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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vulgar fun
I'm not surprised how this movie really turns people off. That's why I love it. I have been this movie's biggest fan for years (I even bought the lovely original poster at auction).

The movie--one of the last Warner Bros pre-Code gems (mid-1934 marked the turning point)--runs over the course of one evening in a Paris nightclub. In that time we get: a murder,...
Published on December 10, 2004 by Usonian33

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars zany, outre, over the top
t's interesting to see the wide variety ratings here instead of the usual Amazon five's and one's. It is not shocking although it is complex. It is like a three-ring circus with the antics occurring while the show goes on rather than an opera were the show illustrates the action. Three men love Delores del Rio, there is intrigue involving a bracelet hidden for insurance...
Published on September 15, 2007 by Pierre


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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vulgar fun, December 10, 2004
By 
Usonian33 (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wonder Bar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I'm not surprised how this movie really turns people off. That's why I love it. I have been this movie's biggest fan for years (I even bought the lovely original poster at auction).

The movie--one of the last Warner Bros pre-Code gems (mid-1934 marked the turning point)--runs over the course of one evening in a Paris nightclub. In that time we get: a murder, a suicide, a cover-up, adultery, homosexuality, intergenerational flirting, gold-digging, racism, 2 gigantic Busby Berkeley numbers, Kay Francis and Delores Del Rio standing around looking captivating, and some glamorous art deco sets. This has to be one of the wildest of all the pre-Code films, and certainly one of the "last straws" for the zealous censorship boards that soon got their way and started dictating what Americans could and could not see (hmmm...sound familiar?). If you know how to enjoy good trash when you see it, then you will find the film irresistible.

As for the racist "Goin To Heaven on A Mule" number: yes it is in outrageously poor taste, but considering the smut and indelicacy of the rest of the film, it hardly seems out of place.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the last - and the best - precode films from Warner Brothers, October 31, 2009
This review is from: Wonder Bar (DVD)
This film was released on March 31, 1934, just three months before the production code began to be enforced. As such, it is a buffet of items one would never see on film again in the U.S. until the 1960's - adultery as comedy, gigilos, a pair of men dancing with Jolson making the remark "Boys will be Boys", a dancing act involving a woman being whipped, what amounts to house-sponsored prostitution to keep the Wonder Bar's male patrons amused, a suicide that everyone knows about in advance and nobody bothers to stop, and a murder that goes unpunished and even undetected for that matter. However, this film is much more than just a last hurrah for the pre-code years, and I found it quite enjoyable. It is an intersection of Grand Hotel, the world's greatest entertainer, Al Jolson, and that genius of choreography, Busby Berkeley, with plenty of action and snappy dialogue to keep things going.

Of course, it is very ironic that the one part of the film that leaves everyone shocked today is probably one of the few things that the Hays Office had no problem with - that infamous musical number "Going to Heaven on a Mule". It is exactly what you would expect when the over-the-top style of Busby Berkeley's choreography meets the minstrel tradition of Al Jolson's musical style. Every racial stereotype in the book is in this musical number, and it was omitted on the VHS release of this film but was kept in the laserdisc Jolson set. That's probably because laserdisc was always seen as some specialty product whereas the VHS release was seen as something for consumption by the masses. The Warner Archives is also seen as a niche market, so the number is included in this DVD-R release. I am glad of that, because the present will never be made better by trying to erase or adjust the past, no matter how uncomfortable it may make people feel.

As for the audio and video quality, this appears to be a direct copy of the laserdisc release. The video is somewhat soft but still very acceptable. The audio quality is quite good too. Keep in mind that this product is a DVD-R with no extras and no ability to do scene selections. You can only go forward and backward in ten minute increments. That being said, this is probably Al Jolson's finest film and one of the best of the precode films available for viewing, and thus I heartily endorse this product.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All Star Cast, March 21, 2006
This review is from: Wonder Bar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Wonder Bar is like Grand Hotel in a nightclub. It features many notable stars including Al Jolson, Ricardo Cortez, Dolores del Rio, Dick Powell, Kay Francis, and Guy Kibbee. It focuses on the love lives of each character; most mingle together and are rather complex. However, this is more of an exhibition of the actor's and their own personalities than an important film, but that makes the film fun since it has a great cast. It also features some extravagant musical numbers choreographed by the wonderful Busby Berkeley.

