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This review originally appeared in issue 9 of THE CINEMA LASER.

ON ANN­MARGRET

Ann­Margret has had a long career in film and is one of the most beautiful and sexy women to ever grace the silver screen. Three recent Laserdisc releases take a look at her different phases of her career.

BYE BYE BIRDIE ($35) was one of her earliest staring performances and it set her on the road to her sex kitten persona. Based upon the Broadway hit, BYE BYE BIRDIE takes a satiric look at the induction of a teen idol (ala Elvis Presley) into the armed forces. Conrad Birdie is the film equivalent of Elvis Presley, the famed teen idol on the verge of induction. As a publicity stunt, Conrad Birdie will kiss one of his adoring teenaged fans Goodbye on The Ed Sullivan Show. Ann­Margret portrays the lucky girl destined to be kissed by Birdie. BYE BYE BIRDIE is unintentionally ironic, since later on, Ann­Margret would do a lot more than kiss Elvis Presley on the set of VIVA LAS VEGAS. Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde made the transition from Broadway to the film version of BYE BYE BIRDIE. Jesse Pearson, who portrays Conrad Birdie, came from the national road company production. Joining them are Janet Leigh and Maureen Stapleton. The film version hacked out a good portion of the "ethnic humor" found in the play, thus sacrificed some of BYE BYE BIRDIE's best jokes to preserve sixties sensibilities. Still, BYE BYE BIRDIE is a great deal of fun, and really shines with the presence of a very young and delectable Ann­Margret.

Columbia TriStar has done an excellent job re­mastering this title to resemble its original Panavision aspect ratio. The compositions seem nearly perfect with almost nothing becoming cropped at the extreme edges of the frame. The image is razor sharp and the color is excellent. The digitally encoded stereo soundtrack decodes to surround; it has a fine sixties mix with deep bass for those with sub­woofers. The Sony (DADC) pressing is superb. The previous Pioneer Special Edition of BYE BYE BIRDIE may have come off the same Letterboxed master as this disc, but the ridiculous PSE pricing kept me from acquiring it. This edition of BYE BYE BIRDIE is excellent and is available at a better price. Highly recommended.

TOMMY ($35) came from the phase of Ann­Margret's career when she wanted to be accepted as a serious actress and it is certainly one her best performances. This role even garnered her a nomination for an academy award for best actress. This recent Letterboxed re­master of Ken Russell's film version of TOMMY has to be the direct result of the popularity of the stage version of The Who's rock opera. The film version of TOMMY is director Ken Russell's overwrought (what has he done that hasn't been overwrought) visual masterpiece. It is also one of the most intriguing experimental films ever made. A complete absence of dialogue makes TOMMY an unforgettable film experience. Russell tells the story completely through images set to Pete Townshend's music and lyrics. Russell is able to maintain control of the dizzying array of images throughout most of the film, but the energy level drops off somewhat during the final "religious" section of the film. The plot concerns a young boy named Tommy who becomes deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing a traumatic event. He eventually grows to become a pop icon after becoming a pinball prodigy, and then a religious cult figure after regaining his senses. Ann­Margret stars as Tommy's mother, Oliver Reed is his step­father, Roger Daltry is Tommy, Elton­John is the Pinball Wizard, Tina Turner is The Acid Queen and Jack Nicholson is The Doctor. As I stated above, this is one of Ann­Margret's finest performances. She is able to run through a full range of emotions, without dialog. What she conveys up on the screen would be considered quite an accomplishment by any actress acting in an ordinary drama. The fact that Ann­Margret conveys such a performance completely through song is utterly brilliant; the more one watches her performance the more one comes to appreciate it.

Columbia­TriStar TOMMY re­mastered to approximate its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the compositions look well balanced. The transfer itself is limited by the source material, most of the time the color is quite good but their are occasions where it becomes faded. There are also a number of markings on the film element. As for the digital stereo surround soundtrack, it is quite good. The mix has dimension and substance, but doesn't completely overwhelm like Russell's visuals. The Sony (DADC) pressing had only a couple of speckles.

Finally, we come to GRUMPY OLD MEN ($35), a film where Ann­Margret proves that she only gets sexier with age. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau star in GRUMPY OLD MEN as a couple of older gents who carry on like two eight year olds with a fifty year feud and a fence between them. A snowy Minnesota winter serves as a backdrop for this tale of two idiots who have the ice in their heads and hearts melted by the beautiful widow that moves in across the street. Ann­Margret's presence as the widow, certainly heats things up between Lemmon and Matthau, as she become a new point of contention between them. All three leads turn in warm and funny performances, and even Lemmon isn't his usual annoying, whining self. Ossie Davis, Buck Henry Daryl Hannah add support, and look for Burgess Meredith to steal the film out from under everyone else (the out­takes that run during the film's end credits are hilarious and are worth the price of admission). Ann­Margret has been raising men's temperatures in films for over thirty years, in GRUMPY OLD MEN she shows no indication that she is going to stop. She remains utterly delightful and the camera still loves her; she is one hell of a sexy woman.

Warner has given GRUMPY OLD MEN an excellent Letterboxed transfer. The image recreates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio quite well; the image is always sharp and free from excessive grain. Colors and contrast are also on the money. The digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack has a respectable mix with some nice separations. The Sony (DADC) pressing had a few speckles.

 
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Laserdisc reviews are Copyright © 1996 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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