Revivals of the "golden age" of musicals are everywhere.
The Marie Osmond version of "The Sound of Music" is touring the country (it arrives in Salt Lake City on Feb. 21), new stagings of "Carousel" and "My Fair Lady" have been getting as much press as the latest Sondheim musical, and a pricey new production of "Show Boat" is headed for Broadway.The video market is plugging into the publicity, beginning with Fox Video's "The Rodgers and Hammerstein Golden Anniversary Collection," a package of bargain-priced reissues of "The Sound of Music," "Carousel," "South Pacific," "The King and I" and the only movie musical the team ever wrote: "State Fair."
Not much is new here, but the company is offering a few enticements. Free with each $20 video-tape ($25 in the case of the two-cassette "Sound of Music") is an audio cassette of the soundtrack. This marks the first time a "State Fair" soundtrack has been released. In addition, the videotape includes outtakes from the 1945 movie, which won an Oscar for best song ("It Might As Well Be Spring").
The "Sound of Music" audio cassette makes use of material that was not part of the original 1965 soundtrack release. All the videotapes include special features: original theatrical trailers and/or Movietone newsreels that publicized their premieres.
Most of these movies are in good shape on video, but that has not been the case with the 1964 film of "My Fair Lady," which was a visual knockout in 70mm roadshow presentations 30 years ago but now seems washed-out and pinkish. Fox has corrected the problem and is releasing a costly restored version created by the same team that put "Lawrence of Arabia" back together.
It opens in a New York theater this month; the videotape release is set for October. A letterboxed laser disc edition will benefit from a THX transfer, made from the original 70mm materials, and will include a documentary, "More Loverly Than Ever."
Several upcoming laser discs promise definitive versions of vintage musicals. "The Red Shoes," which was far more successful as a 1948 ballet film than it was as a 1993 Broadway musical, is getting the deluxe treatment from Criterion/Voyager, which is remastering the film and adding a commentary track by Martin Scorsese and cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
MGM/UA's new laser release of "Show Boat" will be made up of both the 1936 and 1951 film versions, plus scenes from the rarely seen 1929 version. The company is also planning an expanded disc edition of "That's Entertainment III" that includes interviews, outtakes, longer versions of several musical numbers, a documentary about the making of "III," a history of the MGM musical and 10 musical outtake numbers that weren't seen in the theatrical release this year.
Image Entertainment is bringing out "The Astaire-Rogers Box," a collection of the team's 1930s musicals that includes the first disc release of "Top Hat." Columbia TriStar's contribution to the boom includes wide-screen discs of "Bye Bye Birdie," "Annie" and "Tommy"; remastered laser releases of the Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth musicals, "You Were Never Lovelier" and "You'll Never Get Rich"; and a boxed set of "Funny Girl" and "Funny Lady" that includes documentaries about the making of the Streisand films.
MGM/UA has reissued tapes of "The Wizard of Oz," "Singin' in the Rain" and "West Side Story" for $20 apiece. This month, it will re-release "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Ziegfeld Follies" in a package that includes compact discs of the soundtracks (the disc/tape combos will go for $30 apiece). A deluxe $100 laser disc version of "St. Louis" will follow, complete with a documentary hosted by Roddy McDowall, remixed stereo tracks and a deleted musical number,"Boys and Girls Like You and Me."
Cabin Fever is repricing its tape of last year's Emmy-winning production of "Gypsy," starring Bette Midler as the stage mother of Gypsy Rose Lee. At $15, it's the best bargain among the reissues.
What none of these releases (aside from "Gypsy") can do is present the material in a new way. There's no videocassette that represents the radical new staging of "Carousel," and it looks like we're stuck forever with the sloppy 1958 film adaptation of "South Pacific."
Walt Disney Home Video, however, has come up with something that's old enough to seem new: "The Best of Broadway Musicals," a mostly delightful hourlong tape made up of performances by Broadway stars on "The Ed Sullivan Show," complete with introductions by the great stone face.
