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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Music > Biopic > Rock > British > Gay > Alternative > Musical > Comedy > Legal > Rural > Documentary > Ope > England Is Mine (2017/Morrissey/Umbrella PAL Import DVD)/Les Girls (1957/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Oklahoma!: Original Cast Recording (1943/Universal Music/Decca CD)/Paris Opera (2017/Film Movement

England Is Mine (2017/Morrissey/Umbrella PAL Import DVD)/Les Girls (1957/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Oklahoma!: Original Cast Recording (1943/Universal Music/Decca CD)/Paris Opera (2017/Film Movement DVD)/Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray Set)



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



PLEASE NOTE: The England Is Mine import DVD is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia and can only play on Blu-ray & DVD players that can handle the PAL video format, while Les Girls and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.



Now for our latest group of music releases, all of which happen to be tied to the stage in one way or the other...



Mark Gill's England Is Mine (2017) is a biopic on the singer Morrissey (Jack Lowden) from his start as a music lover to musician and world music icon, controversy and all. Now available as a PAL-format import DVD from Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, we recently reviewed the Blu-ray edition in the U.S. at this link...


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/15151/England+Is+Mine+(On+Becoming+Morrissey)+(20


I think the film has some good moments, but I was not always convinced, felt it was uneven overall and did not convince me of its period very much, though the attempt to explore the life of a music icon who is anti-meat, openly gay and STILL wants to fight with everyone he can in and out of the world of music is worth the effort to take on.


If you are interested, you now have a new choice on how to view it, but this edition has no extras or even a menu.



George Cukor's Les Girls (1957) is the last MGM film and musical to have Gene Kelly as its lead, another sad sign of the studio's Musicals unit winding down, but the film is not awful, but offers a very mixed experience with some great actors, odd dancing, money on the screen and uneven script. It also has music by Cole Porter who personally worked on the film, the last one he would ever do so on.


The dynamic Kay Kendall plays a woman who just wrote a tell all book so scandalous, she is being sued for defamation of character by friends and enemies alike, so we see what happened in several versions in flashback being explained in court as the court case rages on. Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Tania Eig, Jacques Bergerac and a scene-stealing Patrick Macnee (TV's The Avengers) as a lawyer deeply covering every angle with every question and observation he can come up with.


The results are mixed, the choreography by Jack Cole (Kismet, Gilda, most of Marilyn Monroe films, all reviewed elsewhere on this site) offers a more gritty, hard (not Hip Hop hard, but still) and toned-down dancing that is atypical of most MGM Musicals, so it makes for a very different feel throughout, but an interesting change of course just the same. Some numbers work, others not as much.


Warner Archive has issued this interesting, key work on Blu-ray in as restored an edition as possible and it plays back very well. More on that below, but this one is worth seeing for any serious fan of films, big production, Musicals or the actors involved. You won;t be sorry, even when it does not always gel.


Extras include Cole Porter in Hollywood: Ca C'est L'Amour, hosted by Taina Elg; Vintage Cartoon Flea Circus and an Original Theatrical Trailer.



Next we have a reissue of the classic 1943 release of Oklahoma!: Original Cast Recording, though it may have been originally issued in several vinyl discs before being brought together later as the album we have here in a fine Universal Music/Decca CD edition. The Rogers & Hammerstein classic (some of the songs, like the title song and ''Oh, What A Beautiful Morning'' are undeniable classics and the choreography by Agnes de Mille (interpreted later in the 70mm feature film by Michael Kidd) was very groundbreaking and innovate for its time. For more on the musical and later versions, try these links...


1955 Todd AO 70mm & Cinemascope hit theatrical film version

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/3026/Oklahoma!+-+50th+Anniversary+Edition


1999 Hugh Jackman HD-shot stage version

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/11916/Beijing+Punk+(2012/Seminal/MVD+DVD)/Ike+&+T


I had never heard the entire original cast version and have to admit that they really set up the way this sounds, feels and its pace, which is impressive 75 years later. Cheers to Betty Drake, Alfred Garde, Jean Roberts, future movie star Celeste Holm and company had the energy to bring this to life, with no one having any idea how enduring this would all be. Considering WWII was still raging, that they could concentrate and pull this off is a big plus and they all need and deserve a big thank you for making this work so well. Though it is not my favorite musical and some songs work better than others, no doubt this is an important work in the musical theater and looking back, more important than ever in some ways. Glad to see it get this kind of respect.


A booklet with two new essays on the classic, along with five bonus tracks on the CD are the extras.



Next, go backstage behind of the world's greatest cultural institution, The Palais Garnier, which is home to Paris Opera and has been since 1875. Directed by Jean-Stephane Bron and starring Stephane Lissner, The Paris Opera (aka L'Opera/2017) takes audiences on a dramatic behind the scenes look at just one (insanely busy) season inside the opera house.


