Customer Review

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SHOW BOAT A TECHNICOLOR DREAMBOAT!, April 9, 2001
This review is from: Show Boat (1951) (DVD)
The 1951 film version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's groundbreaking operetta, Show Boat, is one of the most beloved movie musicals of all time. The highest grossing picture of 1951, it has attracted several generations of appreciative audiences through countless theatrical re-releases and on home video. This DVD release showcases Show Boat's justly famous Technicolor cinematography better than any other previous video format. The opening sequence alone could well serve as a demo for the visual capabilities of the DVD medium. No motion picture, before or since, has the rich, incredibly saturated palette of colors displayed in Show Boat. Although this DVD version was made from the most recent Technicolor restoration of this film, there are still a few scenes (especially large blue speckles in the Ol' Man River sequence) which could benefit from digital cleaning and enhancement. Considering that Show Boat is approaching its fiftieth anniversary this year, these minor flaws do not seriously detract from the overall excellence of the image. Alas, the same can't be said for the sound. Although MGM recently did a surround stereo mix from the original multi track recordings of Show Boat, this DVD uses an older monaural mix, which while clean and dynamic, is no match for the superb picture. The current laserdisc version uses the surround stereo mix and it sounds truly awesome. The laserdisc also has running commentary by the film's director, George Sidney, which should have been included on this DVD. Warner Bros., the current owners of this film, should reissue Show Boat on DVD with a 5:1 mix derived from the surround stereo. Then the sound would equal Show Boat's spectacular picture quality. Also, Ava Gardner's own lovely vocals should be re-inserted into the picture in place of Annette Warren's dubbing. Today's audiences would find Gardner more convincing in the songs as her fine singing voice more closely matches her superb acting performance as the tragic Julie and an older audience grew up on Gardner's vocals, which were included on the best-selling Show Boat soundtrack album.
Although this version of Show Boat has its detractors, especially among purists who prefer the stage and earlier black and white screen version, MGM's production is still an impressive achievement with several key sequences that are visually the most stunning examples of color art direction and cinematography ever committed to film. The score is performed beautifully by Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Marge and Gower Champion and especially William Warfield, whose definitive, magnificent, moving performance of the classic Ol' Man River, has become the standard by which all past, present and future renditions of this song will be judged. In fact, everyone associated with this matchless film should feel justifiably honored. And this DVD is the best way to experience Show Boat, short of a theatrical re-release.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 2, 2012 2:01:43 AM PDT
I just got done watching the film, and if this version was actually "restored", then it must've been done by Stevie Wonder. As you noted, there are are huge 'speckles' or what looks like welders sparks throughout William Warfield's "Old Man River" sequence, which if it were indeed restored, would have been ELIMINATED. That's why they call it 'restoration'.

I found them to be very distracting, not just because the 'sparks' and flashes were so frequent it seemed like welders were working on the set during filming, but mainly because almost the entire remainder of the film is indeed in great condition. It's likely that the clip with Warfield may have been one of the numbers unfortunately cut out during showings in the south (very common at that time), possibly explaining the marked difference in picture quality as compared to the rest of the film.

It is a good film, with some fine numbers performed by top talent, but it needs to be properly restored.
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