I must admit that I am a newcomer to the Bellamy household, having been in a non-television mode when the series first started airing in 1971, winning numerous BAFTA and Emmy Awards. Watching it now, I was instantly wrapped up in this world devised two fine actresses, Jean Marsh (who played Rose) and the great Eileen Atkins. The latter did not appear in the series; by the time it got underway, she was starring in Robert Bolt's Vivat Vivat Regina in London and New York. (Parenthetically, I was fortunate enough to work as a teenaged production assistant on the Broadway Vivat, and yes — Eileen was superb as Elizabeth.) The involvement of March and Atkins, I suppose, is responsible for the literately theatrical quality of the "Upstairs" setup — and the initial decision to accentuate the below stairs characters.
Ms. Marsh is joined by Gordon Jackson, Pauline Collins, David Langton, Rachel Gurney, Angela Baddeley, Simon Williams, and more. It will take a while to get through the five seasons of "Upstairs, Downstairs," but this Eaton Place manse is an especially rich address.
A "new" season of "Upstairs, Downstairs" — three one-hour episodes set in 1936, with Ms. Marsh and (now) Dame Eileen in the cast — was made by the BBC in 2010. This is not included in the box set, but will be telecast in the United States beginning in April.
Burt Lancaster, who coproduced, plays gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker (patterned on Winchell); Tony Curtis is hungry press agent Sidney Falco, selling out for a scoop. Both are good, with Curtis giving what might be his best performance. There are several memorable supporting performances, by Marty Milner as the musician Steve Dallas; Barbara Nichols as Rita, the cigarette girl; Jeff Donnell as Sally, Falco's secretary; Joe Frisco as vaudeville headliner Herbie Temple; and Lurene Tuttle, in the tiny role of the wife of a slimy columnist.
Theatregoers might well be familiar with the Marvin Hamlisch/Craig Carnelia/Nicholas Hytner musicalization, an interesting but flawed 2002 attempt with John Lithgow and Brian D'Arcy James in the leads. Watch the film and you'll see a textbook case of "if you can't do it better, why do it?"
(People will inevitably think of "Tangled" as potential Broadway fare, and that's fair enough. Menken is in a good musical mood, and Glenn Slater's lyrics are happily somewhat stronger than in Love Never Dies and the stage version of The Little Mermaid.)
"Tangled" has been released in a 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD set that is chockful of extras, in typical Disney fashion; these include the inevitable "Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale" and several deleted scenes. These include an early try at the robber's tavern scene — "The Jaunty Moose," they call it — that though unfinished is quite a lot of fun. Film is also available on a single DVD, and in an "Ultimate 4-Disc Disney Blu-ray Combo Pack" which I did not review but adds a 3D Blu-ray and a digital copy. In any dimension, "Tangled" is pretty good.
Blu-ray bonuses include the documentary "Inside Walt's Story Meetings — Enhanced Edition"; a rather interesting piece on the multi-panel camera Disney's technicians devised to conquer perspective (and other) problems, with Walt himself demonstrating how it works; four deleted scenes, pencil-drawn but with fully recorded dialogue and music; and a deleted song. "Twitterpated" it's called, apparently by Helen Bliss, Robert Sour and Henry Manners. Sung here with a piano accompaniment in what is clearly not a 1942 recording, it's catchy.
Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner play G. & S., respectively, and Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville lead the rest of the troupe. The director-approved Blu-ray special edition inclues a new digital transfer; audio commentary from Leigh; a new video conversation with Leigh and his musical director; and Leigh's 1992 short film "A Sense of History," written by and starring Broadbent.
Prime among the assets of this Mikado are the D'Oyly Carte trappings (filmed in vibrant, early Technicolor) and members of the troupe. Martyn Green, who entered the lists in 1922, had now graduated to the principal comedian roles. Here he is, as Ko-Ko, preserving the authentic G&S tradition. Also on hand is veteran Sydney Granville as Pooh-Bah. Conversely, American radio singer Kenny Baker is shoehorned in as Nanki-Poo, presumably to help draw in U.S. audiences. He's not bad, exactly, but he certainly does stand out among the others.
Yes, it is great to have Green in his prime; but what kind of Mikado is it in which they cut Ko-Ko's "I've Got a Little List"? Yes, that's right; the song is gone, along with other important sections. This manages to cut the film down to a brisk 91 minutes, but at what cost? Geoffrey O'Brien's incisive essay in the liner notes suggests that the song was cut not due to length but because of satiric jabs within the filmed number referring to Hitler and Neville Chamberlain, which by the time of the release was no laughing matter.
So what we get in this especially colorful Blu-ray release is a Mikado that is at one and the same time historically authentic and damagingly incomplete. It does, though, give us something of an idea of the traditional D'Oyly Carte production of The Mikado — and the estimable Martyn Green, too.
How is "Dennis the Menace," after all these years? Funny. The comedy is manufactured, needless to say; but the kid is charming, and it is all very good-natured. My 11-year-old, after the first disc, said "this is funnier than 'Tom and Jerry.'" So there.
North, with his startling blond cowlick, started the series when he was eight and is now reportedly a 59-year-old corrections officer in Florida. I hadn't thought of him in years and years — I mean, why would I? — but he surfaced in Michael Gregg Michaud's biography of Sal Mineo (which I recently reviewed for Playbill's "Book Shelf" columnhttp://www.playbill.com/features/article/146011-TEH-BOOK-SHELF-Holiday-Roundup-of-Theatre-Books-Fit-for-Gift-Giving). Which sure is an uncomfortable place to encounter Dennis the Menace.
(Steven Suskin is author of the recently released Updated and Expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and On the Record columns. He can be reached at [email protected])
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