HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Musicals 4 Movie Collection (Calamity Jane, Kiss Me Kate, Band Wagon, Singin' in the Rain)
HTS Overall Score:88
WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL 4 FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW
Musicals are a love it or hate it type of movie for most people. Some people can get into the singing, the dancing, the over the top happy endings, and others just can’t. I for one am giddy as a schoolgirl when it comes to musicals, and seeing Warner release four of them at once for a ROCK bottom price point had me excited beyond belief. “Singin’ in the Rain” has been released a few years back, but the other three have been languishing in the vaults for many years, with “Kiss me Kate” (one of the seminal movies of the 50s) is one of only three movies that Warner MPI has pulled out and restored the original 3D version as well, which hasn't been seen since the theatrical run of the movie. All 4 can be purchased separately as single movies, or as this gorgeous looking book format, with a hard shell case, cardboard sleeves and 4 black and white photos of the movie sets.
Calamity Jane :3.5stars:
Calamity Jane. Who would have thought that someone could pull a musical out of a raucous, hard drinking, foul mouthed, kind hearted, man dressing, ex prostitute of a woman and turn it into something G rated? Well, that’s the beauty of a musical. Almost similar to how Disney can “Disneyfy” something, MGM and Warner turned Calamity Jane into a sweet hearted, but slightly tomboyish doll played by the adorable Doris Day. Calamity is busy being a tracker and stagecoach driver in the town of Deadwood. Albeit a Deadwood devoid of HBO’s cursing, sexing and rampant killings, but Deadwood nonetheless. Best friends with Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel), and tells tall tales that no one but a fool would believe, drinks Sarsaparilla amidst a bar and breaking out into song and dance at will. This all changes when the local theater owner mistakenly hires FRANCIS Fryer (a man) instead of FRANCES Fryer (a woman) to come and perform for the female starved community. Keeping the theater owner from getting lynched by the disappointed mob, Calamity promises to bring back the most popular stage actress of the times, Adelaide Adams (Gale Robbins) to satiate the crowd.
Going to Chicagy (yes that’s Chicago), Calamity Jane sweeps into the dressing room of Adelaide Adams and pretty much forces her to come back to Deadwood with her. The only problem is the woman she brings back isn’t Adelaide, It’s the actress’s maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie). Katie desperately wants to be on stage, but Adelaide poo poo’s her thespian desires. With no one in Deadwood familiar with Adelaide’s looks, Katie is free to pose as the famed actress and get her chance in the limelight. Now, here is where things get interesting. Katie gets ousted right fast, but somehow is still adored by the forgiving city of Deadwood. Now she’s the belle of the ball and being courted by Wild Bill as well as a young Lt. Danny Gilmartin (Phillip Carey). As fate would have it, Danny is the secret crush of Calamity Jane and bit of a vicious love triangle ensues, with Calamity bemoaning her fate and starting a feud with the kind hearted Katie. This is a 50’s musical, so don’t worry, things turn out alright in the end. Calamity and Katie BOTH end up happy and dance off into the sunset.
“Calamity Jane” is a bit of a product of its time. It’s not the best of the 4 musicals, and certainly has some flaws with the storyline to keep it from the top tier. Everything is very G rated and the love story between Danny, Calamity and Katie is a bit saccharine sweet at times and tends to be a tad clichéd for modern audiences. Still, whatever it lacks in technical writing merits it makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. Doris Day throws her heart and soul into the character Calamity, making you adore the petite blonde. I do chuckle at the fact that Doris is supposed to be passed over by the female starved men of Deadwood when Doris Day can’t look ugly if you shaved her head and painted a mustache on her face. However, Allyn McLerie is just as adorable as the mousy Katie Brown, who turns Calamity around into a full blown woman (at least for a short time). The story itself isn’t exactly historically accurate, but it’s cute and fun in a nostalgic sort of way that fits right in with the 1950’s era of film making.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=39857[/img]Kiss Me Kate :4stars:
“Kiss Me Kate” is a tight little musical that utilizes Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” to cleverly create a tale within a tale, both a musical in production and a musical on stage within the film. Fred Graham (Howard Keel, Wild Bill from “Calamity Jane”) and Lilli Vanessi, two divorced actors, come together once more to star in a musical rendition of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”. Fred is Petruchio (naturally) and the fiery ex-wife is playing the famed shrew, Katherine. The two aren’t exactly on the best of terms, as Fred is living with his new girlfriend, Lois Lane (Ann Miller) who is also cast as Kate’s younger sister, Bianca in the play.
