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SHOW BOAT

The 1951 version of SHOW BOAT ($25) is my favorite film version of the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, II play, because it has the happiest ending. Actually this version of SHOW BOAT pretty much rewrites the story, condensing what happened across decades into a few years. The plot still centers on Magnolia Hawks, the daughter of the Show Boat’s captain, who is swept off her feet by riverboat gambler, Gaylord Ravenal. The two are brought together by fate when Ravenal becomes part of the Show Boat’s touring company on the Mississippi. Things are good for the couple while they continue to perform on the Show Boat. Unfortunately, when they go off into the real world, and Gaylord resumes his life of gambling, their relationship takes a turn for the worse. SHOW BOAT stars Kathryn Grayson as Magnolia and Howard Keel as Gaylord Ravenal. Grayson and Keel have great chemistry, and are truly marvelous performing Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s wonderful score. SHOW BOAT also stars Ava Gardner as Julie Laverne. Julie Laverne is one of the best performances of Gardner’s career; Gardner is utterly heartbreaking in the role. The cast of SHOW BOAT also features Joe E. Brown, Agnes Moorehead, Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Robert Sterling, Leif Erickson and William Warfield, who does a stirring rendition of Ol’ Man River.

MGM Home Entertainment has done a great job of transcribing SHOW BOAT to DVD. The previous Laserdisc edition of the 1951 SHOW BOAT (as part of THE COMPLETE SHOWBOAT boxed set) looked truly marvelous, but the DVD does better the Laserdisc in a number of respects. The DVD gives the film’s Technicolor hues the ability to be richly saturated without bleeding, like they did on the Laserdisc. The DVD is also a bit sharper than the Laserdisc. The source element used for both the DVD and Laserdisc transfer is the same, and demonstrates the same minor flaws. There are a couple of seconds where blue flashes appear on the print (a problem inherent in some old IB Technicolor prints), which occur in conjunction with a scene that uses a heavy fog filter. The analog video of the Laserdisc lets the flaws appear just as they are. The MPEG-2 digital compression doesn’t seem to know what to make of the fog and blue flashes, adding some digital artifacts to the situation. Thus, the flaws in the source element appear slightly worse on the DVD than they do on the Laserdisc. These flaws are very short in duration, but I wanted to mention them because they are a prime example of one of the differences between uncompressed analog video and compressed MPEG-2 video.

The Dolby Digital soundtrack is one channel monaural and does demonstrate some of the limitations one finds in a sound recording almost fifty years old. The sound options on the Laserdisc version of SHOW BOAT had one distinct advantage over that of the DVD edition. THE COMPLETE SHOWBOAT offered Ava Gardner’s own singing on one of the analog tracks. Gardner’s performance of Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man added a greater poignancy to what was already one of her finest performances. Subtitles on the DVD are available in English, French and Spanish. The interactive menus offer access to an original theatrical trailer, as well as the standard scene selection feature.

All reviews are Copyright 1997 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.


 
SHOW BOAT 



 

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DVD reviews are Copyright 1997 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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