Puttin' on the Ritz
By Stuart J. Kobak
Musicals have long been a
staple of the magical Hollywood machine. Although it has been years since this genre captured the
excitement of mass audiences, I have no doubt that given the right ingredients, theater screens
could once again light up in "glorious Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope, and stereophonic
sound, "as Janis Paige and Fred Astaire sing in Silk Stockings, the marvelous musical
remake of the classic Garbo comedy Ninotchka.
have also peppered Hollywood history. The philosophy seems to be "if it was good once, why not
make it again" and, often, again. The obvious question is why not simply reissue the
successful film if it was so good. To be sure, this has been done, but success of a film too often
depends on the popularity of its stars, and a film made thirty years ago is unlikely to have stars
who continue to magnet audiences into theaters.
Musical remakes of a successful comedy
or drama is a different matter altogether. The road to this musical incarnation is often
circuitous, first lighting up the Broadway boards, sometimes for years, before being captured on
film. In some cases, like My Fair Lady, the trail began in the mind of George Bernard Shaw
as a classic stage production, then was adapted as a motion picture, with Shaw scripting, before
enticing Lerner and Loewe to mount a staggeringly successful musical stage adaptation and finally
brought to the musical screen in an incandescent production. Taking Shaw's Pygmalion and
dressing it up in the finery of a musical is like heeding the line "dressed up like a million
dollar trooper," from Irving Berlin's standard "Puttin on the Ritz."
There is no guarantee that puttin' on
the Ritz will realize a successful transformation, although more than likely, when the original
material is good enough, the musical adaptation will delight an audience. Some, like Silk
Stockings, even surpass the seeming unsurpassable. What are the ingredients that make the
successful musical remake? Why do some fail, some shine, and others settle into relatively
comfortable mediocrity: perhaps some insights can be gleaned by looking at a number of these
combination film and musical remake that are available on laser disc.
Grand and Even
Ninotchka was a
much heralded movie event in 1939. The great Garbo in a comedy directed by master of effortless
erudition Ernst Lubitsch couldn't fail. Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch penned a
delicious script that gave the principals the structure on which to build a thoroughly successful
film. Joining Greta Garbo was suave Melvyn Douglas, equally comfortable in light comedy or drama.
The chemistry between Garbo and Douglas is excellent, as Douglas melts the chilly facade of the
commissar. Garbo is really a delight in this her first comedy. The role is a custom tailored
garment for Garbo to wear and she makes the most of this comedic opportunity.
The story poking fun at the dour Soviet
nature soon destined to dominate Eastern Europe is replete with possibilities. The Russians send a
trio of emissaries to Paris to complete a sale of a group of imperial jewels, formerly the property
of Grand Duchess Swana of the Russian royal family who is now living a luxurious life in the city
of lights. Hearing of the pending sale, she dispatches her lover, Count Leon D'Algout (Douglas )to
recover the jewels for her.
Soon Leon has the trio of bumbling
comrades enjoying the better points of Parisian night life. When the sale has not been
expeditiously completed, Russia dispatches icy agent Garbo to tie up the loose ends. She too, is
captivated by Leon, after some arduous charming.
The film is well paced, the comic lines
and swipes at Russia, well delivered. The photography and settings are rather stagy, but this does
not take away from the pure joy of watching Ninotchka and Leon fall in love. The fine
screenplay takes every opportunity to provide a chuckle. The film was nominated for four Academy
Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Story, but in one
of the legendary years of Hollywood's glory, Ninotchka took
home none of the prizes.
The laser disc looks very good, MGM
having turned up excellent source material. The shadings of black and white are very natural, and
the sound is all right considering the film's age. The theatrical reissue trailer at the end of the
disc is always a welcome addition. This is certainly a disc that you will want to have as part of
your collection and repeat viewings will be rewarded.
The reworking of Ninotchka into Silk
Stockings began as a Broadway show penned by George S. Kaufman and Abe Burrows, with music by
Cole Porter. The 1957 film was further refined from the stage play and included several additional
Why does Silk Stockings
surpass its non musical predecessor? Fred Astaire is a major asset to any project and he's in peak
form playing movie producer Steve Canfield, a smooth successor to Melvyn Douglas's earlier Leon.
