Fifty musicals for $15-$20. What could that mean? Clearly, youâ€™re not going to get the spectaculars like West Side Story, Oklahoma, The Music Man for that kind of money (Iâ€™m seeing some very cost-effective collections of deluxe two-disc editions of such musicals, thoughâ€”like six of them for $70 or less). As I go through these, it may be interesting to see how â€œmusicalâ€ is definedâ€”it can be a picture about music or musicians (real or fictional) so that lots of music gets included, a picture with a regular plot that has lots of music (well-integrated into the plot or otherwise), a musical revue on filmâ€”and maybe other things. This set has four or five duplications with other 50-movie packs Iâ€™ve reviewed, but at least three of the four Iâ€™m sure of are quite good movies, so thatâ€™s OK.
As an amusement, I note that Mill Creek Entertainment follows the erratic spelling of what these movies appear on: the incorrect â€œDiskâ€ on the sleeves, the correct â€œDiscâ€ on the discs themselves. As with all the 50-movie packs, assume VHS-level transfers, frequently from mildly-damaged originals, with no special features and (always) four scene divisions per title (most packs now have intelligent scene breaks, not just an arbitrary quarter of the length). If there are enough missing frames to reduce the run length by more than a minute from what appears in IMDB, I give the actual DVD run time in [square brackets]. The dollar rating at the end of each mini-review is fairly forgiving and ranges from $0 to $2.50, although anything over $2 is rare. A buck or more means I think the movie is worth watching on the whole and might conceivably watch it again; $1.50 or more means I think the movie would be worth buying as a bargain DVD on its own.
The Fabulous Dorseys, 1947, b&w, Alfred E. Green (dir.), Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Janet Blair, Paul Whiteman, Bob Eberly, Helen Oâ€™Connell, Art Tatum, William Lundigan. 1:28.
The Dorseys arenâ€™t much as actors, and the plot may be realistic but still comes off a bit hokeyâ€”but it doesnâ€™t really matter. Great music by great musicians, including a first-rate jam session with Art Tatum. Pretty decent print quality, and the sound trackâ€™s more than good enough. Worth watching just for the musical numbers. $1.50.
Calendar Girl, 1947, b&w, Allan Dwan (dir.), Jane Frazee, William Marshall, Gail Patrick, Kenny Baker, Victor McLaglen, Franklin Pangborn. 1:28 [1:20]
Cute plot, good musical numbers, but the soundâ€™s badly damaged in portions and the pictureâ€™s pretty frayed as well. Iâ€™d give this $1.25 in a decent transfer, but canâ€™t go higher than $0.75 under the circumstances.
Sunny, 1941, b&w, Herbert Wilcox (dir.), Anna Neagle, Ray Bolger, John Carroll, Edward Everett Horton, Grace Hartman, PLaul Hartman, Martha Tilton. 1:38 [1:35].
This one also suffers from a badly damaged print, but itâ€™s a thoroughly enjoyable flick nonethelessâ€”this time with a plot that actually drives the movie. Sunny Sullivanâ€™s a circus performer (singer, horseback rider) who meets up with the wealthy scion of an automaker during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They get engaged. The circus friends (Ray Bolger and crew) show up at the wedding and she runs away with themâ€”but of course love conquers all: Itâ€™s a musical! Even with the damage, this oneâ€™s worth $1.25.
Swing Hostess, 1944, b&w, Sam Newfield (dir.), Martha Tilton, Iris Adrian, Charles Collins, Betty Brodel, Cliff Nazarro, Harry Holman. 1:16.
Martha Tilton was a vocalist for Benny Goodman and is absolutely first rate as a singer, and more than good enough as an actress. As with Calendar Girl, this oneâ€™s partly set in a â€œstruggling artistâ€ apartment houseâ€”this time with lots of novelty acts (magician, acrobats). The plot hinges on a situation that could only have happened during a few years: The master disks on which records are directly cut are so expensive that a recording studio head (and masher) insists on using the rest of a disk that Tiltonâ€™s already cut a demo onâ€”and her half gets released as though by the (awful-sounding) girl the head brings in. Hijinks ensue (this is most definitely a comedy), and of course it all works out. The most interesting part here: â€œTelephone jukeboxesâ€ in restaurants, where you put in a coin, pick up a phone, and tell the operator what tune you want, at which point she plays the disc on one of several turntables at the central station. I can only assume this actually happened. Not great, but quite good. $1.25.