Saturday, November 5, 2016

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: Blu-ray (MGM 1944) Warner Home Video

In the Spring of 1943, L.B. Mayer begrudgingly commissioned the construction of an entire city block of houses on the MGM back lot; towering Victorian edifices with their intricate gingerbread architecture and bric-a-brac surrounded by palatial grounds of sumac, trimmed box hedges and white picket fences. By far, it was the most ambitious ‘false front’ yet designed for a single picture; Mayer entrusting his producer, Arthur Freed and his choice of director, Vincente Minnelli knew what they were after and confident all the money being spent would be worth it. In hindsight, Mayer had nothing to fear.  A treasure trove of picture-perfect Americana, circa the turn of the last century, lovingly brought to the screen with a light nimble magic, Minnelli's Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) would go on to become the archetypal 'teenager in love' movie musical from the 1940's. More than that: it evolved into a vintage snapshot of a simpler time with all the sumptuously theatrical charm of a posed portrait by Currier and Ives: finely wrought and meticulously crafted with Minnelli’s zest for period detail in every last frame. Based on Sally Benson's serialized Kennsington Stories, Meet Me in St. Louis illustrates Minnelli's keen and adaptive eye (his first movie in color), basking in the sumptuousness of Technicolor’s rainbow, yet showing remarkable restraint and subtlety in using these lurid hues to create mood and style. The picture’s success did more than fill Metro’s coffers. It convinced Mayer that Minnelli could helm a big project; even create bona fide art from crass commercialism.
Meet Me in St. Louis is divided into four striking ‘seasonal’ vignettes. While critics in its day were apt to single out and rave about Minnelli’s extraordinary use of color during the Halloween sequence, today it is for its Christmas extract for which the picture most fondly endures; the culmination of the fictional Smith family’s hopeful anxieties for an even more prosperous future together, eloquently embodied in the, by now, legendary Hugh Martin/Ralph Blaine ballad, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’; sung with throbbing sincerity by the magnificent Judy Garland. To hear Garland gingerly break from an almost whisper to full-bodied warble of panged promise herein (an emotional outpouring meant to bleed sniffles from even the most stone-hearted in the auditorium and render the mischievous Margaret O’Brien to a fitful state of uncontrollable lamentation) is to typify that tenderly nagging conflict felt by many around the holidays, contemplating past failings with an optimistic nod to making amends in the coming New Year. And Garland, better than any artist of any generation since feebly endeavoring to do this song justice, presents us with the songwriter’s muse and lyrics as a very sad-eyed truth; an instant reminder of all those Christmases past when the world was new and we were younger in it still to fully appreciate the genuine importance of family; now, matured as adults by this recollection from Minnelli’s music box memory as the careworn uncertainties long since have gone beyond these halcyon days of relative warmth and safety. The Christmas sequence in Meet Me In St. Louis is capped off by a tearful Margaret O’Brien destroying the ‘snow family’ communally built in their backyard, and, the family’s patriarch, Alonzo making the fateful decision to remain in St. Louis, despite the wishes of his law firm. This leads us into the ebullient and traditional sharing of gifts at midnight; except that the most precious largesse goes practically unnoticed by the rest of the clan as an emotional exchange between husband and wife (superbly played by Leon Ames and Mary Astor); an unquantifiable moment of tenderness through time and loyalties tested – even strained to the point of rupture - now, gently reaffirmed.  
For Meet Me in St. Louis, Minnelli brought the scope of his years as a set designer to bear on his already well-exercised fluidity with the camera; every pigment, deliberated upon and purposely placed to heighten the emotional impact of his familial saga. Minnelli opens each of the four seasons with an idyllic greeting card depicting the Smith family home; a stately abode even Sally Benson would have found at odds with her more modest standard of living in the Kensington chronicles. This periodic return to the episodic framing device gives the movie what little forward trajectory exists beyond the Irving Brecher/Fred Finklehoffe screenplay. Indeed, when Meet Me in St. Louis was first pitched to Mayer, the mogul’s greatest concern was there was ‘no villain’ to counterbalance Minnelli’s slice of Americana. Mayer had hoped to convince Minnelli to embroil the movie’s Esther Smith in a small town murder mystery. But Freed was adamant. “There is indeed a villain, Mr. Mayer,” he explained. “Who?”, Mayer pressed on. “New York”, Freed replied. And so it would remain that the Smith’s arch nemesis was a meanie they never encounter, though nevertheless looms large on the horizon of their own domestic welfare. Ironically, the threat is from within, foisted upon the Smiths by Alonzo, newly arrived home from work and proudly informing his wife and children his law firm (Fenton, Rayburn and Co.), are relocating him to their Manhattan branch at the first of the New Year.