With Cyd Charisse costarring as Ninotchka, Astaire has a superb dancing partner with whom he
can weave his footwork magic. Astaire's easy style is perfectly suited to this charming role, and
while the romance may not be up to the fire between Garbo and Douglas, the fine dancing truly lifts
Silk Stockings. Charisse holds her own as dancing commissar and
is remarkable in the "Silk Stockings" number, a perfectly concocted striptease ballet.
Cole Porter's musical score is
exuberant in complimenting the feeling of the film. The consistently clever lyrics are entertaining
and give the songs a certain snap, pop, and glitz. The very delightful "Stereophonic
Sound" would be a highlight of any musical. This is one of the three numbers that feature
Janis Paige in the role of Peggy Dayton, glamorous and clamorous Hollywood musical queen, who joins
Astaire and company in Paris to star in the film he is producing. Paige's performance is a comic
masterpiece, clearly a career capper for the leggy redhead. "Stereophonic Sound" is
performed as a duet with Astaire, and later she sings "Satin and Silk," hilarious and the
perfect lead in for Charisse's deft dance number "Silk Stockings" that follows
immediately. The mix of Paige in the glowing recipe for Silk Stockings
is precisely apportioned, greatly adding to the strength of the film adaptation.
Other musical highlights of the
fourteen numbers on the disc include "Too Bad," a box of bon mots performed by the
Bolshevik trio of Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff, and Peter Lorre, alongside Astaire leading them
into revelry; "Siberia," an adorable performance by the aforementioned Russkis, the
clever "Fated to be Mated" sung by Astaire and "The Ritz Roll and Rock," performed by Astaire. Fred Astaire's long legs graced the boards in
only two more screen musicals after Silk Stockings, the following year's Funny Face,
and a decade later in the Francis Ford Coppola directed Finian's Rainbow.
The direction of Rouben Mamoulian,
known for his taste and exquisite sense of camera movement, helms Silk Stockings almost invisibly.
The camera is always where it should be for the musical numbers and the actors are presented to
best advantage. Mamoulian's career was equally at home on Broadway, directing both Porgy and Bess and Carousel for the
Silk Stockings retains the charm of Ninotchka, and although
the wit is less acerbic, it is more appropriate to the musical genre. The musical dressing on the
comedy's shapely figure truly enhances the experience. Each musical number is so harmoniously
integrated into the story that the pacing is even swifter than the original's. It is this wonderful
balance between story and music that sets Silk Stockings atop perfection's peak; the story
is never subordinated to the musical set pieces and vice versa.
The glorious Technicolor, breathtaking
Cinemascope and stereophonic sound have all been well captured in the transformation to disc. The
colors are rich, yet not overly saturated, and the production numbers move gracefully across wide
screen presentation. Surround effects of the stereo are minimal, but it is always crisp with no
apparent noise. The pressing is also virtually free of video noise. The disc runs very close to its
maximum and there was no room for the theatrical trailer without running into the expense of a
Watch Ninotchka first, savor it
for a week, then turn on to the scintillating successful musical embellishment of Silk Stockings.
There is no way you will be disappointed.
Not All Remakes
Tampering with a classic
is a challenge that does not always meet with glowing accolades. In 1937, Frank Capra directed the
screen version of the popular James Hilton novel, The Lost Horizon. Able Capra collaborator,
screenwriter Robert Riskin, captured the essence of the novel's delicacy in the screen treatment,
and with an able cast of players, Capra brought the novel to life on the big screen.
Ronald Coleman is an
elegant Robert Conway, internationally acclaimed British diplomat, whose plane is hijacked while
fleeing from airport during an attack by rebel forces at the Chinese city of Baskul . Coleman and a
handful of fellow refugees are crash-landed deep in the Himalayan mountains, from where they are
ostensibly rescued and brought to the seemingly perfect world of Shangri-La.
The majestic setting of the fantastic,
and I must say improbable, monastery at Shangri-La serves as a stage for the philosophic pondering
of modern society. Capra sprinkles enough exotic powder on the scene to create an other worldly
feeling for Shangri-La, particularly well complimented by a wonderful score by Dimitri Tiomkin.
Capra's pacing is excellent and the film has been very well edited. He has also elicited first rate
performances from his actors across the board.
