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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Backstage > Comedy > Fantasy > British > Satire > Fairy Tales > Ballet > Biography > Jazz > Standard > The Boy Friend (1971/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Into The Woods: Original Broadway Production (1990/Image upscaled Blu-ray)/The Jiri Kylian Edition (1984 - 2011/Naxos/ArtHaus Blu-ray Box Set)/Louis Armstr

The Boy Friend (1971/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Into The Woods: Original Broadway Production (1990/Image upscaled Blu-ray)/The Jiri Kylian Edition (1984 - 2011/Naxos/ArtHaus Blu-ray Box Set)/Louis Armstrong: Live In Australia - BP Supershow (1964 w/Jewel Brown/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)/Rolling Stones From The Vault: L.A. Forum Live In 1975 (w/Billy Preston/Eagle DVD) + Hampton Coliseum Live In 1981 (Eagle SD Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/C/C+/C/C/C+ Sound: C/C/B-/C/B-/B- Extras: C-/D/C+/D/C/C Main Programs: B-/B-/B+/B/B/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Louis Armstrong Import DVD is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on Blu-ray players that can handle the PAL DVD format and is region free, while The Boy Friend is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. Both can be ordered from the links below.

Here's an eclectic group of music titles you should know about...

Ken Russell's The Boy Friend (1971) was the original MGM Studio's attempt to have a hit in the retro Musical atmosphere that made Sound Of Music a blockbuster and it is an impressive adaptation of the Sandy Wilson stage musical that is one of the most important and key British musicals of all time. Twiggy plays Polly Browne, a young lady who works backstage but dreams of better things, suddenly becoming involved in a local stage musical when the lead becomes indisposed. Watched by a famous producer (Vladek Sheybal of From Russia With Love) which has the cast tripping over each other to impress him from the left wing of the theater, Russell pulls of the comedy and fantasy musical within the backstage musical structure with ease.

Christopher Gable (Clark's son) plays Polly's potential love interest with a large cast that works well together including stage legend Tommy Tune, Max Adrian, Murray Melvin, Bryan Pringle, Moyra Fraser, Georgina Hale, Anne Jameson, an uncredited Glenda Jackson and Barbara Windsor. Tony Walton (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Petulia, Murder On The Orient Express, Equus, The Wiz) delivers amazing production design and Director of Photography David Watkin (The Beatles' Help!, Catch-22, Russell's The Devils, Mahogany, Robin & Marian, Yentl, Chariots Of Fire) is a top notch use of widescreen scope filmmaking with smart compositions throughout.

An amazing movie, its budget is so insanely low for even its time, you could never make a film today this rich without an 8 or 9-figure budget. This version runs 136 minutes including intermission, et al, but it never feels that long because it is always moving along with a flow that works. If you like musicals, definitely go out of your way to see this one. Russell would soon make more music films like Tommy, The Music Lovers and Lisztomania, all reviewed elsewhere on this site.

The vintage featurette All Talking... All Singing... All Dancing is the only extra, but this film deserves more.

Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine's Into The Woods: Original Broadway Production (1990) is reissued in time for the motion picture version to hit theaters, headed by the great Bernadette Peters, but the clever send up of literary fairy tales (superior to anything from the Shrek films) is here on Blu-ray when it turns out the recording is on standard definition video. So has Image noted on the case that the image is upscaled or that it is 1.33 X 1? No.

The labeling would make you think it was filmed or get you to think maybe it was early high definition, analog high definition. Not true in either case. Fortunately, it is a solid record of the original cast in action making this a classic stage hit with Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Tom Aldredge and Robert Westenberg. I just wish the image and sound were a bit clearer, but it is the one to compare to the upcoming theatrical film, so it is available for the curious and fans despite the disc's flaws (see more below).

There are sadly no extras despite the room for them, including no booklet of any kind.

The Jiri Kylian Edition (1984 - 2011) is a new 10-disc Blu-ray Box Set from ArtHaus that shows an extensive, remarkable look at the life, work and career of the ballet choreographer and his contributions to the art as a modernist, post-modernist and deconstructionist. The discs include his Sinfionetta Symphony in D Minor - Stamping Ground (1984), L'Enfant et les sortileges (1986) w/Peter and the Wolf, L'Histoire du Soldat (1989), Kaguyahime (1994), Black & White Ballets (1996), Nederlands Dans Theater celebrates Jiri Kylian (2005), Jiri Kylian's Car Men (2006), Jiri Kylian & Nederlands Dans Theater celebrates (2008), Forgotten Memories (2011) w/Wings of Wax (2008) and The Choreographer Jiri Kylian (1991 TV documentary profile). That not only makes it a great gift set, but is one of the best music and dance sets in any genre we have seen to date.

We have seen ballets in this mode of later semi-undress, dealing with the human body, human condition and even a sense of anger or trying to say something new, but Kylian manages to fuse his ideas into seamless routines, moves and in a flow that I have rarely seen with ballet or any dance. This is whether he is taking on classic material or trying something new. I have hardy seen anything of his before this set, but it is an argument that he is one of the top artists in his field and we strongly recommend this set.