Lon’s ‘good news’ is met with almost immediate resistance and abject dismay. After all, how could the family leave St. Louis just when, as teenage daughter, Esther (Judy Garland) exaggeratedly suggests, the city is about to become “the center of the whole universe.”  Meet Me in St. Louis is not a story per say; but rather, a series of snapshots excised from the Smith family album, lovingly reassembled to extol the virtues of the American family. During those terrible years of war, ‘home and hearth’ were perennially anticipated messages providing solace to those with loved ones fighting abroad. Moreover, the picture’s message was distinctly aligned to Mayer’s own core-valued esteem for the American way of life as he saw it from an immigrant’s perspective; Mayer pouring all the stored up dreams of a nation – imagined and real – into Metro’s product throughout the decade. Victoriana, with its superficial quaintness and rigid social etiquette, rife for parody, instead supplied the warm, fuzzy feel good, familiarity and stability in a world increasingly gone mad. Virtually all the studios delved into this lucrative turn-of-the-century pastiche, celebrating the corseted and buggy whip sect, perhaps even as a way to offset the seismic shift in American culture then, barreling toward modernity and technological progress.
Meet Me In St. Louis vacillates in the ‘new-fangled-ness’ of progress itself, occasionally at odds with tradition, and, at least on one occasion, clashing over the innocuous intrusions caused by the installation of a telephone in the dining room. In this humorous vignette eldest daughter, Rose (Lucille Bremer) shouts into Alexander Graham Bell’s wall-mounted contraption, barely heard by her long-suffering beau, Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully) in New York. The decibel level of their conversation necessitates the windows be closed so as not to upset the neighbors, who can hear every word clear as a ‘bell’ (or rather, Bell), even if Rose’s beloved cannot. At the end of their rather embarrassingly rigid exchange, lovable/curmudgeonly housemaid Katie (Marjorie Maine) echoes the sentiments of her generation, suggesting she would never accept any man who proposed to her over ‘an invention’.  Aside: I wonder what dear ole Katie might have thought of today’s generation, planning everything from dinner and travel arrangements to bar mitzvahs and weddings over their tablets and Blackberries.  
Mayer had green-lit Meet Me in St. Louis with reservations, bristling loudly over Minnelli’s petition to construct the ‘St. Louis Street’, built on MGM's lot #2 at an estimated cost of $208,275. Hollywood’s most powerful mogul had hoped to convince Minnelli to simply re-dress the already standing (and readily used) Carvel Street set where virtually every movie taking place in small town America had been shot; the cost, comparatively diminutive at $58,275. Undoubtedly, the picture would not have been nearly as successful had prudence and thrift won out. Yet, there is something to be said for Mayer’s homogenization of MGM’s product throughout the 1940’s. Unlike the 1930’s, cultivated with periodic flights into intercontinental grandiosity by the enterprising and cultured Irving Thalberg, the forties steadily became ensconced in Mayer’s own sense of middle-class morality; God, country and ma’s homemade apple pies at the forefront; an idyllic surrogate for a childhood Mayer never experienced firsthand, but would have preferred to claim as his own. Now, Mayer’s commitment to Minnelli – or rather, producer, Arthur Freed, whom he adored and would give carte blanche – secured Meet Me in St. Louis’ place in the annals of movie-land folklore; a unique offering amongst the studio’s myriad of treasures. Mayer may not have agreed with Minnelli; but he implicitly trusted Freed. And so, the St. Louis Street was built - handsomely and to every last one of Minnelli's specifications. In years yet to follow, the street would play host to many productions, including 1960’s remake of Cimarron and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone before suffering a fire that gutted the Smith family home and its adjacent John Truett properties. A few short years later, the rest would all be bulldozed to the ground along with virtually every other free-standing fa├žade on Metro’s backlot to make way for condominium and housing development.
