Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell
Betty Comden, Adolph Green
What a Glorious Feeling!
Nominated for Supporting Best Actress-Jean Hagen; Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German DTS-HD MA 1.0
Castillian Spanish Monaural
Runtime: 103 min.
Release Date: 7/17/2012
• Audio Commentary With Co-director Stanley Donen, Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, Film Historian Rudy Behlmer, and Actors Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, and Kathleen Freeman
• “Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation” Documentary
• Theatrical Trailer
• “Musicals Great Musicals” Documentary
• “What a Glorious Feeling” Documentary
• “Excerpts From Features Where the Songs Originated”
• “You Are My Lucky Star” Outtake
• Photo Gallery
• Scoring Stage Sessions
• “Singin’ Inspirations” Film Clips
• DVD Copy
• Hardcover Book
• Reproductions of the Original 1952 Theater Display Posters
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Singin' In the Rain: 60th Anniversary Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1952)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 10, 2012)
There's always been one movie musical that I really liked despite my generally negative opinion of the format: 1952's Singin' In the Rain. Why does this one stand out to me? A lot of it has to do with the interesting story. Too many musicals - such as Gigi - discard any kind of substantial plot and just toss out a lot of tunes in their place. Also, a lot of these films have excessive numbers of song and dance routines, many of which grind the narrative to a halt. I thought Oliver! and West Side Story suffered from those flaws.
Rain, on the other hand, creates a nice balance between story and songs, with only one exception that I'll discuss later. The tale largely focuses on a budding romance between movie star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and aspiring actress/singer Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), but it does so against an unusual backdrop: the transition of films from silents to "talkies". It's a clever tactic that makes the picture much more interesting than the regular "boy meets girl" fare. Although it's clear the movie takes an unrealistic and cartoonish viewpoint of the era, I loved all of the material about the silent films and the problems their creators encountered when the move to sound occurred.
It's this plot path that makes the story work, since the film's not limited to the usual romantic schmaltz. Granted, it's virtually inevitable that Don and Kathy will become a couple; we know this the second they lock eyes. However, since the movie involves so much other action that we're treated to many different elements. As such, if romance isn't your thing, you’ll find something else upon which you can hang your hat.
Rain was acted and shot in a pretty cartoony, broad manner. Normally I'd consider that a negative, but it works well in this instance. Even though the silent days weren't all that far in the past when Rain was made, they existed long enough ago to already seem semi-mythical, and the movie treats them as such. Rain half-spoofs, half-salutes those years, and the combination works nicely; it doesn’t treat the silent era with excessive reverence, but we sense affection toward it, so the mockery doesn't come across as mean-spirited.
Much of the reason Rain seems so good stems from the cast. Kelly was never better than as Lockwood; he combines mild celebrity arrogance with his usual "boy next door" charm and creates an endearing yet still believable character. His chemistry with his co-stars is always solid; he and Reynolds hit it off especially well, and the moment in which they finally solidify their relationship is happily touching.
I like Donald O'Connor as Lockwood's lifelong friend Cosmo, though he chews a little more scenery than I'd prefer. Best of the supporting batch, however, is clearly Jean Hagen as shrill-voiced actress Lina Lamont. The vast majority of the memorable non-musical moments belong to her as she creates a hilariously over-the-top harpy with a voice that'd irritate Fran Drescher; I never fail to laugh when the diction coach tries to get her to say “I can’t stand him”. Hagen offers a terrific comedic presence who amuses with almost everything she says; she boasts virtually perfect comedic timing.
So how about those musical numbers, anyway? As I noted, those are the parts of these kinds of movies I dislike the most, but while I can't say really care for the music in Rain, I do feel that the tunes are much more enjoyable than most.
Rain probably features the same percentage of running time devoted to songs as most other musicals, but it sure doesn't feel that way. Many of the numbers seem pretty superfluous to the plot - musicals tend to toss out songs just for the heck of it - but they integrate fairly nicely into the story. Best of the bunch remains the stellar title song, with its career-defining solo dance for Kelly, but quite a few other tunes fit in nicely with the plot and don't feel "tacked on", unlike most of this film's brethren.
The one significant deviation from this rule comes from the "Broadway Melody", an exceedingly long musical number that strives to out-do the famous ending dance from 1951’s An American In Paris. Not coincidentally, that film - which appeared one year prior to Rain - starred Kelly, who also choreographed both pictures. I couldn't stand the big dance number at the end of Paris, but it remains famous and beloved by many, and it clearly made a big splash at the time. Through the "Broadway Melody", Kelly creates a production number highly reminiscent of that from the earlier film.
It seems equally as dull and useless, in my opinion. Actually, it may serve even less purpose, since the piece in Paris at least relates to the movie's plot. The "Broadway Melody" exists just to replicate previous glory, and I think it's a complete failure. It grinds the plot to a total stop for more than 13 minutes, but it becomes tedious long before the end of that period.
