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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Music > Family > Industry > Rock > Pop > Counterculture > Comedy > Sitcom > Holiday > Chicago: Terry Kath Experience + Now More Than Ever: The Story Of Chicago (both 2016/FilmRise Blu-ray*)/Honeymooners: A Christmas Carol (1977/MPI DVD)/Dear Evan Hansen (2021/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/D

Chicago: Terry Kath Experience + Now More Than Ever: The Story Of Chicago (both 2016/FilmRise Blu-ray*)/Honeymooners: A Christmas Carol (1977/MPI DVD)/Dear Evan Hansen (2021/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Dinner At Eight (1933**)/Harvey (1958/Art Carney/Liberation Hall/*both MVD)/Ivanhoe (1952/**both MGM/Warner Archive Blu-rays)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Dinner At Eight and Ivanhoe Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

The next group of releases feature music, comedy and maybe some drama...

We'll start with a documentary double feature. Chicago: Terry Kath Experience and Now More Than Ever: The Story Of Chicago (both 2016) finally tell the story of one of the greatest and most successful bands in music history. We reviewed the Story on DVD a few years ago at this link:


New to us is another great work directed by Michelle Kath Sinclair, daughter of the late, great Terry Kath, who helped put Chicago permanently on the map. Her documentary (a shorter, but still very rich 80 minutes) is primarily about her father and finding out more about him, yet we also get more on the band's history, a period piece, a look at the music industry at the time, a rare look at the counterculture and just how talented Kath was. The rest of the band members can more than hold their own, but we see how significant his work really was.

You can watch the two in either order, but there is little overlap and I was glad to finally catch up to the Kath program.

The Honeymooners Specials: A Christmas Carol (1977) is one of the latter original color version of the all-time classic TV comedy with Jackie Gleason still more than capable of delivering the legendary Ralph Kramden. Rejoined by Jayne Meadows and as always with Art Carney, this one has Ralph's boss at the bus company (a fun turn by Gale Gordon) getting talked into directing a play that would fund meals for stray cats in NYC because the boss' wife wants it that way.

Unfortunately, Ralph somehow forgets he and Alice are supposed to go on a weeks vacation in that time and disaster is imminent. A musical show as well, it has several great gags and lines worth going out of your way for and it is even better than I remembered. I wonder if the cat jokes are supposed to capitalize on Carney's great film Harry and Tonto (1974) where Harry takes his cat Tonto on a road trip? Either way, this is a fun installment and the DVD gas extras too.

Stephen Chbosky's Dear Evan Hansen (2021) is another one of this year's musical adaptations of a stage musical and like In The Heights, too much of the stage version gets lost in its big screen transition. A drama with musical moments about the loner title character (Ben Platt, repeating his role from the stage well enough) and starts with him sort of trying to stay that way, but unsure. When someone he only knew so well self-destructs and commits suicide, an unsent letter to Evan becomes a big deal.

It suggests a relationship that was not there, but Evan decides to make-up-a-big story to appease the late teen's parents, et al, and test what it is like to be part of a a melodramatic situation. Well, this version has many ups and downs, even with a good supporting cast include Julianne Moore, Danny Pino and Amy Adams among the cast, cannot distinguish itself or really work as it should.

The dim look of the film does not help, but the overuse of internet images is obnoxious and wears very thin very quickly, an idea that has ruined hundreds of films and undermines this one, especially in its most serious points. Sad. The musical has to be totally reinvented with each single feature film and most fail to do this, so they fail and disappoint. That also kills many opportunities to do much more, making this blander than it should be. Now you can see for yourself, but the stage original still sounds better too.

George Cukor's Dinner At Eight (1933) is the still-impressive pre-code Hollywood hit, based on the hit stage play (George S. Kaufman and Edna Farber wrote the stage play, then the screenplay is adapted by Francis Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz) about how the rich live and do not always get along or find happiness. This becomes wackier when a couple who is not as rich (Jean Harlow and Wallace Berry) find themselves invited into high society and an upcoming dinner party. Add Billie Burke, John Barrymore, Jean Hersholt, Edmond Lowe, Madge Evans and others and you get a crazy mix of class division collapse and all kinds of anxiety.

As funny as it is classy, Harlow is shown off to great effect with some great lines, zingers and costume changes that remain some of the most legendary in all of cinema history, while everyone is in top form and their chemistry just ups the lunacy and madness in what is a precursor to the Screwball Comedy. Of course, this influenced all kinds of comedies to follow and is one of the sound cinema's earliest triumphs in the genre. Nice to see such an amazing restoration bringing the film back to its fancy, expensive, lush, platinum glory. A must see for all serious film fans, this is the way to see it outside of a mint 35mm print.

George Schaefer's Harvey (1958) was made eight years after the James Stewart feature film, but instead is a live TV version (backed by DuPont as a sponsor) with Art Carney as an excellent second choice for the man who is the only one who can see the title character, an invisible rabbit. But is the rabbit actually there?