At least thematically, Meet Me in St. Louis greatly appealed to Mayer; its focus on the strength of sentiment and familial solidarity, particularly in times of crisis, a resilient and reoccurring theme in many MGM movies throughout the 1940’s. Mayer who, in varying histories written about him since, is oft in tandem referenced as a God-fearing potentate and despicable philistine, firmly believed in the movies to reeducate the public on what he perceived as the moral good. For a while, Mayer’s logic resonated with wartime audiences. And Meet Me in St. Louis also satisfied Mayer’s genuine passion for the musical – a genre he could not take any credit for having invented, though nevertheless frequently took pride in acknowledging his creatives had helped to refine, streamline and set a very high standard in overall consistency the other studios collectively struggled to achieve, much less maintain. As such, the Hollywood musical increasingly became synonymous with the confections of MGM. Mayer had nurtured a staggering array of singers, dancers, songwriters, musical arrangers and choreographers; the largest repertory company in the business. So long as the musical reigned supreme, Mayer’s solid investment in this, the most expensive of genres to produce, was not only sustainable but downright lucrative. MGM’s steady decline in the late fifties can thus be correlated, at least in part, to Mayer’s ousting from power in 1950 and the studio’s unwillingness to deviate too far from his inculcated precepts thereafter; anchoring MGM to the musical and its fall from grace, leaving Mayer’s beloved empire with a storefront of truly outstanding artists in their field that, tragically, the public increasingly did not want to see anymore.
Meet Me in St. Louis is often referenced as the first ‘integrated’ musical; by which is meant its songs help to promote and directly advance the sentiments and plot points within its narrative. This statement is not altogether truthful as MGM had already achieved marginal integration of song and plot with The Wizard of Oz (1939). Nevertheless, the Ralph Blane/Hugh Martin songs interpolated throughout Meet Me in St. Louis are very much an extension of the various characters’ emotional state as expressed in the Irving Brecher/Fred F. Finklehoffe screenplay; particularly Judy Garland’s winsome ode to ‘The Boy Next Door’; the quintessence of a young girl’s longing to be admired – even marginally noticed – by the guy on whom her heart-sore crush has been so angst-fully affixed.  Initially, Garland balked at playing the headstrong love-savvy Esther Smith; having graduated from MGM’s stable of child stars to more adult romantic leads opposite Gene Kelly and George Murphy. Yet, her participation on the project proved essential to the picture’s success. It can safely be said Meet Me in St. Louis would be nothing at all without Garland’s rare intangible and effortless bridge between the chasm of life and artifice, particularly when she pauses to elevate most any situation into a sublime nirvana by bursting into song. Meet Me In St. Louis is amply endowed with moments for Judy Garland to shine; her heart-rending rendition of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and exuberant declaration of burgeoning young love in ‘The Trolley Song’ impossibly perfect highlights of the movie. But perhaps Garland’s most underrated moment comes as she bids her next door neighbor, John Truett (Tom Drake) farewell, leaning ‘Over The Bannister’; half-lit by flickering gaslight. With this sublime and quiescent performance, Garland positively anchors the picture to its Victorian magnetism; a living doll, excised from the photogravures of Currier and Ives.
The contributions of composers, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane cannot be overstated. With only four original songs to the film’s credit (the three aforementioned and ‘Skip to My Lou’; an ebullient ensemble number performed at Esther and Rose’s going away party for brother, Lon Jr., played by Henry H. Daniels Jr.), the Martin/Blane songs typify and augment virtually all of the movie’s dramatic highpoints; the rest of the ‘score’ made up from turn-of-the-century ditties like 1902’s ‘Under the Bamboo Tree’ and, of course, the 1904 title song; heard several times throughout. In the eleventh hour, Arthur Freed would add ‘You and I’ to the musical program – a ballad written by Freed and his one-time co-composer, Nacio Herb Brown; the lyrics devoted to the passage of the years in reflection, and performed with unintentionally piercing tenderness by Mary Astor (as Mrs. Anna Smith) and Freed himself (his vocals dubbing for Leon Ames). Freed also cut the number, ‘Boys and Girls Like You and Me’ (a Rodgers and Hammerstein ditty, twice excised from two hit shows) after it had already been recorded and photographed. In Meet Me In St. Louis, the song ought to have solidified the burgeoning romance between Esther and John as they tour the Louisiana Exposition fairgrounds still under construction.
Meet Me in St. Louis opens in the full flourish of a summer’s golden afternoon. Anna and Katie are making ketchup in the kitchen, their efforts sampled by Lon Jr., Esther and Grandpa (Harry Davenport); each offering contradictory opinions about its consistency and taste. In short order, we are also introduced to Esther’s second to youngest sister, Agnes (Joan Carroll) – recently returned from a cool dip on this stiflingly hot day – then finally, youngest, Tootie (the enchanting Margaret O’Brien), who shares her fatalist opinions about a favorite doll (dying of ‘four fatal diseases’) with the kindly, ice wagon driver, Mr. Neely (Chill Wills – underused). Rose has been seeing Warren Sheffield for many months; a good solid prospect for a girl of her years to quell the family’s concerns, that at the age of twenty-three Rose is fast becoming an ‘old maid’ with fewer prospects for marriage. Alas, Warren does not seem particularly interested in Rose beyond a cordial ‘hello’ either.
