JUDY GARLAND: FABULOUS, TIMELESS TALENT
DEWEY MEE | ELLENSBURG, WA, | 08/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Infinity Entertainment is re-releasing "The Judy Garland Show" (1963-1964) on DVD. The series was previously available on Pioneer, but those editions have since gone out of print. Infinity promises to release all 26 episodes in a 12 Volume Set-- 2 episodes on each DVD.
The first episode of Volume One illustrates what was wrong with the show. All three major TV networks at the time (CBS, NBC, and ABC) had a bidding war to sign the amazing and incomparable Judy Garland to a weekly TV series. CBS, having won, couldn't decide which "format" to put Judy in (note: nobody "formats" Judy Garland!) and seemed determined to change her from a dynamic diva into an average TV personality. Whatever changes CBS threw at her (and their were innumerable changes throughout the 26 episodes), Judy gamely rolled with the punches and gave her very best.
The first episode starts promisingly; with Judy singing "The Sweetest Sounds" with Count Basie and his orchestra. Later, she also sings "Memories Of You." There should have been more musical magic with Judy and Count Basie. Instead, too much time is wasted on asinine "comedy routines" with series regular Jerry Van Dyke. Please, Jerry Van Dyke never belonged on the same stage as Judy Garland! Mel Torme sings a manic version of "Fascinating Rhythm" while simultaneously playing drums. Obscure folk singer Judy Henske (who?) delivers a strong rendition of Billie Holiday's classic "God Bless The Child," and then joins Jerry and Mel for a pointless parody of Peter, Paul, and Mary called "Peter, Paul, And Irving." Judy Garland, finally and at last, returns to close the episode with the heartbreakingly sad "A Cottage For Sale" and the rousing "Hey, Look Me Over" from the forgotten Lucille Ball musical "Wildcat." Distressingly, the viewer will notice there is not enough of Judy Garland on this episode of "The Judy Garland Show."
The second episode, though featuring more pointless "comedy routines" from Jerry Van Dyke and Soupy Sales, is of far better quality and much more entertaining. This is because Judy's special guest is her own daughter Liza Minnelli. It is a treat to see young Liza at 17, nearly a decade away from her own career breakthrough in the film version of "Cabaret" and her TV concert "Liza With A Z." The strong mother-daughter bond is evident everywhere here. The affection between Judy and Liza is genuine and affecting. The Judy/Liza duets here are magical. Liza also does her own solo song and dance routine, and The Brothers Castro from Mexico offer a sexy, Latin twist on "You Make Me Feel So Young." Most importantly, Judy Garland: The Dynamic Diva is seen full force here as she delivers explosive performances of "Come Rain Or Come Shine" and "As Long As He Needs Me."
I'm removing one star from my review because I find Jerry Van Dyke so annoying and unnecessary. Judy Garland, the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century, definitely deserves five stars! These episodes were both taped in July of 1963, when Judy was age 41. She would leave us much too soon; just six years later at age 47. But Judy looks fabulous here and is in excellent voice. Judy's timeless talent will live forever!"
This series is a big disappointment.
David Price | Houston, TX USA | 10/01/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This series of DVDs seemed to have great promise when announced ... a re-release of out-of-print material previously released by Pioneer and Geneon, with the mention of improved sound quality. This series may have slightly better sound but is painfully lacking due to having been ruthlessly edited. Why they would do this seems incredible ... whole chunks of the shows are missing and the promised extra material is minimal. Searching out used copies of the previous releases would be much more satisfying, if you want my advice. I bought Volume 1 but was unhappy with it. Volume 2 just arrived today and is equally poorly done. I am returning it for refund. Such a huge disappointment."
SIX stars for Judy (and the same for Liza and the Count) but
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 08/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
You can read the details of the musical numbers in the two shows presented in this volume - the first of 13 to come from Infinity - so I won't rehash that information here. I will say that the print is GORGEOUS black and white and the sound wonderful. The discs come from the first generation video tapes that were made of the shows in 1968. (These are not kinescopes.) In fact both episodes include the full end title music and the first episode continues through Garland's taking an extra bow to the live audience.
The first of the two shows here features Count Basie and the opening number has Basie accompanying Garland on a Hammond organ (!) for Eubie Blake's classic "Memories of You". We also get a rare chance to see the exceedingly tall folk singer Judy Henske.
The second show is best known as the "Liza Show" because then-seventeen year old Liza Minnelli partners with her mom for most of the musical numbers - though each gets a solo turn. They not only sing - but dance! Soupy Sales is here too and actually does a good job singing "I'm Calm".
All the above wonderful material is, however, spoiled by the many appearances of Jerry Van Dyke - the annoying and extremely unfunny brother of the talented Dick Van Dyke. (Wasn't Jerry's big career move starring in "My Mother The Car" on TV"). You cringe every time he appears. He wastes a FULL nine minutes on the "Liza" show with a pantomime of the first episode of the show The Lone Ranger!
Its surprising that the producers of this DVD went to the effort of creating "chapter stops" but didn't place them at the beginning of songs or comedy bits so you could reply the highlights. Instead each show has only 6 chapters. So you can't just jump to the great moments. Hopefully they will fix this on future volumes.
I would have given this volume SIX stars - its THAT good when Judy and Liza & Basie are on - but Jerry Van Dyke is so awful that I he gets a MINUS 2, resulting in my four star review.
I'm looking forward to future volumes to see what incredible guest stars Judy teams with.
It doesn't get better than this...
Tim | 04/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These two early episodes of Judy Garland's weekly T.V. series show her at her absolute zenith....looking slim, glamorous, and gorgeous, and singing like no one else could ever come close to! Her versions of Old Man River, As Long As He Needs Me, Come Rain or Come Shine, and When The Sun Comes Out are so emotionally charged and soulful and show her unmatched ability to rip her heart out for her audiences. Mickey Rooney is also very enjoyable, and very affectionate with his old MGM pal. Hearing them ad-lib to old photographs of themselves when they were teenagers is simply charming and full of wit. Liza is also fun to watch in this very early stage of her career, as she is so energetic and full of spunk! These television shows are simply classic, and if some of the intervening segments lag (like the scenes with Jerry Van Dyke), they don't override the greatness and brilliance of the musical numbers."