On July 12th, there was a special one night only screening of the newly restored musical classic Singin’ in the Rain held at theaters across the country. If you couldn’t make it to the screening, Warner Home Video debuted the brand new 60th anniversary edition of the movie on Blu-ray July 17th! If you haven’t seen the movie before, or maybe have only seen it on TCM, this new edition is a stunning, must-have for all movie lovers.
The story of Singin’ in the Rain is simple, yet clever: it’s the dawn of the talking pictures era, The Jazz Singer has just become a huge hit, and the studios are scrambling to jump on the “All Talking! All Singing!” bandwagon. The newest Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly)/Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) costume drama is shut down until they can find a way to convert the silent film to a musical. The only problem is Lina Lamont, who has a high pitched, Brooklyn-inflected voice that’s perfect for silents. If people hear her actually speak (and Don always does the talking at premieres), it would destroy her career. Out of the blue, a cute, young songbird appears and captures Don’s fancy, and with the help of his friend Cosmo (Donald O’Connor), they convince the girl, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), to be the voice of Lina … and hilarity, romance, singing and dancing ensue.
The new Blu-ray edition treats the film with the respect it deserves, serving up a newly restored, 1080p high definition image that looks as fresh as the day it first unspooled in theaters 60 years ago. There’s not a scratch to be found, and the color is beautiful and stable (not an easy feat with the early Technicolor films — compare the color shifting on the trailer included on the disk). The sound has also been restored and remastered for today’s home theater systems with a terrific DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that is free of hiss, cracks, and pops and opens up the sound field just ever so delicately during the musical numbers. The surround speakers swell with the orchestra, but never obscures the dialogue or singing from the center speaker. Between the look of the image and the quality of the audio, this old movie looks and sounds remarkable. In addition to the English audio track, the Blu-ray includes French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Czech and Polish language tracks, with subtitles in English (for the hearing impaired), Swedish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish and Russian. There is also an audio commentary track featuring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann, and Rudy Behlmer (this is apparently cobbled together from various sources — including the documentary bonus features — and is a carry-over from the previous DVD release).
The Blu-ray also includes a new documentary, Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation, that features Matthew Morrison and Harry Shum, Jr., Adam Shankman, Rob Marshall, Paula Abdul, Usher, Corbin Bleu, and various choreographers discussing what an influence the movie was on their lives, on the art of dance in the movies, and on their careers. There are some interesting tidbits such as noticing how the dance numbers are shot in long takes with very little editing so you actually see the actors dancing, and offers nice tributes to cast members Kelly, Reynolds, O’Connor and Cyd Charisse. There is also a “Jukebox” feature which allows you to build a playlist of your favorite musical numbers from the movie to play in any order you like. An original theatrical trailer rounds out the disk.
The deluxe box set also includes the movie on DVD, with the same features as the Blu-ray except for the “Jukebox,” and English and Portuguese audio tracks, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. A third disk carries over the bonus features from the previous DVD including the PBS documentary Musicals Great Musicals (which is a feature-length film), What a Glorious Feeling: The Making of Singin’ in the Rain hosted by Debbie Reynolds, excerpts from the films in which the songs originated (most of the music for Singin’ in the Rain came from Arthur Freed and had been featured in previous musicals), an outtake of the “You Are My Lucky Star” number, a stills slide show, 26 audio tracks of various song takes and unused musical cues from the recording sessions, and an Easter Egg. There’s also a 48-page hard cover book with rare photos, mini reproductions of original lobby door posters, and an umbrella! There is also a single disk Blu-ray edition edition available as well.
Singin’ in the Rain is a bona fide classic as far as movie musicals are concerned, and its influence is still being felt in dance and music videos today. The film looks and sounds spectacular on Blu-ray, and the documentaries help you gain a better appreciation for the dancing, the hard work put into it by the cast and crew, and especially for star/choreographer/co-director Gene Kelly. This is one of those movies that should be in every home video collection.
This review is based on a retail copy of the deluxe edition provided to CliqueClack by Warner Home Video.