excellent; in fact, this incarnation of ON THE TOWN comes close to recapturing the look of an original IB Technicolor print. The candy colored hues are well saturated and are recreated without any distracting evidence of chroma noise or bleeding. Flesh tones are very pleasing, taking on that healthy Technicolor glow. Blacks are solid and shadow detail is respectable for a film that is over fifty years old. Additionally, contrast is very even throughout the film. There are no visible traces of digital compression artifacts on the DVD. 

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has all the frequency limitations for a film of this vintage, however the sound proves to be rather full and engaging when amplified. A French language soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles. The interactive menus contain music, but are otherwise basic in their implementation. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

ON THE TOWN is a classic Hollywood treasure that belongs in the library of every movie fan. Warner Home Video has delivered a DVD presentation worthy of the film. Recommended to film buffs everywhere.


On the Town



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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