C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Joe Hardy is a fanatic, middle-aged Washington Senators baseball fan who makes a pact with the devil. In exchange for his soul (although there is a small escape clause). he'll become a 22-year-old savior of the Senators, the greatest long ball hitter in history, and he'll lead the team to a pennant. Later, young Hardy shows signs of yearning for the wife he left behind, so the Devil sends in Lola, his vamp supreme. But thanks to Joe's integrity, the escape clause, and after a number of song and dance numbers, things are put right for both Joe and the Senators.
The movie is an almost exact replica of the 1956 Broadway hit. Tab Hunter moved in as the young Joe, but everyone else reprised their stage roles -- and that's the reason to see or buy the DVD. Ray Walston plays Applegate, the devil, with barely contained glee. He's sly, unethical, untrustworthy and very funny. Best of all Gwen Verdon plays Lola, and she hits a home run with every number. She was a great dancer and a magnetic stage presence. I saw her do her stuff on stage once and it's a great memory. She had her big break in Can Can in 1954, then starred in three more shows during the Fifties. She won a Tony for each. She married Bob Fosse, retired, had a daughter, divorced Fosse. In 1966 she starred in Sweet Charity. And at 50, in 1975, she starred in Chicago. Believe me, she hadn't lost a thing. She was not the starlet type. She had a grainy, slightly smoky voice, and a personality that could range from gamin to raunchy. She could bring innocence to the most suggestive lyrics. As you can tell, I'm a fan.
The score for Damn Yankees is, in my view, better than average but not a classic. It includes "Whatever Lola Wants," "Two Lost Souls" and "Heart." Fosse did the choreography and dances with Verdon in one number, "Who's Got the Pain." It's a clever, fast routine and is a great showcase for them both."
A darling show
Joseph Hart | Visalia, CA United States | 10/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tab Hunter was as good as any and everyone else in the picture. I liked him. I never saw the show, but I've had the OBC album for years. Three songs were left out and one added (at least it isn't on the cast album, and is a bloodless little thing and is used inexplicably instead of "A Man Doesn't Know" to end the show). The other 2 left out are "Near to You" and "The Game." Maybe "The Game" was meant to be in the movie but the censors got cold feet, because the tune is in the overture/credits. It's a darling cute song and I wish they'd left it in. As near as I could tell, only one song got cleaned up and that was "A Little Brains - A Little Talent." One word (boffola) was changed to something strange, and a few lines were changed. "You've seen the sign that says George Washington once slept here. Well though nobody spied him, guess who was beside him." What they changed it too was just as risque, just more subtle. "When they turned the lamps on, guess who was with Samson." I swore that if they destroyed this Adler/Ross treasure like they did Pajama Game with their puritanical fantacism, I would return the movie (I rented it to watch and kept the one I bought the day it was released unopened). I'll keep it. Changing "bofola" is just pointless, and the rhyme lamps on/Samson is so clever, it's as good as what it replaced. I'd like it if they'd left both in. The dancing was good, the songs were good, the acting was good, the plot had enough kinks in it to keep it interesting and it was just long enough. If you like musicals, I recommend it. And I repeat in flagrant defiance of all other reviewers including Amazon's sarcastic, caustic professional, Tab Hunter did just fine. I personally dislike Ray Walston, but he was a biggie in his time. And Gwen Verdon was a dream. Finally, Edith Bunker deserved bigger billing!"
Nice preservation of the Broadway show
James M. Shertzer | Winston-Salem NC | 10/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When Warners brought Adler and Ross's "Pajama Game" and "Damn Yankees" to the screen, they make a wise choice: they brought most of the shows' original Broadway casts with them, substituting just two photogenic major studio contract players (Doris Day for Janis Paige in "Game" and Tab Hunter for Stephen Douglass in "Yankees") in leading roles. In Day's case it was probably an improvement; Hunter's not great but he's no embarrassment. Stanley Donen (on loan from MGM?) teamed up with the great stage director George Abbott for the films, and (thankfully!) Bob Fosse restaged his original dance numbers. Naturally there had to be some cuts - risque material ("The Game" in "Yankees", "Think of the Time I Save" in "Pajama") was excised - and the shows were tightened. But the spirits of the original shows were better captured than in most Hollywood transfers. The new DVD of "Yankees" arrived today and it's regrettable that there are no bonuses and there's no stereo track (unlike MGM and Fox, Warners apparently didn't believe much in multichannel recording at the time). But the show, though a little dated, is still great fun. Anyone who knows Ray Walston merely from "My Favorite Martian" is due for a special treat. Vernon, whose Hollywood career during her musical prime was far too brief, is ALWAYS a treat, and Lola was one of her signature roles. The Warnercolor transfer looks pretty good for a film nearly 50 years old. I remember Warnercolor veering a little to the dark side of the color palette but that seems to have been compensated for here."
Good soul-searching musical.
Chris Aldridge | Washington, DC USA | 02/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is another film which would probably be better rated if it wasn't so slavishly compared to its stage original. It does its job just fine, thank you, but you must remember that stage and film are two different media. In the conservative postwar 50's there was very little controversy shown (or allowed to be shown) in the film and TV media; a Faustian book made into a film musical probably scared the Hays moral office to death! That said, the Abbott-Donen collaboration does a more than competent job of telling the story, and scores an extra base hit retaining most of the Broadway cast of the show in the first place. I've read that the studio tried to lure Marilyn Monroe into playing the Lola role (and assuring box-office returns), but the producers were smart enough to know that the role needed a real dancer-actress combination. In short, it needed Gwen Verdon. It needed her special brand of eccentricity, sexiness, and heartbreak. And it got her. If you're still not convinced, take another look at the exquisite cafe' dance of "Two Lost Souls.""
Fosse's Funny Faustian Fantasy
Steven Mason | California | 09/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Pardon the expression, but Damn Yankees is funny as hell, filled with devilish humor and great music! I think I like it better even than Cabaret and Chicago, two other great Fosse musicals. Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon sizzle as the horned one and his temptress. They could have done better than Tab Hunter as Joe, but he does a fine job. The movie was made in 1958 but it doesn't seem dated because it's dealing with universal themes. Watch it and laugh and sing!"