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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bye Bye Birdie (Blu-ray)
Bye Bye Birdie (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // G // August 14, 2012 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Screenarchives]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 18, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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::audible gasp!::
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I know! America's sweetheart -- or...errr...whatever the male equivalent of that is -- has been drafted. Untold millions of smitten, shrieking teenage girls have taken to the streets in protest. Where some people see poodle skirts and bobby socks (or, I dunno, whatever kids were wearing back then), Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh) spies a business opportunity. See, Rosie's fiancé Albert (Dick Van Dyke) has frittered away every last cent he had and then some trying to make it as a songwriter. Total number
Totally crushed out!

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of songs sold over the past six years...? Zip. Zero. Zilch. This mama's boy is on the brink of calling it quits, especially since that number he wrote for Conrad Birdie's next picture is D.O.A. what with that whole draft thing going on. Enter Rosie's nefarious scheme! Conrad's already scheduled for four minutes on The Ed Sullivan Show before he's shipped off for basic training. Rosie pitches having the heartthrob smooch one girl -- chosen completely at random! -- from his fanclub. It's symbolic! By planting one on her, Conrad's kissing every teenaged girl from coast to coast. It'll be a ratings sensation! ...and when he belts out "One Last Kiss" afterwards, a soon-to-be-smash hit that's soon-to-be-written by Rosie's reluctant groom, she and Albert will have all the greenbacks they'll ever need. Everybody wins!

...and when I say "everybody", right up there at the top of that list is Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret), the smalltown Ohio firecracker who gets to lock lips with the man of her dreams. Oh, wait. Her newly-minted boyfriend (Bobby Rydell) isn't all that hot on the idea. Heck, neither is Kim's pop (Paul Lynde). I mean, having Conrad, Albert, and Rosie practically take over his house is bad enough, but what'll all this mean for the future of the McAfee Fertlizer Company?! Ooooohhhhh, the whole thing is getting pretty tenuous. Everybody's trying to charm everyone else into staying onboard, making promises they can't exactly keep. It turns out that Conrad is kind of a prick. Rosie's patience is running awfully thin. Albert's having a tough time focusing on...well, anything since he's constantly dropping it all to cater to every last whim of his domineering mother (Maureen Stapleton). Romances fizzle! The Russians are coming! The cash cow's been put out to pasture! It'll take more than a couple of miracles to pull this whole
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thing off, so...fingers crossed?

From its candy-coated visuals to a sweet-'n-sultry breakout performance by Ann-Margret, Bye Bye Birdie is a two hour sugar rush of a musical. Everything about those eye-popping Technicolor hues screams "fun!", exclamation point and all. It has a gleefully ridiculous sense of humor, including a runner with a tortoise doped up on speed. Hey, I'm also pretty darn sure that Bye Bye Birdie has the distinction of being the only G-rated musical with a climax swirling around homebrew amphetamines, or at least something in that general neighborhood. The movie also gets a lot out of its supremely talented cast. Dick Van Dyke is as much of a blast as ever, turning up here as a biochemist-turned-failed-songwriter that can't quite manage to grow up. Janet Leigh makes the most of a role heavily truncated from the original Broadway musical. In lesser hands, Rosie could very easily have devolved into a shrill harpy, and Leigh ensures that she's not just sympathetic but is the duct tape keeping this whole sack of potatoes from falling apart. Paul Lynde naturally steals just about every last scene he's in. ...and then there's Ann-Margret in the role that made her a household name. Her take on Kim manages to be both girl-next-door wholesome and va-va-voom, in keeping with a sixteen year old who's just now blossoming into womanhood and is still trying to figure
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out what that means, exactly. Equal parts infectiously sweet and endlessly seductive, and brought to life by a magnetic and unrelentingly entrancing starlet, Kim is the girl of everyone's dreams.

