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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"I need a goddess and a goddess comes out of nowhere".
DVD ReviewThe year is 1947. Arguably at the peak of her career following the release of Gilda, Rita Hayworth garnered notices for more than her trademark beauty in a role that proved there was a real actress underneath that pretty face. In today's Hollywood, most in such an enviable career position tend to carefully choose a follow-up film comparing favorably to a breakout performance.
But back in the day, many didn't have that option. Unless one had the clout of Bogart, Davis, or Hepburn, you sometimes had to do the movie equivalent of a homework assignment. Or at least that's what I hope dictated the screen goddess' choosing of Down to Earth, a so-so musical fantasy that in concept sounds like a really cute idea: putting Rita in the custom-fitted role of Terpsichore, the goddess of song and dance. But as our heavenly journey begins, she's not exactly itching to break out into a production number. Unhappy about the way she's being portrayed ("a man-chasing trollop!") in Swinging the Trees, a low-rent Broadway musical down on earth, she demands to see Mr. Jordan.
Yes, that Mr. Jordan from a much funnier film of a few years back—the celestial coordinator in charge of correcting an occasional upstairs blunder—but Terpsichore's dilemma falls a little outside the standard requirements. However, a little charm goes a long way as Terpsie sweet talks her way into a one-way ticket to the Big Apple with dependable Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton) along for the ride. Not wasting a moment once on the ground, she soon makes a big impression in an impromptu audition that wins over producer Daniel Miller (Larry Parks) and the entire company, save for one very angry dancer (Adele Jergens), who was to have portrayed the very lady standing before her.
A very odd film with little more than the charm of its leading lady going for it, Down to Earth is, to put it simply and succinctly, a mess. A semi-sequel (loosely based as a follow up to Here Comes Mr. Jordan) that's kind of a musical with a romance at the center in which the principles take forever to get together, after making its audience sit through an endless array of bratty cat 'n' mouse.
Sounds like a great date night rental, doesn't it?
Still, my lukewarm attitude toward the movie decreases during those precious few moments when Hayworth takes center stage in production numbers that showcase her incredible hoofing abilities. Seeing the joy emerging from her face during those sequences, I couldn't help but ponder what turns her career might have taken had she been able to escape the iron grip of Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn on occasion. One can only imagine the heights she could have attained in an MGM production under the tutelage of Arthur Freed or Busby Berkely or even Gene Kelly (whom Rita shared nice chemistry with in the far superior Cover Girl).
Interesting trivia note: Earth served as an inspiration for the 1980 Olivia Newton-John songfest Xanadu, which fared a little better musically, if not artistically.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: An absolutely, gorgeously warm transfer taken from a nearly immaculate print. Save for a very brief instance of frame damage in the opening moments of Chapter 12, this is Technicolor scrumptiousness; if only the lion's share of Columbia's vault offerings looked this good.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Standard dual-channel mono that sounds super crisp during moments of dialogue but slightly distorts when certain musical numbers pop up; very strange. My feeling is either some performances might have been recorded a little hot or the levels weren't set properly as the master print was assembled back then. Not too much of an annoyance, but noticeable.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Gilda, You Were Never Lovelier, You'll Never Get Rich
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: Unless trailers make you salivate (and the one for Gilda might inspre you to do so), nothing worth writing home about.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsProbably only of note for Rita Hayworth fans, Down to Earth will likely fail to enchant anyone else. Weak tunes, Park's bland performance, and a sleep-inducing storyline are far from being heaven sent.
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