BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
"BRIGADOON: WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION"
Blu-ray; 1954; PG; streaming via Amazon Video
Best extra: "Outtake Musical Numbers"
GENE KELLY became an American in Scotland for "Brigadoon" following his performance in "An American in Paris" (1951).
He was a standout in every role he took on. An amazing dancer and choreographer, Kelly could sing as well. As the star of "Singin' in the Rain," "On the Town," and many others, his charm and talent had no equal save for Fred Astaire. Together they ruled movie musicals from the 1930s to the early '50s.
So it's no surprise Kelly took on the screen adaptation of Broadway hit "Brigadoon." Vincente Minnelli, the director of "American in Paris" and other musical greats, helmed the project written and scored by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
But it took a while to get the project underway due to Kelly's prior commitments and, when it did, MGM had undergone a sea change. Louis B. Mayer had been forced out and the new studio head, Dore Schary, preferred realistic films to musical fantasy. TV had become more popular and audiences were staying home. So production was scaled back; no location filming in Scotland or anywhere, not even California. "Brigadoon" was shot on studio soundstages, as was "American in Paris," but without the same extravagance. Instead of Technicolor, Minnelli had to use CinemaScope, which took color saturation down a notch.
Not that we noticed in Warner Archive's artful remaster. A second generation print (2.55:1 aspect ratio) was scanned at 2K to recreate "Brigadoon's" bright reds and blues using archival photographs as a color guide. The vivid color is often contrasted against more neutral tones, maintaining the fairytale illusion. All dirt and scratch marks were removed. Grain is consistent and does not overwhelm, while the sharpness is within the normal range for a super widescreen movie.
Warner also upgraded the original stereo soundtrack to a robust 5.1 track using studio recording sessions. We can see and hear the difference by comparing the trailer and "Outtake Musical Numbers" featurette with the restored film. It is significant and it is good. This is one of the best of the Lerner and Loewe musicals, which include "Gigi," "Camelot" and "My Fair Lady."
Kelly and Van Johnson play two successful American businessmen, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, escaping the big city for a hunting trip in Scotland. They become lost and stumble upon a little village that looks as if it hasn't changed in the past 200 years. That's because it hasn't. Brigadoon is locked in time, awaking for one day every 100 years. On this occasion, the villagers are about to celebrate the wedding of Jean and Charlie played by Virginia Bosler and Jimmy Thompson. Tommy meets and falls in love with Jean's older sister, Fiona (Cyd Charisse). Trouble perks up when Jimmy's former rival, Harry Beaton (Hugh Laing) declares he'll leave the village, destroying Brigadoon and its people. Everyone charges out to find and stop him. Harry is killed accidentally just as the village begins to disappear for another 100 years, and Tommy must decide if he'll stay behind with his new found true love.
Musical numbers are superb. "Almost Like Being in Love," "Waitin' for my Dearie," "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean," and "The Heather on the Hill" left us humming – and re-watching those scenes and others through Warner's "Song Selection" feature. (Hit the subtitle function and sing along.)
Time and pacing restraints kept four numbers from the film. Thankfully, Warner provides "Come to Me, Bend to Me," "From this Day On," and the "Sword Dance" in the "Outtake Musical Numbers" bonus feature. For the "Sword Dance" in theater, each clan in their family colors marched down the aisles to meet onstage. It was a terrific theater moment. Minnelli's film version duplicates that effect and it's a shame it was cut. Also cut is the comic "My Mother's Wedding Day," considered too risqué for the time. "There but for You Go I" is audio only, but beautifully sung by Gene Kelly.
"Brigadoon's" music and dance regains its magic in Warner's fine presentation. It's just the kind of fare to blast modern day blues away.
— Kay Reynolds