The definitive edition!
Benoit Racine | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 10/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've watched both the spotless B&W version with commentary and the dazzling color version of the Universal 3-disc (including CD) edition of "Holiday Inn" and I am very impressed.
If you haven't seen the film for a while, the very high points are the song "White Christmas" and its reprise and two of Fred Astaire's more unforgettable numbers: a solo dance with firecrackers and a falling down drunk number that has to be seen to be believed. But to be fair, all the numbers are memorable, from the classic "You're Easy to Dance With" to the 18th Century-influenced "I Can't Tell a Lie" and the blackface hommage to Abraham Lincoln, "Abraham", one of Irving Berlin's best "unknown" songs. The two underrated female counterparts (Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale) are also quite nimble and copacetic.
This edition has kept all the extras of the 2006 Special Edition: "A couple of Song and Dance Men", a 50 min double biography of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire that has a lot of exciting footage from many of their movies not yet on DVD, hosted by record producer Ken Barnes and Ava Astaire; "All Singing - All Dancing", a 7 min demonstration of how the dance numbers were filmed and put together (dancing to a pre-recorded soundtrack + live recording of the tapping sound with hidden microphones); a very thorough multiple commentary with input from vintage Crosby and Astaire interviews; and a well-preserved theatrical trailer.
It also includes a 12-band CD collection of the film's songs with Crosby and Astaire (from Geffen Records) presented in a cute miniature cardboard 78-RPM sleeve - a genuine collector's item, and a 7 min making-of docu of the color version with Barry Sandrew.
The Legend Films color version, in my opinion, reaches yet another summit in verisimilitude, the skin tones having been somehow improved upon and the indoor/outdoor sets and costumes being handled with the same level of maniacal authenticity as in "It's a Wonderful Life". It actually looks better than a lot of color films of the era and really strives for that saturated Technicolor look, but in a somehow more "relaxed" presentation, as B&W films obviously didn't have to try as hard to dazzle the eye in every department and every second. Still, I had to gawk and stare at a scene where Astaire is hurriedly packing a tangled bunch of vari-colored neckties, wondering at the complexity of the colorization process involved in such a puny but mind-bogling detail. The whole film - with the nicely contrasting exception of a patriotic B&W documentary montage of the USA's entry into WWII shown at the Inn - is bathed in the warm glow of intimate indoor lighting alternating with more gaudy flood-lit and heart-stopping dance numbers. You have absolutely no idea what "oomph" means until you've seen Virginia Dale's sequined night-blue dress shimmy and shake in the "You're Easy To Dance With" number. I found it really hard to come back to the B&W version after that, except for the commentary and the other extras on Disc 1. Yes, I am that shallow.
Both versions are pretty much at the maximum bitrate throughout. The whole experience can only be described as sheer, unadulterated joy and an unparalleled time-travel piece."
New 3-disc Collector's Set of holiday classic due out Octobe
Sanpete | in Utah | 08/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the great films, with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire doing some of their most memorable work to some of the better music of Irving Berlin, including the debut of his all-time most popular "White Christmas." The plot is clever, if somewhat silly, the writing sharp, with lots of laughs, romance, ups and downs, and a happy ending for all. If you don't already have the movie, this is certainly the nicest set. But if you have the 2006 Special Edition, you may not need to upgrade. The new Collector's Set will have a few new features not in the Special Edition:
-- a colorized version of the movie - don't worry, the original black-and-white version is included too
-- a featurette on colorizing the movie
-- a soundtrack CD (which is the third disc of the set)
The soundtrack CD would be a very nice bonus, I think. The new Collector's Set also includes the special features from the Special Edition:
-- audio commentary by film historian Ken Barnes with archival audio segments from Crosby, Astaire and Crosby's longtime music director John Scott Trotter
-- "A Couple of Song & Dance Men," a biographical documentary about Crosby and Astaire with Barnes and Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie (44:30)
-- "All Singing, All Dancing," a featurette on making musicals, again with Barnes (7:15)
-- the original theatrical trailer
The film is preserved in its original 1.33:1 full screen format in both the black-and-white and colorized versions. The studio announcement doesn't say whether the video or sound will be remastered. The image and sound quality of the 2006 Special Edition is good but not exceptional; the new one should be at least that good.