Things get really hot when the play kicks in and heads start to butt. Fred is arrogant, aristocratic and a perfectionist, while Lois and Lilli claw each other’s eyes out. However, this is just the precursor as the real fun is about to begin. Fred sends roses up to his girlfriend only to have them accidentally delivered to his ex-wife, Lilli. This causes a misunderstanding of epic proportions as Lilli believes Fred wants to mend the relationship. Too cowardly to tell her, Fred lets Lilli believe the best, hoping she doesn’t have time to read the attached card with Lois’ name attached to it. As you can probably guess, that card gets read, only it’s during the middle of the play. Now Petrucio and Kate’s heated wooing and denying gets sort of adlibbed, with Lilli and Fred’s real drama being the center of attention, all the while hidden under the veneer of the play.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Lois Lane is seeing a stage actor (who played Lucentio) on the side and gets Fred into hot water from a pair of debt collecting gangsters (played by Keenan Wynn, and James Whitmore) which spirals out of control when Lilli threatens to leave the play. Now held at gunpoint, the show “must go on” and the raging fire that is Lilli and Fred’s relationship intertwines with Petruchio and Kate’s to such a point that one cannot see the ending of one and the beginning of the other.
“Kiss Me Kate” is a delightful little comedy that, while G rated, still carries a wicked bite. The tale within a tale works extremely well, almost an act of genius really, and the actors really sell the parts. Ann Miller makes you facepalm yourself and love, yet loathe Lois Lane, making her famous “Always True to you In my Fashion” song all the more poignant as she plays one character against the other. Lilli Vanessi is perfectly cast as the harsh tempered Kate and only Howard Keel can play such an arrogant fool with a deep baritone to match. The movie isn’t politically correct in today’s society, but it’s a hysterical little comedy about two people who are so hard headed it takes their own hatred of each other to actually fall in love once more. Keenan Wynn almost stole the show for me though, as his typical zany humor is artfully restrained, yet somehow manages to peek through. Some of you may recognize him best from his days as Alonzo P. Hawk from the “Herbie” movies as well as “The Absent Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber” as well as the sidekick in “The Great Race” (all classic films). The goofy gunman was a baby compared to those movies, but still has his trademark wit and a little bit of singing and dancing to boot (which was one of the funniest parts of the movie). Byron said it best. “A tragedy ends in death, while a comedy ends in marriage”, and this is most definitely a comedy.
The movie was originally shot in 3D, but about the time when 3D was fading out as a fad, so not many theaters actually got the 3D print. Watching it in 2D you can see some of the pop out effects as actors throw things at the audience or wink straight at the camera in ways that OBVIOUSLY pop out at you on a 3D presentation. It’s a bit chuckle worthy, but certainly understandable considering the era where 3D was a curio for the elite film goer.
The Band wagon :4stars:
The aging process and the perpetual fear of being replaced is something that has dominated show business for probably as long as show business has been around. Old actors move out of the limelight and the fear of fading into obscurity becomes a realization. For Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) it’s becoming a reality. He’s spent years on the Broadway stage only to realize that he’s become forgotten in the last decade. Times are changing and he doesn’t seem to be changing with it. In one last ditch effort to regain his status as the number one entertainer in stage history he goes out to New York to entertain an offer by a couple of screenwriting friends of his in the form of Lester (Oscar Levant) and Lily (Nanette Fabray) Marton. They have the brilliant idea of writing a song and dance musical for Tony, but have it directed by an overly pretentious windbag director who thrives on the dramatic and classical.
At first everything is going as planned. The new director, Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), is a fireball of energy, whipping up backers in the blink of an eye and has the entirety of high society trembling in anticipation. He even gets Gabby Gerard (Cyd Charisse), one of the best ballet dances of the day, to star alongside Tony. That’s when things start to go downhill. Gabby and Tony can’t stand each other, both coming from different styles of dance backgrounds and from a different era. Gabby is young and vivacious while Tony is middle aged and struggling to keep up with the changes of the day. Neither of them can stand each other OR the director, as Cordova whips the play up into a giant frenzy of lights and overabundance of dramatic effects. As tensions rise, Gabby and Tony realize one thing, it’s just a play. They find their rhythm and things start to settle down. That is, until opening night when the entire stage production bombs so badly that the entire cast is left with the decision to cancel and just take their losses. Biting the bullet and finally taking the lead, Tony refuses to give up and demands a change. This time there is no overly dramatic Faust like comparisons and the original light and airy script from the Martons is brought back in. Now it’s just up up up as the crew, under Tony’s leadership, crunches down and turns the play into a success of epic proportions.
