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Singin' in the Rain(1952)
In 1927, Don Lockwood has worked his way up from being a song-and-dance man with partner Cosmo Brown to become a top movie star. His on-screen partner, Lina Lamont, who believes that Don loves her for real, needs to have her awful singing voice dubbed with the arrival of talkies. The girl selected is 'serious' actress Kathy Selden, for whom Don soon falls. Musical numbers include the famous title song and 'Make 'Em Laugh', 'Good Morning' and 'You Were Meant for Me'.
For more about Singin' in the Rain and the Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray release, see Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Cyd Charisse
Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
» See full cast & crew
Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray Review
"What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 12, 2012
Ah, the folly of youth. It wasn't so long ago that the phrase "they just don't make 'em like they used to" elicited the same quip from this shortsighted moviegoer: "there's a reason for that." But then movie-going became a craft, from there a profession, and from there a career. I found more and more of the Golden Age classics I once so callously dismissed sitting on my desk, awaiting a review; a process that finally, at long last, brought me around. They really don't make 'em like they used to. And while that isn't necessarily a tragedy, it is something of a shame. Of course, the more enlightened cinephiles among you are passionately nodding your heads. You've grasped this seemingly simple concept for years. Decades even. So I'm sad to say this portion of my review isn't for you. Chances are you've already ordered your copy of Singin' in the Rain anyway, and have only come here to see how its AV presentation and special features stack up. No, this review is for those of you who wouldn't normally go near a 1952 musical; those of you with little interest in the films of lifetimes long past; those of you who are actively, willingly, stubbornly turning a blind eye to the some of the greatest films of all time just because they came and went before you were born. There are generations of moviegoers who will never experience the joys and delights of a film like Singin' in the Rain, and that, dear readers, is the real shame of not making 'em like they used to...
If you're as sheltered from the classics as I once was, your familiarity with Singin' in the Rain probably extends no further than episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken and Glee. Jackie Chan fans should have caught the reference in Shanghai Knights even with the most rudimentary pop culture know-how. Most of the woefully uninitiated, though, will instinctively associate Singin' in the Rain with the first unsettling home invasion scene in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, in which Alex DeLarge belts out the titular tune while assaulting and raping a woman in view of her gagged and bound husband. Not exactly what lyricist Arthur Freed and composer Nacio Herb Brown had in mind when composing and arranging the song for The Hollywood Revue of 1929; a song that would, in the years following its 1952 screen revival, become one of the most popular and recognizable music numbers in Hollywood history. Nor was it what Gene Kelly -- who directed, choreographed and starred in Rain -- and Freed, who produced, thought their lighthearted Technicolor passion project might spawn in the decades to come.
And yet Singin' in the Rain isn't merely the singing, dancing flight of bygone fancy so many assume. (Although that's certainly the primary source of its disarming charm.) Surprisingly pointed and satirical for a musical of the era, not to mention laugh-out-loud funny, the sixty-year-old classic exudes as much wit, confidence and shrewdness as it ever has, taking Tinseltown and its forever fickle audiences to task, staging a whimsical spoof, spinning a love story and delivering on the promise of an infectious, entertaining musical. It only helps that Kelly and screenwriters Adolph Green and Betty Comden set the film in the roaring '20s, making it as much of a period piece in 2012 as it was in 1952. Times have changed, sure; cinematic styles have followed suit, no argument here. But therein lies the secret to Singin's timelessness. Kelly and company touch on everything from the ongoing evolution of moviemaking to the changing of the silent-films guard, the emergence of talkies, the ever-competitive studio system, the trials and tribulations of development hell, temperamental test audiences and failed screenings, crafty filmmaker fixes, public and private romances, the rise and fall of stars and starlets... it's 21st century Hollywood via the '20s as depicted in the '50s. And apparently very little has changed. Modern filmfans will get the same kick out of Singin' in the Rain as their parents and grandparents did so long ago; more so even, as Hollywood's wheelings and dealings are, thanks to our cranky friend the Internet, more transparent and widely broadcast than before.
Kelly's energy and enthusiasm, leading lady Debbie Reynolds' winning smile and presence, and Donald O'Connor's peppy playfulness make the entire musical larger than life too, no matter how quaint the once-lavish $4 million production may seem by today's standards. The vaudevillian comedy, perky line delivery, and slapstick are easily the most dated elements of the film, but it doesn't take long to fall in love with them all the same. O'Connor's whirlwind performance of "Make 'Em Laugh" does just that with a jaw-dropping dance routine that must be watched at least three times to catch everything the deceptively frenzied singer pulls off with a hat and his own limbs. The tongue twisting interplay between Kelly, Reynolds and O'Connor is irresistible and unforgettable, no hyperbole necessary. Or their arm-in-arm, left-right-left-right trot down a flight of stairs in "Good Morning," or the moment the trio concoct their lip-syncing scheme, or any number of lightning-quick exchanges that pass between the three. And lest I forget, there's Kelly and O'Connor tapping circles around a befuddled diction coach in "Moses Supposes." (Before puppeteering the poor man.) Good luck coming out on the other end of that one without an enormous grin on your face. Even when Singin' in the Rain isn't trying to be an enthralling trip back in time, the sheer exuberance of the actors, the fearlessness of the dancing and singing, and the vitality of Freed and Brown's songs are impossible to resist. Irrepressible smiling, laughing and, yes, genuine astonishment follow in rapid succession.