More charming and surprising than expected, this David Susskind-produced version has as good a supporting cast including Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched,) Charlotte Rae (Hot L Baltimore, Differn't Strokes, The Facts Of Life) and Fred Gwynne (The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You? with Rae) is surprisingly effective and holds up well, though I was never the biggest fan of the story overall.

To say this is a curio is an understatement, but that it delivers more than you'd expect in its 90 minutes running time (though the DuPont ads are longer than you might expect,) it is worth a good look and a very welcome release.

Finally, we have Richard Thorpe's Ivanhoe (1952) with Robert Taylor as the singing, serenading rider and knight who lands up in all kinds of jousting events and wants to free the imprisoned King Richard (Norman Woolland,) though some of the jousts take place off of horses. Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Fontaine show up as dual lover interests and there's more humor than you might usually get in such a period piece, but it works here well enough.

Based on the Sir Walter Scott novel, George Saunders, Guy Rolfe, Sebastian Cabot and even an uncredited Robert Brown help make up a solid supporting cast backed by amazing sets and costume design, it is among the last of an era of Classical Hollywood filmmaking and works more often than not. It also inspired plenty of spoofs (from various Warner cartoons to Art Carney's villain in the Adam West Batman series) and satires, the laughs will be as much intended as unintended. Glad Warner restored it.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on both Chicago documentaries look good and the Story transfer is far better than the old DVD we reviewed a few years ago. In both cases, the new HD footage shot looks good, while all the archival film and analog video footage is also impressive (as much as can be for the low def items) and rare 8mm film is even looking good. Add the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on both and you can really hear the interviews clearly and the music gets the respect it deserves. This belongs on the same shelf as the Quadio Blu-ray box, a few Blu-ray concerts, mint vinyl, DVD-Audios of the second and fifth albums (out of print, but great sonically), plus several Mobile Fidelity SACDs of the band's albums issued so far.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Evan is not a bad HD shoot, but it has been toned down a little too dark for its own good, which is more annoying on the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image DVD. The lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) on the Blu-ray is more impressive than the image on either disc, kicking in when it needs to, while the dialogue-based moments are recorded just fine. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is passable, but on the weak side.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Dinner is a great restoration rarely showing the age of the film materials used, instead showing the glossy, glamorous-looking monochrome work MGM delivered on their best films. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is as good as it can sound, but can only hide its age so much. Still, it is impressive for being so older.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition color image transfer can on Ivanhoe can also sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and delivers the kind of color you would expect from a 35mm, dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor version of the film. Lensed by the legendary Freddie Young, B.S.C. (Lawrence Of Arabia, You Only Live Twice,) some shots rise above my letter grade and I bet a 4K version would yield even more amazing results, but this is remarkable enough and will impress. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on the film is also as good as it will ever sound, but it still shows its age often and sadly, this is just before stereo arrived for select feature films.

The 1.33 X 1 on the Harvey DVD is a little soft being from a kinescope of the live show, but looks pretty good and has some good shots, but the source could use a little more work, while the color 1.33 X 1 image on Honeymooners is as rich and nice as the DVDs of the older color shows we reviewed years ago. Both have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound, with Harvey being a little aged and weak, while Honeymooners sounds better and you get a slight echo because the shows were recorded in a 3,000 seat auditorium.

Chicago and Harvey sadly have no extras, but Honeymooners has a nice interview statuette with Jane Kean called Trixie's Honeymoon Memories and a 1973 Women's Lib skit episode of the show that holds up well and is as timely as ever. Evan has Digital Copy, plus (per the press release:) Songs To Be Seen: Journey behind the scenes to get an exclusive look at each song featured in DEAR EVAN HANSEN and what they mean to the cast and crew.

    • Waving Through a Window

    • For Forever

    • Anonymous Ones

    • You Will Be Found

    • and A Little Closer

  • Looking Through the Lens: The Making of Dear Evan Hansen: This making of showcases the filmmakers and new cast members that have come together within the Dear Evan Hansen family to bring such an incredible story from stage to screen. From Costume Designer Sekinah Brown's pieces to Jamaica Craft's choreography, Director Stephen Chbosky's insight and Beth Mickle's production design - we see a holistic representation of the filmmaker's production process.

  • Stars In Our Eyes: For so many, this production was their first working environment after many months, in a time where we all felt the need for connection. Witness the exploding artistry that came to life on set as both cast and crew began to find themselves again through collaborative creativity.

And the Blu-ray only Sincerely, Ben Platt: Ben Platt reflects on finding his voice through a character that very much mirrored his own teenage experience, how that role brought him international acclaim and what bringing his run as the character Evan Hansen to an end ultimately feels like.

Dinner adds the comedy short Come To Dinner, an Original Theatrical Trailer and excellent featurette documentary on star Jean Harlow (beautifully hosted by Sharon Stone) titled Harlow: The Blonde Bombshell.

And Ivanhoe adds an Original Theatrical Trailer and the charming Academy Award-winning Tom & Jerry Technicolor cartoon short The Two Musketeers.

To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Dinner At Eight and Ivanhoe,

go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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