The premise of the movie is something we’ve all seen before. The old actor, struggling to make himself relevant once more. What makes the movie work is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s goofy, glib and full of a myriad of Ryley comedic moments that really make you chuckle. Watching Cordova go so over the top with his pretentious ramblings had me in tears as the little jabs and pokes at directors and their ability to lose sight of the end game is so very true. Fred Astaire dazzles at every turn, as the original feet of flames dances his way from beginning to end. Cyd Charisse worked marvelously opposite him and their two very unique styles of dancing created something new and different compared to any other Astaire movie I’ve ever seen. We all know the two of them are getting together, it’s pretty much a staple of musicals, but the enjoyment of watching the two hate each other, then respect each other, then love each other is not hampered in the least by that pre-realization.
I only have one complaint with the entire movie and that is the end song and dance with the murder mystery. It goes a bit out in left field and feels “off” from the rest of the movie. I know it carries the most dancing numbers of the entire movie, and they look FANTASTIC, but it changes the flow of the movie a bit too much and feels awkward. It’s a minor compliant for a light and fluffy comedic musical, but still one that has bothered me every time I’ve seen the movie and this time is no different.
Singin' in the Rain :5stars:
Now we’re on to the probably the biggest known musical in cinema history. One of the most widely known musical films, “Singin’ in the Rain” is known by people who haven’t even seen it, as the film is widely copied and utilized in variety of films, from the famed singing in galoshes and an umbrella (even copied by “Shanghai Knights” at one point), to the cute little “Make em Laugh” scene that everyone knows. I have to admit that I didn’t see “Singin’ in the Rain” till a much later date than most people. Yes, I know, one of the most famous musicals in history and I’d seen just about every popular one BUT that one. I wasn’t too sure about what it was about when I originally saw it, and I was absolutely floored by the quality when I finally did see, requiring me to slap myself upside the head for not viewing the movie before then. Years later it’s STILL one of the most rousing and amazing musicals to date with fantastic singing, amazing dance numbers and a story that stands by itself without the singing and dancing if necessary.
The age of the silent pictures is coming to an end, and the actors who dominated the silver screen were starting to feel the pressure. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are starting to feel the pressure as “The Jazz Singer” bursts out onto the scene with unparalleled results. This unforeseen complication shakes up the entire show business world as Talkies become the new in thing. Why is this a problem you ask? Well, up until that point Actors had to use visual cues to get their point across, but there wasn’t any need for talking, thus if you didn’t have a great voice, or your skills in the verbal department wasn’t convincing on stage you needn’t worry. To make matters worse, Don is shaken to the core by a young struggling actor named Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) when she tells him that silent film actors weren’t exactly the greatest actors, they were just pantomimes who put on a show. This fear turns out to be partially true when their studio, Monumental Pictures, stops production of their latest feature, “The Royal Rascal”, and turns it into a talkie. Lina Lamont may have been a beauty of the silent film world, but she happens to have a voice that would make even rabid weasels run in fear. Desperate to keep up with the times, the studio shoots the film only to have the pre-screening get laughed out of existence. Now they’re stuck without a film, and most likely facing the end of a career.
This may have been the end for Don, Kathy and his best friend and musical talent, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), they come up with a brilliant idea. Turn “The Royal Rascal” into a musical and dub Kathy’s voice over the top of Lina. They have the looks AND the voice with a completely different outcome! Easier said than done, though, as Lina loathes Kathy with a living passion, still having some inkling of an idea that she and Don are an item (even though Don loathes her more than most people hate spiders). Viewing Don and Kathy’s budding romance as a threat she does everything in her power to destroy Kathy’s career in film, so much so that she ends up being the orchestrator of her very own demise.
I like to say that “Singin’ in the Rain” is probably the most “newbie” friendly of the bunch in the set, being the most mainstream and popular. There’s many a time when a lover of musicals has to take into consideration that the song and dance is the driving force of the show, and sometimes a few cheesy tropes are considered status quo. This time we have a movie that’s fully capable of being great on its own even if they cut out the singing and dancing. Kathy and Don’s romance doesn’t need the love songs, the cheerful dancing in the rain dance or any of the others, as it is a sweet tale of turning point for the American actors of the 20’s and a romance that works completely separated from that jungle. However, those songs and those dances turn out to be some of the most widely admired and respected ones in the industry. Cosmo’s little “Make em Laugh” piece at the beginning is widely considered one of the best slapstick comedy pieces of the 1950’s and “Singin’ in the Rain” has been nominated for so many awards as best song for decades.
Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds really sell the picture, as Debbie plays a mousy and reserved character that really has a good head on his shoulder, and Gene takes on a roll that makes you want to slap him at the beginning of the film, to watching him change and transform over the hour and 42 minute runtime into a character that you can truly like. The sparkle and pizazz of the movie is undeniable, and it is considered one of the best and most influential musicals of all time for a very good reason. I don’t like to give out perfect movie ratings very often, but this is one of those few times.
Not Rated by the MPAA / Rated G For General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=39865[/img]Calamity Jane :4.5stars:
This whole set of four movies has been restored for this boxset release and the results are simply stunning. “Calamity Jane” has NEVER looked this good. The film is shot with 1950’s film stock and looks great with a nice layer of grain on the 1.37:1 film and had my jaw hanging down to the floor. Whether it was my 55 inch Plasma or my 120 inch Projector screen, the film looked resplendent with copious amounts of color and pop to the picture. Detail is readily apparent and I was amazed at the color replication. I had to compare the DVD to the Blu-ray and was rubbing my eyes to make sure I was actually watching the same film. Doris Day’s dress was almost unrecognizable in the DVD with the faded colors and lack of detail. Black levels stay strong throughout and while the image isn’t as razor sharp as something like “Transformers” the organic feel of that genre is warm and inviting.
Kiss Me Kate :4.5stars:
Just like “Calamity Jane”, “Kiss Me Kate” looks INCREDIBLE on Blu-ray. Warner went back and restored the original negatives and brought us back not only the regular release on Blu-ray but also the theatrical 3D version as well. The 3D is one of the best looking 3D presentations I've ever seen, with an intense array of colors that actually looks sharper and crisper than the original 2D! The depth is layed and nuanced in a way that I wasn't expecting and the pop out effects look incredible. I didn’t detect any ghosting throughout and it left me very satisfied. Detail is incredibly strong and the colors pop with great intensity. Reds tend to be a bit orangy in nature, but that’s a product of the time, when the color timing was just a tad different than today. Black levels are consistent and near perfect with amazing detail both in and out of the dark.
The Band Wagon :4.5stars:
This is starting to sound like a broken record, but Warner brothers really did a fantastic job on the restoration of these titles. The 1.37:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray disc looks like it was filmed yesterday with incredible detail, rich warm colors and a sharpness that makes you drool over all the luscious costuming of the theater world. There is a nice layer of grain over the entire picture, but it’s easily the sharpest and cleanest of the three reviewed so far in the set. The colors are warm with a slightly burnished glow to them, giving faces a glowing feel to them and contrasts on the hot side. The theater sitting gives way for one incredible array of costuming after another with colors that make up every variation of the rainbow. Black levels are spot on perfect and show great shadow detailing with no signs of crush and washed out levels. The film has been given a very hefty bit rate which allows for no artifacting or signs of offensive digital manipulation in the slightest. Excellent from beginning to end.
Singin' In the Rain :4.5stars:
“Singin’ in the Rain” is the only one of the 4 movies in this set that is not a brand new remaster. Released back in July of 2012 this is the same 60th anniversary edition disc that was put out back then. That’s not a bad knock though, as it was given a bang up job restoration, same as the rest of these. The film has a few flaws that keep it from perfection, mainly with haloing and some softness to the picture that comes from the original shooting style. There was a few times where I started to think DNR until I looked closer and realized it was a bit more to it. The restoration process had to deal with some serious flaws that were present in the image if they hadn’t smoothed it a little those flaws would have been wildly exasperated. With those flaws in mind, the image looks simply stunning. The film is sharp as a tack for the majority of the runtime, with those close-up shots being the exception that give a bit of softness to the picture. Black levels look excellent, with good shadow detail and a deep inkiness that rivals modern movies. Colors pop at every corner, with bright cheery raincoat yellows, deep blues and the incredibly luscious pink of Kathy’s “pop out” performance. Simply put the image is marvelous and another testament to just how good a catalog title can look with the proper treatment.
Calamity Jane :4stars:
“Calamity Jane” sports the original mono sound track in lossless DTS-HD MA which really is about as good as it’s going to get. Dialog is perfect, emanating from the center channel and really livening up the front soundstage with boisterous singing. Even the effects come through beautifully, from the gunshots to the tapping toes along a dance floor. Being a 1.0 track, there’s no surrounds and the baked in LFE is rather minimal, but again, I must reiterate that a 1.0 track can only do so much in a 5.1 + system. This is the best the movie has ever sounded and the clarity is TOP notch.
