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(60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition)

What a Glorious Feeling

Sixty years after its release, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN remains regarded as one of the greatest screen musicals of all time. Although in 1952, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was just another studio picture emanating from the Hollywood dream factory known as MGM. Coming on the heels of the Academy Award winning AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN didn't garner the critical recognition it should have received in 1952; however, with every year that passes the movie's mystique grows by leaps and bounds, bringing the film to its current legendary standing. Over the decades, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has been talked about and analyzed by every major critic and film scholar, many of whom have taken the film apart frame by frame. Even after all the analysis in the world, the movie's appeal comes down to one simple fact: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a great piece of motion picture entertainment.

I count SINGIN' IN THE RAIN as a personal favorite, and I have seen the movie a ridiculous number of times. I have owned every Laserdisc and DVD incarnation of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and on previous occasions, I have reviewed a number of these various releases. Therefore, I seriously doubt I will be contributing anything new or original about the movie at this juncture. However, what I have always liked about SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is the fact that the Comden and Green screenplay is so polished and so funny on its own, that it could play without the musical numbers... and still be a great film. However, with its classic songs, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN truly is one of the greatest screen musicals of all time.

The plot of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN offers an amusing look back at Hollywood in transition. Set in the late 1920's, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN tells the story of the advent of sound in motion pictures and the effect that the "talkies" had on the movies themselves and silent film stars in general. Taking place at the fictitious Monumental Pictures movie studio, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN stars Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood- that swashbuckling leading man of the silent era. After a disastrous preview screening Don's first talking picture, the star suspects that his career is jeopardy. While Don's best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) convinces him that the technical flaws in the film can be fixed, both have serious doubts that anything can be done about the movie's leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), whose lack of talent and grating voice are best suited to the shadow play of silent movies. However, Cosmo has a brainstorm involving up and coming actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) that may be able to salvage Monumental Pictures first taking picture and save everyone's career.

All of the performances in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN are absolutely first rate. Everyone's comic timing is perfect, and all benefit from the witty repartee of Betty Comden and Adolph Green's superb dialogue. Jean Hagen is astonishingly good as Lina Lamont, a brilliant comic character who was designed with Judy Holliday's BORN YESTERDAY performance in mind. Donald O'Connor's comic performance is equally good; I especially enjoy his delivery of throwaway lines. While O'Connor's comic skills never come into question, I don't think he ever gets the recognition he deserves for his dancing. The sheer athleticism that O'Connor displays is his solo number is truly impressive, but when he dances with Gene Kelly, it is here that his talent as a hoofer truly shines- O'Connor may be the only dancer whose athleticism matches Kelly's. Study O'Connor's work in the Moses Supposes, Fit as a Fiddle and Good Morning musical numbers with Kelly and you are sure to come away impressed and thinking that SINGIN' IN THE RAIN provided Gene Kelly with his two finest dancing partners- the other one being the marvelous and absolutely gorgeous Cyd Charisse. The cast of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN also features Millard Mitchell, Douglas Fowley, Rita Moreno and Kathleen Freeman.

Warner Home Video has made SINGIN' IN THE RAIN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Now for a bit of history and perspective on the presentation... the original camera negatives for SINGIN' IN THE RAIN were lost in a fire many decades ago, so this presentation is culled from a 4K scan of protection elements, which place these existing best materials one generation down from the negative. On top of that, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a movie, replete with opticals inside of opticals (fades and dissolves), so much of the time, the image one sees is multiple generations away from even that second generation material. All things considered, Warner has pulled another rabbit out of their hats, providing SINGIN' IN THE RAIN with a superb 1080p presentation that, via digital wizardry, is able to negate the fact that one is sometimes viewing images that are up to four generations away from the long lost camera negative. Much of the time, sharpness and detail are highly impressive, especially in close-ups, which can look tremendous. Texturing is wonderful and there is a bit more depth to the image than what would notice in standard definition. There is a beautiful film grain quality to the image, as well as a wondrous film-like density. Sure, some portions of the film are a bit softer than others due to being optical dupes created by fades & dissolves... but at no time does the picture appear degraded or alarmingly soft. Color reproduction is sublime throughout SINGIN' IN THE RAIN; there are bold Technicolor hues that pop throughout the film, with the Beautiful Girl Montage and Broadway Melody Ballet being two of the notable highlights. Away from musical numbers hues are subtler, but always represent glorious Technicolor at its best. Blacks are velvety, while the whites are smooth and silky. Contrast and shadow detail are very strong. The film elements from which SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was transferred display few flaws.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. For a sixty-year-old film, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN sounds quite wonderful on Blu-ray. Originally presented in monaural, this multi-channel re-mix keeps the sonics as natural sounding as possible, leaving conspicuous artificial multi-channel shenanigans by the wayside. Music is given depth and breath, being spread into the soundstage, while the lossless encoding maximizes the fidelity of the sixty-year-old recordings. Sure, the soundtrack sounds nothing like a modern, all digital recording, but the fidelity and warmth of these vintage recordings is better than anything that has come before. Voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced, plus the dialogue is easy to understand. Additionally, the track has been cleaned to remove all noticeable traces of sonic debris. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Czech and Polish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is a German: DTS-HD Master Audio Monaural track. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Swedish.

The interactive menu gives one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features, many of which have been ported from previous DVD releases. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary track with co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, performers Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds Cyd Charisse and Kathleen Freeman, historian Rudy Behlmer, and filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. The commentary is hosted by Reynolds and is an assemblage of comments by the participants, which have been edited together. There is a wealth of great material presented here and this track is a must listen for any SINGIN' IN THE RAIN fan. Next up is the newly produced Singin' in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation, a fifty-one minute program featuring a modern crop of performers and choreographers extolling the impact that this classic film continues to have on performance and dance. A Jukebox feature allows one to access the wonderful songs of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Disc one closes out with a Theatrical Trailer.

Disc two is a DVD that offers more extensive supplemental materials, which begin with two documentaries. Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit At MGM is a ninety-six minute documentary that traces the career of the composer/songwriter turned film producer. Through interviews and film footage, the program traces the career of Arthur Freed and looks at the wonderful, classic musicals that his production unit at MGM brought to the screen during his multi-decade tenure at the studio. What A Glorious Feeling- The Making of Singin' In The Rain is a thirty-five minute program hosted by Debbie Reynolds that features newer and archival interviews with the cast and production team of this classic movie. The documentary includes a lot of fond remembrances of the production, as well as the hard work that went into making everything appear effortless. The program also provides a look as some sequences that were cut or changed in the final version of the film. Another really interesting supplement is the Excerpts From Features Where The Songs Originated, which offers a dozen clips from movies where the Arthur Freed /Nacio Herb Brown songs made their screen debut. Also included on the DVD is Debbie Reynolds rendition of You Are My Luck Star, which was cut from the film, as well as a Still Galley and some of the Scoring Stage Sessions, which are the earliest recordings and outtakes of the movie's musical numbers. Disc Three offers a DVD edition of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.

Warners 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is priced at $85 and comes packed in a sturdy box that includes a forty-eight page hardcover book filled with production notes and photographs, as well as reproductions of three theatrical door panel posters and a Singin' In The Rain-themed umbrella. A movie only edition of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is also available, and is priced at $20.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN remains one of the greatest film musicals of all time. The Blu-ray release will leave any viewer with a glorious feeling, thanks to Warner's outstanding presentation. Absolutely recommended.


Singin' In The Rain: 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2012)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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