It's interesting to candidly see behind this world, as we don't often get to see the inner workings of a modern day opera theater like this very often (or at least not as often as we get behind the scenes looks at TV and Movies) and just how much goes into it. Informational, funny, and engaging, The Paris Opera will hit on high marks with fans of ballet and opera first and foremost.


Special Features include...


Commentary by the Director


Interview with the Director


Bonus Short Film: Les Indes Galantes (6 minutes)


The Paris Opera Trailer


Film Movement Trailers



Stanley Donen's Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) was a massive hit for MGM at a time when the Hollywood Musical was peaking and about to go into decline. The tale of a proper woman who knows manners (Jane Powell) meeting with a loud-mouthed man (Howard Keel) and his six other unsophisticated brothers, then trying to teach them enough manners to integrate into polite society and even find women is amusing, but also has its cliches and stereotypes. With that said, this is not my favorite musical and far from Donen's best work, but it is consistent if nothing else and I doubt a better feature film version could have been made.


Few of the songs stay with me, but this new Warner Archive Blu-ray double set despite its tech shortcomings, is loaded with extras and annihilates the old, obsolete DVD edition not worth bothering with at this point. Michael Kidd did the choreography here too.


Extras on Disc One include another outstanding, feature length Audio Commentary track by Stanley Donen (Recorded 2004), "MGM Jubilee Overture" 1954 MGM's "30th Anniversary" Theatrical Short Subject shot in CinemaScope and Color, featuring the M-G-M Symphony Orchestra, led by Johnny Green, playing a medley of eleven well-known songs used in some of the studio's best-known musicals (remastered in 1080p HD, 16x9 2.55 X 1 anamorphic aspect ratio with 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio), Documentary "Sobbin' Women: The Making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," hosted by Howard Keel (Produced 1996, updated and revised 2004, here in low definition), Radio City Music Hall Premiere - July 22, 1954 (low def) and "MGM's 30thAnniversary" (1954 MGM Newsreel, low def).


Disc Two is strictly devoted to a rarely-seen version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers that was cut down on the sides to be shown in flatter widescreen projection (1.85, 1.75, 1.66), here in 1.77 X 1 as alternate Widescreen Version (here also in 1080p HD) for theaters that did not have the screen size for early, wider CinemaScope and.or the money to show that version. MGM was going to be sure everyone saw the film and they'd get their money back on the film, no matter what. It worked!


Now for the technical performance on these discs. Brides is here in decent 1080p 2.55 X 1 and 1.77 X 1 digital High Definition image presentations, but both versions tend to be a little soft and lack some detail. On the plus side, this was among the films that MGM exclusively shot of a few years on Ansco 35mm color negative, a great film format that competed with the best Kodak, DuPont, Agfa, Pathe and other companied of the time were producing and eventually led to MGM making their own color films with their MetroColor lab. However, this was so early on into their Ansco contract that they still had Technicolor issue dye-transfer, three-strip 35mm prints (now VERY valuable if you have a good one) that looked great.


Unfortunately, Warner (who own all MGM film to about 1986) apparently did not have any Technicolor prints (or ones in great shape) or an Ansco (or even dupe negative) that was in first generation shape, so they had to work with what they had to save and restore the film. The results are not as prime as I had hoped and does not replace Brigadoon (reviewed on Warner Archive Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) as the best example of Ansco Color on home video, but this is still the best I have ever seen the film, so fans should be happy enough. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on both framed versions of the film off of the surviving 4-track magnetic soundmaster materials with traveling dialogue and sound effects is as well mixed and presented as can be, though sonic limits are in the original recording that cannot be totally overcome. Still, it sounds fine and is also the best you will likely ever hear the film.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Les Girls is the visual champ here with its superior MetroColor (with MGM abandoning Technicolor at this point) and Director of Photography Robert Surtees, A.S.C., (The Graduate, Ben-Hur, A Star Is Born (1976), Raintree County) uses the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent because he knows how. By this time, MGM stopped using Ansco Color/Anscochrome 35mm negative and switched back to Eastman Color/Kodak color film. The transfer will surprise viewers too. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless sound mix on the film also comes from a 4-track magnetic soundmaster with traveling dialogue and sound effects, sounding a little better than Seven Brides, but not enough to totally surpass it. Still, a fine upgrade and the best the music has sounded to date.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on England is not bad and being in PAL and not U.S. NTSC has its advantages, but it cannot match the previously-reviewed Blu-ray. Wonder if a 4K edition will show up from somewhere? The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is also not bad, but a lossless track would have been preferred.


And finally, Paris Opera is resented in an an anamorphically enhanced, standard definition DVD with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 French surround mix and English subtitles, the film looks and sounds as good as can be expected on the format. The music is always front and center, and sounds fantastic with classical and opera both playing a big part in the film.



To order the England Is Mine Umbrella import DVD, go to this link for it and other hard to find titles at:


http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/


...and to order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Les Girls and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo & James Lockhart (Paris)

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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