Nevertheless, Esther bribes Katie to expedite dinner and hasten the family out of the dining room before six-thirty to afford Rose some privacy when Warren calls from New York. Alas, having come home later than expected, and intent on taking a nice cool bath before dressing for dinner, Alonzo is already in something of a foul mood – having lost his most recent case. Anna comforts him; but later, at the dinner table, she merely placates his desire to have a long, relaxed meal with his loved ones. Thus, when Rose’s call comes in, Lon mistakenly assumes it is for him, making inquiries, but just as impatiently hanging up the receiver. Anna points out to her husband not every call is for him, and Lon sheepishly allows Rose the opportunity to answer the phone when a second call is put through; the family eagerly straining to listen in on her conversation. Warren, however, is reluctant to say much of anything; instead, nervously inquiring about her health; then, making polite small talk before hanging up.
Meanwhile, Esther’s unrequited observance of John Truett leads to some suppressed and humorous sexual frustrations. John is newly arrived and moved into 5133 Kensington Ave.; the home right next to the Smiths. Desperate to be noticed, Esther endures John’s repeated, if wholly unintentional snubs with panged romantic longing, coaxing brother, Lon Jr. to invite him to his own going away to university party. Given enough pinched cheek ‘bloom’ to offset her forwardness, Esther endeavors to make her rather obvious intentions known; even going so far as to hide John’s straw hat in the breadbox to delay his departure as the last guest of the evening. John is an odd duck, quietly falling under Esther’s spell as she serenades him from the top of the staircase after they have already extinguished most of the gaslights in the house. But then, he inexplicably diffuses what little romantic chemistry has brewed between them; commenting Esther’s perfume – ‘Essence of Violet’ – reminds him of his grandmother; suggesting she has a firm grip as he shakes her hand in a gesture of farewell, before darting out the front door, thus leaving Esther befuddled and frustrated, though hardly ready to give up just yet.
The next afternoon, Esther and a small gathering of her cohorts board the trolley for Stinker’s Swamp where construction on the Louisiana Exposition fairgrounds is already well underway. Esther had hoped John would be among the participants. But he is absent, at first, then suddenly, as the trolley is in full pitch, seen trailing behind it in a mad dash to catch up. Esther breaks into ‘The Trolley Song’ – a boisterous avowal of her love. This culminates in an inadvertently awkward moment, John sneaking up from behind to join her atop the double-decker as she belts out ‘it was grand with his hand holding mine, till the end of the line’. Her truest intent blatantly spelled out; Esther sheepishly regards her beloved with a sickly thin smile; Minnelli dissolving the scene into his autumn vignette; unequivocally, the most evocative portrait of larger-than-life childhood impressions. Discouraged from partaking of the spooky pleasures of Halloween by the older boys and girls Tootie sojourns off alone in the direction of the Braukoffs (Mayo Newhall and Belle Mitchell), a much feared elderly couple who, in fact, are benign, but take part in the yearly ritual of ‘being murdered’ by the local children, who are supposed to fling a handful of flour into their faces. To prove her worth to this peer group Tootie accomplishes the feat by herself after no other child dares accept the challenge. She is raised on the shoulders of Agnes’ and her friends and deemed ‘the most horrible’ – within the context of the scene, a triumphant validation. 
Rose returns from Huntsinger’s Ice Cream Parlor in a horse-drawn carriage driven by Colonel Darly (Hugh Marlowe). She is flirtatious but to no avail, signaling yet another failed opportunity to procure a husband. But there is no time to reconsider the matter, as Tootie’s dramatic screams draw Grandpa, Rose, Esther and Anna to her aid. They discover Tootie bruised and with a bloody nose, but otherwise unharmed, still clutching a shock of hair in her tight fist. Tootie suggests John Truett tried to hurt her. In her sister’s defense, Esther now charges up John’s front porch and violently assaults him, only to return home and discover Tootie has made the whole story up. It seems Tootie and Agnes took a mannequin and placed it on the trolley tracks as a practical joke. Seeing a potential disaster waiting to happen, John hurriedly rescued Tootie from being run over by the trolley. Armed with this information a repentant Esther apologetically returns to John’s front porch. He is, at first, defensive; but then, recognizing Esther’s impaired judgment, takes advantage of the moment by suddenly drawing her nearer to him for an unanticipated and frankly passionate kiss on the lips. The love-struck Esther returns home in a bemused pink cloud of hearts and flowers. This amuses Tootie and Agnes. But when Alonzo returns home he proudly informs the family of his plans to move everyone to New York, thus casting a damper on all of their lighthearted spirits.
