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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > LIterature > Comedy > Backstage > Satire > Western > Filmmaking > Stage > Broadway > Biopic > Biogra > Musicals: 4-Movie Collection (Kiss Me Kate 3D/The Band Wagon/Calamity Jane (all 1953)/Singin' In The Rain (1952)/MGM/Warner Blu-ray Set)/Funny Lady (1974/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Bl

Musicals: 4-Movie Collection (Kiss Me Kate 3D/The Band Wagon/Calamity Jane (all 1953)/Singin' In The Rain (1952)/MGM/Warner Blu-ray Set)/Funny Lady (1974/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Yentl (1983/United Artists/Ladbroke/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)


3D Picture: A- Picture: B (Rain: B+) Sound: B-/B/C+/B-/B/B Extras: B-/C+/B Films: B/B/B-/B+/B/B



PLEASE NOTE: The Funny Lady and Yentl Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the link below.


Here are some key musicals now on Blu-ray for you to see, especially if you are a big fan of them...


Musicals is a new 4-movie set Warner is issuing of popular MGM films in the genre from the early 1950s. This includes George Sidney's Kiss Me Kate 3D in a great 3D presentation for those who can see it in the Blu-ray 3D format. Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Keenan Wynn, Bobby Van, James Whitmore and a triumphant Ann Miller star in this classic version of Shakespeare's Taming Of The Shrew that has been influential in its own right. Intentionally a bit campy, it holds up well enough and all restored, you can really appreciate how out of their way MGM went on this one.


Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon is a grand, hilarious backstage musical that is also a giant, knowing farewell to Hollywood's classical period of musicals (that MGM helped make possible) on a loving long goodbye to them. Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray lead a great cast that has as much to say, do and show about musicals as Singin' In The Rain (also in this set) does and fans should see both.


David Butler's Calamity Jane was made for and by Warner Bros. with Doris Day cast in the title role of this musical satire of Westerns, joined by Howard Keel and featuring some good musical moments with good spots of comedy. I don't think it is the most successful of the films in the set, but fits in the time period and production approach. However, Warner could pull off a musical as well as any studio, including rival MGM (they brought sound to film, so there!) and this is at least professionally done and not bad, if not always great. It is definitely worth a look.


Finally we have Stanley Donen's Singin' In The Rain (1952), which I wrote about before in an older DVD release as follows...


Stanley Donen teamed up with Gene Kelly for Singin' In The Rain (1952) which is a tale of Hollywood going from the silent to sound era, is a comedy and includes many past classic MGM hit songs including the ever-present tune that became the title of this film. Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor also have some prime moments co-starring, but everyone is good here and for many, this has become the greatest musical ever because it grasped the essence of what made the genre come alive to begin with. I may not think it is the greatest, but it is up there and has aged very well.


Each film comes with animated cartoon shorts (usually from MGM) and sometimes with live action shorts of the time, then Kate adds two older featurettes on Cole Porter and the featurette is on Porter and New York, Wagon adds a Making Of piece called Get Aboard! The Band Wagon, vintage featurette The Men Who Made The Movies: Vincente Minnelli, an Original Theatrical Trailer and solid feature length audio commentary on the film with Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein, Jane adds newsreels and Rain adds an Original Theatrical Trailer, vintage newsreels tied to the film, Singin' In The Rain: Raining On A New Generation featurette and feature length audio commentary on the film with many of participants in the film including Behlmer and more.



Herbert Ross' Funny Lady (1974) is the underrated sequel to the huge Barbra Streisand hit Funny Girl, which was restored a few years ago, then further upgraded and issued on Blu-ray, as reviewed at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/12141/Funny+Girl+(1968/Sony+Blu-ray)/Kid+Millions+(1


Not always as respected as the first film, I think it tends to be underrated, showing the aftermath of Fanny Brice's life and success, but the film also reflects changes that happened in filmmaking in only a few years as films became darker, more mature and self-reflective. Her lover Nicky (Omar Sharif makes a nice appearance here) is gone, but especially the happiness and joy they shared is finished. She has taken up with Billy Rose (James Caan), whose a big entertainment producer and even a child prodigy, so this film becomes a look at him and the entertainment industry, as well as continuing the Brice biography in a smart, mature way it does not get enough credit for doing. No, the magic of the first film is not here, but the makers (including Streisand, who reluctantly signed on to repeat her Academy Award-winning performance) understood this and made a backstage musical with a difference and it deserves to be rediscovered in that spirit.