Al Jolson is the star of the show; he absolutely exudes personality in every step and really carries the film. Ricardo Cortez and the exotic Dolores del Rio carry on a tempestuous but tepid relationship but add nothing memorable. Dick Powell's part is small but his trademark boyish quality shines brightly. Kay Francis is adequate as an adultering society girl; her speech impediment is very cute. Guy Kibbee is a boisterous drunk as usual, and fun as usual.

The musical numbers are very fun to watch. They could never have been staged in the Wonder Bar, but they bring the audience to another world, something vital during The Great Depression. Berkeley plays with mirrors and beautiful girls to trick and astound the eye. The final number is a vehicle for Jolson; he dons blackface and dances to snappy jazz tunes in a black heaven. This number is filled with stereotypes like watermelon, mules, and shooting craps, but all of it is done in fun and was not meant to offend or discriminate.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-boggling!, June 26, 2010
This review is from: Wonder Bar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
WONDER BAR (1934) contains some outstanding music including Ochi Tchornya, Tango del Rio and several Harry Warren tunes, one of which is quoted (with new lyrics) in the finale of cult classic FORBIDDEN ZONE (1980). Then there's the mind-boggling "Goin' to Hebbin on Dat ol' Missouri Mule" sequence. The nightclub stage conveniently expands to infinite size for this. Pickaninnies come out of watermelons,we see bizarre poke chop trees, tap dancing Hal Le Roy in cork, banjos, slave shacks, Old Black Joe, it's ALL here! There's never been anything like this number and doubtless there never will be. BTW, those blackfaced dozens who appear in this big Busby Berkeley finale are nowhere to be found offstage.

In a faint echo of GRAND HOTEL (1932), an unfortunate who lost everything in the market crash will enjoy one last extravagant night on the town then he intends to drive his fancy car off a cliff (didn't know there were such prominences around Paris). He informs Jolson of this but Al doesn't try very hard to talk him out of it. He's got his own worries, a tortured love triangle that's engulfed him and a pair of Spanish dancers.

Dolores del Rio loves Ricardo Cortez. Al loves Dolores. Cortez is in love with himself and he plans to go it alone in another city. After their big dressing room break-up, Cortez cracks his whip too close to del Rio during their performance and she fatally stabs him in front of the audience; the boozy crowd thinks it's part of the act. Al has Cortez's body put in the back of the suicidal patron's car and the old man drives off that cliff never knowing he's got a passenger.

Some inside info gathered from an extra on THE JAZZ SINGER 3-disc set: Al's WONDER BAR co-stars (in particular Dick Powell) hated his guts for stealing the best lines and hogging the screen, yet I honestly love this movie! Jolson was a true star and shows why here.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pre-code classic that will never be on DVD, June 10, 2007
This review is from: Wonder Bar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film was released on March 31, 1934, just three months before the production code began to be enforced. As such, it is a buffet of items one would never see on film again in the U.S. until the 1960's - adultery as comedy, gigilos, a pair of homosexuals dancing with Jolson making the remark "Boys will be Boys", a dancing act involving a woman being whipped, what amounts to house-sponsored prostitution to keep the Wonder Bar's male patrons amused, a suicide that everyone knows about in advance and nobody bothers to stop, and a murder that goes unpunished and even undetected for that matter. However, this film is much more than just a last hurrah for the pre-code years, and I found it quite enjoyable. It is an intersection of Grand Hotel, the world's greatest entertainer, Al Jolson, and that genius of choreography, Busby Berkeley, with plenty of action and snappy dialogue to keep things going.

