When it comes to musicals you just can't find one that's more fun than On the Town. Staring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Ann Miller, On the Town (1949) concerns the mildly wild antics of three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in the Big Apple. The three swell service men immediately begin a search for attractive members of the opposite sex and it isn't long before they've hooked up with three equally swell single New Yorkers. What follows is the usual mix of hum-able tunes (provided by noted composer Leonard Bernstein) and spectacular dance numbers most of which take place in beautifully designed studio sets.
The real highlight of this film is Gene Kelly's fantastic dancing. By 1949 Kelly had taken a very active role in the design and production of his films and the result is apparent here. Kelly spins, jumps and twirls to charming effect while belting out classic songs including 'New York, New York' and 'You Can Count On Me.' Sinatra delivers his usual stiff performance but breaks from time to time into peasant song. His role here is much diminished from a similar one that he played in Anchors Aweigh just four years earlier.
On the Town looks fantastic on this disc. The colors are fully saturated without blooming, the blacks are deep and the whites crisp and clean. The transfer shows no edge enhancement shimmer and no digital artifacting. The picture does look a little grainy from time to time but the effect is subtle and only keen eyes will notice it. Anchors Aweigh was filmed in the three-strip Technicolor process and a few scenes exhibit the effects of shrinking in the blue strip. The result is a slight blue outline on objects but there are only a few minutes of film that show this flaw.
No one is going to buy On the Town thinking that it's a Dolby 5.1 demo disc but the 1 channel mono track is suprisingly well done. The dynamic range is very broad (playing up the bass drum on the low end and blaring horns on the high) and the track is free from hiss, pops and drop outs. I heard a few cases of clipping when voices were raised but these were few and far between. In the main I was very impressed with the sound on this release.
As I've pointed out many times before, Warner has a spotty track record when it comes to DVD. Some of their classic titles get bare bones releases while minor titles and box office bombs get the royal treatment. On the Town features the latter. The only extra on this disc is a somewhat battered version of the original theatrical trailer and a single text screen with the name of the principal cast and crew.
It's a shame that Warner chooses to release this and other important films with such meaningless extras. I for one would have loved to have seen some information on Kelly's choreography and Bernstein's score. On the other hand the film looks and sounds fantastic. If you're a musical fan you'll get a kick out of On the Town and if you're new to the genre this is a great place to start. Recommended.