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Chris Hicks: 'That's Entertainment!' set is a smash

Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell are featured in "That's Entertainment!"
Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell are featured in "That's Entertainment!"

The "That's Entertainment!" trilogy finally comes to DVD this week, with all three movies in the series available in a box set — along with a fourth disc of even more wonderful vintage comedy and music.

And for the small fry, there are also some new kids discs on the market.

"That's Entertainment! The Complete Collection" (Warner, 1974-96, $49.92, four discs). "Let's put on a show!"

If that battle cry, heard most often from Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, means anything to you, then you must be a fan of old movie musicals. And this is the set for you.

These three compilations of classic-movie clips are chock-full of great musical standards, fabulous dancing, hilarious comedy and, well, just good old-fashioned fun.

— "That's Entertainment!" (1974) was a smash at the box office, proving long before the advent of home video that great song-and-dance entertainment could still pull in an audience. This one has some of the best MGM's archives have to offer, and it's hosted by MGM's biggest stars — Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Peter Lawford, Liza Minnelli, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor.

— "That's Entertainment, Part 2" (1976) was inevitable, given the huge success of the first film. Gene Kelly directed this one, and he and Fred Astaire host, narrate and get to sing and dance together. This film also branches out a bit to include clips from comedy movies, utilizing the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello and many others.

— "That's Entertainment! III" (1994) came some 18 years after the previous entry in the series and is hosted by June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Lena Horn, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Debbie Reynolds and Mickey Rooney. Charisse and Horne seem ageless, and even after two extensive compilation films, there is plenty of classic, and sometimes hilarious material. This one also has a lot of numbers that had never before been shown to the general public, including Ava Gardner's singing from "Show Boat," which is dubbed over in that movie, and Debbie Reynolds in songs that were cut from "Singin' in the Rain" and "I Love Melvin."

The bonus disc includes even more previously unseen material — including an MGM 25th anniversary newsreel, outtakes of everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Durante, an excerpt from a 1976 episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and others pitching "That's Entertainment, Part 2."

Extras: Widescreen and full frame options, new introductions, newsreels, featurettes, TV excerpts, outtakes, trailers, language options (English, French), subtitle options (English, French, Spanish), chapters. (The films are also available individually, $19.97 each.)

"Everybody's in the Band!" (Ivy, 2004, not rated, $14.99). Two highlights on this disc of a live Billy Jonas performance are a guest appearance by Alison Krauss and a bonus performance of Jonas' song about Mt. St. Helen's. (If not found in stores, phone 1-800-669-4057 or go to www.ivyvideo.com.)

Extras: Full frame, 10 songs, bonus cuts,

"Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" (Scholastic/New Video, 1970-77, not rated, $14.95). These stories, recommended for ages 4-9, include the title tale, "A Story, A Story," "Who's in Rabbit's House?" "The Village of Round and Square Houses" and "Hot Hippo."

Extras: Full frame, five episodes, Spanish-language version of title story, interactive elements, chapters.

"The Teacher from the Black Lagoon" (Scholastic/New Video, 1962-89, not rated, $14.95). This one's for ages 3-9, with the title yarn, "What's Under My Bed?" "By the Light of the Halloween Moon," "The Three Robbers," "A Dark, Dark Tale," "Georgie" and "Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman."

Extras: Full frame, six episodes, interactive elements, chapters.

"Giggle, Giggle, Quack" (Scholastic/New Video, 1973-2002, not rated, $14.95). Ages 3-8 will enjoy the title story, "The Most Wonderful Egg in the World," "Wings" "A Tale of Two Chickens," "The Foolish Frog," "Picnic" and "The Three-Legged Cat."

Extras: Full frame, five episodes, Spanish-language version of "The Most Wonderful Egg in the World," interactive elements, chapters.

"How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?" (Scholastic/New Video, 1993-99, not rated, $14.95). For ages 3-9, the title story, "In the Small, Small Pond," "Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin," "All the Colors of the Earth," "Joey Runs Away," "A Weekend With Wendall" and "Moon Man."

Extras: Full frame, six episodes, interactive elements, chapters.

"Raggs Kids Club Band: Holiday Jam" (RKCB, 2004, not rated, $14.98). The live-action canines offer a holiday version of kids rock 'n' roll music in this 40-minute show (1-888-472-2035).

Extras: Full frame, 12 songs, four sing-along songs, featurette, chapters.


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com