In an era when we have an unprecedented number of movies and other diversions at our fingertips, is there still a need for a clip show like That's Entertainment? Certainly, because the film series, beginning in 1974, was an unabashed peddler of glorious nostalgia, not only collecting many of the most memorable moments in the magical history of the MGM musical--and therefore in the history of film--but bringing in many of the original stars to introduce them decades later. And another few decades after the series was released, the nostalgia is that much greater since many of those stars are now gone. In addition, the sheer number and variety of clips (though they're often too short) would be hard to match in any collection or in the span of an evening's viewing. Where else could you enjoy Gene Kelly singin' in the rain and also James Stewart crooning "Easy to Love"? Or follow fun trends like the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland "let's put on a show" pictures, of which Rooney says "only our names seemed to change"? Following the surprising box-office success of the initial film, Part 2 was released in 1976 and it still had plenty of famous and obscure clips (remember Bobby Van?), and even a nod to the nonmusical films of the era such as the Hepburn-Tracy pictures. It topped everything off with the irresistible pairing of hosts Kelly and Fred Astaire, who share a dance--for only the second time in their careers--at the ages of 64 and 77, respectively (and a more graceful 77-year-old you never will see!). The third film wasn't made until in 1994 (host Kelly is strikingly older), but it offered more of the usual fare plus a variety of cut numbers by such stars as Judy Garland, Lena Horne, and Debbie Reynolds. A half-century later, Hollywood's valentine to the movie musical was still shining strong.
The DVD trilogy set offers all three films with the choice of widescreen anamorphic or full-screen formats (don't worry, the clips are in their original aspect ratio). There's also a two-sided fourth disc with supplemental material, most interestingly the "musical outtakes jukebox," a 16-song, 49-minute collection of numbers that were cut from musicals of the era. None of the selections are Great Songs, but it's hard to discount any musical number from the MGM vaults, for example, three selections by Garland and two by Horne (only one of which, Garland's "Mr. Monotony," appears in TE3, and there in a slightly shorter form). The rest of the content is behind-the-scenes documentaries, the most significant being "That's Entertainment: The Masters Behind the Musical" (37 minutes, profiling the talent behind the films such as Arthur Freed and Michael Kidd), "That's Entertainment III: Behind the Screen" (1994, 53 minutes), and vintage black-and-white footage of MGM's 25th anniversary celebration (10 minutes). --David Horiuchi