This 1942 film centers on Jim (Crosby), a singer and part of a successful three-person New York nightclub act with dancer Ted (Astaire) and singer and dancer Lila (Virginia Dale). Their act portrays a rivalry between the two men over Lila's affections, spelled out in terms of a contest between singing and dancing. Life imitates art, as Jim decides to leave the harried show business life and buy a farm in Connecticut, thinking he'll take Lila as his bride and they'll happily live the simple life together. But Ted has other ideas, and Lila chooses to stay with Ted in show biz, so Jim starts his new life on the farm alone. Soon learning that the simple farming life isn't as carefree as he had imagined, Jim hatches the idea of turning the farm into Holiday Inn, a lodge with nightclub entertainment open only for public holidays. Naturally, events bring Ted, just dumped by Lila, out to the farm, where a new rivalry develops over Jim's new love interest (Marjorie Reynolds). Much scheming, misunderstanding, singing and dancing and romancing ensue.
Both Crosby and Astaire were at their cinematic peaks in 1942. The way they interact is great fun and worth seeing the film for by itself. The songs included many new Irving Berlin numbers, with highlights "Lazy," "Be Careful, It's My Heart," "White Christmas," of course, and the reused "Easter Parade" all sung by Crosby. Astaire was actually a fine singer himself, and did "You're Easy to Dance With" full justice. As good as Crosby and the music is, what really steals the show for me is some of Astaire's all-time best dancing, especially a hilarious drunken reprise of "You're Easy to Dance With" with Reynolds, and the immortal "Let's Say It with Firecrackers" routine, a solo he's portrayed as improvising with pockets full of firecrackers as his props.
There might be a bit of controversy over a number done in blackface, which was still popular at the time, and which is accompanied by the wonderful black character actress Louise Beavers, as Crosby's maid/cook, portraying some stereotypes not so well appreciated today. There is also a reminder of the time in the form of a patriotic montage supporting the war effort, which was just beginning.
If you like old movies at all, are looking for a classic holiday movie (this one ends up at Christmas), or are a fan of Crosby or Astaire, this is a must."
Wesley Clark | Springfield, Virginia | 12/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My family and I have been watching Holiday Inn every Christmas Eve for the past twenty one years! All three kids know the songs by heart. To me, no film has the mixture of sentiment and elegance that this one has.
Our discussion all that time, however, has been "Why won't they colorize it?," along with speculation about what colors gowns and other clothing might be. (Okay, my son could care less.) Never has a film's subject matter and production called for colorization more.
We always figured that the unfortunate racial stereotypical material would keep it from ever being released in an improved version. (At one point Bing slaps some blackface makeup on Marjorie Reynolds for the "Abraham" number, which causes her to say "...and here I was hoping to be pretty!" Ouch.)
But at long last it's available in a colorized version, and it's like watching the film completely anew. Details I had never noticed before pop right off the screen in this one (the salads in the foreground of the kitchen shot, the greenery in the "You're Easy To Dance To" number, the log cabin table center-pieces in the Lincoln's birthday number, Fred's star-spangled 4th of July hankie) - it's really surprising what a difference the color makes in the details.
And I could swear the sound is improved, as well. I had never before heard a triangle being played in the Washington's Birthday number - but it's there now.
Only one disappointment: We had always thought Marjorie Reynolds' gown in the Valentine's Day number was a deep red or maroon, but here it's rendered as black (with a pink heart pin). Perhaps the documentation exists that indicates that was the actual color of the dress or maybe it was a judgement call from the fashion lady doing the color palette design - but we think it would look better as a deep red.
Whatever... this well-wrought release was a long time coming and perhaps it will cause this wonderful movie musical to finally achieve the fame it deserves. (It is far, far better than the later color "White Christmas.")
Get it, and as the Holiday Inn newspaper clipping says, "God Bless America!""
Holiday Inn 3 disk collectors set Colorized
M. Reynolds | Liverpool, NY | 01/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"excellent investment....the extras that come with the set are well worth it. Recommended highly"