Musicals: 4-Movie Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Classical-Musicals-CollectionKiss Me KateCole Porter’s 1953 hit musical filmed with the most advanced 3D technology during the medium’s “golden era” – will be released in a newly restored Blu-ray edition by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Viewers will now be able to experience the classic starring Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ann Miller exactly the way it was seen in its 3D release in theatres 62 years ago.  Kiss Me Kate will be part of WBHE’s Blu-ray Musicals Collection, which will also contain a 2D version of Kiss Me Kate, and Singin’ in the Rain, along with The Band Wagon and Calamity Jane, both making their Blu-ray debuts. The Collection will also include four collectible art cards. In addition, Kiss Me Kate, The Band Wagon and Calamity Jane will be available as singles.

Bandwagon 1

The Band Wagon 

Fred Astaire dazzles in numbers set in a train station (By Myself), a penny arcade (A Shine on Your Shoes), a backlot Central Park (Dancing in the Dark) and a smoky café (The Girl Hunt Ballet), the latter two with the incomparable Cyd Charisse. And when he, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan play infants who “hate each other very much!” in the merry Triplets, it’s more reason to love this movie very, very much.

The Band Wagon is a really fun number that looks at a lot of the fun and hijinx of putting a stage production together.  What I enjoy most, is how silly the film is and how it doesn’t sit and try to take everyone and every event so seriously.  It relishes in having its fun and games and putting on a good show about putting on a good show.

Fred Astaire is, as always, pretty marvelous here in a nice lead performance fitting for him at the time.  At the core is an old Hollywood star trying to spark up his career by returning to Broadway.  Intermingling with him is a young, modern Broadway starlet and the eccentric director trying to be crazy and extreme.

One of the biggest and coolest takeaways from The Band Wagon is its finale.  Its sort of an Abbey Road type thing, where it just starts, hits a stride and finishes out.  The finale is basically one musical number after another.  Its not so much a montage, its just song after song, dance after dance.  The film itself has numbers in throughout, but not so dominate.  Here it makes up for it and puts things on overload.  And it turns out marvelous.

Bandwagon 2


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Clarity/Detail:  If you thought Warner Bros was just gonna slap these movies on Blu-ray and call it a day, you’re very wrong.  The Band Wagon looks marvelous in its Blu-ray debut.  Detail is very good and everything looks as sharp and crisp as you could hope.

Depth:  The transfer does a solid job.  Objects really get their sense of space, and clarity between foreground and background isn’t distorted (aside from blurring in the source).  Movement is smooth and clean.

Black Levels: Blacks are nice and accurate, with a hint of white in there.  No real crushing or loss of detail is evident.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are nice and rich.  Everything pops with some old time dreamy accuracy.  It looks beautiful without being overdone.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  Detail is higher in closeup shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Not really.  Some grain.

Bandwagon 3


Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castellano) 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latino) 1.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 1.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Castellano), Spanish (Latino), Portuguese

Dynamics:  Here’s a really nice musical track that definitely nails the musical numbers with a nice loose feeling and blend of all the sounds, instruments and vocals.  None of them stepping on the other.

Low Frequency Extension:  Mostly assists in musical number and deep vocals.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The music filters through all 5 speakers quite nicely.  The movement of characters and such is accurately displayed through the front channel speakers.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is nice clear, and center focused.  There’s a noticeable difference in quality and volume when someone is singing.  It brings a more analog sound to it.

Calamity Jane 3

Calamity Jane 

Doris Day and Howard Keel fuss, feud and fall in love as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok in this delightful entertainment. At first curvaceous Calamity is too busy fighting Indians and cracking a bullwhip to pay attention to such “girlie things” as dresses and perfume. And Wild Bill is too busy wooing a dainty chanteuse (Allyn McLerie) to care about a hot-headed tomboy. But things change in a big way when each becomes love’s target.

Calamity Jane is one that just was not working for me.  Its under two hours, but at many points I thought it was coming to an end, yet only to find it had over an hour or close to left in it.  Its a product of its time, but one that just probably would be more enjoyable in a stage production than on film.  A lot of it feels like they didn’t do much to adapt it for the screen.  There’s a bare minimum of both sets and characters and they tire pretty fast.

A funny thing I noticed in this film is that this old western town is full of guys.  Possibly the biggest sausage-fest of all time.  Doris Day and Allyn Ann McLerie are literally the only females in town.  Then there’s a scene later on that consists of a big dance hall number and there are a bunch of females dancing with guys.  It felt really odd to see after an hour and a half.  Like, where in the heck did they all come from?