Kiss Me Kate :4.5stars:
“Kiss Me Kate” has a nice 5.1 lossless track that really is full of pizazz and energy. The first part of the film stays a bit front loaded, as the dialog is the main focus at that time, but when the stage production kicks off and the singing and dancing start, the rest of the speakers are sure to follow. The music is rich and warm, flowing naturally from all 6 channels equally well, with some great directionality and immersion. LFE is beautifully complimentary to the music filled track and adds a nice layer to the film that I missed from “Calamity Jane”. There was a few times where I wished that the surrounds would kick up a bit, but the mix is exceptional besides that little niggle and the restoration work leaves it sounding as if it was recorded yesterday.
The Band Wagon :4.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track lights up the soundstage with plenty of song and dance numbers that allow all 6 speakers to get the workout they deserve. The dialog scenes get plenty of coverage and tend to be a bit front heavy, but as in all musicals, once the singing starts the immersion levels increases exponentially. LFE is smooth and clean, giving the songs a weighty feel, and even a few times there is an added “umph” to a door slamming or feet click clacking across the stage. Balance is exquisite, allowing for the vocals to stay in line with the instruments, whether it be during the height of a rousing song, or just plain dialog in an apartment building as Tony and Gabby talk about their frustrations.
Singin' in the Rain :5stars:
While the image may have had a few minor flaws, the remixed 5.1 track is simply superb in every way shape and form. I’m usually not a wile fan of Mono remixed into surround, but this one was handled with kid gloves, turning the already fantastic Mono track into an wildly immersive and well nuanced 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless experience. The dialog is crisp and clean up there in the front row, but the music is simply awe inspiring. The minute the first song came on I knew we were in for a treat as the aural experience just flows all around you in a very natural and organic way. Whether it be Gene Kelly’s incredible Baritone, or exquisite sound of the instruments, it all fill rich, warm and oh so good to the ears. Surrounds get used extensively with plenty of ambient noises to come through as well as the musical score, and the LFE channel is silky smooth with a tight feel that comes from a tight and punch application of the low end. The bass hasn’t been “modernized” and retains that light usage that was present in the 1950’s so the music isn’t overpowered by that heavy thumb we associate with so many newer tracks.
• So You Love Your Dog
• Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century
• Western Style Premiere
• Photoplay Magazine's Film Awards
• Theatrical Trailer
Kiss Me Kate
• Cole Porter In Hollywood: Too Hot
• Mighty Manhattan, New York’s Wonder City
• Barney’s Hungry Cousin
• Theatrical Trailer
The Band Wagon
• Audio Commentary By Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein
• Get Aboard! The Band Wagon
• The Men Who Made The Movies: Vincente Minnelli
• Jack Buchanan With The Glee Quartet
• The Three Little Pups
• Theatrical Trailer
Singin' in the Rain
• Audio Commentary
• Signin’ In The Rain: Raining On A New Generation
• Theatrical Trailer
I really feel like we’re stealing from Warner Brothers. The 4 film set is hovering at about $25 at Amazon and other retailers, which means we’re getting 4 FULLY RESTORED classic films for about $6.50 a film. These aren’t movies that were already mastered a decade ago and just slapped on disc, but each lovingly restored and given the royal treatment and then given to us at a price that makes me wonder if I should just turn myself in for theft. All of the films are a lot of fun, even if one or two aren’t as perfect as some of the others, and they all represent a different piece of early 1950’s film making. The audio and video are pretty much off the charts and show just how good catalog titles can look when handled with care, plus the extras are exquisite. We luckily have the option to buy the whole set, or buy the individual titles as Warner has released them all in singles along with the massive boxset. If you’re a fan of one or two it’s easy to pick your favorite, but if you love musicals like I do, then the boxset is a no brainer. HIGHLY recommended.
Starring: Doris Day, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Kathryn Grayson, Fred Astaire, Oscar Levant, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds
Directed by: David Butler : George Sidney : Vincente Minnelli : Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Written by: James O'Hanlon : Dorothy Kingsley (Screenplay), Sam Spewack (Book) : Betty Comeden, Adolph Green
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC / 1.37:1 AVC : 1.37:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS - HD MA 1.0, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 1.0 : English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DD 1.0 : English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 1.0 : English DTS-HD MA 5.1, German 1.0 DTS-HD MA, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Polish DD 1.0
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: Not Rated/Not Rated/Not Rated/ G
Runtime: 101 minutes : 110 minutes : 115 minutes : 103 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Buy Musicals 4 Movie Collection Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Calamity Jane Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Kiss Me Kate 3D Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy The Band Wagon Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Must Own
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