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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musicals > Backstage > Soul > Funk > Disco > Pop > Vocal > Broadway Melody (1929*)/Dangerous When Wet (1953*)/Du Barry Was A Lady (1943*)/Instant Funk: The Albums 1976 - 1983 (Robinsongs**)/Spinout (1966/*MGM-Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Weather Girls Martha W

Broadway Melody (1929*)/Dangerous When Wet (1953*)/Du Barry Was A Lady (1943*)/Instant Funk: The Albums 1976 - 1983 (Robinsongs**)/Spinout (1966/*MGM-Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Weather Girls Martha Wash: Carry On The Deluxe Collection 1982 -1992 (SoulMusic Records/**both Cherry Red Records U.K. CD Sets)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Cherry Red Records Import CD sets now only available from our friends at that company from the links below, while all four Blu-ray discs now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Now for a fun set of new music release, four musicals of various types and two sets of soul albums from two underrated music acts...

We start with the groundbreaking hit music that proved you could deliver a whole feature film musical with sound. Harry Beaumont's Broadway Melody (1929) was a huge hit (impressive considering The Great Depression was at hand) and helped keep MGM the top studio in Hollywood as they featured their top talent of the time in a backstage musical that was just screaming glamour, behind-the-scenes drama and much more.

Holding up remarkably well for its age, the 'can they make it big?' tale is always entertaining, a time capsule in several ways and has really smooth pacing for its age too. Legendary Arthur Freed (who eventually had his own musicals unit at MGM) wrote all the songs here and they work well enough, and we get an almost love triangle between the characters played by Charles King, Anita Page and Bessie Love, solid stars in their time that deserve to be remembered more today than they are.

This was successful enough to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and spawn several sequels that we could technically call a movie series (see just below this) as MGM soon became the king producer of musicals. Not bad considering they had strong competition from other studios, but they pulled it off. Very nice to see the film that started it all holding up so well and surviving so well in this new restoration. If you go out of your way to see it, you'll be impressed too.

Extras include the shorts The Dogway Melody, Van & Schenck and five Metro Movietone Reviews, plus, for more on the sequels in the series, try these links:

1936 and 1938 on DVD


1940 Blu-ray


Charles Walters' Dangerous When Wet (1953, with Fernando Lamas and the brilliant live action/animation mix co-starring Tom & Jerry) was part of a first volume of Williams' films we covered in a DVD box set a good while ago. In that review, I noted...

''Miss Williams was a great swimmer in a way that added a grace and class to the activity that brought it a new sense of class and glamour never seen before and if you really think about it, since. The group dancing in her films even inspired the Olympic event known as Synchronized Swimming, which never looks silly in these films.''

One of her best films, it is always a curio because of the animated/live action Tom & Jerry sequence, made so again recently by the recent Tom & Jerry movie that was a moderate hit. Add the occasional new straight-to-home-video release and syndicated packages of their classics and appearances on the Boomerang and Cartoon Network channels and Wet eventually is seen again by a new group of people. The technology may be a little dated, but it isn still nicely done. Since The Great Muppet Caper is coming out on 4K disc and includes Miss Piggy in a Williams-inspired musical sequence, add more people who will want to see it.

So definitely, see it in this new restoration and you don't even have to wait for any other rereleases to inspire you.

Extras repeat an outtake musical number, more promotional radio interviews with Williams and the great Johnny Mercer's demo recordings of three of the film's songs, but this Blu-ray upgrade adds an Original Theatrical Trailer, the Pete Smith Specialty live-action short This Is A Living? and (in HD with lossy Dolby Digital Mono sound) classic Tom & Jerry Technicolor cartoon short The Cat and the Mermouse.

