There’s nothing really to summarize about these films. Their reason for being, after all, is simply to present clips from classic MGM musicals. The first film, released to huge success in 1974, set the pattern, with various big stars (Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly and so on) narrating different segments of a potted history of the MGM musical. That’s Entertainment, Part 2 (1976) broadened its scope to include comedy and romance scenes as well. The third film didn’t arrive…until1994, and dug deeper into the vaults to feature many scenes that were previously unseen because they were cut from the original releases. There’s something a little bit dubious about watching just the big numbers from famous films and stripping them of context (and the clips are very frequently not presented in their entirety anyway), and anyone looking for a serious documentary about MGM is better off looking elsewhere. There is still an enormous amount of material here, much of it now rare or hard to find. Simply bear in mind that the effect of watching these films is not unlike viewing a multi-hour marathon of Oscar night tribute compilations.
The sound has been remastered so that all three films are presented in 5.1. Some considerable care has gone into this process, as there is none of the lazy, distracting flaws one encounters far too often with such remixes. The surround only occurs where appropriate (the Overture to the first film, for instance, has a room-filling presence), but where the transition from mono to surround sound would have sounded forced, it seems that the track has been left alone. Thus, many of the clips of older films keep the sound largely confined to the front speakers.
The films come in both anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen versions, yet the presentation is, ironically, faithful to the original aspect ratio in both cases. Most of the films featured were in the 1.33:1 ratio to begin with, and the films respect this. Result: the fullscreen version goes letterboxed when called for, while the widescreen version has vertical bars on the side much of the time. The quality of the image depends a lot on the quality of the sources the films used (in other words, we’re seeing these scenes at two removes), and so the grain is, at times, quite severed. The colours are generally as bright as they should be in the musical sequences.
Each film comes with its theatrical trailer and a short intro by Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies. He sets the scene for the film, but not much more. The fourth disc in the set — That’s Entertainment! Treasures from the Vault contains all the extras, and these are all featurettes that, while quite involved were all promotional materials for the releases of their respective films. So what you get is reunions of MGM stars in 1974 and 1994, and all sorts of entirely sunny memories by the stars. (Again, don’t be looking here for in-depth documentaries.) Side B’s “The Masters Behind the Musicals” celebrates the behind-the-camera talent and also has some 16 musical numbers that have been rescued from the cutting room floor. The menus have scored main screens.
Interesting as collections of material, and the first film also has a place in history as the movie that helped jump-start the nostalgia industry. In fact, the films have added value now because, since most of their stars have since died, they are nostalgic artifacts in and of themselves.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailers
- MGM’s 25th Anniversary Newsreel
- 1974 Featurette: “Just One More Time”
- 1975 Featurette: “The Lion Roars Again”
- 1976 Mike Douglas Show Excerpt
- Musical Outtake Jukebox
- “That’s Entertainment!: 50 Years of MGM” Featurette
- “That’s Entertainment! III: Behind the Screen” Documentary
- “The Masters Behind the Musicals” Documentary