Hey gang, Valkor here. I've been taking it easy these past few days and it's all thanks to the folks at Warner Home who've dropped a serious nugget of a review piece on my lap. And I'm not gonna lie, I enjoyed every minute of it. It's Warner Brothers 90th anniversary and to celebrate, they're unleashing a slew of box sets showcasing some of their finest films past and present. This particular set is titled "Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection Musicals" and it's one of the best collections that's a must own… if you enjoy musicals.
WB 20 Film Collection is as stated – 20 of the finest musicals, ever put to screen from the late twenties up until the late eighties, broken into three sets. Growing up and well into my adulthood, I've just about seen all of these films; who hasn't seen The Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? But there are a few here I've known about never had the chance to see; I've known about them, but never took the time to sit and watch. I'll admit, I'm a huge fan of musicals. Done right, they can be quite an amazing experience and if the songs are on the money, they'll resonate with you for the rest of your days. Each disc not only features the film but also a set of extras such as commentary, behind the scenes, and much more. The set also comes with a booklet offering up a synopsis of each film in teh set. Two of the films have already received the TOV treatment as we've received their Blu-Ray special editions – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Jazz Singer. Considering there are twenty discs on the set, I haven't had the time to give them my fullest attention, so I went straight to the films I've not seen before. Check it out!
Victor/Victoria – Julie Andrews plays Victoria Grant, a woman disguised as a man who is pretending to be a woman; wshe takes part in a drag performance set up by her mentor Toddy (Robert Preston). Things start to get a little complicated when she catches the attention of King Marchand (James Garner), who seems to like her even though he knows Victor is a man and yet he knows there's something there… Look for a pretty lulzy performance by Mr. Papadopoulos himself Alex Karras).
Yankee Doodle Dandy – James Cagney portrays the life of George M. Cohen, who has just been called to meet with president FDR and asked about the details of his life growing up in a performing family, the struggles of trying to make it big, and how he made his mark with songs that show off America's pride.
Viva Las Vegas – Elvis "The King" Presley leads the way; in this film he plays race car driver Lucky, who's vying for the affections of one Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). There's a lot going on in this picture such as Lucky competing for Rusty's love with another race car driver and course winning the big race, mixed in with a lot of Elvis's signature song and dance.
Singin' In the Rain – Gene Kelly fronts this film as he plays silent film star Don Lockwood. But the coming "the talkies" (film with audio) threatens his career. That's not the only issue Don faces; the studio head wants the latest silent film to be a talkie, but Don's co-star, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), has one of the worse speaking voices in existence. Fortunately Don has his eyes on young starlet Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), who might be able to save the film. However there's some bad blood between her and Lina, which not only threatens the film but the budding relationship between she's started with Don.
Other films in the set include (in no particular order):
Little Shop of Horrors, That's Entertainment, The Jazz Singer, Cabaret, Camelot, Hairspray, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Music Man, A Star is Born, The Broadway Melody, Show Boat, 42nd street, The Wizard of Oz, An American in Paris, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and The Great Ziegfeld.
All of the discs in the set have been culled from previous releases (you can tell by the disc labels) with no additional remastering done. If you watch from beginning to end you'll see how musicals have progressed, how production values have increased, the different styles, props, and the variety of performers. And for this review, there's no Bad or Ugly here because in short "It's all good"!
When I got the email that I'd have the chance to review a musical box set, I was only slightly put off until I saw the selections that would be included in the set and I was ecstatic! I grew up with these films, recognize and even sang along to much of the songs. This isn't just a box set of a bunch of musicals; these are films that help put Warner Bros on the map! As a child, I could appreciate the films for the catchy songs and dance numbers. But as an adult, it goes a little deeper; it's not just about the song and dance, but also the storytelling, the conflicts that the main characters face, the actors who portray those characters, and the set design. Not only that but each film – starting with the first film "The Jazz Singer", showcases advances in technology such as the use of audio, colorization, green screen, and practical effects that's a sight to behold. The image and sound quality for each are amazing, crystal clear imagery with audio that shines truly completes this wonderful package.
Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection Musicals is available now and I highly recommend picking up this amazing box set, which showcases 90 years of some of the best musicals to date. Out of TOV 5 stars, I give the set a 5 star perfect! Thank you WB for many years of entertainment and I look forward to seeing what the future may bring.