'Frank Sinatra: 5-Film Collection' (Blu-ray)
(Frank Sinatra, et al / 5-Disc Blu ray / NR / 2015 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, 'The Frank Sinatra: 5-Film Collection' on Blu-ray includes: Anchors Away (1945), On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), Ocean's 11 (1960) and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964); the latter three movies all being newly-remastered Blu ray debuts!
Blu ray Verdict: 'Anchors Aweigh' (1945) - In truth, 'Anchors Aweigh' is a fun comedic musical but it does have some issues. The story itself is fun and funny, however I don't think most of the songs were that great, which isn't good for a musical. The dances were great but the music could have been better. One song I did like is the one done with Jerry the Mouse. The piano playing by Jose Iturbi is also very good and entertaining.
Gene Kelly plays the same roll he usually does, so its nothing special for him but he is still great. Frank Sinatra I think did much better, and showed his ability to play different roles. He usually plays a confident, smooth ladies man where in this film he plays a character who is awkward and shy, far from his best work but its good for his early work. Most of the minor characters are played well too.
The highlight of the film is definitely the dance with Jerry the Mouse, it kind of has no real point to be in the film, it works, but seems unnecessary. It's a great dance and a great song and a very unique scene that hasn't really ever been copied or redone. The movie by itself has some great laughs and is definitely worth watching, especially if you are a Gene Kelly or Frank Sinatra fan. It seems to be a little longer than it need to be but as long as that doesn't bother you its great.
'On the Town' (1949) - This film has a very simple plot. Three sailors have 24 hours shore leave in New York. They met three attractive girls, and three romances blossom. And that's about it. The characterization is really no more advanced than the plot development. The sailors and their sweethearts are each given their own idiosyncrasies, but none of them really emerges as a rounded individual. Fortunately, however, a complex plot and well-developed characters are not always essential to the musical genre, and "On the Town" manages to succeed reasonably well without these elements.
The film's most important quality is the energy and vivacity of its song-and-dance numbers. It was shot on location in New York itself, and the city is portrayed as a vibrant, exciting place, a new world as far as the sailors, who are all country boys, are concerned. There is also plenty of humor, such as the scene where Frank Sinatra wants to go sight-seeing, unlike his new-found girlfriend, a man-hungry female cab driver, who would rather take him back to "my place", Gene Kelly's search for "Miss Turnstiles", whom he imagines to be a glamorous and famous beauty queen, and the scene where the three men manage to demolish a dinosaur skeleton in the city's Museum of Anthropology. [Jules Munshin's girlfriend is described as a lady anthropologist, although the scriptwriters seem to have blurred the difference between anthropology and palaeontology!].
The songs are tuneful, although with the possible exception of "New York, New York" none of them are particularly memorable. Some have criticised the more formal balletic sequence near the end, but as far as I was concerned this was one of the best parts of the movie. After all, if you are going to make a film starring a dancer as talented as Gene Kelly, you might as well use his talents to the full.
'Guys and Dolls' (1955) - As the title song of "Guys and Dolls" philosophizes, it's buried in what we guys will not do to our dolls to win a bet or get a dice game going! That's the dilemma facing promoter of said dice game Nathan Detroit who can't come up with the $1000.00 for the Biltmore Hotel garage for the what is generally known as the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.
What to do, bet a reckless gambler Sky Masterson. Sucker him into betting he can't sweep a doll off her feet for a romantic idyll in pre-Castro Havana. The doll you pick for Sky is Sister Sarah Brown of the Salvation Army. Of course Nathan's life is also complicated by his 14 year long engagement to Adelaide of the Hot Box Revue.
Considering the resentments that festered between Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra who played Sky and Nathan, I can't believe this film got made at all. Especially when you consider both these guys never hesitated in walking off film sets if their anger was aroused. In Sinatra's case I can understand since Brando's playing the part he should have done. Proof of that can be found on Guys and Dolls cast album that Sinatra did for his Reprise record label in the early sixties where he shows what he could do with the Masterson songs.
