Vincente Minnelli's "Bells Are Ringing" (1960) generally gets a bad wrap from reviewers and critics alike. While it is true that the film came at the tail end of MGM's reign of supremacy in musical motion picture entertainment - and it is equally true that the film falls short by direct comparison to, say, Minnelli's "Meet Me In St. Louis (an unfair but often used example), all the pistons are firing on this occasion with this delightful story of a phone operator who falls in love with one of her clients.
The story concerns lonely Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday in her final performance). Working out of a basement apartment for Susan's-a-phone (a personal message service), Ella longs for the good life and the right fella to fill her needs. However, that doesn't prevent her plucky personality from offering equal portions of good advice and smart talk to her roster of happy clients. Ella's fraternization doesn't particularly sit well with her employer, Sue (Jean Stapleton) who is all dollars and cents, or police detective, Barnes (Dort Clark) who advises Ella that it's illegal to provide unsolicited information in the capacity of a business acquaintance. But Ella is all set to throw caution to the wind when she falls in love with Plaza 0-double four, double nine. That extension belongs to Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), a once successful playwright who fears that his days of popularity are numbered and has since turned to shallow women and hollow relationships for solace.
Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green transform their Broadway original into a sublime cinematic treat. Minnelli directs adroitly and - given the limited budget he had to work with - delivers a film that appears to be on a much grander scale than it actually is. Particularly in his execution of the "Drop that Name" sequence - in which Ella lampoons her association with the hoi polloi, Minnelli's brisk camera work and staging is flawless. The same is true during Eddy Foy Jr.'s charming romp in "Oh, What A System". Delivered with comedic panache and laconic savvy a la the darling Holliday and charming Martin, the rest of the score, including such standards as "Just in Time" and "Drop That Name" is brilliant and bouncy.
Thanks to Warner's stunning new transfer, "Bells are Ringing" arrives `just in time' on DVD. The anamorphically enhanced Cinemascope image is outstanding. Colors are nicely balanced. Image quality is a marked improvement over anything this film has looked like before on home video. Blacks are rich, deep and solid. Whites are crisp, but never blooming. There is a hint of film grain and the occasional shimmer of fine detail but nothing that will distract you from wallowing in the riotous splendor of this musical classic. The audio has been impeccably remastered in 5.1 and delivers an unexpectedly powerful kick during the songs. The one disappointment for admirers of this film is that the featurette on the film "Just in Time" is way too short to be considered a valid supplement. Others include two outtake musical sequences made available previously, and the film's theatrical trailer. Regardless of these shortcomings, "Bells Are Ringing" comes highly recommended as great good time fun.