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S.R.O. Entertainment presents
The Legendary Crooners (2007)

"Those fingers in my hair / That sly come hither stare / That strips my conscience bare / It's witchcraft."
- Frank Sinatra, inimitably

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: June 29, 2007

Stars: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Nat "King" Cole, Perry Como
Other Stars: Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, Louis Armstrong, Ann-Margret
Director: Marino Amoruso

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:04m:31s
Release Date: April 24, 2007
UPC: 032031424197
Genre: pop

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

There's never a bad reason to hear Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby sing, and Perry Como is just fine, too—and so it's the clips of this quintet that make this DVD worth checking out for fans of the great American songbook. This is, really, not much more than a quickie cut-and-paste job, but the tunes are very much worth listening to.

Director Marino Amoruso provides what's kind of a fatuous narration track, one that claims too much for the men who are the subject here—there are more superlatives in this one hour than you might have thought possible, and there are also a couple of relatively trite observations from a handful of music historians, comedian Pat Cooper, and journalist Gay Talese, among others. The DVD overstates the case for crooners—they haven't always existed, as it's more or less a style invented by Crosby, breaking from the more braying style of performers like Al Jolson and Rudy Vallee, and these days, crooners are strictly retro, not at the heart of popular culture. There's also a little bit of presumptuousness in referring to all five singers by their first names—it feels a little galling to refer to Sinatra simply as Frank, and I'd imagine that in his time, Mr. Sinatra would have let you know it.

But move past that quickly and get to the music. What we get is late Crosby, not the progressive jazz figure from early in his career, but the safer icon of later decades—in fact he doesn't get much time on his own here, first sharing the stage with Louis Armstrong on Now You Has Jazz, and then in an extended medley with Sinatra, featuring a late cameo from Bob Hope. These clips are very much of their time, peppered with Edsel references and Sputnik jokes; it's amazing how smooth and assured they are as performers, though, and everyone is in very good voice. Next is a series of clips of Como from his TV show, first in black and white and then color, and then with Miss Ann-Margret in Vegas; twinned with the clips of Dean Martin, in many respects this is an elegy for the television variety show. (We're frequently assured that Como was a titanic figure in popular entertainment, but up against the other four here, he seems a little out of his league.) Cole is in a couple of unfortunate production numbers—he sounds silky smooth, but looks a little unhappy about having to sing The Frim Fram Sauce on a set dressed up like a diner, for instance.

And finally there is Sinatra, the headliner in this most august group. His performance of Witchcraft is vintage, if a little overblown; and Armstrong reappears for a relatively sedate rendition of Birth of the Blues. These aren't epic performances or any of these singers at their best, but when they're lilting along to great melodies, everything seems just fine.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The clips generally look rather ragged; the transfer is serviceable, no more.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Lots and lots of static; the music is the reason to watch, and you can't help but wish that the audio quality was better.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A brief compilation of some of the finest singers of popular music from the middle of the last century.


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