Doris Day gives one of those performances here that you can tell people back in the 1950s probably ate up, but comes off as pretty subpar nowadays.  Once again, something that probably worked wonders on stage but does not translate to the screen very well at all.  Its like she’s trying WAYYYY too hard.  Almost in the, to quote Tropic Thunder, “going full retard mode”.  From ooglings I read about this and bonus material, she’s supposedly the reason to see this, but I really can’t agree.

Calamity Jane 2


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Clarity/Detail: Calamity Jane features a more vibrant image than Band Wagon does.  Its the happiest, kindest the hardened old west may have ever looked.  Its a crisp image that is sharp and neatly detailed.

Depth:  The transfer does a solid job, nothing outstanding, but there is a good sense of multiple dimensions and person moving freely in an environment.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and inky.  Some detail is lost on dark colored clothing, depending on angles and such.

Color Reproduction:  Colors, like reds and greens, pop pretty good here.  Most of the colors are darks and browns for that old west feel.  However, those have some spunk to them too.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  A couple times some flickering happens when transitioning to another scene.  Detail is good on medium shots and close ups.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain, but this has been cleaned up pretty good.

Calamity Jane 1


Audio Format(s): English 1.0 DTS-HD MA, French 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castellano) 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latino) 1.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 1.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Castellano), Spanish (Latino), Portuguese

Dynamics: The 1.0 does the trick pretty good.  Things are in their original theatrical form.  You may need to turn the volume up a tad, but things sound just fine

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Clean and crisp.  Analog sounding during vocals in songs.

Kiss Me Kate 1

Kiss Me Kate 

Fred Graham (Howard Keel) and Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson), now divorced, are musical theater actors now playing Petruchio and Katherine, the leads in a musical based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The two stars are on bad terms and their spats, not the least of which involve Fred’s new girlfriend Lois (Ann Miller), threaten to close down the show. Keeping things together are pair of gangsters (Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore), who are there to collect bad gambling debts from Bill Calhoun (Tommy Rall), who plays Lucentio. Classic gags and craziness ensue before it all works out in the final act.

This is a pretty interesting film that took me a while to “get” it when watching.  But, once I got on the same page, it was pretty genius.  Kiss Me Kate has some fun with Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew and turns into quite a hilarious little romp and tale giving an honest look at ego in theatre productions and the psyche of actors.  Its also sort of a nice little symphony of comedy hitting melodic parts.

Every performer here is pretty terrific, though I must say it was the women who surely stole the show for me.  Ann Miller in a supporting role seems a bit much at first but turns out to be some great competent comedic relief.  Kathryn Grayson is a wonderful love interest, but also her dedication to playing things straight forms her around one of the funniest parts in the entire film.  Usually in things of this nature, there’s temptation to jump in and join some of the zaniness, but she shows restraint and because of that becomes on of the funnier bits and players in the whole circus.

Kiss Me Kate was shot in 3-D, but apparently toward the end of its fad.  Only a small number of distributors were sent the 3-D version upon its release.  However, the way it was shot was truly intended for 3-D.  Watching it in 2-D now has many goofy instances with people throwing random stuff at the screen and giving really weird looks at the screen while doing so.  Some extra humor where it was never intended.

The Cole Porter adaptation is a pretty fun little afternoon getaway.  I found a lot of laughs mixed with enjoyment of musical numbers.  Also, Hollywood and Broadway legend Bob Fosse makes an appearance in a supporting part in the film, which includes a scene stealing dance number later on.  This is a fun time, and if you’re into musical films of when they were the “epic” films, you’ll truly love this one.

Kiss Me Kate 2


Kiss Me Kate is also available in 3-D.  This will be a review of the 2-D transfer of the film as I do not have 3-D technology available to me.

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  A very vibrant picture as they relish in the colors of the very theatrical interpretation of the Shakespearian era in the film.  The image is a little on the softer side, but I’m wondering if that’s the result of it being shot in 3-D (Many 2-D renditions of older 3-D films can look this way).  But, its in no way as bad as the 2-D prints of 80s 3-D films.

Depth:  This one probably has the best look of all four films as there is a lot of depth shot for the third dimension.  There are some nice swinging shots and the like that look pretty gorgeous.

Black Levels:  Blacks are inky and gorgeous at times.  No real detail is hidden as it looks a tad on the brighter side.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are vibrant and popping off the screen right and left.  Reds do bleed out quite a bit.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are natural and flicker at a couple instances (Mainly fading into a new scene).  Detail is great in close-ups and mainly decent in further away shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain and little bit of specs throughout.

Kiss Me Kate 3


Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castellano) 1.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Castellano), Spanish (Latino), Korean

Dynamics:  Another nice, full sounding track.  The musical numbers sound full and marvelous.  Effects like tap dancing and doors slamming are wonderfully interpreted into this track.  Its a nice full on experience with a great balance and presentation.

Low Frequency Extension:  Mostly assists in musical number and deep vocals.

Surround Sound Presentation: The music filters through all 5 speakers quite nicely.  The movement of characters and such is accurately displayed through the front channel speakers.

Dialogue Reproduction: Like all the others, there’s a difference in vocal quality from singing to talking.  But, both sound nice and clear with only the singing lending itself to sounding like its off a record.

Singin In The Rain 4

Singin’ In The Rain 

Silent movies are giving way to talking pictures – and a hoofer-turned-matinee idol (Gene Kelly) is caught in that bumpy transition, as are his buddy (Donald O’Connor), prospective ladylove (Debbie Reynolds) and shrewish costar (Jean Hagen).

I recently wrote a piece on my Naptown Nerd blog for my “Favorite Films Before My Lifetime” series last month about my personal experience with seeing it for the first time that I figured I’d share here:

Singin’ In The Rain was one of those films growing up in the 90s (for me) that you kinda felt like you maybe knew it without even seeing it.  Clips were always used in commercial, TV, Hollywood montages, etc.  Oh and there’s that whole scene in A Clockwork Orange, too.  You know some of the dances, the songs, la la la.  Even though I’ve always been a fan of musicals, I kind of just never picked it up to watch because I knew enough that I felt maybe it could wait.  And then, I just never got to it.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I finally saw the film (I believe it was the fall of 2001 to be correct).  My film genres course was hitting the musical genre and this was on the roster for our class viewing.  It was going to be nice to finally see the film, but I wasn’t really jones’ing before the screening.
When the film started and I found out what the subject matter was really about, my jaw pretty much dropped.  I was such an idiot!  This film was totally not what I thought it was about (To be honest aside from song and dance I really didn’t what it was truly about).  And its subject matter was something that I truly endeared.  If you like films about Hollywood history and movies about making movies, this is one of, if not THE best at doing so.  Not only that, it was a damn fine film indeed.  I laughed greatly, and really enjoyed what a clever film it was.
No, I haven’t talked about the film itself really.  This series is a lot more about my personal experiences with movies or some things here or there that I love about a film.  Its one that truly and thankfully surprised the heck out of me the first time I saw it.  And I’m sure my feelings on Singin’ In The Rain match up with most everyone’s.  Its one of the finest films ever crafted and if you’ve not seen it, pick it up.  It’ll charm your pants off!
Singin In The Rain 1


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Clarity/Detail:  This masterpiece has never looked better before.  This is the same transfer used in the previous Blu-ray and 60th Anniversary releases.  To most, that transfer was more than adequate, so no desperate desire to return to “fix” anything.

Depth: Depth comes off quite nicely and is very similar to that of The Bandwagon.  People have a good sense of space, and frolic with seamless motion through each set.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and hide no detail.  They really enhance and liven up the look of the film as well.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite the highlight here.  They spruce up the picture and are as quaint as ever here.  Each color is rich and plentiful without stepping on one another’s toes.

Flesh Tones:  A few instances come across a little too smooth (maybe a source thing more than a post meddling) but for the most part are natural and consistent.  Detail is pretty high and impressive for a film of this era.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a little bit of halo’ing here and there if you’re really looking for it.  This film has had some involved post work done to it, but I think majority of it wound up being for the better.

Singin In The Rain 2


Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 1.0 Dolby Digital, German 1.0 DTS-HD MA, Italian 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 1.0 Dolby Digital, Czech 1.0 Dolby Digital, Polish 1.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castellano), Spanish (Latino), Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish

Dynamics:  More importantly than the picture was getting the audio right on here, and Warner Bros has done a hell of a job with this 5.1 track.  The music numbers just jump right out into the middle of your living room.  They’ve taken this original mono track and truly done something passionate and beneficial with it.  No, this isn’t some crazy “all speakers firing on all cylinders, personalized stuff in every speaker” experience.  Its just something that sounds damn good.