Of course, it is very ironic that the one part of the film that leaves everyone shocked today is probably one of the few things that the Hays Office had no problem with - that infamous musical number "Going to Heaven on a Mule". It is exactly what you would expect when the over-the-top style of Busby Berkeley's choreography meets the minstrel tradition of Al Jolson's musical style. Every racial stereotype in the book is in this musical number, and it is probably the reason that this film will never be on DVD, although oddly enough it was on a laserdisc set of Jolson's films that came out as recently as 1993.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jolson the King of, June 5, 2002
By 
M. Fay (Chula Vista, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wonder Bar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Loved the movie........have always been a staunch fan of the legendary Al Jolson. Directed by Busby Berkeley, another Hollywood icon, the music is great. Loved the Blackface routine that Jolson performs. Wish they made movies like this nowadays.
[...]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars zany, outre, over the top, September 15, 2007
By 
This review is from: Wonder Bar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
t's interesting to see the wide variety ratings here instead of the usual Amazon five's and one's. It is not shocking although it is complex. It is like a three-ring circus with the antics occurring while the show goes on rather than an opera were the show illustrates the action. Three men love Delores del Rio, there is intrigue involving a bracelet hidden for insurance purposes, multiple breakups, two older men cheating on their wives who are trying to cheat on them (they were pretty free-wheeling and funny), a man whipping his girlfriend (they are dancing) as part of the show and non-stop action.There are pre-code references to adultery and homosexuality but those never should have been banned in the first place. Berkeley's choreography is terrific as always. The problem is that there is too much going on and the plot is hard to follow especially at this pace. Although I try to place the black-face number into historical context, I just can't tolerate it and it lasts around a third of the movie. Overall, I'm glad I watched it; very unusual but very flawed and strange and I didn't find myself identifying with any particular character. It all around amoral rather than immoral.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last on DVD but expensive, December 24, 2009
This review is from: Wonder Bar (DVD)
"Wonder Bar" has made it to DVD at last and that is cause for celebration. What a pity it is only as one of the very expensive Warners Archive Collection though, for this is an essential film from the thirties. Warner Brothers, the proletariat studio and experts at copying others, took the premise of MGM's 1932 hit "Grand Hotel", switched it to a famous nightclub in Paris converting it to a musical, then added their own brand of sleaze. This is pre-code Hollywood at its most outrageous so we get adultery, murder which goes unpunished and one very famous gay moment which makes your eyes pop with incredulity. Did I really see that? It's all here.

Busby Berkeley was riding high and he contributes two numbers, the lyrical Warren And Dubin hit, "Don't Say Goodnight" and the racist, crass "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" sung by Al Jolson in blackface. The latter number, sometimes cut from prints, has survived on this DVD and it is worth seeing because seeing is believing. What was Berkeley thinking? That said, there are some impressive visuals and the orchestration and choir for the first part of the song are wonderful.

The cast is extensive. Al Jolson leads as the owner of the nightclub and easily dominates with his electric personality. Dick Powell is the singer at the club and Jolson wipes him off the screen, vocally and histrionically. A sulky Kay Francis plays an adulterous wife. Her beauty is eliminated by the stunning Dolores del Rio who can't act for nuts, not at this stage of her career anyway, but is so darn good looking who cares. She wears some very provocative dresses. There are lots of others in support from the Warner's stock company and they all have their moments. Some of the dialogue with Louise Fazenda and Ruth Donnelly is very funny. The film is also very well directed and edited, cleverly and smoothly weaving the multiple stories together.

The print is very good, much better than many of these Warners Archives films. While I would not hesitate to recommend it, it is really disappointing that the DVD is so expensive and has no extras except the original trailer. This is a film which warrants an expert commentary, at the very least.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can get this elsewhere for less..., August 5, 2009
By 
D. C. Squires (High in the sky traveling at Mach-2) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Warner Archives -- these sellers are buying from the Warner Brothers site. Don't be suckered. This is a great movie but the sellers should be ashamed to sell this at the rates they are charging. This DVD (and others) are almost double what the WB site charges. Just a warning to ANYONE who is thinking about buying the DVD from a secondary seller.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it could have been, December 27, 2013
This review is from: Wonder Bar (DVD)
I have watched a lot of Warner Brothers musicals this was not the best but by no means the worst. Al Jolson does his usual mammy thing in black face singing about a mule and heaven. It is reflective of the time this was after all the days of Amos and Andy on the radio at their height. It does go too far though more then other films which makes you uncomfortable watching it. Busby Berkeley has done similar numbers in other films with leads in black face I'm not sure why. The story line was a bit weak too was not clear who was with who or why. Dick Powell was great as always along with Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert, Ricardo Cortez and Dolores Del Rio they were all good. If they had Al Jolson just act and had not do black face I think it could have been an even greater film.
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Wonder Bar
Wonder Bar by Lloyd Bacon (DVD - 2009)
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