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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Comedy > Swimming > Dancing > Esther Williams – Volume One (Bathing Beauty/Easy To Wed/On An Island With You/Neptune’s Daughter/Dangerous When Wet/Warner Home Video)

Esther Williams – Volume One (Bathing Beauty/Easy To Wed/On An Island With You/Neptune’s Daughter/Dangerous When Wet/Warner Home Video)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Films: B-

 

 

In the Classical Hollywood era, the movies wanted to offer everything they could in variety, even when the scripts were so often formula.  This includes a cycle of musical comedies that were not afraid to be as exotic and outrageously glamorous as possible.  This not only included beautiful locales (even if much of the footage was shot on a soundstage), but was also a rare showcase for non-whites, who got the chance to somewhat override stereotypes even when they were not the stars.  Among these films were the lavishly-produced gems of Esther Williams, backed by the wealth of MGM film after film.

 

The new DVD box simply titles Esther Williams – Volume One features five of her best and most famous films, including Bathing Beauty (1944, with Red Skelton), Easy To Wed (1946, with Van Johnson, Keenan Wynn & Lucille Ball), On An Island With You (1948, with Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse & Jimmy Durante), Neptune’s Daughter (1949, with Montalban, Skelton & Betty Garrett) and Dangerous When Wet (1953, with Fernando Lamas and the brilliant live action/animation mix co-starring Tom & Jerry).  Unlike the other films of the cycle, of course, 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.

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a classic from Neptune’s Daughter that was a hit and won the Best Song Academy Award, while Easy To Wed remade the classic film Libeled Lady, but was not as good despite still being very watchable.  The grandest of the “aqua-ballets” have even been referenced all over the place about as much as Busby Berkeley sequences, all the way to Miss Piggy taking a dive in The Great Muppet Caper.  These films are meant to be great entertainment and are the likes of which we’ll never see again.  This set’s arrival is welcome.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image on each film varies slightly throughout, with most of the films originally issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor, though some look more vibrant than others.  The transfers look a bit older, but it is not like they are going to look as good on standard DVD as The Adventures Of Robin Hood looked on HD-DVD (or Blu-ray) as reviewed on this site, but the variations are not wild enough to separate any of them completely from the other.  The Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono on each film is not bad, but has its limits and can sometimes be trying in all cases.

 

Extras on all five discs include trailers (usually including the film on the disc) and two kinds of short: live action special interest and animated classics.  The animated shorts are either MGM or Warner classics.  Beauty also includes the terrific Robert Osborne interview installment with Williams on the great Private Screenings series from TCM, Daughter has outtake musical numbers and promotional radio interview with Williams.  Wet also has 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.

 

For now, these are all only available on this set, but they hold up very well, are surprisingly entertaining and have their share of classic moments.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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