Still Brando is not great, but not bad as a singer and Frank Loesser did write the Adelaide song for Sinatra for the film. Unfortunately he also wrote A Woman In Love for the score which Brando sings and which became a big hit. Not for Marlon Brando, but for another Frankie named Laine.
Jean Simmons is our Salvation Army Sergeant and she shows once again why was the most under appreciated film star of the fifties. That woman was in so many of the best films of that decade and never got any real recognition for her talent. I like her the best from this movie. Vivian Blaine, Johnny Silver, B.S. Pully, and Stubby Kaye all came over from the original Broadway cast. They all contribute their unique talents to parts that became career roles for them.
'Ocean's 11' (1960) - This is Lewis Milestone's penultimate film. He directed "All Quiet on the Western Front," perhaps the greatest anti-war film ever made, 30 years prior to directing this. While, that film has half a dozen powerful and memorable scenes, this film has none.
Still, this film is likable in numerous ways. For example, instead of focusing just on Sinatra and Martin, Milestone divides the screen time pretty evenly, with Richard Conte, Caesar Romero, Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford each getting a few good scenes. This makes it feel very much like an ensemble piece. In fact, Conte is so intense and Romero so relaxed and having fun, that they steal a lot of attention from Sinatra and Martin. Which is not to say that Sinatra and Martin are not good, they're fine.
However, neither of them carry the film, but they simply go along with the flow. They often disappear for five and ten minute stretches while other characters develop. The cameos are also fun. Shirley Maclaine, and Red Skeleton appear for a minute or two and light up the screen. Angie Dickenson does a nice ten minute turn as Sinatra's ex-wife.
Las Vegas is also nicely highlighted in the film. We get glimpses of the five major casinos of the time. It is amazing how small the city was in 1960. Knocking down a single electrical tower blacks out the entire city and the casinos apparently had a single unguarded wire connecting the lights and vault door.
The dialogue is sometimes vapid, but sometimes amusing. At one point, Peter Lawford talks about becoming a foreign ambassador. Sammy Davis makes the sharp observation, "How about to Little Rock". That is where a battle over school desegregation took place in 1956. On the other hand Dean Martin talks about repealing women's right to vote and turning them into slaves. Instead of rebuking him, the other cast members urge him to elaborate on his plan. It shows how chillingly sexist the times were. The ending is easy to guess now, but it is still amusing and clever.
'Robin and the 7 Hoods' (1964) - After Chicago mob boss Big Jim is gunned down on his birthday, shifty Guy Gisborne takes control of operations. But Big Jim's favorite man, Robbo, is having none of it, and along with his loyal North Side Crew and a drifter known as Little John, set about stopping Gisbourne and his corrupt government pals in their tracks.
Easily the best of the Rat Pack pictures, Robin And The 7 Hoods is a piece that is more befitting their respective talents. Containing great songs courtesy of Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, and boasting big time stars seemingly enjoying their respective roles, it is however a picture that possibly should be far far better. Perhaps it buckles under the weight of expectation with the names on show? Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr and Peter Falk, now that is some roll call in star appeal, or maybe it called for a better director other than safe and steady, Gordon Douglas? But what we get is a mostly enjoyable experience that almost comes dangerously close to outstaying its welcome.
Personally to me it's a film that I rate higher than it deserves because I get such a kick out of watching these great entertainers enjoy themselves so much, Crosby and Falk in particular are having the time of their lives, with Crosby walking in and stealing the film from under the others noses. There is also something special to me in a sequence as the gang ham it up gospel style for "Mr Booze", check out the looks on some of the guys faces, priceless cinema, whilst watching Old Blue Eyes sing "My Kind Of Town" will forever be a memorable moment to me.
There is a fair bit of interesting trivia attached to the picture which is readily available on this and many other internet sites, so I'll just move on a quickly surmise that "Robin And The 7 Hoods" should have been a classic, but for me personally I'll settle for hugely enjoyable. This incredible Blu ray collection also comes with a 32-page Photo Book that has to be seen to be believed! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Tonight Show Starring Johny Carson Excerpt
And Much, Much More!