Plot: What’s it about?
It seems that movies about Hollywood can’t help but be somehow "bad". Yes, bad. Words like "backstabbing" and "manipulative" seem right in place when we’re dealing with the silver screen. We’re told just the opposite, of course, as we watch the stars slink by in their near-perfect figures and fat bank accounts. It seems that everything we see on the screen is a lie (actually, it is—it’s all fiction), but for the people who are a part of it and who have the nerve to "tell it like it is", Hollywood seems like the most disgusting place on Earth…past or present. More recent movies like "The Player" and "Bowfinger" can’t really compare to classics like Fellini’s "8 1/2", but the message is the same. And evidently, in 1952 the message was still relatively the same then too. Director Vincente Minnelli told the story of the rise and fall of a Hollywood Producer, played by Kirk Douglas. So while the images we see on the screen are works of fiction, it’s not all a lie as we soon learn…
Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) starts out the movie much like Citizen Kane, hated by all. As he calls his former colleagues, he gets busy signals, excuses and just plain insults as he wants their collaboration on one last film. It’s then that we see the story through their perspectives. One, an aspiring Director by the name of Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) who recounts his early days with Shields as a lowly B-movie director. They were given second rate movies to shoot at second rate budgets and the result was a second rate film. Then, in the blink of an eye, they manage to turn one into a semi-hit and before you know it, they’re given a huge budget to do a movie that all think will fail. The only problem is that Shields steals the credit and leaves his friend at the side of the road. Then there’s the story of the actress who got the chance that all actresses want, their big break. Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) is the daughter of a famous actor, but has none of his success. She finally gets the attention of Shields, and even though she is criticized by the crew, Shields knows that she has "star power". Naturally, this goes on and on and to give more away would be to ruin the movie.
Let it be said that I have no idea how the world of Hollywood works. I’m in the very edge of it, by reviewing DVD’s and I won’t comment as to what I like and dislike. I do know that all of these great actors and directors can’t be wrong. For the ages, movies about making movies has been a cruel and vicious cycle that I would rather have nothing to do with. Does that make me an outsider or "wrong"? Who knows. What I do know is that for a movie now 50 years old, this was very enjoyable and well-worth your time and money. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Presented in a full-frame transfer, which was sort of common at the time, the film is shot in black and white. I tend to think of most movies before 1960 this way, though it’s clearly not the case. Color was used much before then, but directors are hard to change once they find something they like. Still, the presentation here is very nice. There’s not a lot of edge enhancement and the print used here is very nice. I found a few instances where the image would shift from light to dark a bit, but for the most part, it’s a great presentation of a movie half a century old. In a bit of a surprise, the movie is on one side and the "bonus materials" are on the other. One wonders why they weren’t on a dual-sided disc, but alas…
Audio: How does it sound?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…there’s not much you can say about a mono track that can’t be said. The information only comes through one channel and it’s a limited scope as to what can be put through that channel. However, the dialogue is very crisp and clean. Again, for a film of this age, this is the best it’s sounded and I shudder to think about the worst it’s sounded. A nice track here, but we have no choice, as it’s the best this will get.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As mentioned above, the extras are located on the flip side (literally) of the disc. I was quite surprised to find a 90 minute documentary entitled “Lana Turnerà A DaughterÆs Memoir” which originally aired on the cable TV station, Turner Classic Movies. Narrated by Robert Wagner, we see insignts into her personal and professional life; starting with her career at the age of 16. I liked this feature and can’t tell how many I’ve seen on TCM, but hopefully Warner will find it fitting to put more of these features on more of their upcoming DVD’s. A theatrical trailer is also included and the awards that the movie won (5 Academy Awards) along with some Production Notes.