The choice of Ronald Coleman is a major
factor for the great critical and popular reception of the film. Coleman brings inherent qualities
to the role that save thousands of feet of establishing film footage. He communicates the erudition
and sensitive humanity of a great man effortlessly. Although it is a small role, Sam Jaffe as the
High Lama is equally sensitive and Coleman and he have a wonderful scene together when Jaffe offers
to pass the reigns to Shangri-La. Excellent support is also offered from Jane Wyatt, Thomas
Mitchell, H. B. Warner, Everett Edward Horton and John Howard.
This laser disc is billed as the
"Original Restored Version," of the film that most of had known from chopped television
versions with prints in lamentable condition. The film length has been restored to 125 minutes,
with 7 additional minutes of audio accompanied by stills, bringing it to its original theatrical
length. The condition of this assembled "new" print shows age in many places exhibited by
scratches and snow, however the gamma levels of the black and white images are well rendered and
the disc quality is surely the best print that I have seen. The sound is in pretty good shape.
Though there are no chapter stops, when the disc was produced four or five years ago, the omission
was typical. Even this imperfect restoration is a welcome achievement, for this Lost Horizon
is an important part of our film history.
The musical remake fails utterly on a
number of levels. Timing is certainly a factor that works against the musical version. When the
original was made, the world was a much smaller place and the black and white images of Shangri-La
were exotic and mysterious to Western audiences. In 1972, in candied color, convincing the audience
of the reality of a Shangri-la is a another chore altogether. Presumably, it still might have
worked with proper execution.
For almost the first half hour of this
new version, it follows the original almost scene for scene and cut for cut. Even the dialogue
seems to be the same. I found myself wondering if this really was going to be a musical. The first
musical number is incredibly more than forty minutes into the film. I spent the time wondering why
the producers had decided to cast a very bland Peter Finch in the role so magically captured
earlier by Ronald Coleman.
The direction by Britisher Charles Jarrott (only his third film) is
absolutely moribund. Of course, the biggest problem is the musical treatment itself, composed in
banal tones and lyrics by Burt Bacharach. With this disastrous element, the musical Lost Horizon was doomed to failure.
The performances of the songs is at
best pedestrian. It is difficult to believe that Liv Ullmann and Peter Finch were actually dubbed
by professional singers, so weak are their renderings of the material provided to sing.
For some reason, Pioneer decided to
issue this two disc production as a Pioneer Special Edition. The source material provides stable,
sharp and clean images for the pressing, which has some minor vertical dropout streaking, but no
other obvious flaws. The sound is excellent, and for those seeking pure punishment, the music only
track is available on the analog right channel. The gatefold packaging is very well executed with
pleasing design and excellent organization.
Another crucial factor that can spread
nitroglycerin around the base of a remake is an extraordinarily strong performance in the original,
which often stamps the role indelibly with the image of the actor who created the part. Such is the
case with Peter Finch faltering in the shadow of Ronald Coleman's incandescent effort. For
audiences who have seen the original, comparison is inevitable, which is likely to explode the
foundation of the newer version. How many years that pass between the two versions can mitigate the
volatility, since much of the core audience is unlikely to have seen the original performance in
theaters, although time factors have been somewhat blurred by the advent of video. Still, younger,
newer movie lovers do not avail themselves generously enough of the wealth of our film heritage,
often passing on the opportunity to see a classic because it was filmed in black and white.
Dramatic material is more difficult to
successfully adapt to the musical genre. The nature of comedy blends much more comfortably with
song. Although one can point to Opera to dispute this observation, Opera is a very stylized
entertainment, and well established conventions are much more forgiving to the often weakly
Two Sisters Times
The Pioneer Special
Edition which presents My Sister Eileen both in its original black and white comic clothing
and its Ritzed up colorful musical clone made some thirteen years later served as an inspiration
for this article. The idea of packaging the two films together was an artistically intelligent
decision and gives disc lovers a delightful opportunity to taste of a comic classic and its musical
mate. Pioneer must be commended, not only on conception, but on execution, of a handsome gatefold
two disc presentation. The source material for the 1942 My Sister Eileen is in grand
condition and the transfer has been accomplished with commensurate care. The black and white images
offer a beautifully tracked gray scale and the mono soundtrack is clean and clear.