Extras include illustrated multi-lingual booklets in with all disc releases (though Choreographer oddly includes a paper pullout insert with no information on it for some odd reason), 24 bonus Ballet minutes on Memories and a 36-minutes Introduction on Nederlands.

Louis Armstrong: Live In Australia - BP Supershow is a 1964 Australian import DVD of a remarkable show the Jazz and all-around American Music legend delivered in a TV series from half a century ago that shows the genius in later peak form. Performances packed into the rich 56 minutes include an instrumental of Sweet Georgia Brown with variation that will impress, plus When It's Sleepy Time Down South, High Society Calypso (from the title song of the VistaVision feature film comedy he appeared in), How High The Moon, Basin Street Blues, Blueberry Hill like you've never heard before and two performances with the amazing vocalist Jewel Brown, stunning viewers and the audience with her powerful, amazing range on Did You Hear About Jerry and I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

The show ends with Armstrong's favorite song, a tour de force version of When the Saints Go Marching In. This was more than just an episode of a strong anthology music show on TV, this was a cultural event and we are all the better for it, especially in that a copy of the show survived. If you are a fan, it is worth going out of your way to see it.

There are sadly no extras despite the room for them.

Last but not least are two classic concerts that also capture peak moments of another group of music legends. Rolling Stones From The Vault: L.A. Forum Live In 1975 and Hampton Coliseum Live In 1981 have been issued running 160 and 150 minutes respectively, so you get the full show and full experience of what their high energy, loud, powerful shows were like and why they successfully labeled themselves The Greatest Rock N Roll Band In The World. The 1975 show has the added bonus of Billy Preston joining them for the whole show in what is one of their best tours and the 1981 show has the band enjoying their continued height of success (every studio album they issued at the time was an event) having survived the Punk Rock cycle and fitting in with disco and new wave when they felt like it.

Remarkably, Tumbling Dice, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Brown Sugar and Jumpin' Jack Flash are the only four songs that overlap between the two long shows, which says something about how they kept their shows fresh and had so many more hits than we remember sometimes. Mick Jagger was still in great voice in both shows and the band was in top form, able to go a few rounds with the best in the business (Led Zeppelin, The Who, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, et al) and as I began watching each show, I instantly remembered why they were such a big hit in the first place. You can't get that from newer shows no matter how good because it is earlier shows like this that show they had it, always did and how they built themselves up.

The 1975 show also includes Honky Tonk Woman, (It's Only) Rock 'N' Roll, Do Do Do Do Do (Heartbreaker), Angie and Street Fighting Man (plus That's Life and Outta-Space with Billy Preston) among the classics, while the 1981 show has Under My Thumb, Shattered, Beast Of Burden, She's So Cold, Miss You, Start Me Up and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. Great stuff and let's hope we get more Vault releases ASAP!

Illustrated booklets with tech information and essays are the only extras.

The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition images on only two of the ten Jiri Blu-rays (Kaguyahime and L'Enfant) turn out to be the only real high definition video on the list as the rest of the releases simply are upscaling standard definition video (PAL or NTSC) to look like HD as much as they can via line quadrupling and the like. In those cases on the rest of the Jiri discs, as well a Woods and the 1981 Stones concert, you are going to get softness, maybe some ghosting, aliasing errors, smudging, staircasing and alignment issues in what most cases is a 1.33 X 1 frame in the middle of a 1.78 X 1/16 X 9 frame bookended/pillarboxed. The only reason to do this is to squeeze out anything you can out of the old standard-definition masters and then issue them in a format more durable than DVD. Unfortunately for Woods, it is more problematic than expected and harder to watch, but the packaging never notes it is upscaled and that is not totally honest.

The 1975 Stones concert was too fuzzy for upscaling, but its 1.33 X 1 color presentation is not bad, but still softer than one might like. Color is consistent, but flaws in the taping from the original show are inescapable. The same can be said for the older Armstrong concert, filmed on either 16mm or 35mm black and white film, but with its shares of dirt, debris, softness and flaws throughout. We still get some nice shots in both cases. That leaves the anamorphically enhances 2.35 X 1 image on Friend shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision and processed in MetroColor looking as good as anything on the list including all the Blu-rays, though the print has some flaws as well. If restored and issued on Blu-ray, this could really be stunning.

The other bonus in upscaling is that you van have superior sound that would not fit on a DVD and might more likely exist for a taped program. All 10 Jiri Blu-rays offer PCM 2.0 Stereo sound that you might find on a DVD, but these sound really good, though some sound is limited as many of the programs are of his deconstructive art and dance which can be on the quiet side. The only title to offer more sound is Kaguyahime with a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is the best sounding of all the sound from that box set and the equal of the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 96/24 5.1 lossless mix on the 1981 Stones concert and standard DTS on the DVD of the 1975 Stones concert, both of which are well recorded for their time.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo on Woods is a big disappointment, with limited dynamic range and not too much better than the aged, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Armstrong which still has some good moments of sound for its great music despite being the oldest release on the list. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Friend is sadly not in Stereo, yet sounds a little better throughout than Armstrong or Woods.

To order the Louis Armstrong Umbrella import DVD, go to this link:


and to order The Boy Friend Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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