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Image Entertainment presents
"I always dress appropriately and impeccably for all occasions. I would show you a snapshot of myself in a G-string, taken at Simm-La, with a flying wombat, dingo dog and a wily platypus."
DVD ReviewAmerican Movie Classics and Fox take another dive into Fox's vaults. Here they surface with a number of deleted musical sequences and comedy scenes featuring some of the great names in entertainment. Joan Collins is again the host on this go round.
Sizable chunks of the program are devoted to deleted sequences from Footlight Serenade and Four Jills in a Jeep. Betty Grable shines in a deleted production number cut from the finale of the first film, featuring some highly energetic and well-coordinated mass tap dancing. In addition, there is an excerpt of Grable's duet with Victor Mature, of all people, who was at one time being turned into a song and dance man! Four Jills and a Jeep had two complete musical sequences cut, and they're presented here in nice condition.
A lengthy harem production number to The Sheik of Araby from Tin Pan Alley that was scissored by the Hays Office for too much skin is reconstructed here. Several different takes are used, with one adding an extended dance routine from the Nicholas Brothers. Alice Faye is featured prominently, being one of Fox's premier contract players in the 1940s. She not only performs a cut musical number from Rose of Washington Square, but she's also seen doing silent comedy homages with Buster Keaton in outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage from Hollywood Cavalcade. Though Keaton was not really a pie thrower in the silents, he was willing to take on that role, which stuck him with that reputation for the rest of his life. A brief snippet of Keaton directing, as well as numerous interesting outtakes are here. Those who collect rare shots of The Great Stone Face smiling will be pleased to learn that Keaton has a big grin in one shot included here.
Ginger Rogers is best known for pairing with Fred Astaire, but she gets a solo number here doing the Charleston in a bit cut from the final version of Roxie Hart. This is also preceded by some intriguing outtakes of Rogers not quite getting launched properly, indicating just how difficult it was to pull off all of these production numbers. Not quite a dancer, but definitely balletic, was skater Sonja Henie, who made a string of highly successful pictures in the late 1930s and 1940s that managed to feature a skating sequence somewhere. One that didn't make it into the picture is included here. Another novelty act, Carmen Miranda, is featured in two cut segments, including her signature tune Mama Yo Quiero.
The Ritz Brothers don't have much of a reputation today, and the bits restored here probably won't do much to remedy that. However, their comic rendition of Minnie the Moocher strikes me as one of the highlights of their comedic career. Similarly, some comic numbers by Danny Kaye cut from On the Riviera, a wild version of Begin the Beguine and a Borge-like imitation of a German concert singer, are little gems that are definitely worth looking at.
However, the highlight of the production is the legendary cut sequence from Tales of Manhattan. Although it's a reconstruction from dailies and not the actual cut footage (apparently held in a private collection), the result holds together quite well and I have to rank it among the best work Fields ever did. Brazen and acerbic, his wit runs wild in a little tale of a temperance Professor giving a lecture on the evils of Demon Rum to a group that has been given spiked cocoanut milk. An earlier section, pitting Fields' impeccable draw against the withering fast talk of Phil Silvers, is a gem of comedy. The one unfortunate aspect of the sequence is that in the various outtakes featuring Fields ad libbing furiously, Collins and other talking heads are jabbering over him. Please, hosts and commentators, stay out of the way. But that's the single serious flaw in the presentation.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture is quite attractive. The source material is in surprisingly nice condition for the most part, though I expect there has been a good deal of restoration done here. The program includes demonstrations of digital restoration methods, so it would be natural for them to be used here. In any event, the black & white and color pictures looks terrific for the most part, with plenty of detail and good black levels and graytones. The few color segments are nicely brought back out of their pink state into something approximating Technicolor.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono sounds quite good considering the age of much of this material. Obviously a good deal of effort went into cleaning this up. The one drawback is that there are some segments (mostly those that appear to be using temp music tracks) that are plagued by a very low frequency rumble; only quite powerful subwoofers are likely to reveal it, but it's definitely there. Otherwise there's not much distortion and decent frequency extension.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Nothing at all. The chaptering could be a little more generous; sometimes multiple topics are covered in a single chapter, which is a little irritating.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA terrific little compilation of cut musical and comedy sequences from the Fox vaults, highlighted by an extended cut segment featuring W.C. Fields. Picture quality is surprisingly good, and the sound isn't bad, but there are no extras at all.
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