Classic movie musicals sparkle on Blu-ray
MGM produced the best movie musicals of the 1950s and now Warner Brothers presents ‘The Band Wagon,’ ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (in 3D!) and Warner’s own ‘Calamity Jane’ on Blu-ray for the first time. And the wait was worth it.
Any die hard movie musical fan knows that MGM produced most of the greatest musicals of all time in the 1950s. The Arthur Freed Unit became the touchstone of musicals with productions ranging from The Wizard of Oz in 1939 to Bells Are Ringing in 1960. While the 1940s was a productive decade for Freed, the 1950s gave us some of the most beloved, classic musicals of all time.
Now, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has taken two of these MGM classics, plus one from the Warner Brothers library, and has given them a good scrubbing for Blu-ray and the results are astonishing. Best of all, you can purchase your favorite film as a stand-alone disk or get them all in the new Musicals: 4-Movie Collection. The three new titles are The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane, and Kiss Me Kate. Warners has added Singin’ in the Rain as a bonus to the 4-disk set.
The first movie in the collection is The Band Wagon (1953) starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan. The story follows a nearly washed up Hollywood actor (Astaire) who decides to head to Broadway to see if he can untarnish his star in a big stage musical (shades of the Oscar-winning Birdman!). An egotistical director hijacks the frothy musical and turns it into a depressing version of Faust, ensuring a huge flop but the cast bands together to save the show.
The film is very entertaining, and it allows Astaire to take on a different character than we’re used to seeing from him. No top hat and tails this time around, but his dancing is still on point, especially in the scene where he dances with a shoe shine man (who was a real shoe shine man in New York). Cyd Charisse is stunning as always and is simply magnificent to watch in what was her first real starring role. The film also introduced Broadway star Nanette Fabray to movie audiences in what was, surprisingly, her only MGM musical. The movie also has a great score, but it’s most well-known for introducing “That’s Entertainment” as THE song about showbiz, supplanting the standard “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
The film looks terrific on Blu-ray. The image is bright and colorful but still has a film-like quality to it with an appropriate amount of film grain. The 1080p image(presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio) has not been completely scrubbed of any detail, and the soundtrack has been given a nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix that keeps the dialog and singing front and center, allowing the orchestra to swell, but never overwhelm, from the surrounds.
Bonus features include:
- Commentary by Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein
- Get Aboard! The Band Wagon (37:09) — A vintage “making of” looking at the production of the film with many behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the film’s stars, crew and family members.
- The Men Who Made the Movies: Vincente Minnelli (58:25) — An episode of the WNET series focusing on Minnelli.
- Jack Buchanan with the Glee Quartet (6:00) — Comedic musical short film starring Band Wagon c0-star Buchanan.
- The Three Little Pups (6:46) — MGM cartoon featuring Droopy Dog in a variation of The Three Little Pigs.
- Theatrical Trailer (3:14)