Low Frequency Extension: Not a film or era demanding a whole lot from the sub, but there is some assistance to instrumentals and a few things here or there.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Provides an accurate portrayal of what’s going on onscreen.  Some nice support from the rear speakers and some pleasant movement in the front three channels.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Really nails the vocal dynamics of the film and places them first and foremost above all else as it should be.  Crisp, loud and clear.

Bandwagon 4


Musicals: 4-Movie Collection comes in the hard cover book/sleeve format that goes into a nice hard case.  It also comes with 4 very nice black & white glossy publicity photos (1 of each film).  Each film features an MGM cartoon on its bonus features.  I’m not sure why, as the content of the cartoon doesn’t reference or feel in tune with the film its paired with.  I wonder if the cartoon was aired before the film at hand during its theatrical release.

The Band Wagon

Audio Commentary

  • By Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein – We can’t have Vincente, but his daughter is the next best thing.  This is a fun, educational and anecdotal little commentary.

Get Aboard! The Band Wagon (HD, 37:09) – A full on retrospective featuring surviving cast, family (Yes, that means Liza Minnelli) and historians.  It focuses on its roots, the production and its legacy.

The Men Who Made The Movies: Vincente Minnelli (HD, 58:25) – An episode of an old program that focuses on the career and films of Vincente Minnelli.  Features him sitting at his desk and discussing his productions.

Jack Buchanan With The Glee Quartet (HD, 6:00) – An old short featuring one of the stars from the film, Jack Buchanan.

The Three Little Pups (HD, 6:46) – An MGM cartoon that is basically the three little pigs story but with dogs.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:14)

Calamity Jane

So You Love Your Dog (HD, 10:31) – A Warner Bros live action comedy short about a dog messenger assisting a solider during World War II.

Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2 Century (HD, 7:04) – A Looney Tunes short.  You know you remember the Daffy Duck Sci-Fi series.  Good stuff.

Western Style Premiere (HD, :44) – A brief old Hollywood news clip from the premiere of the film

Photoplay Magazine’s Film Awards (HD, :51) – Another old news clip of an old awards show where Calamity Jane (And House of Wax 3-D) won some people’s choice awards.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:01)

Kiss Me Kate

Cole Porter In Hollywood: Too Darn Hot (HD, 9:42) – A brief retrospective history of the film’s origins and production hosted by Ann Miller, featuring interviews with the surviving cast, crew and historians/critics.

Mighty Manhattan, New York’s Wonder City (HD, 5:08) – A sort of “come visit Manhattan” nightlife kinda vintage promo film short.  I think because Ann Miller pops up for a second this was included.

Barney’s Hungry Cousin (HD, 6:42) – An MGM cartoon featuring Barney Bear.  He tries to just relax and eat a good meal, but his stupid cousin keeps munching up all his food before he can get a bite.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:33)

Singin’ In The Rain

Audio Commentary

  • By Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Co-Director Stanley Donen, Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and Author/Historian Rudy Behlmer

Signin’ In The Rain: Raining On A New Generation (HD, 50:48) – People like Paula Abdul, Usher, Glee people, John DeLuca and others discuss the legacy of the film, Gene Kelly, its impact and the intricacies of the dance in the film.

Jukebox – A feature that allows you to take the musical/dance numbers in the film and scatter them in any order you’d like.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 4:07)

Singin In The Rain 3


Four musicals, of which I think three of them are pretty great is a good batting average.  This set comes in some nice fancy packaging, which I was really impressed.  I honestly thought it’d just be a standard case with a slip cover.  Nope, this is made from some really nice material and is a great collectible.  The films themselves look and sound better than ever.  The extras leave a little bit to be desired (Aside from The Bandwagon which has a great assortment), but I think overall this set has all you’re going to want/need.  On the higher end of recommendation.  And at the price they have this set for right now, its a complete steal.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

5 Responses to “Musicals: 4-Movie Collection (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Damn! An impressive, big review here! Good work!!!

  2. Bob Furmanek

    Great review but KISS ME KATE had a VERY wide 3-D release in 1953/54.


  3. Brandon Peters

    Thanks for the read, Bob. I’m not an expert on Kiss Me Kate, I was only going off of what the bonus features and press materials provided were telling me. I’ll take your word for it.

  4. Dan Oldrati

    Calamity Jane was an original musical made for the screen. The Live show came later.

  5. Bob Furmanek

    I think the bonus features are at least a decade old. If that was copied into the press release, that’s too bad. WB has all the documentation now that we sent on KATE.