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A&E Home Video presents
The Rat Pack (1999)

"They were five mortal men, to who we gave immortality."
- Narrator (Danny Aiello)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 29, 2001

Stars: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin
Other Stars: Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Jerry Lewis
Director: Carole Langer

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:57m:26s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 733961703016
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

A&E has a knack for assembling first-rate documentaries, and this two-disc release of their 1999 presentation of The Rat Pack does not disappoint. As someone who missed the 1950s' golden era of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., I found this collection to be an excellent snapshot that documents the glitzy lifestyles of these larger-than-life personalities.

The Rat Pack combines four separate episodes of A&E's Biography, with two episodes per disc. Each episode is complete with fade-to-black for commercial insertion, and all are narrated by Danny Aiello. The fascinating archive footage and stock photos are interspersed with modern-day interviews with Angie Dickinson, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Sonny King, Keely Smith, and Pat Cooper, among others.

The Early Years (43m:40s)
Beginning in 1950 Hollywood, Humphrey Bogart began the very first The Rat Pack. Consisting of some of the biggest movie stars in America, Bogie's Rat Pack was designed to fight the tyranny of the studio system. The studios had all the big stars under contract, and they had little say so in what type of projects they were given. Bogart's group fought the control of the studio heads, and one of the original members was Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's Atlantic City roots are explored, as well as his affiliation with powerful mobster Skinny D'Amato. Dean Martin's chance meeting with Jerry Lewis, in a move that would launch both of their faultering careers, is introduced, as well as the critical first meeting of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Sinatra's battle against racism, which would span more than a decade, begins as a result of his working with Sammy. The career of Rat Packer Peter Lawford, who would eventually become intimately involved in the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, is also discussed.

The Road To Vegas (47m:23s)
The second episode spans the volatile early 1950s' period, when the team of Martin and Lewis shot to stardom, and nearly collapsed on itself. Sinatra's temporary rise and fall is the focal point here, and culminates with his extra-marital dalliances with film goddess Ava Gardner (referred to on the chapter selection as "Eva"), which would soon lead to a long-standing feud between Lawford and Ol' Blue Eyes.

The Summit (45m:37s)
Beginning in 1954, the third installment delves into the glory that was the Las Vegas years, when Sinatra, Davis, Martin and Lawford had the world by the short hairs. Joey Bishop, the fifth member of The Rat Pack, is inducted here, yet he merits very little mention during the duration of the documentary. Even his photo on the cover is almost unrecognizable. This is the most exciting of the four episodes, as it covers the final breakup of Martin and Lewis, Sammy's accident that cost him an eye, and the literal distinction of The Rat Pack as being run by the growing power of Sinatra. The episode ends with production beginning on Ocean's Eleven, and the legendary series of Las Vegas performances by The Rat Pack referred to historically as The Summit.

Camelot And Beyond (41m:36s)
This is the darkest of the four episodes, starting in 1960 and running quickly through 1973. The Rat Pack's involvement in the election of John F. Kennedy, and Sinatra's continued involvement with organized crime are the primary topics. The opening of Ocean's Eleven, and the subsequent production of two more Rat Pack movies (Sergeant's Three and Robin And The Seven Hoods) is presented, but pale when linked with such mob heavyweights as Sam Gianncana, Frank Costello and the ever present Skinny D'Amato.

As with all stories of fame and success, the downward spiral always occurs eventually and The Rat Pack's splintering seems even more tragic when condensed over a three hour period. But it looked like a fun ride.

I wish I could have been there.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Rat Pack is presented in a full-frame 1.33:1 transfer, and overall looks very good. Much of the archival footage is grainy and nicked, but that only adds to the mood. The interview segments are nothing more than straight talking head shots, with consistent flesh tones.

The Rat Pack image transfer will certainly look better than it did when it was broadcast, due to the inconsistencies in regional cable signal transmissions.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: A&E has released The Rat Pack with an English 2.0 mix. The hip big band soundtrack sound luxurious, and Danny Aiello's narration is rich and clear, as are the interview segments. Of course, some of the old footage has a tinny, hissy audio, but that is to be expected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: No extras at all.

The episodes have 6 chapter stops each.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A&E's The Rat Pack is the perfect way to take a look at an era that we will never see the likes of again. Mix a double batch of martinis and enjoy.



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