The plot is very simple, as the spectacular song-and-dance numbers are the real star of theshow. Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen are big stars of the silent screen. But sound is arriving, andHagen’s voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard (and she has a personality to match). Kellyfalls in love with Debbie Reynolds, a struggling dancer with a terrific voice. This is enough of aframework on which to hang the production numbers, but the comedy in between is oftenhowlingly fun…y as well.
I was a bit nervous, I confess, when I saw that the soundtrack had been remixed to 5.1, andthat there was no mono option. I’ve been burned enough times by mono-to-stereo conversionsthat produced primarily surreal effects and white noise. No such problems here. The sound iswarm and full, free of static, and the music sounds spectacular. Wisely, the surround effects havebeen kept to a minimum (even the music is a bit more low key than you might expect). I stronglysuspect that a more concerted use of the rear speakers would have introduced distortion.
I know I shouldn’t say it, that the pun is just too painful, but… what a glorious picture. Theprint is absolutely pristine — I didn’t see a single speckle. The colours are sumptuous, the imagerazor sharp, and there is no grain. Beautiful, just beautiful.
The menu has a scored main page, and that’s it. I really don’t care, though, because the extrasare so spectacular. Disc 1 has a commentary hosted by Debbie Reynolds, and featuringcontributions from Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, co-director StanleyDonen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, director and fan Baz Luhrmann, and filmhistorian Rudy Behlmer. As you can imagine, the reminiscences and anecdotes come fast andfurious. You can watch the film with the “Singin’ Inspirations” option engaged. When a film reelappears, hit “enter” and you’ll get background on the films that inspired Singin’ in the Rain,complete with excerpts. More excerpts are available with “Reel Sound,” which traces thedevelopment of sound in film, and gives examples from those early days. Then there’s the trailer,and cast, crew and awards listings. Disc 2 has an 86-minute documentary — “Musicals GreatMusicals” — recounting the history of the Arthur Freed musical unit at MGM. “What a GloriousFeeling” is a half-hour making-of documentary, with many of the principles interviewed (CydCharisse appears to have tapped into the fountain of youth). There are also twelve excerpts offilms from the ‘30s where most of Singin’ in the Rain’s songs first appeared, an outtake ofDebbie Reynolds singing “You Are My Lucky Star,” a still gallery, and the original recordingssessions of the songs (multiple takes included).
A classic film in a classic package. All of the extras are interesting. This release sets a very,very high standard.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- “Reel Sound” — Excerpts from Early Sound Movies
- Stills Gallery
- Awards List
- Cast and Crew List
- “Musicals Great Musicals” Documentary
- “What A Glorious Feeling” Documentary
- Clips from the Songs
- “You Are My Lucky Star” Outtake
- Scoring Session Music Cues