That's too bad, as the "Broadway Melody" provides the only significant flaw in what is otherwise a very funny, fresh and entertaining little movie. Even with the “Melody”, I still really like Singin' In the Rain, as it remains bright and perky after 60 years. Even if you detest musicals, this one's worth a look; it won't persuade you to embrace the genre, but you'll like it anyway.
Something odd I never noticed until many screenings: during the montage of tunes that illustrates how “talkies” took over Hollywood, pay close attention to the song performed by the dude with the megaphone. The melody sounds exactly like the “Itchy and Scratchy” theme song from The Simpsons!
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus A
Singin' In the Rain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie offered a strong presentation.
Overall definition was good. Will Rain deliver consistently razor-sharp imagery? No – it could look a smidgen soft at times. However, that wasn’t unusual for Technicolor productions, so the light softness matched what I expected of the format. Clarity was good at worst even with those instances, so I felt pleased with sharpness.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and edge enhancement remained absent. I saw good natural grain structure and no obvious signs of noise reduction. As for print flaws, I saw virtually no examples of grain, speckles, grit, or other defects during this clean presentation.
Colors looked absolutely lovely, with some genuinely eye-popping hues at times. Rain was a bright and peppy movie and the disc often showed off these hues to great effect. As usual with Technicolor, skin tones could be a little brown, but the vivacity of other tones more than compensated, as the hues were usually delightful.
Black levels appeared consistently strong, with deep and rich dark tones. Shadow detail seemed clear, with appropriate opacity but no signs of excessive heaviness. Rain looked great in this satisfying presentation.
The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack slightly opened up the original monaural audio. The soundstage presented the songs with mild stereo separation, and the score also spread modestly to the rear channels on occasion.
Other than that, however, the track remained largely monaural as far as I could tell; I heard few instances in which any audio other than music emanated from the side and surround speakers. And you know what? That's fine with me. I liked the fact that the track broadened the music but kept the rest of the sound fairly true to the original.
Audio quality appeared fine for the era. Dialogue was a little thin and tinny but seemed clear and intelligible throughout the film; it displayed no signs of edginess or roughness. Effects were clean and acceptably realistic without any distortion. The music appeared a bit too bright with only minor bass response, but it largely sounded acceptable. Background noise wasn’t an issue. This wasn’t a great track, but it seemed satisfactory for its age.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2002 Special Edition DVD? Audio demonstrated mild improvements at best, as there just wasn’t a lot of room for growth when it came to 60-year-old source material.
In a negative move, the Blu-ray omits the film’s original monaural soundtrack. That mix appeared on the 2002 DVD, so I don’t know why it got the boot here.
Visuals showed the expected step up from the DVD. The Blu-ray gave us more dynamic colors as well as superior definition. Although I felt pleased with the DVD, the Blu-ray delivered a more satisfying presentation.
This “60th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” package includes most of the 2002 DVD’s extras. We open with an audio commentary from co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann, film historian Rudy Behlmer, and actors Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, and Kathleen Freeman. Hosted by Reynolds, the edited track combines remarks from separately recorded interviews. At times these reflect on the action we see onscreen, but much of the time the participants cover other related subjects. I like that format, but some folks hate it, so if you fall into the latter category, enter this commentary forewarned.
Overall, I feel the track offers a lot of good information. Not surprisingly, historian Behlmer - the veteran of many excellent commentaries - gives us the highest amount of concrete facts. He tosses out a great deal of useful material that helps us to understand how this classic got to the screen. The others contribute more personal recollections, and they generally do so well. We hear about how O’Connor created his solo number and how Kelly ran Reynolds ragged to get her dancing up to snuff. Comden and Green also relate the manner in which they came up with the story. All that and much more appears in this light and lively piece.
I do have one major complaint about this commentary: the nature of Reynolds’ involvement in it. She hosts the track, which means she mainly identifies each speaker. She tosses in a few minor remarks about the production, but she adds no other information. All of her factoids seem generic and not specific to her participation.
This appears bizarre. Reynolds was one of the film’s lead performers, yet she tells us absolutely nothing about her experiences in it. Cyd Charisse reveals more about Reynolds’ work than Debbie herself does! Whose brilliant idea was it to use one of the movie’s stars in a strictly introductory capacity? Brad Pitt acted as the host of the commentary for the old Criterion Se7en laserdisc, but he still provided his own remarks as well; that same motif should’ve occurred here.
In addition to the film’s trailer, Disc One provides a new documentary called Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation. It runs 50 minutes, 43 seconds and includes notes from Behlmer, Glee choreographer/producer Zachary Woodlee, choreographers John DeLuca, Michael Rooney, Charles Klapow, Chicago director/choreographer Rob Marshall, Hairspray director/choreographer Adam Shankman, Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann, Across the Universe screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, film historian Sam Wasson, musicians/dancers Usher and Paula Abdul, and actors Harry Shum, Jr., Corbin Bleu, and Matthew Morrison.
“Generation” offers a mix of modern-day appreciation for Rain as well as some production facts about the flick. Overall, the program mixes those two moments well. While we get the expected gushy fan notes, I do like that we learn about the film’s modern influence, and we get to see a variety of homages from recent years. Although I wouldn’t call this an essential documentary, it works better than most of its ilk.
