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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Comedy > High Society > Slapstick > Melodrama > Eccentric > Concert > Folk > Pop > Rock > Countercul > Mame (1974/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Melanie: Live At The Meltdown Festival 2007 (MVD DVD)/Ray Conniff: Send In The Clowns/Theme From S.W.A.T. (1976/Sony/Vocalion Super Audio CD/SACD/SA-CD Quadrophonic

Mame (1974/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Melanie: Live At The Meltdown Festival 2007 (MVD DVD)/Ray Conniff: Send In The Clowns/Theme From S.W.A.T. (1976/Sony/Vocalion Super Audio CD/SACD/SA-CD Quadrophonic Hybrid Albums)/School Daze (1988/Sony Blu-ray)/Sound Of Music Live (2015/Shout! Studios Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Ray Conniff Import Super Audio CD is now only available from our friends at Vocalion Records and will play on all CD players, while the Mame Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

The following music releases revisit older times and styles of music and even visuals, sometimes with mixed results...

We'll start with Gene Saks' Mame (1974), Lucille Ball's attempt to finally have a hit movie with herself as the sole lead after decades of trying in Hollywood. Despite co-star turns that worked out, a hit radio show and three hit TV shows that ran back-to-back for nearly a quarter-century, the film was a dud despite the best efforts financially in the production and promotion by the studio to make it a hit. A musical version of Auntie Mame, which Warner made into a huge hit in the 1950s with Rosalind Russell (reviewed on Warner Archive Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), but that was not a musical. However, maybe it was just too soon to do this film with any lead.

Still, despite the facts that a few dozen musicals (some expensive like this one) were not making their money back (including Star, Lost Horizon and Paint Your Wagon) or becoming critical hits, the studios still thought maybe they'd have the next Oliver! or Sound Of Music. Not counting Rockumentaries, Rock Operas or films with newer music types, Mame was another casualty in the long line of attempts. Lucy can be funny here, but the film (thanks in part to the music numbers all being pre-recorded, a really bad move) is too long, stiff, not even seemingly spontaneous and has a bit too slow a pace for a title character who is excited by life, loves life and does crazy things. Her crazy is too safe here.

On the other hand, not only is the money in the film, you do get a really good cast including Bea Arthur (years away from Golden Girls, just put on the map by the phenomenal success of her first TV megahit, Maude), Robert Preston, Bruce Davidson, Don Porter, Joyce Van Patten, John McGiver, Ruth McDevitt, Lucille Benson, Leonard Stone, Barbara Bosson, Ned Wertimer and an uncredited Sandahl Bergman (later an action star who almost went big) as a dancer help make for a solid cast, yet that still did not help. It does make this a curio, especially for fans of those actors and the Bea Arthur appearance alone (she's one for a while) makes the timing of this release interesting as her latter TV hit is one all the time.

Lucy was mad at the critics for not liking her turn as the 1920s gal who hob-knobbed with the rich, eccentric and society folk and choreographer Onna White's work is not bad, but it did not stick with me any more than the various songs despite Jerry Herman's involvement with them. Still, it is a piece for Lucy completists and a strange mixed bag overall. MGM issued the first That's Entertainment the same year and it got an Oscar Nomination, showing the town loves this genre and wanted it to come back badly. By the time Grease hit the big screen four years later and was the biggest musical since Sound of Music, Hollywood abandoned this kind of musical for good.

Cheers though to Director of Photography Philip H. Lathrop (Breakfast At Tiffany's, the original Pink Panther, Finian's Rainbow (also reviewed on this site on Warner Archive Blu-ray), They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Earthquake), delivered about as good a look to the film as possible, so that aspect holds up.

Extras include (uncredited on the case) an Original Theatrical Trailer and vintage Making Of featurette: Lucy Mame.

Next we have Melanie: Live At The Meltdown Festival 2007 featuring a concert by the counterculture singer/songwriter best known for Brand New Key, Candles In The Rain, Look What They Did To My Song, Ma and her unique cover to the Rolling Stones' classic Ruby Tuesday. The Woodstock alumni can still play the songs, tell great stories and never sold out. This program is also sometimes documentary and runs a decent, interesting enough 145 minutes.

This takes place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (the great Jarvis Cocker of Pulp invited her to play, showing his good judgment, as usual) and I was glad to get updated and re-involved with her and her work. I remember seeing her playing at the old Woodstock site when the soon-to-be-controversial new Woodstock concert was being held and at a different location. More interesting than you might think, those interested should check it out.

An unrated Glastonbury Fayre trailer is includes which a clip comes from in this release. We'll cover that concert film's Blu-ray ASAP.

Now its time for two more albums from the conductor/arranger Ray Conniff: Send In The Clowns/Theme From S.W.A.T., both albums issued in 1976 and contained on the same Hybrid Super Audio CD disc from the great label Vocalion, issuing both in their original 4-track Quad soundmasters. There might be some overlap, but here are the songs covered in his own special way...

Theme from S.W.A.T., Welcome Back, Happy Days, Mary Tyler Moore, M*A*S*H, Laverne and Shirley and Other TV Themes

1. Police Story (Goldsmith)

2. Happy Days (Fox; Gimbel)

3. The Young and the Restless (DeVorzon; Botkin)

4. Baretta's Theme (Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow) (Grusin; Ames)

5. Welcome Back (Sebastian) theme from Welcome Back, Kotter

6. S.W.A.T. (DeVorzon)

7. Love is All Around (Curtis) theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show

8. [NBC] Mystery Movie Theme (Mancini) Jackie Allen (vocal)

9. M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless) (Mandel; Altman)

10. Making Our Dreams Come True (Fox; Gimbel) theme from Laverne and Shirley

Send in the Clowns

11. S.W.A.T. (DeVorzon)

12. Memories are Made of This (Miller; Dehr; Gilkyson)

13. Lonely Night (Angel Face) (Sedaka)

14. Vera's Theme (Conniff) Ray Conniff & Pete Jolly (pianos)

15. Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover (Simon)

16. Send in the Clowns (Sondheim) from the musical A Little Night Music

17. Moments to Remember (Allen; Stillman)

18. Do You Know Where You're Going to? (Masser; Goffin) theme from the film Mahogany

19. Love's Theme (White; Schroeder)

20. All by Myself (Carmen)

They are certainly again not what we would call definitive, but funny enough, when I did the last Vocalion Quad SA-CD double feature, I had forgotten I covered a collection of Conniff covers from the later 1960s and on SA-CD, albeit in stereo only: the April In Paris Hybrid SA-CD:


The previous double album disc from Vocalion was Laughter In The Rain/Love Will Keep Us Together Quad Hybrid SA-CD:


Again, I was very amused and also surprised they all sounded as good as they did, but the high fidelity is more impressive than the unusual arrangements. Some tracks fare better than others, but anyone who loves music and especially are a fan of any of the songs here will still want to listen to these albums. I also get a kick out of the cover art, so I chose it over the other titles for this review, which you can see above.

Liner notes are the only extras.

Spike Lee's School Daze (1988) was his first big 35mm full color film, following his 1986 indie breakthrough She's Gotta Have It, a mostly outright comedy. We get comedy here, but the film tries to juggle several elements, then bring them together by the end of the film. The results are mixed, but interesting.

Meant as a look at pledging and college living at an all-African American campus, it also wants to be a musical at times with early sequences taking place in a stylized, almost Hollywood fantasy world (always with amazing results), then the music becomes part of the actual narrative at the party towards the end. As well, the film debates racism, ugly splits between African Americans based on education (college versus no college, lite versus dark skin color, et al) and the best moments were very brave and rarely seen when Lee made this film. They are still too rare now, but this helped continue the then Black New Wave that was too short lived for its own good, yet paved the way for films just getting made now.

The cast is also amazing, with Laurence Fishburne, Tisha Campbell, Giancarlo Esposito, Kadeem Hardison, Jasmine Guy, Samuel L. Jackson, Joie Lee and Ossie Davis heading a cast that only gets better with age. The ending tries to make the big statement and means well and is on the money, but it was not enough, which is why Lee's next film had to be Do The Right Thing. The semi-agit-prop approach is something he'd try again in Clockers, but I like him when he is more direct. Nice he's covering all bases.