Celeste Holm, who created the role of Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein's first musical, "Oklahoma!," does a decade-later version of her most famous number, "I Cain't Say No." Ethel Merman sings "There's No Business Like Show Business," Pat Suzuki belts out "I Enjoy Being a Girl," Julie Andrews does a breezy version of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," and "West Side Story's" impassioned lovers, Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert, perform the balcony scene and "Tonight."
Carol Channing sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" while throwing fake jewelry at the audience, Pearl Bailey takes over Channing's "Hello Dolly" role to perform "Before the Parade Passes By," and Andrews and Richard Burton wonder "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" Not everything's gold, but the only real lemon here is Anthony Newley's contortionist rendering of "Who Can I Turn To (When You Turn Away)."
Priced at $20, "The Best of Broadway Musicals" was pieced together by Andrew Solt (who made "Imagine: John Lennon" and "This Is Elvis"). It concludes with a preview of a sequel that features even more goodies from the Sullivan show, including Andrews singing "Show Me" (from "My Fair Lady"), Ethel Merman's "Some People" ("Gypsy"), Cab Calloway's "It Ain't Necessarily So" ("Porgy and Bess"), Janis Paige's "Hernando's Hideaway" ("The Pajama Game") and ensemble numbers featuring the casts of "Oliver!" and "Hair."
LUCK, TRUST & KETCHUP: THE MAKING OF `SHORT CUTS' - Behind the scenes of Robert Altman's big brawling film about lives and loves in contemporary Los Angeles, based on various Raymond Carver stories. Much of this documentary is like a long commercial for the Altman film, with members of the cast saying nice things about each other into the camera. If you're a "Short Cuts" fan, the interviews and rehearsal shots will be like revisiting the original; but if you agree with skeptical critics that "Short Cuts" is less inspired than its reputation indicates, nothing here will change your mind. Look out for a small amount of extremely vulgar language. Columbia/TriStar Home Video/New Line Home Video.
- David Sterritt
(Christian Science Monitor)
MON ONCLE - Gallic charm and modernist wit share the screen in Jacques Tati's classic 1958 comedy about an old-fashioned man coping with colleagues and relatives who are determined to be as up-to-date as possible - even if this means living and working in gadget-ridden environments that are the opposite of comfortable or convenient. Tati's performance as the ungainly but lovable Monsieur Hulot seems a bit too cute by today's standards; still, his eye for hilarious details and revealing ironies was never sharper than in this expertly directed satire, which also features a color scheme so eye-catching you'd never guess this was Tati's first color film. Unfortunately, his artful use of long shots is marvelous on the big screen but not well suited to small-size television screens. Home Vision Cinema.
- David Sterritt
(Christian Science Monitor)
COMBINATION PLATTER - If you've enjoyed Ang Lee's current "Eat Drink Man Woman" or Wayne Wang's "The Joy Luck Club," then this small but confident 1993 debut film from Tony Chan should fill the bill admirably. It's a compassionate and hilarious account of how the rigors of big-city American life can affect a new immigrant. Jeff Lau turns in a performance very much in the spirit of Buster Keaton as a restaurant worker dodging Immigration on the one hand and seeking an "ABC" (American-born Chinese) wife on the other. Unrated (mildly rude language).
- Michael Worth
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
ROSA LUXEMBURG - Another rarity from Germany, this immense historical epic of 1985 stars Barbara Sukowa as an idealistic women's-rights pioneer who exerted a profound influence upon German state policy around the start of the 20th century. Lavish production values, a compelling title performance, and sternly efficient direction by Margarethe von Trotta.
- Michael Worth
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
RECKLESS KELLY - Australian actor Yahoo Serious has the title role in this low-brow comedy. Inspired by the legend of Ned Kelly, Australia's answer to Robin Hood, "Reckless Kelly" follows the career of the last of the Kelly line as he carries on the family tradition. However, things take a nasty turn when the CEO of an oft-robbed bank plots to sell Kelly's island retreat to the Japanese. Those who enjoyed the antics of "Ace Ventura" may find "Reckless Kelly" to be a member of the same family. Warner Home Video, 81 minutes, rated PG.
- By Richard T. Ryan
(Newhouse News Service)