Try as I might, I can't make a more compelling case for Singin' in the Rain. So consider, if only for a moment, that a 1952 musical, if given the chance, could be one of the most gratifying movie-watching experiences of 2012. Consider, if only for a moment, that your hesitance to give a 1952 musical something as simple as a 103-minute chance is only depriving you of an eye-opening, expectation-shattering experience. Consider, if only for a moment, the possibility that your aversion to older movies is only limiting your cinematic horizons. Singin' in the Rain is a true classic; perhaps even, as the AFI continues to declare it, the greatest movie musical of all time. And, frankly, there's no time like the present. So stop scoffing, stop thumbing your nose, stop shrugging your shoulders. Give Singin' in the Rain a fighting chance and see -- just see -- where it takes you.
Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Bros. is on a bit of a roll, rejuvenating catalog classics with loving remasters and impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfers. Singin' in the Rain is given a similar treatment; just not one that lives up to the high standards set by Ben-Hur and Casablanca. The presentation has its share of issues: mild to moderate edge halos are present throughout (and quite obvious at times), the film's inherent softness can be prohibitive, and a noticeable waxiness afflicts a number of closeups and midrange shots. But beware. There are more than a few scenes that will have some people crying DNR! when, in fact, it isn't quite that simple. The original source has undergone extensive cleanup, yes, but not of the smear-it-all-to-hell variety. Grain, though light, is pleasant and consistent, numerous textile, fabric and facial textures are commendably resolved, and overall definition is fairly pleasing. As it turns out, noise reduction and other invasive techniques actually aren't the chief culprit. Artificial sharpening, as it's applied to the film's softer shots, creates the impression of somewhat waxy textures and faces when framed by freshly tweaked edges. If these edges were kept as soft as they originally appeared, the resulting image wouldn't be as problematic.
All that said, there's very little to be distracted by, especially since Singin' in the Rain has never looked better. Colors have been granted new life, primaries are gorgeous, skintones are lovely (albeit a touch over-saturated now and again), black levels are rich and savory, and contrast doesn't falter. Moreover, print scratches and blemishes are nowhere to be found, artifacting and banding don't invade the image, and other anomalies aren't a factor. Is Singin' in the Rain's presentation as faithful and filmic as it could be? Not entirely. But it comes close, oh so close; close enough to make its shortcomings, minor as they may be in the grand scheme of things, that much easier to stomach. Some may score the video as low as a 3.5, others may go as high as a 4.5 (or perhaps higher). For my part, I fall somewhere in between; wishing certain aspects of the image were more natural but thankful that Kelly and Freed's sixty-year-old musical looks as good as it does.
Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The high point of Warner's AV presentation is undoubtedly its carefully mixed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which retains the humble qualities of the film's original monoaural sound design while allowing Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed's music to flourish across the entire soundfield. Dialogue and song lyrics are clean, clear and perfectly prioritized, be it Gene Kelly's dulcet singing voice, Donald O'Connor's chirpy quips and verbal gymnastics, Debbie Reynolds' velvet-smooth tone, or Jean Hagen's nasally whine. But it's the songs -- from "Good Morning" to "Moses Supposes" to "Make 'Em Laugh" to "You Were Meant for Me" -- that are the joy of Warner's lossless track. The orchestra's instrumentation is represented extremely well, pratfalls and mid-song sound effects dance a finely choreographed dance with the lyrics and music, and every last trumpet blast, snare roll, trombone slide, timpani strike and stringed crescendo is showcased just as it should be. LFE output is reasonably restrained when the singers, dancers and musicians take five, but comes alive the moment music erupts. Likewise, the rear speakers offer light, playful but exceedingly subtle support throughout, but rise to the occasion when called upon. There aren't many flashy directional tricks, mind you. Just a full, utterly satisfying sound from beginning to end. It all hinges on a masterful balancing act and an unwavering devotion to the source, and it's exactly the sort of lossless 5.1 surround experience I hope for when watching a decades-old classic. I can't imagine Singin' in the Rain sounding any better than it does here.
Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In keeping with the previously released Ben-Hur and Casablanca limited edition gift sets, the 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition release of Singin' in the Rain comes packaged in a handsome box (11½ w x 8 h x 3 d) bundled with several collectibles. Housed neatly inside is a 3-disc DigiPak that contains a single BD-50 and two standard DVDs (one filled with bonus features, the other a copy of the film), a thin 48-page hardcover book with production notes and photographs (11 w x 7½ h), an envelope containing miniature reproductions of three theatrical door panel posters (11 w x 3½ h), and a full-size Singin' in the Rain-themed umbrella in a red nylon case. It's not a lot for the set's asking price -- the book and the umbrella are the only pack-ins of note -- and even less for justifying the box's size. Still, I would imagine collectors, particularly those who happily purchased the Ben-Hur and Casablanca sets, will be pleased with the design and value.
Singin' in the Rain Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Arguably the greatest movie musical of all time, Singin' in the Rain holds up well enough to win over a whole new generation of fans. Whether they give it a fair shot to do so is another matter entirely. Thankfully, Warner has granted the film an extensive 4K remaster, an impressive (albeit slightly flawed) video presentation, an absolutely terrific DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and hours of special features including an audio commentary, a newly produced high-definition documentary and a slew of enticing extras. The Collector's Edition gift set is a tad pricey (collectors are essentially paying a premium for a second disc of SD bonus content, a 48-page hardcover book and an umbrella), but lovers of the film will find it to be an easy purchase. If money is a bit tight, though, and you don't mind sacrificing some extras and collectibles, a considerably more affordable single-disc release is available. Regardless of which you choose, just be sure to choose Singin' in the Rain. It doesn't matter what year you were born, Kelly and Freed's timeless classic deserves a shot at earning a spot in your collection.
Singin' in the Rain: Other Editions
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