Disc One also offers a Jukebox. This essentially acts as a song-specific form of chapter search, though it comes with the ability to save your selections and program the soundtrack. This means you can listen to whatever songs you like in whatever order you prefer.
Disc Two literally replicates DVD Two from the 2002 SE. First we find Musicals Great Musicals, a one-hour, 26-minute, three-second documentary that focuses on MGM producer Arthur Freed and his career. The program mixes clips from his many musicals with some archival material and interviews. In the latter category, we hear from Arthur Freed biographer Hugh Fordin, director Stanley Donen, composer Andre Previn, writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, choreographer Michael Kidd, actor Mickey Rooney, Freed’s daughter Barbara Saltzman, director Vincente Minnelli (recorded in 1973), screenwriter Irving Brecher, dancer Ann Miller, Freed’s secretary Mildred Kaufman, actor Gene Kelly (from 1976), vocal arranger/music director Saul Chaplin, and actresses Cyd Charisse and Leslie Caron.
”Musicals” provides a fascinating look at Freed and the rise and fall of the movie musical. His career paralleled and strongly influenced the genre, so as we learn about Freed, we also see how the format developed. While the program discusses many of his films, it offers a heavier look at some of the more prominent flicks. This means reasonably substantial information about The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Annie Get Your Gun, On the Town, An American In Paris, Singin’ In the Rain, and Gigi. While mostly positive, the show gives us insight into some problems. We see how Freed tried to protect Judy Garland, and that section features some fascinating abandoned footage of her stint on Annie Get Your Gun. We also watch the decline of the movie musical and Freed’s attempts to branch out into other genres. I really enjoyed this brisk and very informative documentary.
Another documentary appears next. Hosted by Debbie Reynolds, What a Glorious Feeling lasts 35 minutes, 33 seconds and includes the usual package of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. In the latter domain, we hear from the exact same crew that appeared during the audio commentary. In fact, it seems pretty likely that the material heard there came from the same sessions that appear during this documentary.
”Feeling” starts with a general history of the advent of talkies and the career of Arthur Freed; this means it covers some of the same territory seen during “Musicals”, though it zips through those topics very quickly and offers them solely as background for Rain. We then get lots of good information about the production, as Reynolds leads us through the filming in fairly chronological order. Some of the same stories from the commentary and “Musicals” repeat here, but “Feeling” includes quite a bit of new material, and it conveys these details in a lively and compelling manner. Happily, we finally get to hear notes from Reynolds herself, who provides useful and interesting remarks about her participation. Overall, “Feeling” offers a relatively short but entertaining documentary.
A very cool addition, Excerpts From Features Where the Songs Originated shows older performances of 12 Rain tunes. Via the “Play All” function, this lasts a total of 50 minutes, 12 seconds. We get brief introductory text for each number before we get a chance to watch it. This provides a terrific compilation of useful historical material.
The ”You Are My Lucky Star” Outtake really offers a deleted scene from Rain. In this four-minute, six-second clip, we watch Debbie Reynolds as she croons the song toward a billboard of Gene Kelly. The number did little for me, though it does make Kelly’s ending rendition of the tune seem more logical.
Within the Gallery, we find a collection of 19 stills. These include both publicity and production shots. Lastly, the Scoring Stage Sessions provides a nice compilation of original audio recorded for the film. It includes 26 different clips that offer alternate renditions of the songs found in the movie. Most notable, we hear Debbie Reynolds do the “Lina Lamont” dubbing for The Dancing Cavalier; in the final flick, Betty Noyes dubbed Reynolds as she dubbed “Lina”! This section packs a lot of audio material that should greatly interest fans.
Over on Disc Three, we get a DVD Copy of Rain. This includes the commentary and the “Raining on a New Generation” documentary.
A few non-disc-based materials finish off the set. A 48-page hardcover book gives us production notes, cast/crew biographies, archival and advertising materials and photos. It packs a lot of good info into its space and provides a nice addition, which I must admit tempts me.
Along with a special Singin’ in the Rain-branded umbrella, we locate three reproductions of the original 1952 theater display posters. These look to be about three inches wide by nine inches long; each one features a different main cast member/character. They’re pretty cool – and they tell you where you can buy larger versions.
Arguably the greatest movie musical ever made, Singin’ In the Rain remains fresh and lively after 60 years. The film seems bright and funny and it usually avoids many of the pitfalls that disenchant me when I watch the genre. The Blu-ray delivers excellent visuals and supplements along with satisfactory audio. Singin’ in the Rain continues to enchant and this Blu-ray brings it to home video better than ever.
Purse-strings note: in addition to this “60th Anniversary Collector’s Edition”, Warner Bros. has put out a single-disc Blu-ray of Rain. Presumably this duplicates the CE’s first platter with the movie, the commentary and the “New Generation” documentary. It retails for a full $65 less than the CE, which will make it the option of choice for most purchasers, I suspect – especially those who already own the 2002 SE DVD.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN