Singin' in the Rain: A Masterful Movie Musical (4K/Blu-ray)
70 years ago, Warner Bros. unleashed "Singin' in the Rain" on the public, setting a new standard for how great a movie musical could be from every conceivable angle. To this day, it continues to inspire artists and delight audiences the world over with its unforgettable song & dance numbers and its engrossing narrative. For this remarkable anniversary, the studio is celebrating by upgrading the film to 4K for a whole new generation of film lovers to fall in love with (and for those of us who've already seen it many times, to fall in love with it all over again), so let's dive right in to see why it's become such a beloved, timeless classic.
The film opens as actor Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is attending his latest film premiere with his long-time friend Cosmo (Donald O'Connor) and co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). We learn how he and Cosmo rose through the ranks of playing vaudeville shows to working in the motion picture industry, which at the time was still producing all silent films. That is, until a revolutionary film called "The Jazz Singer" introduced the world to the first "talkie." Finding it to be a huge hit, Don and co. decide to try their hand at making a talkie of their own, a notion that they quickly discover is not as easy as it seems. However, with the help of an up-and-coming actress, Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), whom Don has become smitten with, they hatch a plan that just might give them the big talking hit they're aiming for.
So why has "Singin' in the Rain" endured for seven long decades as perhaps the most praised musical of all time? Well, like with any musical, a good place to start is with the music. The film is packed with catchy songs like "Make 'em Laugh," "Good Mornin'," "Moses Supposes," "Fit as a Fiddle," and, of course, the titular track (not all of these are original tracks, but they're used quite well), all of which are accompanied by stunning dance sequences, performed with such grace and expertise that they look almost effortless coming from these incredible artists (Kelly and O'Connor's vaudeville routine for "Fit as a Fiddle" and the latter's physicality in "Make 'em Laugh" are particular highlights).
If I had one minor complaint to make about the film, which is still a masterpiece regardless, this would be the place to do it, for it involves one of these sequences late in the film. When Don is pitching an idea for a "Broadway Melody" song & dance number for their new film, it cuts to a 13-minute sequence that, while intriguing to watch for a few minutes, definitely feels as though it goes on for far too long, which is not helped by the fact that it doesn't really serve much of a purpose in the story. It's a bit of extravagance that could've stood to be trimmed a bit so that it felt like less of a distraction, but again, this bit of excessiveness certainly doesn't hurt the film overall.
Speaking of the story, there's another reason the film has stood the test of time. It revolves around the time when Hollywood made the technological upgrade from silent films to talking motion pictures, which provides a fascinating backdrop for our characters. Not only does it give lovers of film and film history an entry point to the film, but it also provides a scenario for all of the comedy, romance, and yes, the music to come together into a delightful mix that everyone can enjoy.
Throw in outstanding direction from Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, and great performances all around from a cast that includes Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen (who received an Oscar nod for Supporting Actress), and Millard Mitchell, and it's not hard to see why such a masterpiece has continued to delight audiences for so long. This was one of those rare instances where everything came together to create a masterful movie musical, one that, to this day, you can show to anyone and easily have them fall completely in love with its spellbinding charm.
"Singin' in the Rain" comes to 4K/Blu-ray in stunning 2160p/1080p transfers in the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Every frame has been beautifully restored, bringing out the remarkably vibrant colors of the film's gorgeous sets and costumes. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is sublime, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and every glorious note in outstanding quality. Overall, Warner Bros. has done a phenomenal job sprucing up the film for its milestone 70th anniversary.
Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann, and Rudy Behlmer: An informative track that has a multitude of participants delving into the making of the film.
Singin’ in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation (51 Minutes): An intriguing documentary that explores how the film continues to inspire artists in the industry.
With its stunning song & dance sequences, engrossing story, and marvelous cast, it's not hard to see why "Singin' in the Rain" has endured for 70 years as perhaps the most beloved movie musical of all time. To this day, it continues to inspire artists and delight audiences all around the world with its dazzling style, an effect it will continue to have for a very long time to come.
Available on 4K/Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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