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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Additional footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Featurette
  • Animated menus

Sweet Charity

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 147 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I saw this musical on stage in Melbourne many years ago, starring, I think, the great Nancy Hayes. That was in the days when you could stroll into the theatre after intermission, sit down in the Gods, and pretend you'd been there all along. Strangely enough, 'til now I'd never seen the movie.

In 1969 the original stage director, Bob Fosse, took this musical adaptation of an early Fellini movie (Nights of Cabiria) to Hollywood. As well as doing the choreography, this was his first assignment as director.

The story is centred around vulnerable but loveable Charity Hope Valentine (Shirley Maclaine), a dance hall girl (mainly dance only, but occasionally going all the way down the rhythm road) who has a penchant for picking the worst men at the wrong time.

Three men are central to this story - her first lover, Charlie (Dante DiPaulo), who chucks her in Central Park Lake and makes off with her handbag, then Latin movie-idol Vittorio (Ricardo Montalban) who puts her back in her closet and, finally, neurotic claustrophobic Oscar (John McMartin) who really loves her, but perhaps not quite enough.

And then there are her dance hall comrades, led by a spirited Chita Rivera as Nickie. And the film is enlivened by a great cameo spot from Sammy Davis, Jnr. as a cult religious leader who delivers a mighty impressive sermon on the rhythm of life.

This musical wasn't given huge acclaim on its initial release and, to be truthful, it's easy to see why. The music numbers are spectacular - Bob Fosse's spirited choreography of songs such as Hey Big Spender is sensational - but although I have a real soft-spot for Shirley Maclaine, the story is pretty banal and the film is far, far too long. The 147 minute running time does, however, include an overture and a lengthy musical intermission, long enough to let you get up and make popcorn.

Inveterate lovers of musicals and admirers of Bob Fosse will want this. The rest of us will find most of it a bit of a drag, and really just want to fast forward or chapter skip between musical numbers.

  Video
Contract

This is a great widescreen anamorphic transfer. Colours are spectacular, and reminiscent in their power and vibrancy to the only really great musical of recent times, Chicago. There is no sense of age in the image; it's a beautiful presentation.

  Audio
Contract

Strangely, we're given only a two-channel Dolby Digital stereo audio track in English, while the French, Italian and German audio tracks are in 5.1 Dolby Surround, and sound pretty impressive when sampled during musical numbers.

The English stereo track is, however, particularly clearly defined, with excellent track separation. The age does show in quite a bit of perceptible audio change (a marked difference in audio ambience) between scenes, reflecting different recording methodology used for big musical numbers and for more intimate dialogue-focused shots.

  Extras
Contract

The two extra features give us Edith Head talking about her costuming for the movie. It's a seven-minute featurette of indifferent quality, though it's interesting to hear her describe her evening dress designs as being a satire on then current trends, and then realise that her 'satire' is being worn today.

A second, more fascinating featurette gives us an eight-minute film in which Bob Fosse discusses taking Sweet Charity from stage to Hollywood.

Talking about the challenge of directing his first film, Fosse quotes Oscar Wilde: "The anxiety is unbearable... I hope it lasts forever".

There is also an original theatrical trailer of pretty patchy quality, with lots of signs of age and damage.

There's a lengthy alternate ending presented in reasonable quality non-anamorphic widescreen. This, if used, would have given Sweet Charity a truly nausea-inducing saccharine happy ending. It's horrendous to watch even as an extra - it should have been consigned to a celluloid bonfire.

  Overall  
Contract

If you enjoy the musical genre, you'll want this. But be prepared to reach often for the remote control - it's a long haul, and there are stretches of banality between the big numbers.


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      And I quote...
    "Good-hearted but simple-minded dance hall hostess is shat on from a great height, but keeps smiling through. "
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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