Blu-ray Review: The Gang's All Here (1943) - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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A time capsule piece if there ever was one, The Gang's All Here (1943) is an extravagant Busby Berkeley-directed musical that boasts plenty of excellent, swinging music. The wafer-thin plot hinges on a formulaic romantic conceit, but if you can overlook that weakness you're in for a tuneful treat. Specialty reissue label Twilight Time has issued a limited release (3,000 units total) of this light but endlessly inventive (from a visual standpoint, not storytelling) Technicolor production.

Serviceman Andy (James Ellison) falls hard for singer Edie (Alice Faye), despite being engaged to Vivian (Sheila Ryan). To disguise his identity, he borrows his Army buddy's name—Pat Casey (Dave Willock)—and the two correspond regularly while Andy is deployed. Upon his return, Edie and Vivian are performing in the same show. The women are blissfully unaware of their common suitor. Making heads or tails of the plot elements is kind of beside the point. Benny Goodman and his orchestra are here, as is Carmen Miranda. Enjoy the music (including a Goodman/Miranda vocal duet, "Paducah") and let the movie's sights and sounds wash over you.

Twilight Time's The Gang's All Here Blu-ray offers an appealingly crisp 1080p transfer of Edward Cronjager's cinematography. Considering this was Busby Berkeley's first color production, and that its visuals landed it an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction (the category now known as Best Production Design; it lost its bid to Phantom of the Opera), it's essential that it looks good. And it does, with a transfer that appears to have been struck from very clean source materials.
 
Gangs All Here BD cover (301x380).jpg Audio options presented here: DTS-HD MA 1.0 and 2.0 mono mixes. Either one provides a strong, straightforward listening experience, but go for the 2.0 in order to hear a bit more 'punch' in the film's many musical numbers. As is generally standard for TT releases, the music is also offered up as a lossless isolated track (some dialogue and effects remain audible).

There are plenty of special features included, ported over from previous editions. The two audio commentaries feature analysis by film historians: Glenn Kenny, Ed Hulse, and Farran Smith Nehme on one, Drew Casper on the other. Presented in standard definition are the featurettes "Busby Berkeley: A Journey with a Star" and "Alice Faye’s Last Film: We Still Are!" There's also a deleted scene ("The $64 Question") and the film's theatrical trailer. Another fixture of TT titles, Julie Kirgo's newly-penned liner notes are not to be missed.

The Gang's All Here is a wartime relic that, however dated it may be, remains entirely enjoyable for fans of '40s-era musicals. Berkeley's visual style is quite a wonder and the lively song score serves as its perfect compliment. Check Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time site for ordering information while supplies last.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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