In tandem, Anna, Rose, Esther, Grandpa, Tootie, Agnes and Katie express their quiet discontent with his decision; the family momentarily torn apart in their upset. Lon is mildly apoplectic; Anna, playing an old song on the piano to remind Lon of the moment when he and she first met. Drawn together by this subtle declaration of their enduring love, the rest of the family gathers in a show of solidarity; soon to be tested as the Christmas holiday draws near. Lon Jr. returns from his first semester at Princeton, jealously disappointed when New York debutante, Lucille Ballard (June Lockhart) elects to attend the annual Christmas party on the arm of Warren Sheffield; Esther and Rose conspiring to ruin Lucille’s evening by filling her dance card with some of the town’s most awkward bachelors. In the meantime, John explains to Esther he is unable to attend, having forgotten his tuxedo at the tailor’s shop – now closed. However, moments before the party is set to begin, Rose learns Lucille, far from having stolen Warren for her own, has instead chosen to be his date to resolve Warren’s own awkwardness about proposing to Rose.
Learning of the girls’ vindictive plotting, Grandpa encourages Esther to give up her own dance card to Lucille; accepting Lucille’s promises in return, thereby forcing Esther to endure an evening of clumsy oafs. Mercifully, grandpa now comes to Esther’s rescue. She appreciatively declares, “You’re the first human being I’ve danced with all night.”  An even bigger surprise awaits Esther as John, having managed to get his tuxedo from the tailors, takes over from grandpa, sashaying his sweetheart around the dance floor. Minnelli dissolves from this satisfying moment to an even more poignant pas deux. John proposes marriage to keep Esther in St. Louis. Recognizing the sacrifice it will mean to his future, giving up his dreams of college, Esther gently coaxes John to reconsider. To prove the testament of her love Esther kisses John before hurrying into the house, quietly discovering Tootie still awake, listening to her music box as she waits for Santa Claus. The girls peer down from Tootie’s upstairs window at the happy snow family she, Agnes and Esther have built in their backyard. Esther rings unbearable sadness from the ballad, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’; a poignant anthem that brings the usually resilient Tootie to the brink of hysteria. Tearfully, Tootie rushes outdoors in her nightgown to destroy her snow family, determined no one else should possess them.
Observing the chaos from the upstairs window, Lon is moved to reconsider his decision of uprooting his family to New York. It would never work, not for Tootie, nor Esther, nor even his beloved Anna; sacrificing his own aspirations for a better position, quite suddenly, unexpectedly, to do the right thing. Awakening the rest of the clan in the dead of night, Lon gathers everyone in the front parlor; a once cozy room, already half packed up and strangely void of its usual charm. Yet now, it crackles with renewed intimacy; unequivocally reiterating ‘home’ as a place where loved ones dwell, not merely four walls between which decorous testimonials to one’s own affluence are displayed. Lon’s decision to remain in St. Louis is met with a collective sigh of relief; Anna, turning away from the family’s joyous reconciliation and exchange of gifts to conceal her tears of gratitude. In a movie so richly endowed with testaments to familial love, Mary Astor’s reaction remains a priceless highlight; a penultimate moment of satisfaction for the audience from which, arguably, there is nowhere to go except down. There is no escaping the fact, Meet Me in St. Louis’ Spring epilogue is more than a little disappointing; the family, including Warren Sheffield, since having become engaged to Rose – finally – headed off to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in their horse-drawn carriages. Relying on miniatures and an obvious backlit diorama to recreate the majesty and aura of one of the most lavishly appointed and memorable expos in human history proves an inelegant and rushed epitaph at best; the set brightly lit and populated by a myriad of extras parading back and forth in the foreground. On a balcony overlooking a presumably man-made lagoon, Esther and John are reunited with the rest of the family, dazzled by the light show at dusk as Minnelli trucks in for one last close-up of his prototypical adolescent in love, equally as happy to have remained in St. Louis.
