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Paramount Home Video presents
Red Garters (1954)

Sheila Winthrop: Do you usually welcome guests to your community by such a disgraceful exhibition as we just witnessed?
Calaveras Kate: Wha'dya expect on the spur of the moment? A massacre?

- Joanne Gilbert, Rosemary Clooney

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: September 07, 2005

Stars: Rosemary Clooney, Jack Carson, Guy Mitchell
Other Stars: Pat Crowley, Gene Barry, Cass Daley, Joanne Gilbert
Director: George Marshall

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (gun play)
Run Time: 01h:30m:56s
Release Date: September 06, 2005
UPC: 097360531442
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BA-A- D-

DVD Review

Every studio, at some point or other, has released a film that might have made you scratch your head and wonder what motivated such a decision. This release fits that description, but in the "pleasant surprise" category. A lesser-known musical from 1954, Red Garters fuses attractive Technicolor, marvelous set design, and some good performances into an entertaining film. The music isn't too bad either, with Rosemary Clooney in brassy form as the female lead.

Red Garters satirizes the western, with some fairly humorous touches, and a sly jab at the idea of a genre built around the idea of people shooting each other for entertainment. Set in the fictional Limbo County, California, a stranger in a form-fitting, creamy white outfit (Guy Mitchell) rides into what looks like an abandoned town. The one resident left is a young boy who, he tells the stranger, has been left behind for "shooting up the schoolhouse," a joke much edgier now than it ever would have been in 1954. Turns out the townsfolk are at a barbeque, which they throw every time someone in Limbo gets shot up. The victim this time around is Robin Randall, generally held to be a no-good dirtbag. Our stranger, revealed as Robin's brother Reb, has come to town to find out who killed his brother, in order to shoot him. Why, you ask, if brother was such a bum? Because it's the code of the West! (Doff your hat here.) The men of the town doffing their hats every time the code of the West is mentioned is just one of the amusing touches inserted by scriptwriter Michael Fessier.

The film's main claim to a lasting fame resides in the art direction of Roland Anderson and Hal Pereira. Filmed entirely indoors, Red Garters lives in a world of heightened artificiality, with the western town built only as white wood frames. Characters walk through doors as if walls were actually there to impede them, but it resembles a skeletal stage set more than anything else. Golden sand covers the ground, and the same hue represents the sky. Indoors, different colors represent different parts of the town; the inside of the saloon features a lusty dark red backdrop, and the inside of the hotel rooms are sky blue. It's striking to see the "inside" of Reb's room, with a roof-edged window frame seemingly hanging in mid-air. The Edith Head and Yvonne Wood costumes are similarly eye-catching, with an array of vivid colors and patterns on display, including the titular red garters of Clooney and her showgirls. The overall effect is striking, and maybe the only way such a script would have ever worked as well as it does.

The satire underpinning the film remains interesting. Limbo County commodifies violence and perpetuates it, turning violent death into something to celebrate endlessly. When Reb and the obligatory (but not so bad) man in black, Rafael Moreno (Gene Barry), are slated to duel it out but are stopped by Kate (Clooney), the disappointment of the townsfolk is only alleviated when the two are convinced to live up to the code of the West (doff your hat) and shoot it out again. That prompts a frenzy of happy activity, including a lively betting line, until Kate takes matters into her own hands again. The ending somewhat cops out on a complete endorsement of nonviolence, as the imminent hanging of the real villain cheers everyone up fairly quickly. The message then seems to be state-sponsored killings are okay, but wild vigilante action isn't. It's a bit confused, and maybe I want to read too much into it, but there is a definite law and order message here.

In the end though, there is spectacle and fun to be had here, with the cast generally turning in fine to decent performances. Clooney and Mitchell sing a bit better than they act, and Clooney gets to show off her vocals to a handful of Ray Evans and Jay Livingston songs. Evans and Livingston wrote such classic tunes as Que Sera, Sera, Silver Bells, and Mona Lisa, but don't match any of those standards here. The songs are pleasant if not especially memorable. The dance sequences are pretty well done as well. The only negative in terms of performance (and script) is the unfunny Indian woman, Minnie (a face-painted Cass Daley), who gurns her way through some unfunny comedy.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: This Technicolor production jumps off the screen with vivid colors, though the darker solid colored backgrounds look a bit unstable, with some light artifacting present at times. Otherwise, this looks extremely nice.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track sounds punchy and clean. The musical numbers sound very good. No complaints here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: None, unless you count chapter stops and English subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A glossy Technicolor treat, Red Garters spoofs the Western and has a good time doing it. Paramount's DVD is bare bones, but the film itself looks pretty good.


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