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Warner Brothers and the 20 Musical Buffet in a Box

Best of Warner Bros: 20 Film Collection: Musicals DVD

Ah, the movie musical. Hollywood and the moviegoing public has fallen in and out of love with you seemingly dependent on which way the wind is blowing. It’s only in recent years with entries like Moulin Rouge and Chicago that Hollywood has figured out–like with most things–that if just do the damn thing correctly (or at the very least, in a flawed but interesting fashion)–we’ll show up. And of course we have the slow march of Broadway musicals through development hell to the big screen–and the reverse pollination of movies into musicals and onto Broadway. The obvious success story for this has been the rejuvenation of Mel Brooks but other titles like Lion King and Spamalot spring to mind.

Forming a syllabus for a decent master class in movie musicals, you get the Musicals edition of the line of Best of Warner Brothers: 20 Film Collections. Let’s be clear and get the obvious question out of the way front and center: no, there’s nothing new here. As you probably suspected, when you open the three cases (split up into different time spans (1927-1951, 1951-1964 and 1967-1988–that’s right, don’t be looking for Cats Don’t Dance) you see that you’ve got the primary discs from the previous DVD releases of these titles. You do get the bonus features that came on those discs, so that’s something, yes? Especially when it’s some gems like the Frank Oz commentary on Little Shop of Horrors, the historian commentary on Wizard of Oz, and all the vintage featurettes and shorts that come on the older titles. (Full list of titles to follow.)

[ad#longpost]The main draw of a boxed set like this is that you’re getting twenty films for (as I write this) around $70. I went down the list on Amazon and I couldn’t get past the fifth title without already spending that much. So if you’re looking to just snag the films and some bonuses that’s the reason to grab this…though bear in mind you’re certainly not going to get the full bonuses of, say, the Wizard of Oz four-disc set or the hi-def quality of something like the recent Jazz Singer Blu-Ray. So if you want to delve into a particular title, you might want to plonk down coin in that direction…but if you want to pick up a number of these titles on the cheap, comparison shop and if you want a good number of these, you might come out ahead. If you already own the majority of what you would want to own, though, there’s no need to double dip with this one.

All of that accepted and the audience expectations in place, the only caveat I can see is that the cases for the three volumes inside the boxed set are poorly conceived. The final discs in two of the volumes had come loose and were thus badly scratched from banging around…and the final disc in the third volume was just barely hanging on by the time it reached me. So if you do order this, open it immediately and if yours is scratched up, send it back and continue to do so until you get lucky or they fix the damn thing. It’s a shame to have such a great deal marred by poor packaging. I appreciate trying to cram as many discs into as small a space as possible, but if we can’t watch the discs when they get here, that’s a bit of a problem.

Recommended for the thrifty musical lover with that caveat in place.

Full List of Films Included:

  • The Jazz Singer (1927)
  • The Broadway Melody (1929)
  • 42nd Street (1933)
  • The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  • The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  • An American in Paris ( 1951)
  • Show Boat (1951)
  • Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
  • A Star Is Born (1954)
  • The Music Man (1962)
  • Viva Las Vegas (1964)
  • Camelot (1967)
  • Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Cabaret (1972)
  • That’s Entertainment (1974)
  • Victor, Victoria (1983)
  • Litle Shop Of Horrors (1986)
  • Hairspray (1988)

    • “and the reverse pollination of movies into musicals and onto Broadway. The obvious success story for this has been the rejuvenation of Mel Brooks but other titles like Lion King and Spamalot spring to mind.”

      With this quote you seem to imply that you didn’t like either The Lion King musical or Spamalot. Is this true, or am I reading too far into it? I thought Spamalot was pretty great myself, and I really enjoyed it the two times I’ve seen it.
      I’ve not seen the Lion King, but I intend to next time it’s here in Atlanta, which I think is sometime in the next year.

    • Huh. Dunno, I re-read that a few times and I’m still not seeing the implication that I didn’t like the musicals. Far from it. I saw Lion King on Broadway twice, for example. It’s bloody brilliant. No, I was just trying to point out two other successful crosses back from movies onto Broadway. Granted, for each one that really hits, you get a bunch that don’t. CARRIE, anyone?

      Although Brooks is the big winner because you’ve got Producers which went movie > musical > movie musical.

      Yeah, see LK. Definitely.

    • Okay, I see what you were saying now. “Producers is the obvious success story, but other examples include The Lion King and Spamalot.”

      I initially read it as “Producers is the obvious success story, but other titles, like Lion King and Spamalot, on the other hand…”
      My apologies.

      And yeah, definitely gonna see LK. And Book of Mormon, and probably Mary Poppins again, at the very least.