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Senior Shackster
791 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Can a musical get by with two memorable songs and lots of bad ones? You can ponder
that question by watching the WB standard DVD release of the 1958 feature, "explative
yankees" which contains the title in smaller caps. I wasn't able to utilize the first word
of the title but you know which movie I'm referring to...

It's not completely without merit. The two good songs are "You Gotta Have Heart" and
"Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" which became standards. Unfortunately, the rest of the
score is terrible. Cringe inducing bad.

The story is pretty cliche. It's the old Faust legend adapted to the fifties by playwright,
George Abbott and film director Stanley Donen ("Singin' in the Rain"). The Techicolor is
excellent except for the grainy opticals (split screen scenes). The anamorphically enhanced
16:9 looks very colorful and bright as all movies did in this era. Bob Fosse was on hand
to do his distinct choreography with people crawling and slithering around on the floor and
that is one of the attributes. Fosse even gets to do a dance number with his future wife,
Gwen Verdon, and they are fantastic. She's a bit old for the role but certainly knows how to dance and strut her stuff. Ray Walston repeats his stage role of the devil and his is very funny as always. Russ Brown also repeats his Broadway role and is good as the team manager. It was a good year for the latter two actors since they also co-starred in "South Pacific".

Among the many problems with the film is Tab Hunter. While he was a teenage hearthrob at
the time, Hunter is bland and stiff in the title role for most of the running time. He does loosen up a bit towards the end and has a good dance number with Verdon. But in general he looks as if he's reading his lines off of cue cards. His voice sounds a bit like Bill Paxton
but completely deadpan without any emotion.

The story is about a middle aged baseball fanatic that makes a deal with the devil (Walston)
to sell his soul in return for youthening to age 27 and becoming a minor league hitter. But there's
an escape clause and he can get out of it last minute and age back to his late fifties if he decides
his fifteen minutes of fame isn't worth his soul. Verdon is utilized as a femme
fatale to persuade him to go through with the deal but ends up falling in love with him and ruining
it for Walston. There is no suspense at all since it's obvious he's going to return to his
safe, secure middle aged suburban life.

So what's left? Some wacky and innovative Fosse staging, two good songs and a lot
of terrible ones. Is that enough to sustain the running time? I guess that's up to you. Some
of you might think it's worth seeing once but I doubt it's a musical that will have repeat viewings
like "Grease" or "Chicago". I enjoy watching vibrant Technicolor but that's not always enough to
sustain interest for repeat viewings. The original version of "Bedazzled" with Peter Cook and Dudley
Moore is a better spoof of the Faust story. Maybe this is one of those shows that
was great live at the time but doesn't hold up on film decades later.

The image is very clean and looks great except for the opticals and the stereo sound is acceptable
but limited by the recording techniques of the time. So use your judgment. This is more of a rental
than a keeper for your library. But there might some sports fans that like it better than I did.
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