Inspired by a real figure, Call Me Madam is a good-nature political satire, which seesEthel Merman appointed ambassador to Lichtenberg (i.e. Luxembourg). The government of thetiny dukedom is hoping for a massive US loan (which will make possible the marriage betweenVera-Ellen and a neighbouring country’s cold fish nobleman). Merman, however, has nointention of granting that loan, until she meets General George Sanders (sporting a silly MittleEuropean accent). Sanders… on the other hand, wants his country to stand on its own too feet.Also along for the ride is Donald O’Connor as Merman’s press attache. He brings some of thesame wiseacre attitude that made his character in Singin’ in the Rain such a delight.
This is all good-natured stuff, and the farce is punctuated by Irvin Berlin’s songs. Though thesatire has lost its context, and the jokes have thus aged rather badly (and one winces every timeSanders opens his mouth), Merman is brassy fun, and O’Connor’s twinkle is never amiss.
Not the most successful of audio tracks, especially since this is a musical. Distortion is rife,with both music and vocals afflicted by severe buzz. Merman’s voice, powerful as it is, sendsthe needles into the red just about every time she speaks, let alone during the songs. Though the2.0 stereo remix avoids surround voices (in fact, there’s no surround at all), it does nothing tomake the sound reproduction more pleasing. Compare this sound here to the pristine audio onSingin’ in the Rain, a film that was made two years prior.
Not a lot to celebrate here, either. The picture (in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio) is very softand grainy. The colours and blacks are fine, but the edges are often very rough. Some shots ofLichtenberg have such dreadful red edges, I almost reached for my 3-D glasses. Unfortunately,then, the picture is a even match with the sound.
Film scholar Miles Kreuger does the honours on the commentary. His very scripted talk, if abit stiff, is very informative, and provides invaluable help in grasping the movie’s originalcontext and satire. Also here is the teaser, the theatrical trailer, and trailers for a handful of recentFox musical DVDs.
The commentary is a very nice feature, but the film would be considerably more enjoyableif the sound quality weren’t so rocky.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Teaser and Trailer
- Bonus Trailers