It should be added that these early films were made when Reagan and then George H.W. Bush were president, so the sense of isolation in the face of retro-racism was more stark at the time. That makes this film a valuable time capsule as well.

Extras include ALL-NEW: 2018 Q&A with Spike Lee and select cast and crew members, with some special guests, feature-length Audio Commentary with Spike Lee, feature-length Cast Commentary with Tisha Campbell-Martin, Rusty Cundieff, Bill Nunn, Darryl Bell and Kadeem Hardison, Three Featurettes:

'Birth of a Nation'

'College Daze'

'Making a Mark'

plus Music Videos:

'Be Alone Tonight' from the Rays

'Be One' from Phyllis Hyman

and 'Da Butt by EU

Finally we have another remake of sorts, Cory Giedroyc's Sound Of Music Live (2015), which dares to be a remake of the famous feature film and stage blockbuster originally with Julie Andrews. I should state in advance that it is not my favorite Andrews film or musical in general, but I expected that the makers of this new version would try something different. To my shock, though it is interesting to see them try to craw what was a 70mm epic production onto three soundstages (!), they do not try to do anything new with the material. In addition, they are trying too much to imitate the arrangements and vocals of the 1965 film.

Kara Tointon & Julian Ovenden lead the new cast of unknowns who you can tell are trying to give it their best shot to make this work, but it was not very energetic and reminded me of the Lucille Ball Mame (see above) in that it lacked energy and I just did not buy it, even though they seem to be singing live to their credit. That still is not enough to bring the work alive, though again, I am not a fan to nothing much here is alive to me (no pun intended on the opening song) and fans of the songs might like it more. Thus, its for fans only at best, but it did not stay with me and reminded me that most of these live musical TV events have not been very memorable, no matter the talent.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by co-stars Kara Tointon & Julian Ovenden and a Behind The Scenes featurette. You can read more about the hit 1965 film on Blu-ray at this link...


Though they all have some flaws, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Mame, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Daze and the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Sound are about even in playback with Mame originally being a 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor releases (one of the last musicals ever to have that privilege) shows it here with costumes and production design anticipating that. Some film flaws are here, but the scope frame is well-filled. Daze switches from flat color for realism, the most heightened color for its musical sequences and in-between for other situations, handled with ease by Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, soon a filmmaker in his own right. Sound is a standard HD shoot from the live presentation that is fine and consistent, if not very exciting.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Melanie looking decent, but the age of the videotaping has some flaws that include video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, slight cross color, faded color and tape damage. In addition, the older 16mm footage present is not the worst telecine transfer, but too bad they could not retransfer that material in HD.

As for sound, the Conniff Super Audio CD shines as the best sonic presentation here with its 4.0 Quad DSD (Direct Stream Digital) 4.0 tracks from the original Quad soundmaster, 2.0 Stereo DSD and regular PCM 16/44.1 2.0 Stereo. As was the case with the previous 4.0 Quad Conniff SACD we covered, the 4.0 sounds better than it has a right to with great detail, depth, range and makes the wild covers all the more fun. The 2.0 DSD is still pretty good, but both show the PCM 2.0 as a bit aged or lacking, but nice to have it there for cross compatibility.

School Daze was a Dolby analog theatrical release recorded with a limited budget, but it is the only Blu-ray here to have multi-channel sound by way of a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is as good as this film will ever sound. Mame is here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono despite being a Stereo recording issued theatrically in magnetic and optical sound, the stereo master (or back-up copy) have apparently been misplaced. Sound Of Music is here only in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless that is a real head-scratcher in that it should have been 5.1 and the recording is not that great to boot. Oh well.

That leaves Melanie again, just holding her own with a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix that has its moments, but also has older mono audio and can have flaws in location recording (non-musical) situations. Still, not bad.

You can order the Ray Conniff S.W.A.T./Send In The Clowns Vocalion Super Audio CD at...


...and to order the Mame Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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