Singing in the Rain
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Singing in the Rain

Ever since high definition reached general acceptability in the home entertainment market the major studios have been re-releasing the most notable titles in their catalogs. Anniversary years are always a nice excuse for a special release; a factor that holds particularly true for the cult classic, big award winners or films special beloved by audiences. Lately there has been a little trend to revisit some of the most memorable Broadway musicals every translated into examples of cinema. Over the last couple of years ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘West side Story’ have not only been given the re-mastered Blu-ray treatment but the discs have been packaged in quite elaborate collector’s editions packed with extra content and rather interesting (faux) memorabilia. The latest Musical to achieve this apex of packaging is an American classic, ‘Singing in the Rain’. The rational fir the deluxe release is the sixtieth anniversary of the movie. Since 1952 this work of art has been an integral part of our cultural zeitgeist representing the epitome of the musical comedy. Two of the most famous numbers in the film; ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ were both honored with new interpretations of Fox television’s staple scripted musical series, ‘Glee’. The movie is a string of iconic moments that have been infused into our collective cultural consciousness that even younger viewers might recognize a few of the songs or performances. I admit I have a special place in my life for these films; they use to be among the favorites to watch with my late wife. This has been reflected in my storage of them. While the vast majority of my collection are removed from their pages and placed in books whose book and page numbers are noted in my data base, releases like this are given shelve space, on display in the open. Anyone with a sizable number of discs to contend with will know about this type of criteria. This collector’s edition is nestled between ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Ben Hur’ two of the more elaborate anniversary editions. As an initial comment about this title it will most likely find its way to the top shelf due to its formidable dimensions.

The film is credited with two directors; Stanley Donen and its staewr, Gene Kelly. Previously in 1949 he directed himself in his first opus in the big chair, ‘On the Town’. His co-director had quite an eclectic resume with a myriad of genres all of with he excelled in. he had several famous musicals including ‘Damn Yankees!’, ‘The Pajama Game’ and ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’. In the non musical side he helmed ‘Saturn 3’, and ‘Two for the Road’. Apparently Kelly contributed much to handling the direction, staging and choreography of the musical numbers. Although it never quite caught on with the critics of its time it is now widely acclaimed as one of the best musicals ever crafted coming in at number one in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Musical’s.

Admittedly the details of the plot are somewhat dated but the underlying themes are enduring. Kelly plays Don Lockwood., a former star in silent movies trying to make the transition to the talkies. Considering the Oscar win for ‘The Artist’ this year the plot point as undergone a revival. Don is the typical young man from humble origins that built a career for himself as a dancer and stunt man. The studio is trying to promote his latest movie by pushing him into the spotlight with his leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), as good an actor as Don may be he finds it difficult to conform with the executive edict romantically linking him to Lina. He find her so shallow and self adsorbed he can hardly tolerate being next to her. While escaping a horde of fans Don leaps into a passing car and meets Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), who claims to be an actress, the truth come out later when she jumps out of a giant cake revealing she is a chorus girl. We’ve all seen this scene before but remember this was sixty years ago and helped create the trope. You should also note by know you have what has become the foundation for most romantic comedies that followed; handsome man caught between two women, one everyone wants him to be with and one he wants. All we need is the obligatory sidekick expertly provided in the person of Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor). What kicks the plot into high gear is when the studio discovers Lina could carry a tune in as truck and is forced to hire Kathy to dub her voice.

A film of this emotional and historic value deserves something special to commemorate its sixtieth anniversary. To start with the film was re-mastered using a 4K scan of the original vaulted three strips- Technicolor negatives which gives you a degree of clarity and detail unimaginable with any previous release. I have seen this movie countless times in formats ranging from the theater to DVD and this is like watching it for the first time. The color balance is reference quality with a contrast tuned to perfection. The music is brought to life with a robust DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that literally fills the room. Among the over four hours of supplemental material there is a new documentary: ‘Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation’, present in high definition.

The hefty box set also includes:

bulletA full-size commemorative umbrella
bulletA 48-page hard cover book, with never-before-seen production memos, and, photos, reproductions of the original theatrical posters from the film’s premier
bulletSingin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation: All-new Documentary presented in High Definition on Blu-ray
bulletCommentary by Stanley Donen, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, and film historian Rudy Behlmer
bulletGreat Performances: Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM, a 1996 PBS documentary about the career of producer/songwriter Arthur Freed
bulletThe Making of Singin’ in the Rain
bulletYou are My Lucky Star: Outtake musical number.
bulletNacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed Film Excerpts (a collection of 12 film clips from earlier films with Freed/Brown songs
bulletScoring Stage Session Cues
bulletStills gallery
bulletTheatrical trailer

 

Posted 07/09/12

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