Rosalind Russell as Ruth
Sherwood ignites the screen as the elder of two small town Ohio sisters who relocate to Manhattan's
Greenwich Village in search of success in the world of the arts. The comedy is often hilarious and
Director Alexander Hall guides the actors and maintains the pace with polished aplomb. Hall was hot
in the forties directing close to a dozen comedies, such as the wonderful Here Comes Mr. Jordan,
as well as The Doctor Takes a Wife and Bedtime Story.
The film luster is embellished by a
wonderful supporting cast. Brian Aherne joins sophistication and daffiness to create a believable
character as Robert Baker, Ruth's editor and love interest. George Tobias embodies bulldozer
landlord Appopolous, while Allyn Joslyn's reporter Chick Clark is a funny, broad portrait of a
Broadway hipster. Janet Blair is appealing as Eileen and Richard Quine as her would-be beau Frank
Lippincott provides the right measure of earnestness. Quine, who went on to a reasonably successful
directing career, in a nice nostalgic touch, directed the musical remake of the film. Rounding out
the cast with empty-headed good nature is Gordon Jones as "The Rambling Wreck from Georgia
My Sister Eileen embodies the
rich period of Hollywood's zany days when the entertainment machine produced a series of sparkling
"screwball" comedies. Its classic moments like the Brazilian conga line, or the
continuing subway blasts hold up as comic explosions.
The musical remake in the
Pioneer package is an amiable film, but the music, is entertaining but unremarkable. Here, the
story overshadows the music and the music slows the pacing reducing the effectiveness of the plot.
Betty Garrett , as Ruth, is funny, but she lacks the biting wit and elegant presence with which
Rosalind Russell imbued the role. This is a clear example of an actress claiming the role as her
The scenes follow the original pretty
faithfully, but the overall comic execution is not on par with the predecessor. Evaluating it on
its own, the musical entertainment is fun, but it shrivels in light of comparison to the tightly
constructed original. The deliriously mad conga set piece of the original loses its excitement and
spontaneity with the transition to a weakly scored and cloyingly choreographed musical number. The
actors convey the feeling of a typical small town musical that MGM cranked out with regularity in
the forties and early fifties. It is almost as if the remake could be set in Ohio instead of New
The wide screen images of the disc are
fully presented, but the choreography by later great Bob Fosse is not up to the generous expanses
of the Cinemascope format. The colors on the Technicolor film element appear to be slightly muted
by time, however this is not a glaring fault. My disc set was defective due to several points at
the 52 minute area of side three where the laser hangs up or jumps forward or back skipping some of
the action. Otherwise, the pressing was very clean with little grain and no dropouts. The stereo
sound only wants for a better score to show off.
Sixteen years after garnering a Best
Actress Academy Award nomination for witty creation of Ruth Sherwood, Rosalind Russell received the
Academy's recognition again for her superlative comic talents as Auntie
Mame. Indeed, this absolutely delightful comedy is largely carried on the graceful
shoulders of this wonderful actress; however, she has been presented a very fine screenplay from
Betty Comden and Adolph Green that captures the charm of the novel written by Patrick Dennis.
Before its film life, the novel was turned into a successful Broadway play, foreshadowing the path
that its musical remake would also travel.
Auntie Mame's comic adventures
span approximately ten years beginning just prior to the 1929 stock market collapse, when she is
given custody of her just orphaned nephew, Patrick. Examined through his eyes, she is an
affectionately drawn eccentric, blithely traveling through life with her own, unique point of view.
Russell keeps the reigns tightly controlled on a role that might have carried a less accomplished
comedienne on a ride into slapstick garishness. Mame's interaction with the variety of characters
that surround her is nearly always uproarious, and the good spirited nature of the film even
manages to provoke a laugh at the death of Mame's likable husband, Beauregard, adequately played by
While Russell does receive excellent comic support from Peggy Cass
as her nearsighted assistant Agnes Gooch and Fred Clark as the suitably irritating banker Babcock,
this is a Rosalind Russell movie. She sparks delight into almost every scene. The film, though
running almost two and a half hours, moves at pace as quick and sure as Miss Russell's snappy
delivery of her lines.
The original film elements for this two
disc set are in good condition, save for a number of scratches. The color is excellent and the
images sharp. There are video occlusions evident on the pressing in the form of white or colored
flecks. Do save a place in your collection for this wonderful presentation.