Roy Del Ruth's Du Barry Was A Lady (1943) is a somewhat underrated fantasy musical where the cast is transported into the past of a fantasy version of 18th Century France. It starts as an amusing love triangle between Gene Kelly, comic icon Red Skelton and Lucille Ball, when the studios felt she could still be one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Even then, people liked Lucy and her list of pre-TV A-movies impress to this day. Here, MGM wert all out and this might be the later Queen Of Comedy's most glamorous appearance of all time between her costumes, make-up and the often lavish sets.

The film starts like a backstage musical, already making fun of its situation and showing off the lush visuals to come, then someone has the wrong spiked drink and it throws us all back a few centuries. There are some decent songs (though none particularly stuck with me, they were better than your later Elvis Musical) and some moments are very funny. The performances are top notch, though the love triangle highly improbable.

Ultimately, it is the spectacle of it all, with Kelly and company trying to bring it down to earth (somewhat impossible with all the classic 'bling' present, but they try) and it is truly something to see now, especially so well restored all the way to its truly Glorious Technicolor. This is the kind of film everyone should see at least once just to appreciate its many strengths and see the cast in rare form at their best. Zero Mostel, Virginia O'Brien and Tommy Dorsey (also having some fun here) also star.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer and the MGM Technicolor cartoon Bah, Wilderness.

Instant Funk: The Albums 1976 - 1983 is an impressive new collection of the band that was also doing dance and soul music, but hit it big, along with Chic and Donna Summer, as part of a new cycle and wave of such genre acts with a dynamic new sound and the sonics to match. Recording for the iconic Salsoul label, their one massive hit ''I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)'' was #1 for three weeks on the R&B chart and just cracked the Top 20 on Billboard's Hot 100 at a time when richer black music of the time was not always charting on that chart so high.

But the band was something special and different from the start with their Get Down With The Philly Jump album featuring its provocative, iconic, sexually suggestive cover photograph. It still looks good and it was a great launch for the band, followed by the second blockbuster album that featured that huge hit and had a cover style that was popular at the time (the male band members half, hardly and/or barely dressed) in several genres. With the follow-up albums, they were still doing some of the disco style and when that ended, they quickly stayed with the funk sound, though their work soon after might remind one of Kool & The Gang or even more pop-oriented Earth, Wind and Fire.

They landed a few songs co-written by Philadelphia soul song legend Kenneth Gamble and more electronic sound was arriving ala The Gap Band, so they more than held their own as they moved forward and got out while they were still making decent music. Sadly, they were later too associated with disco and the band folded. Too bad, because maybe with some different producer or second surprise hit, they may have made more albums, but this is a music group worth revisiting and its nice to hear so much uncompromised music of both its genre and of its time.

A well-illustrated booklet is included with tech info, track listings and an outstanding, extensive essay by music scholar Charles Waring is the extra for this set, give or take bonus tracks.

Norman Taurog's Spinout (1966) is one of the later films we (and many others) refer to as an 'Elvis Musical' but many might ask what that is. Well, with the musical in decline as a genre, with the rise of Rock music challenging and taking over the entire music landscape (with Soul, Pop and even Country & Western not far behind) and most movie musicals bombing and not being very good (The Sound Of Music (1965) was a brief reprieve that got more bad musicals greenlit that bombed than reviving the genre) meant all kinds of other attempts at adding music to the moving image on the big screen were taking place.

After 12 feature films, mostly musicals up to Viva Las Vegas! (1963) with Elvis playing other characters in narrative releases, the formula films began and 17 of these films followed (though Change Of Habit (1969) was a change of pace in a religious-but-campy setting) and no matter how much money the films did or did not make, they ALL managed to make a profit making Elvis the only movie star in history to never have a money-losing feature film. They even recycled previous films, including Elvis as a race car driver again in the 1968 hit Speedway, but this time, his co-star was Nancy Sinatra in the default best of the rest of those films!

