Blu-ray Review: Warner Bros.' Frank Sinatra: 5-Film Collection

By , Contributor
Fans of Ol’ Blue Eyes take note, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has packaged five classic films—three of them newly remastered—and released them as the Frank Sinatra: 5-Film Collection Blu-ray. Here’s the lineup: Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), Ocean’s 11 (1960), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). The five discs are housed in a single, standard-width Blu-ray case, which in turn is paired with a hardcover photo book inside a sturdy slipcover. It’s a handsome set, though of course partially redundant for anyone who already owns the previously available Guys and Dolls and Ocean’s 11 Blu-rays. But otherwise, this is an economically-priced bounty of Sinatra classics.

The earliest film in the set, Anchors Aweigh, looks fairly strong but not stunning in this new high definition presentation. Charles P. Boyle’s color cinematography was honored with an Academy Award nomination and thankfully it’s easy to appreciate its excellence. It’s the inconsistent contrast (with some scenes looking a bit too dark, others too light) that’s the main issue here, keeping it from being a truly great presentation. The lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack is, however, quite great—nothing fancy, of course, but solid, flawless fidelity.

Frank Sinatra Anchors Aweigh (380x300).jpgAnchors Aweigh features Sinatra in a very early lead role as Clarence Doolittle, a sailor on shore leave with buddy Joe Brady (Gene Kelly). Young Dean Stockwell turns up as Donald, a wayward boy with whom Clarence and Joe spend a fair bit of time. “The Worry Song” features an iconic dance sequence between Gene Kelly and the animated Jerry of Tom and Jerry fame that’s still a treasure. Light and frothy, this musical was a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars, where it won Best Music: Scoring of a Musical Picture.

More award-nominated color cinematography (Golden Globes, not Oscars this time) highlights On the Town. Harold Rosson was behind the lens for scores of Hollywood classics, including The Wizard of Oz (for which he received one of five Best Cinematography Oscar nominations). His work here, a combination of on-location and set-bound cinematography, looks generally strong. Again, it doesn’t quite stun the way a full restoration might, but fans of this colorful film are likely to be happy (even if it looks a bit soft at times; perhaps inherent in Rosson’s original work). The DTS-HD MA 1.0 mix is at least as good as the one on Anchors Aweigh, sounding as robust as a mono mix of this era can.

Frank Sinatra On the Town (380x296).jpgOn the Town also won the Oscar for Best Music. Long before Sinatra scored a hit with his iconic rendition of the theme from the 1977 film New York, New York, he and co-stars Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin sang a completely different “New York, New York” (part of Leonard Bernstein’s score). That song provides one of the film’s most energetic set pieces. Kelly co-directed On the Town with Stanley Donen and its just as light as Anchors. In fact, it’s another “sailors on shore leave” musical, with Gabey (Kelly), Chip (Sinatra), and Ozzie (Munshin) all looking for love in the Big Apple. The great Ann Miller is well-utilized, particularly during the production number of the title track. A bit of refreshing verisimilitude is added by the frequent usage of actual New York locations instead of relying entirely on sets.

Frank Sinatra Guys and Dolls (376x380).jpgBlu-ray-repeats Guys and Dolls and Ocean’s 11 both feature exemplary transfers, the same as found on previous stand-alone incarnations. The former boasts a serviceable DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, which doesn’t actually stray too far from the film’s original sound design (not a lot of surround activity). Similarly effective, but even more straightforward, is the DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack of Ocean’s.

Guys and Dolls and Ocean’s 11 are the commercial favorites of the set, with the latter being the only non-musical. Guys gives us the chance to see two true icons—Marlon Brando and Sinatra—together. Frank Loesser’s timeless music is of course a highlight, though the nearly two-and-a-half hour running time drags the picture at times. For fans of the Steven Soderbergh Ocean’s series can see where it all began with the Rat Pack-starring original, a caper film which still easily holds up to modern scrutiny.

Frank Sinatra Ocean's 11 (380x368).jpgRobin and the 7 Hoods is the other film in this set to sport a brand new high-definition transfer. Ocean’s 11 cinematographer William H. Daniels shot 7 Hoods late in his long, varied career. This is a pleasingly crisp presentation of his work, with reasonably vibrant colors and suitable fine detail. The DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack is certainly on par with other lossless mono tracks of this era. There are no problems to report.

Robin and the 7 Hoods is sterling entertainment, perhaps even a bit underrated. It’s sometimes written off as a quaint product of its period rather than recognized as a classic musical/crime hybrid. Produced by Sinatra, directed by Gordon Douglas (In Like Flint, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!), and written by David R. Schwartz, 7 Hoods is an inventive, clever twist on the classic Robin Hood story. Sinatra is magnetic as the gangster Robbo, with Dean Martin stealing scenes as Little John. With a supporting cast that includes Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby, Peter Falk, and Barbara Rush, it’s an endlessly entertaining bauble. The Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn-penned standard “My Kind of Town” was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song (the songwriting team competed against itself that year with the title tune from Where Love Has Gone; they were no match for “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins).

Frank Sinatra Robin and the 7 Hoods (380x287).jpgSpecial Features:

Anchors Aweigh: a clip from the documentary MGM: When the Lion Roars about the making of “The Worry Song” segment; the home entertainment debut of two 1945 MGM shorts, “Football Thrills of 1944” and “Jerky Turkey”; theatrical trailer.

On the Town: the home entertainment debut of two 1949 shorts, “Mr. Whitney Had a Notion” and “Doggone Tired”; theatrical trailer.

Ocean’s 11: commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson; Las Vegas Then and Now vignettes; theatrical trailers.

Guy and Dolls: “A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys and Dolls: The Goldwyn Touch”; “A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys and Dolls: From Stage to Screen”; “More Guys and Dolls Stories” (five segments); theatrical trailer.

Robin and the 7 Hoods: commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr.; vintage featurette “What They Did to Robin Hood”; the home entertainment debut of the 1939 WB cartoon “Robin Hood Makes Good”; two additional WB cartoons, “Rabbit Hood” (1949) and “Robin Hood Daffy” (1958); theatrical trailer.

All five films found in the Frank Sinatra: 5-Film Collection Blu-ray set are also included in the recently released 15-film Digital HD collection Frank Sinatra: Ultimate Film Collection.

Frank Sinatra 5 Film Collection (292x380).jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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