Mame in musical skins was a big success on Broadway with Angela Lansbury well suited to
the role. Herein lies the fatal fault with Mame as a movie
musical: the miscasting of Lucille Ball as Mame Dennis simply prevents the film from developing any
rapport with its audience. Not only is her singing thoroughly irritating, her Mame is never
invested with any sense of vibrancy, and is certainly lacking an aura of false erudition that is
needed to carry off the role.
of Jerry Herman's musical numbers for Mame are well formed and entertaining, but the fire is
not in the lyrics but how they are delivered, and again, Lucy's in the way. The dance sequences are
similarly compromised. Robert Preston, playing the role of Beauregard is a welcome treat in any
film, and his rendition of the title song is graceful.
The production looks expensive and
perhaps overproduced, but blessedly, director Gene Saks keeps the action moving along. The pressing
and transfer of the two disc has been well accomplished, although some scenes are slightly soft.
There are no glaring defects in this limp remake.
From the Sublime to
The Shop Around The
Corner is a film that epitomizes Hollywood at its tasteful best. Though sentimental, it never
lapses into bathos; its charm does not step over the line into cuteness. Ernst Lubitsch achieves
his finest directorial moments in this lovingly realized romantic comedy set in pre World War II
Budapest viewed through an immigrant's veil of longing memory.
As producer and director, Lubitsch has
cast his film as a jeweler selecting gems for his finest creation. The effortless style of James
Stewart infuses shop manager Alfred Kralik with a convincing touches of honesty and acid, romance
and practicality. Stewart can deliver lines like , "And I'd like to take this opportunity Miss
Novak to, inform you, that I don't walk like a duck and I'm not bowlegged," without missing a
beat. This is one of Stewart's most appealing screen roles. Playing opposite Stewart for the fourth
and final time, Margaret Sullavan is a radiant Klara Novak. The development of their delightfully
rocky romance is the fulcrum on which the various elements of the film balance beautifully.
Frank Morgan's Hugo Matuschek,
proprietor of the gift shop where the Stewart/Sullavan love-hate relationship evolves, provides
able support, as do stock player Felix Bressart and a surprisingly oily Joseph Schildkraut.
There is an overall magic that
surrounds this production by Lubitsch. The stylized sets of the streets of Budapest are not meant
to be realistic; when the snow falls in perfect flakes, it reinforces a fairy tale quality to the
story. The deft "Lubitsch Touch" is perfectly in tune to the characters and their world,
transparently transporting the audience along for the ride. The director allows the emotions of the
characters to communicate themselves naturally out of the plot and dialogue. The absence of a
musical soundtrack displays confidence that the Lubitsch audience needs no extraneous scoring to
reinforce how they are to respond to his characters and situations.
The disc presentation of this classic
film is very good visually. The elegant range of filmed blacks and whites is accurately reproduced
in the transfer. There are few noticeable blemishes. The soundtrack shows its age with a persistent
scratchiness as well as a annoying low level hum, perhaps all the more obvious because of the
absence of a background score. Along with the original theatrical trailer, MGM has included an
interesting short subject on the power that lights the movies to open the disc program.
A pleasant programmer, In the Good Old
Summertime is not up to the typical standard of Judy
Garland musicals made at MGM. The remake of The Shop Around the Corner
is merely cute and the unfolding romance between Van Johnson and Judy Garland uninvolving. The
setting has been changed to turn of the century Chicago, and the main framework of the plot has
been retained, but the magic of the original has totally evanesced.
Anything with Garland
still within her prime years is a welcome entertainment and she and costar Van Johnson make a sweet
screen couple. The musical dressing is halfhearted with a scarce seven songs, including a mundane
barber shop quartet that doesn't include Garland and two foreshortened renditions of the title
song. The songs have all been culled from other sources. Perhaps an original score might have
dressed the story in more exciting garments.
The supporting cast is lead by S. Z.
"Cuddles" Sakall as Mr Oberkugen, owner of the music shop where this romance unfolds,
sweet Spring Byington as the bosses love interest, and an oddly miscast Buster Keaton as
Oberkugen's nephew Hickey.
There is nothing outstanding about the
production. The direction is uninspired. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable film if one's
expectations are not too high.
The rich Technicolor hues have been
successfully transferred to the disc in a clean pressing. The sound shows no evidence of age and
the picture is always sharp.