Here, he is opposite Shelley Fabares, Deborah Walley, Diane McBain and Una Merkel in another one of these formula romps. And the formula? Elvis plays a 'good guy' working in a blue-collar job, trying to catch a break and getting distracted by various pretty women in the process. Then what little narrative there is keeps getting interrupted by safe songs he sings all over the place that move what little story we get, are not very memorable, but also take place in an alternate universe of the 1960s that never existed. Then can he succeed in his blue collar goal and get the girl?

Still, it worked, even if it was a poor substitute for real musicals and though it was a moneymaker and kept all the older Elvis songs selling well enough for RCA Records, it nearly killed his legacy and reputation until his 1968 comeback saved his reputation, career and for a few years, his soul. This one is watchable at best, but not that memorable and the visual effects make it worse. At least there is some money in the clothes and sets. Carl Benz and Cecil Kellaway round out the supporting cast.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer and the MGM Technicolor Tom & Jerry Cartoons Catty Cornered and Filet Meow.

Finally, we have The Weather Girls Martha Wash: Carry On The Deluxe Collection 1982 - 1992 featuring the duo that was also known as ''Two Tons Of Fun'' including in their work with the disco singer known as Sylvester (whose hits include two iconic classic that hold up well today: ''Disco Heat'' and ''You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)'') and for delivering many reinterpretations of classic, established hits like ''I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair,'' ''Big Girls Don't Cry,'' and ''Laughter In The Rain,'' irony included.

Then there is their one big cult hit, co-written by David Letterman in-house band alumni Paul Schaffer, ''It's Raining Men'' and issued with a campy music video with male bodybuilders as big as the gals belting out the track. It was success enough and both Dynelle Rhodes and Martha Wash continued their winning ways after the duo called it quits, including the solo album by Wash also included in this set. Later still, it is Wash (and not the dancer in the music video that was a hit worldwide) belting out ''Everybody Dance Now!'' on the 1991 #1 worldwide smash ''Gonna Make You Sweat'' by C & C Music Factory.

That all adds up to some amazing singing in an amazing legacy that should be more than enough to have you seek out and listen to this set. Cheers to the SoulMusic label, who has been issuing superior CD sets of major music artists (including the likes of Dionne Warwick and The Spinners) doing for soul music what The Criterion Collection does for filmmaking. Definitely recommended!

Another well-illustrated booklet is included with tech info, track listings and an outstanding, extensive essay by music scholar Tim Dillinger is the extra for this set, give or take bonus tracks.

Now for playback performance. All four of the Warner Archive discs are from fully restored versions of their respective films and though you might see some softness or off shots at times, these are the best these have looked in a long time. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Broadway Melody is really impressive for a film from 1929 with some amazing depth, detail, Video Black, Video White and you can see the money on the screen here as well as how good the actors are in action.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Dangerous When Wet is a nice jump from the decent old DVD, while Du Barry Was A Lady has a bunch of demo shots throughout, MGM pushing color in everything from the production design to the costumes. Both were issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor and both impress in their won ways very much. Both top rate A-movies, its great to see two all-out productions looking like a million bucks again!

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Spinout was shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision and looks just fine for it and this one has Metrocolor, which may not be as lush as Technicolor, but this is not a lush movie either, sop the color is about as accurate as possible for as film that is trying (despite its constant rear projection and process shots) looking more natural than a classical Hollywood musical.

All four discs offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound from their original optical monophonic theatrical releases and sound as good as they ever will, though Spinout, despite being the newest of the four films, sounds a bit flatter and just not as good for whatever reasons.

The PCM 2.0 16/44.1kHz Stereo on both CD sets have often impressive sonics for the older audio format, but all songs in both sets are new, impressive and even remarkable remasters that sound like they are off of the original magnetic soundmasters and are a joy to listen to throughout. That is more impressive when you consider the hard the funk and soul beats get or how powerful the gals are as singers. No harmonic distortion or flaws in either set.

To order either of the Cherry Red Records U.K. CD sets, try the following links:

Instant Funk


Weather Girls


...and to order any or all four of the Warner Archive Blu-ray discs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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