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"This show has more scenery than Yellowstone National Park!"

This morning I'm just doing another quick entry about stuff we've been watching. There isn't a lot of earth-shattering DVD news right now and not much new in the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD war.

It's always fun to see a film you aren't familiar with and have it be as good as this: The Bandwagon (1953). This is another example of the Freed Unit at MGM at the peak of its powers. Made just a year after Singin' in the Rain, this one is really in the same league if perhaps a notch lower then Singin'. If The Bandwagon lacks the great concept of Rain, it one-ups it in the ballet sequence, which seemed like an obligatory addition at this time, a trend set off by The Red Shoes perhaps. No offense to Gene Kelly fans, but this film might be better than An American in Paris (1951), another great Freed Unit film.

A few things I really liked about The Bandwagon: It gave us the song, "That's Entertainment", which is an old standard, but I'd forgotten how funny some of the lyrics are. Cyd Charisse (hey, did you know she acted in a film called Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood?!) turns out to be a great partner for Fred Astaire. Speaking of Fred, besides the great performance, I was amused at the jokes in the film at his expense. Besides the character he plays being a has-been Hollywood musical star (Astaire was in semi-retirement at the time), there's a scene at the beginning where his costumes from earlier hits are being auctioned, such as his "Top Hat", and the interest is virtually non-existant. Another funny joke on Astaire is a reference to an earlier film called, "Swinging Down To Panama", a play on the real Astaire film, Flying Down to Rio (1933). The supporting cast is excellent including Jack Buchanan, another film star of the 1930s. The musical numbers are great, some like "Triplets" are odd but really funny. The "show" they put on at the end of the film seems to have no plot whatsoever, perhaps a jab at musicals in general, with the songs seemingly having nothing to do with each other at all. So give this one a rent if you like musicals. BTW, the DVD is apparently really good, but we caught this one on cable.

DVD Savant has a good review of the DVD here. He also wrote an interesting review of Brigadoon (1954) which just had a DVD re-release. Ardent fans of the film may or may not want to hear what he has to say, but in general I think he gets it right. This one is better on the stage and besides containing a couple good musical numbers, doesn't really work for me. Part of the problem is that by 1954, MGM was having financial problems causing productions like this to have their budgets slashed. Filming this one on location wouldn't have corrected everything, but the fakiness of the production kind of belies the production quality, which was definately a step down from earlier MGM films. And if you are a big fan of the film, the new DVD is worth getting even though they don't include the seperate "flat" version of the film. This one, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, made the same year, was shot in both Cinemascope (new at the time) and conventional flat becuase most theaters didn't have the gear to project the new anamorphic format. Apparently the seperate versions are slightly different as they were actually different takes.

Comments

I really liked "The Band Wagon," too, though I must beg to differ with DVD Savant -- "Singin' In the Rain," no less joyous or clever than "The Band Wagon," is still a better movie, because of the high concept. "The Band Wagon" is great, though, and I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner.

The Savant writeup was great -- and I agree with almost everything in it besides the above. This is creepy, though: "We learn that the costumer made little copies of Charisse's costumes for six year-old Liza Minnelli, who visited the set often."

Ewww. I'm just trying to imagine a six-year-old in those costumes. Icky. Just in case there aren't already enough explanations for how screwed up Liza Minnelli is...