The compact Pygmalion
runs a breathless 90 minutes. Along with the wonderfully witty and charming screenplay from George
Bernard Shaw, this trim production features a smashing screen debut performance from Wendy Hiller
as Eliza Doolittle. Hiller's guttersnipe is thoroughly believable and the smudges of dirt on her
cheeks don't look as if they were applied by a make-up man. The transformation from flower girl to
Lady is thoroughly refreshing.
Leslie Howard, co-director and star as
Professor Henry Higgins, comfortably sculpts Eliza Doolittle from " squashed cabbage
leaf" to Queen of the Embassy Ball. Howard's relaxed manner is sometimes at odds with the
frenetic pace of the miraculous molding, but this does not mitigate the delight delivered by the
Perhaps a secret virtue of this British
production is the crisp editing of David Lean, working on only his third film. The transformation
montages are brilliantly executed. The London street images, recorded handsomely by director of
photography Harry Stradling, pull the viewer in, yet never lose focus of the principals as they
move through crowds.
Stradling's photography has been
transferred to disc at the proper levels and the images do not suffer in the process. There are
scenes that are soft and parts of the film element are not in pristine condition. The sound is
serviceable. Unfortunately, my disc was plagued with intrusive video snow occlusions, presumably a
fault in the pressing and perhaps the beginning of laser rot. Pygmalion is a joyfully
executed production, and the disc, sans pressing problems, is worthy of a prominent place in a
There is an irony in transforming Pygmalion
into the gorgeous production of My Fair Lady, considering that it is a tale of
transformation. It is astounding to contemplate the success of the musical when a significant
virtue of the original is its nonstop telling of the story; My Fair Lady runs almost a hour
more, yet scene for scene it does not drag.
This is a very big
production dressed in the finest of clothing. The costumes of Cecil Beaton are sumptuous, the sets
richly detailed. The choice of professional paraphernalia for Higgins clearly tops the original.
But all the production values could have easily suffocated the lady. The real Ritz of this
production is the music and lyrics.
Composers Lerner and Loewe have created
a wonderful score, with many of the song lyrics derived directly from the Shaw script. Once
Director George Cukor has established the mood and setting for the film, the wealth of this lyrical
treasure chest is offered up in copious delight beginning with Harrison's wonderful rendition of
"Why Can't the English." I count fifteen more songs, not including reprises, ranging from
fine to sublime.
Harrison brings an acerbic edge to the
role of Higgins that was lacking in Howard's original portrayal, and suits the character to a tee.
Although Harrison rather more talks than sings the songs, he is extremely effective in their
performance and he masterfully shapes dialogue like "She's so deliciously low, so horribly
dirty" into something between speech and song. Rex Harrison appropriately dominates this
production, just as he dominates the world of Higgins. This is a superlative acting achievement
that was rightly awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964.
Incandescent Audrey Hepburn is rather
difficult to picture as the dreadfully dirty flower girl. The dirt on her face does look like
freshly applied make-up. Her singing is dubbed by Marnie Nixon and this is a shortcoming of the
film. While Harrison's Higgins towers over Howard's, Hepburn's Eliza hardly measures up to Hiller's
and try saying that in front of a flame. Nevertheless, Hepburn's appeal is too strong to put a
damper on the role, and her transformed Eliza more than makes up for the unconvincing cockney.
The supporting cast is led by a
smashing music hall performance from Stanley Hollaway. His two production numbers, "With a
Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church on Time," are show stoppers. Holloway
was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his hilarious turn as Alfred P. Doolittle. Wilfred
Hyde-White, in constant screen company of Harrison, recreates his stage Colonel Pickering quite
Director Cukor's elegant eye is abetted
by the fine camera of Harry Stradling, reprising his role as Director of Photography of Pygmalion
for this sparkling musical double. Stradling was rewarded for his perseverance with the Academy
Award for Best Photography after a total of eight nominations. Cukor, likewise, was honored as Best
Director for his exquisite command of My Fair Lady, his fifth nomination in the category.
The film was also awarded Best Picture of 1964 by the Academy.