'There's no place like home' is the popular message cleaved from another Garland classic: The Wizard of Oz and its’ resurrection in Meet Me in St. Louis clearly reiterated how little Mayer’s outlook had matured in the interim. Like 'Oz', St. Louis would prove a veritable showcase for Judy Garland’s formidable talents. And yet Garland almost did not do the picture, much coaxing done by Arthur Freed to eventually get her to commit to the project. Garland’s apprehensions were only partly hinged on the fact she would have to play a precocious innocent rather than a woman of her years. Moreover, she was more than a little concerned about being upstaged by the scene-stealing antics of Margaret O'Brien. Whatever her initial apprehensions, Garland was convinced by Freed to play the part. Even so, her working relationship with Vincente Minnelli began rather inauspiciously. Minnelli would later comment he never knew whether or not he was 'getting through' to Garland because she seemed somewhat distracted and more than a little aloof. However, when the cameras rolled Garland exuded the ‘pitch perfect’ professionalism everyone - including Minnelli - expected. As she came to trust her director more, Garland also began to fall in love; a rebound romance after a terrible split from band leader, David Rose. By the end of the shoot Minnelli proposed and soon thereafter the two were married with Mayer’s blessing. Alas, it would be anything but smooth sailing for Garland and Minnelli from here on in. Viewed today, Meet Me in St. Louis retains its intangible air of dreamlike effervescence. The joy within is equally to be had in the songs, sustained drama and rich characterizations put forth by everyone in the cast. The plot is incidental; a stroll through one back-cataloged year in the life of the Smith family. And, in the final analysis, nothing more is required to etch Meet Me In St. Louis into our collective consciousness as a bona fide masterpiece. It has remained thus ever since; irrepressibly enchanting.
Warner Home Video's Blu-ray is a curiosity. At a glance, the DVD was so impeccably mastered the Blu-ray's improvements appear negligible at best. But more critical side-by-side comparisons reveal the obvious: a tightening up of the image with vast improvements in fine detail. Still, color fidelity seems a tad overly saturated - adopting a slightly reddish hue. I am not entirely certain colors are as refined, nor am I buying into this as a definitive presentation resembling the theatrical experience as closely as possible. The warmness of the color balancing just seems slightly off. I will leave it at that, but insist the overall improvements far outweigh this minor quibble. Contrast is solid and age-related artifacts have been virtually eradicated for a stunning presentation. Warner has also corrected some minor misalignment in the Technicolor records that plagued the previous DVD presentation. Better still, the DTS 5.1 audio has been remixed from original stems - revealing subtle acoustic differences between the Blu-ray and previously issued DVD. Again, these refinements are not as easily spotted – but they are there to be enjoyed.
I am not sure what ticks me off more - Warner's disastrous cover art (having replaced the vintage stylized calligraphy with some truly awful and homogenized photo-shopped lettering, also some stock image of a house that IS NOT the Smith family home) or the fact the back jacket DOES NOT list even a third of the extra features included herein. Just to be clear: this Blu-ray contains ALL the extras from Warner's 2-disc DVD (The Making of An American Classic, Hollywood: The Dream Factory, Becoming Attractings: The Films of Judy Garland, an audio commentary, isolated score, stills gallery and trailers). For reasons known only to Warner’s marketing department, only John Fricke’s audio commentary, 40 page booklet and CD sampler are listed as extras. Dumb!
The 40 page booklet is deceiving: big on artwork, but virtually scant on behind the scenes info - pretty to look at, but none too engaging overall. The CD sampler is, frankly, a waste of time and disc space. We get four songs totaling less than 15 min. Warner has repeatedly included such CDs as 'extra' content on some of their vintage Blu-ray titles repackaged in ‘digibooks’. My personal philosophy is that only complete soundtracks should be included since a premium is being paid by the consumer to own these digibook presentations. I understand the marketing philosophy behind doing it their way. Whet the consumer appetite with a few 'samples' and hope they will run out and buy the complete soundtrack album. Remember, I said, I understood it. I do not respect it - especially since buying the complete soundtrack renders this 'sampler' a virtual Frisbee disc. It should also be noted that Meet Me in St. Louis comes as a bare bones repackaged Blu-ray, containing all of the digital extras, but minus the book and CD sampler. Bottom line: Meet Me in St. Louis is required viewing, but especially around the Christmas holidays. It belongs on everyone's top shelf. The Blu-ray amply does right by Minnelli’s stunning use of Technicolor with minor caveats to consider.
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)

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