Friday, January 1, 2010

LUXURY LINER (MGM 1948) Warner Archive Collection

Producer Joe Pasternak, famous for his light-hearted excursions where people are just people shortly before truly magical circumstances begin to happen to them, is in peek conditioning with director Richard Warf's Luxury Liner (1948); a buoyant musical journey across the high seas. The film stars MGM's answer to Deanna Durbin - Jane Powell - as Polly Bradford, the head strong daughter of the ship's captain, Jeremy Bradford (George Brent).

Seems Polly isn't content to let her father have all the adventures without her accompanying him. To this end, Polly stows away on the liner's next cruise - much to the dismay of Jeremy, who exiles his own daughter to the galley to teach her a lesson about hard work and obeying her elders.

To broker an audience with one of the ship's more prominent passengers, famed opera star, Olaf Eriksen (Lauritz Melchior) and get him to listen to her sing, Polly befriends another passenger, Laura Dene (Francis Gifford) who just happens to have the cabin next to Eriksen. In the meantime, and much to Polly's chagrin, Eriksen's alto soprano, Zita Romanko (Marina Koshetz) has developed a romantic yen for the Captain. Polly, however, wants her dad to fall in love with Laura instead.

In between these charmingly conventional plot twists scripted by Richard Connell, Karl Kamb and Gladys Lehman, Pasternak and Warf fill the ship to its rafters with engaging musical delights. Powell warbles the enchanting Spring Came Back To Vienna, The Peanut Vendor, Alouette and Gavotte from Massenet's Manon, while Melchior thrills passengers with the ear-shattering Die Walkure Manon and more 'pop' friendly Helen Gar - accompanied by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, who also contribute The Walter Winchell Rumba to the ship's festivities.

In terms of musical offerings from MGM's heyday, the blending together of light and heavy entertainments by Pasternak are usually regarded as mindless froth at best. Certainly, they are often referenced by critics as comparatively 'less than' to the more intricately staged musicals from producer Arthur Freed. But this critic would argue that while Pasternak's approach might be more devil-may-care and less high brow than Freed's, the measure of both men's wealth in terms of entertaining their audience is on par. As such, we leave a Joe Pasternak musical with a smile and Luxury Liner is no exception to that rule.

The Warner Archive edition of Luxury Liner owes something to restoration work probably begun earlier with plans for a Jane Powell box set or some such offering on legitimately authored standard DVD. As such, the image quality on this burn on demand title is gorgeous and virtually free from flaws. The Technicolor positively glows. Flesh tones are perhaps a tad too pink at times, but this is a minor quibble. Contrast levels are bang on and fine detail is evident throughout. There are only minor instances of age related artifacts for a very smooth and satisfying transfer. The audio is mono as originally recorded but sounding quite crisp and clean. Recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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