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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Gang's All Here (Blu-ray)
The Gang's All Here (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // G // July 12, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 23, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Gang's All Here Blu-ray Review

The Gang's All Here is a 1943 Technicolor musical from executive producer William Goetz (The Man From Laramie, Sayonara) and producer William LeBaron (Baby Face, Union Pacific). The film is a romantic-musical with an array of musical song-and-dance highlights: The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat, The Polka Dot Polka, and A Journey to a Star. It was the last musical to star Hollywood legend Alice Faye in the lead role.

Edie Allen (Alice Faye) stars as a chorus girl working at the Club New Yorker. Edie meets Andy Mason Jr. (James Ellison), a young man who is enamored with her but who is about to serve in the army. The two quickly fall in love with one another in a night of romance. However, as the war quickly separates the  romantic pair the relationship encounters turmoil because of the time spent apart. Will Edie and Andy be able to reunite and save their romance before the musical-numbers conclude (and there is no more dancing)?  

The beating heart of the film is in the musical numbers. The singing and the dancing is superb. It makes The Gang's All Here a worthwhile musical endeavor. The film excels with its Technicolor cinematography, elaborate sets, and detailed costumes. The dancing is energetic fun. The music is entertaining and satisfying. The musical showpieces are indeed the highlight: extravagant and beautiful song and dance scenes offering an array of color, fantastic choreography, and excellent singing.

Unfortunately, the story is average at best: the setup for the film is that a soldier falls in love with a chorus girl and goes to war. The war causes problems for their romance. This is hardly a story that hadn't been done before. Hollywood made it a staple storyline of many of their films from the era. While the storyline is fine for a movie, the characterizations are weak, and aren't well explored. The film's leads don't help to make the story more interesting for the audience and neither does the weak script. While Alice Faye is charming and impressive in her role, James Ellison doesn't impress nearly as much.

The second half of the film (and indeed the conclusion) largely ignores the storyline in favor of focusing on more musical sequences. It's a tad odd for a musical to end that way. However, the musical elements were the most intriguing part of the film and are where the film truly shines. The production design, costumes, and makeup are all superb. The film entertains with its high quality musical craft (even if the film falters as a drama).

The film has a number of fun song and dance numbers. The most iconic scene in the film is of the performance of The Lady in the Tuttu Frutti Hat (featuring lyrics by Leo Robin, music by Harry Warren) as performed by Carmen Miranda. It's a fun number with all of the cast using bananas and fruit as a part of their performance. A Journey to a Star is another stunning music sequences featuring Alice Faye on vocals with dancing performed by Tony De Marco and Sheila Ryan.

The music for The Gang's All Here is performed by Benny Goodman and his orchestra and it's a splendid aspect of the film. The music featured in the film is composed by Harry Warren, Hugo Friedhofer, Arthur Lange, Cyril J. Mockridge, Alfred Newman, and Gene Rose. The songs are terrific and add a lot of quality to the production. The music is quite entertaining and engaging and an excellent reason to see this musical.

The production design is by James Basevi (East of Eden, The Searchers, Spellbound) and Joseph C. Wright (Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!). Basevi does a terrific job with the film. This is one of the most elaborate musicals that had been done during the era from a production standpoint. It showcased so much visual splendor which enhanced the musical sequences. Set decoration by Thomas Little (All About Eve, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Miracle on 34th Street) also adds extra style and pizzazz to the feature.

The costume designs by Yvonne Wood (One-Eyed Jacks, The Big Country) impress with quality detailing and craft. From the dressed-up attire of the main performers to the elaborate costumes on the singers and dancers during elaborate musical numbers, the effort was tremendous.  The Makeup done by Guy Pearce (Laura, Lifeboat) seems to blend effortlessly with the costume designs.

The cinematography by Edward Cronjager (Heaven Can Wait, Roberta) is one of the things that most impresses. This is an early Technicolor film and it's a beauty to behold. The use of color is tremendous. The film even went on to win an Academy Award for its use of color, which isn't a surprising fact given the quality of the cinematography by Cronjager.

The storyline was written by Nancy Wintner, George Root Jr., and Tom Bridges. The screenplay was written by Walter Bullock (The Blue Bird, O. Henry's Full House). Alas, this is one of the one areas where the film seems to falter. From a production standpoint, The Gang's All Here excels tenfold. The efforts of so many of the artists involved shine triumphantly. Yet the film lacks a quality script. The characters are barely explored and the storyline feels badly weaved together. The script feels like a second-thought compared to the musical numbers and it doesn't make the film as impressive as it would have been with a better storyline.

Directed by Busby Berkeley (For Me and My Gal, Take Me Out to the Ball Game), The Gang's All Here was Berkeley's first color feature-film (in Technicolor, no less). The film is a visually splendid effort which brought together a lot of talent behind the scenes. The film is a fun and entertaining effort largely because of the use of music and dance. Berkeley and his team did impressive work in that regard. Berkeley solid direction certainly keeps the film entertaining.  The Gang's All Here might not be a perfect film but it's an impressive musical with great song and dance to offer.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

The Gang's All Here is presented on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with an exquisite 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded image in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. Throughout the presentation, the Technicolor film offers a spectacular array of color and theatricality which is well presented with this high-definition presentation. It's a naturally filmic presentation which is sure to please fans of the film.

Audio:

The audio on this release is presented in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio (stereo) and 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio (mono). The mono audio preserves the original theatrical presentation and the stereo option provides a slightly expanded sound presentation.

Unfortunately, the audio isn't on par with the film's video presentation. The songs sound decent but the overall quality of the audio isn't on par with many other musicals from the time-period that have been released on Blu-ray before. The fidelity just isn't as good and dialogue clarity isn't as strong. The film sometimes sounds a tad harsh. However, most of the music sounds perfectly listenable and it's a presentation free of cracks, hiss, and other annoying detriments. It's a modest high-def presentation which gets the job done.

English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are provided.


Extras:

The release includes a booklet featuring an essay about The Gang's All Here as written by Julie Kirgo.

On disc supplements include:

Audio Commentary featuring film historian Drew Casper

Audio Commentary featuring film historians Glenn Kenny, Ed Hulse, and Farran Smith Nehme,

Isolated Score Track

Busby Berkeley: A Journey With a Star (20 min.) featurette explores the director's work and the visual quality of the film and it's song and dance numbers.

Alice Faye's Last Film: We Still Are! (24 min.) is a special featuring Alice Faye with her discussing her legacy in film (with clips from films she worked on featured throughout).  

Deleted Scene (5 min.) entitled The $64 Question.

Original Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts:

The Gang's All Here is a interesting musical experience: the songs and dance numbers are great fun but the story leaves a lot to be desired. The filmmaking on display is terrific, though. The production design is excellent and everything from costumes, to make-up, to the Technicolor cinematography impresses. Fans of musicals are encouraged to check it out for the music and dance numbers alone. Twilight Time's Blu-ray release features strong video-quality and a decent assortment of extras.

Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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