I fell in love with Bye Bye Birdie based just on its iconic opening sequence that was excerpted in Mad Men a few years back, and...hey! There really is a lot there to like. It's just that at the end of the day, Bye Bye Birdie is a musical comedy, and it's not that great a musical and not that great a comedy. There are only a couple of earworms in the entire film: the first standout is the title song that Ann-Margret belts out against that solid blue background, and the other big one is Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh's "Put on a Happy Face". Several of the other songs are fun and bouncy and generally okay, but they don't really get lodged in my head. The premise as a whole is based on Elvis getting drafted, and Conrad Birdie's songs are all seasoned with The King's flavor of rock-'n-roll. They're...mostly awful, though, especially "Honestly Sincere", which boasts the clumsiest set of lyrics in a musical this side of "Life Is Nothing But Show Business in 1994" from The Apple. Nothing about Jesse Pearson screams "teen heartthrob!", woefully miscast in the part of Conrad Birdie. Though I'm not crazy about "How Lovely to Be a Woman" or "A Lot of Livin' to Do" as songs, Ann-Margret does her damndest to ensure they're showstopping numbers just the same. Still, the pace kinda plods along for a pretty long while there, feeling impossibly bloated at its nearly two hour runtime.

I'm torn! There's a lot I like about Bye Bye Birdie and every bit as much I don't. Still, a few laughs, a couple terrific musical numbers, some spectacular staging, and putting Ann-Margret front and center can go an awfully long way, and it sure doesn't hurt that this is one of the best-looking Blu-ray discs on the market right now. Oooohhhh, I guess I'll err on the side of smiles and say that Bye Bye Birdie comes Recommended.


Bye Bye Birdie is gorgeous, delivering a class of Technicolor eye candy that's very rarely been rivaled on Blu-ray. This is coming from someone who's notoriously stingy with five star ratings too, and I still can't fathom giving Bye Bye Birdie anything less than a perfect score. This high definition remaster is spectacularly sharp and detailed; no matter how high I'd set my expectations beforehand, Bye Bye Birdie easily trumps 'em. Its sumptuous, candy-colored palette is rendered brilliantly. Bye Bye Birdie's warm, filmic texture has also been faithfully preserved, not that its sheen of grain is the least bit intrusive in the first place. There's not even a little bit of wear, damage, or flecks of dust to fret about here. Simply put, this presentation of Bye Bye Birdie is perfect, to the point where I'd recommend shelling out the disc's asking price of thirty dollars on those merits alone.

Oh, and just because I know so many people got their first taste of Bye Bye Birdie courtesy of the third season of Mad Men, I figured I might as well show how dramatically improved this presentation is over the film's previous appearance on Blu-ray.

Bye Bye BirdieSeason 3 of Mad Men
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Bye Bye Birdie's high bitrate AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc. As you can hopefully tell from the screenshots scattered all over this review, the film is presented on Blu-ray at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

I'm thrilled to say that I get to lavish that same off-the-charts level of praise on Bye Bye Birdie's lossless soundtrack. Presented in 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio, the film's musical numbers are remarkably rich and full, positively roaring from every speaker. The distinctness and clarity of the instrumentation also shine on Blu-ray, and...well, just about everything else throughout Bye Bye Birdie is dazzlingly clean and clear as well. The surrounds are primarily used to reinforce the music, although they also dish out some atmosphere when appropriate, such as the raucous
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laughter on The Ed Sullivan Show. Dialogue is balanced very nicely in the mix and emerges without any complaints or concerns whatosever. The lossless audio isn't marred by any pops, clicks, dropouts, hiss, or clipping, leaving me with nothing to grouse about at all. What an extraordinary effort this presentation of Bye Bye Birdie is all around...!

English (SDH) subtitles and an isolated score have also been provided here.

  • Isolated Song and Music/Effects Track: Bye Bye Birdie's isolated score is presented in lossless 24-bit stereo.

  • Trailer and Teaser (7 min.; HD): Also included are a four and a half minute theatrical trailer and a lengthy teaser.
Bye Bye Birdie features another in a series of terrific liner notes by Julie Kirgo. The essay understandably revolves almost entirely around Ann-Margret, not just in terms of how she's the driving force of the film's success but how this adaptation was heavily restructured to feature her as the central character.

The Final Word
As dazzling Technicolor eye candy, the effervescent and infectiously cute Bye Bye Birdie is tough to top. It easily ranks among the absolute most gorgeous of the 1,500 so films I've watched on Blu-ray...and I'd be saying that even if it didn't star a knockout like Ann-Margret. On the other hand, it's also overly long, light on laughs, and only trots out a handful of truly memorable musical numbers. At least for my money, it works better as an experience than it does as a movie, but...hey! What an experience it is, and one that's still very much Recommended.
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