Streisand become the first woman to direct, co-produce, co-writer and star in a film with Yentl (1983), which took her decades to get made. It was more than worth the wait. She plays a woman who has to pretend to be a man so she can study the Talmud and become wise in Judaism (encouraged secretly by her father, played so well here by Nehemiah Persoff) going to school dressed as a man to achieve this. She falls for her roommate (Mandy Patinkin) even as he is about to get married to a beautiful young woman (Amy Irving).


The film deals with some serious subjects, including political and religious ones, but always has a sense of irony, healthy sense of humor and some great moments it never gets credit for. The songs by Alan & Marilyn Bergman are very well written and Streisand goes all out (including with little intertextual references to her previous musicals throughout) to tel the story. If anything, the film has become better with age, is a very special work, is amazing it got made and remains a top achievement of all involved. It is one of the great musicals of at least the last 40 years and is highly recommended!


Extras for both limited edition releases include illustrated booklets on each respective film with tech info and more insightful essays by Julie Kirgo, Original Theatrical Trailers and vintage featurettes (3 on Lady), with Yentl adding a Streisand intro, her original video demos to develop the film, Super 8mm film demo shot on location to sell the film to financiers, two deleted songs that could have worked in the film, Deleted Scenes, feature length audio commentary track by Streisand and Co-Producer Rusty Lemorande, a Stills Gallery and rehearsal footage.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image on Kate looks really nice throughout and though the 2D version is just fine, it is no match for how much fun this version is. This film and Arena (also 1953) were MGM's two big 3D films of the time, made that much more stable by being issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor 35mm prints, but Kate was the bigger hit by far. MGM had also entered into a deal with Agfa to create a new color format in Ansco Color, which included shooting both of those films on Ansco 35mm film, as well as big productions like Brigadoon (1953), Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954, both issued in real Technicolor 35mm prints) and Lust For Life (in MetroColor, all in CinemaScope; Forbidden Planet was even issued in some Ansco prints).


The result gave them color that had a slightly different scheme versus if they were shot on Kodak, DuPont or (then rarely used) Fuji, and though it was only so for a few years, marks a special look no musicals ever had before or since (MGM switched back to Kodak et al, afterwards and renamed their Ansco lab MetroColor, which lasted for decades as did the Ansco name on the movie market for consumers and low budget films). That makes Kate a special-looking film so well shot and you can see the synergy in Ansco/Technicolor all the way to the legendary Too Darn Hot number.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers in the rest of the MGM musicals look really good, but the one that looks great is Rain, particularly cared for and properly restored with impressive image performance throughout that only a high quality 35mm Technicolor print could offer (all three film were issued in the format and all such prints are worth serious money now).


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Lady was shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision and may not look as great as Girl did/does, but is still a strong, clean transfer that has its moments. The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Yentl is as impressive throughout in its detail and even depth, but there is something that is slightly strained in some scenes that is slight, yet holds the transfer back a bit and only those like myself who have seen it in 35mm will know. Otherwise, like the rest of these Blu-ray releases, these have never looked better outside of a great film print of them.


As for sound, Kate, Lady, Yentl (all originally 4-track stereo), Rain and Wagon have all been nicely upgraded in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix presentations that really show off the music and songs nicely in ways fans will really enjoy, though Kate and Rain have some sonic limits. Jane is the sonic disappointment here, not just because it is only here in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless presentation, but that it sounds like the older sound used for the lossy Dolby Digital DVD was simply pumped up and that results in unnecessary loudness and distortion.



To order Funny Lady and Yentl limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at this link:


www.screenarchives.com



- Nicholas Sheffo


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