Though firmly rooted in the Hollywood musical tradition Anchors Aweigh seemed an innovative and original film to viewers in 1945. Staring Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson and Gene Kelly, the story concerns two recently decorated sailors on a four-day leave in Hollywood. Joe (Kelly) is an experienced lady's man who plans on hooking up with his honey Lola. Meanwhile Clarence (Sinatra) convinces Joe to help him meet a lady of his own. That woman turns out to be Susan Abbott (Grayson) and what follows is a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac comedy that keeps the viewer guessing about which man will end up with Susan.
Anchors Aweigh was Kelly's first chance to choreograph an entire film and the result is very pleasing. Kelly sets up a number of memorable dance numbers for himself, each of which shows off his amazing talent to optimal effect. But Kelly wasn't content to offer simple dance numbers. He wanted something that would really thrill the audience and so he approached Walt Disney with the idea that one of the numbers in Anchors Aweigh would feature Kelly dancing with Walt's biggest star Mickey Mouse. Of course Disney wasn't thrilled by the idea of his rodent superstar appearing in another studio's picture so MGM fell back on it's own animated mouse and gave to part to Jerry of Tom and Jerry fame. The result is one of the earliest and best examples of live action and animated characters interacting in the same frame. Jerry and Kelly do an entire number and the illusion that they're actually together is almost seamless.
Anchors Aweigh is something of a mixed bag when it comes to on-screen images. Perhaps as much as ninety percent of the film is in great condition. The picture is solid, there are very few instances of scratching and pinholes, the three strip Technicolor is presented very well with a minimum amount of color bleeding and the black levels are deep and velvety. Unfortunately the remaining ten percent of the film suffers from a significant issue in the form of registration problems with the blue channel. In some scenes the blue color information is so skewed that it produces a distinct ghost image below and to the right of dark objects. In others the problem is more subtle, making the picture look fuzzy and out of focus. This seems to be the result of shrinking in the blue Technicolor strip and though it's understandable for a film this age it really distracts from enjoyment of the movie.
The monaural soundtrack for Anchors Aweigh is in much better condition than the video images. The dynamic range is predictably limited but the track is crisp and clear with a minimum amount of hiss. The voices and music are nicely mixed and I couldn't detect any clipping or distortion.
Though the packaging would have you believe otherwise you wont find much in the way of extra content on this disc. The primary item is a short clip (less than five minutes) from MGM's 'When the Lion Roars' documentary. The segment focuses on the animated sequence and includes a brief interview with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Next there's a collection of trailers for MGM musicals including Anchors Aweigh, On the Town and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Finally Warner has included a single text screen listing the films cast and crew.
Anchors Aweigh is far from the best example of the Hollywood musical but it is significant for its innovative use of animation and live action footage. The quality of video images on this disc really degrades its value and Warner didn't help the situation by offering such a bare bones DVD. If you're a fan of this film the disc probably won't disappoint you but if you've never seen the film before you'll definitely want to rent first.