The disc production is not of Academy
Award caliber. The colors of the transfer print appear slightly faded, diminishing the film's
richness in some scenes. This "newly remastered edition" still evidences some of the
video snow that plagued the first wide screen transfer and there seems to be an extraordinary
amount of aliasing or shimmering, although I can't pinpoint why it should be any worse than other
discs in this department. There is also an indication that some sort of edge enhancement technology
has been used at some point in the disc production which produces an annoying white glow on facial
details in many scenes. Upper lips, eyelids and ears seem to have been highlighted unnaturally. The
aspect ratio presented is 2.05:1, which corresponds to the projection specifications for the 70
millimeter prints of this Super Panavision 70 film. Fox has done an elegant job of packaging My Fair Lady in a gatefold jacket which includes extensive liner
notes, however they inexplicably reproduce a cropped still on the back cover of a photo that
appears on the inside of the jacket.
Though I'd delight in a better
treatment for this disc pressing, it is still serviceable and I would not do without it for my
collection. My Fair Lady is a classic example of a successful reworking of a film into a
The quality of these surveyed films and
their musical counterparts scales the range from success to failure. A good number of interesting
pairs have not been addressed here, some due to obvious limitations, and others because both films
of a pair were not available on laser. The very fine I Am a Camera starring
Julie Harris, which is based on the same Berlin Stories by
Christopher Isherwood that is the basis for Cabaret, has not yet been offered on laser . Cabaret
has just been released in a beautiful wide screen pressing from Warner. The King and I I first saw
the light of screen as the enchanting Anna and the King of Siam
, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. The former is currently available in crisp wide screen
images from Fox Video and hopefully Anna will have a disc debut soon. The
Women, a witty and original film, sported a sterling all female cast, including Norma
Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell and is available from MGM-UA, as is its musical double,
The Opposite Sex, starring June Allyson, Dolores Grey and Ann Miller. The marvelous David
Lean directed Oliver Twist is
available on disc from Paramount starring Alec Guinness and Robert Newton, as is its musical pair, Oliver, from Columbia Tri-Star.
Watching these films in relation to
each other can add an interesting dimension to the overall video experience. Hopefully, our
selected sampling will provide you with another way to look at these films.
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He's part of the dynamic duo that restored Lawrence
of Arabia, Spartacus, My Fair Lady and Vertigo. Harris rides a white horse into the for the cause
of preserving our film legacy. Click on the image to read more.
Movie Rage: Death in the Aisles
Everyone knows what it feels like to get angry at the movies these days. Here's a humorous but
not so delightful view of big screen misery.
A Conversation with Frank Darabont
Check out these selections from our DVD Review
Archive. New releases are constantly in our face, but catalog gems should not be forgotten.
Need a daily fix of movie
quotes. Reel Quotes Newsletter has the answer. Click on the Reel Quotes symbol for more.
Black DVD Online is a new site dedicated to
black film content on DVD. The commendable enterprise is hosted by Webmaster Samuel L. McLemore,
Jr. and presented in an attractive interface
Irreverent DVD views and links to many sites. The big
question is "Who is Uncle Herbie?"
Fine reviews, features and news on DVD. The Big Picture
has been doing DVD as long as anyone. Jeff McNeal and Bob Banka feed on a steady diet of DVDs.
One of France's outstanding DVD resources. Par le vous DVD?
a lot in Portland, so DVDcorner.net
provides an umbrella of entertainment with lots of DVD reviews and DVD news. Check out the monthly
The Cinema Laser
A home grown magazine for laserphiles that has been publishing for a number of years and has
embraced DVD in a big way. Lots of helpful information.
Large variety of movie posters for sale now specializing in Polish and Japanese paper.
Easy interface and a Soho gallery storefront.
the Bridge Posters won't sell you the Brooklyn
Bridge, but have a look at their selection of movie posters.
Bruce Hershenson Move Posters
Bruce Hershenson has been running
successful movie poster auctions for a number of years, most notably for Christies. His site
includes many images and a huge variety of posters for sales from his periodic
The popular Paris movie poster store
makes it's way to the Internet with an outstanding selection of French Movie Posters. Many
beautiful images on display in a searchable data base.
You wonít want to miss the online iF Magazine. You may have guessed iF stands for
Frank Darabont is the cover interview in the current online issue of Fade-In Magazine.
Check it out along with other savvy features of this excellent book
.The online site for Film Comment Magazine
includes all the information you need to know about cinematic events sponsored by the Film Society
of Lincoln Center.