The Harvey Girls (1946) (NTSC)

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Released 1-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Audio Commentary-George Sidney (Director)
Listing-Cast & Crew
Outtakes-Musical - 3
Music Highlights-Singsong Express - audio tracks
Music Highlights-On The Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe in stereo
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1946
Running Time 100:57
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By George Sidney
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Judy Garland
John Hodiak
Ray Bolger
Angela Lansbury
Preston Foster
Virginia O'Brien
Kenny Baker
Marjorie Main
Chill Wills
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Johnny Mercer
Harry Warren


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    America's favourite actress, Judy Garland, stars in this musical western by director George Sidney, the idea for which had apparently floated around MGM for some time as a normal western set to star Clark Gable. But nobody could quite get it right as a straight western, so it was sent over to the musical department to turn into a film featuring some song and dance. The Fred Harvey chain of restaurants was springing up all around the country in the 1800s and with the advent of steam train travel and the expansion to the wild west, there was plenty of room for them to grow. Susan Bradley (Garland) is on a train bound for Sandrock, somewhere in the wild west. She is travelling to meet a man she has been conversing with via mail and she has accepted an offer to marry him - sight unseen. Also on the train are a group of young women from all around the US who are heading to the latest of the Harvey House restaurants to be opened in Sandrock. These waitresses, dubbed 'The Harvey Girls', offer polite, wholesome service to the many hungry travellers that make the long journey via rail from the east to the west coasts. When Susan arrives in Sandrock and discovers her would-be husband is not all he turned out to be, she leaves him and decides to join the Harvey Girls instead.

    But all is not going to go quite as planned for the new restaurant. The saloon bar across the street is not happy with the competition after it effectively boasted a monopoly on all entertainment in the town. Bar owner Ned Trent (John Hodiak) takes an instant dislike to the new eatery and will stop at nothing to see it closed. The girls also face stiff competition and nasty gibes from the dancing girls in the bar, led by the worldly Em (Angela Lansbury). Things come to a head when threats are made against the girls and some threaten to leave. Despite her diminutive size, the feisty Susan is not about to let the scheming Trent just walk all over them and confronts him, with unexpected results.

    Despite little in the way of character development, this is a fun film. The strength of any musical lies in its songs, and with The Harvey Girls boasting the winner of the 1947 Oscar for Best Song with the delightful On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, you are certainly onto a winner here.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For a film that is more than 50 years old, this is one mighty fine looking transfer, and testament to the fact that in these modern digital times, an almost artefact-free image is possible for virtually any film given the time and resources. It is an NTSC title so make sure your display is capable of handling it.

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this is pretty close to the original Academy ratio of 1.37:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Like many films of the era, it is not overly sharp, tending to a very soft focus effect on many of the shots. Edge enhancement is evident, though not as bad as I was expecting. Shadow detail is adequate and though grain is present, it doesn't tend to become a burden. There is no low level noise.

    The colours, courtesy of the fabulous Technicolor process, are superbly saturated and vibrant. I imagine that due to the age of the print this was taken from, some of the colours are a little variable. This is most notable between 12:36 and 12:40 when on the close-up of Judy Garland's face her skin ranges from a bright pink to a more pastel tone with a hint of grey/blue in it. Other than a couple of other less obvious examples though, the image is very pleasing to look at.
   
    I noticed no MPEG artefacts, and film-to-video artefacts are minimal. Several film artefacts of various shapes and sizes appear throughout, but they seldom intrude on the picture. One reddish/orange splotch at 27:12 is about the biggest I saw, with most of the others being the usual small white or black spot. There is a rather obvious and glaring example of a 3:2 pulldown (or mixed frame) artefact at 18:10 where the mixed frames are so far out of sync on the opening frame of the scene that the effect is quite jarring.
   
    There are several subtitle options available. I sampled the English variety extensively and found them to be mostly accurate, with only a few words cut out.

    This is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting. The layer change occurs at 66:26 on a fade to black scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    For a film that is over 50 years old, the audio is not too bad, despite being only a mono offering.

    There are two audio tracks available. The film features a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track, while the commentary is provided via a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
   
    Dialogue is clear if a little harsh at times with little dynamic range. There are no audio sync problems.

    The music is certainly the highlight of this film. The song On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, which won the Academy Award for best song in 1947 is a gem and clocking in at nearly nine minutes it forms a significant part of the film.

    The surround channels and sub had the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    For a film that is nearing sixty years old and one that I would hardly call a collector's classic, there is certainly a pretty fine collection of extras here.

Audio Commentary  - George Sidney (Director)

    Recorded in 1996 or 1997, presumably for the laserdisc version of the film, this is a really fascinating commentary. Director George Sidney tells some amazing stories about the way the studios used to work in the 40s. He avoids stating the obvious and discusses the charms of Judy Garland and how he came to cast her early in her career. Worth a listen just to hear some of the old-time anecdotes.

Listing-Cast & Crew

    One static screen of very small text, simply listing the main cast and several of the crew who worked on the film.

Outtakes

    Not bloopers as is implied by the term outtakes, these are in fact deleted musical numbers that have been labelled as outtakes on the disc. The songs are My Intuition, and two versions of March of the Doagies.

Music Highlights - The Singsong Express

    Hop aboard the Singsong Express. This is a series of some 26 audio-only snippets ranging from rehearsal numbers to brief musical cues for the performers. The quality is at times very scratchy and the volume has been mastered at an incredibly low level (and I mean low - I had to crank this up to -5dB just to hear it).

Music Highlights - On The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe

    This is one of the highlights of the disc. Apparently, even as early as the 1930s, some forward-thinking souls at MGM were recording their songs using multiple separate microphones so the resulting recording could be mixed into a sort of stereophonic mix. This is the result of one of those recording sessions. The full 9:03 minutes of On The Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe has been faithfully reproduced into a stereo mix. While not a patch on a modern recording it is still a joy to listen to and sing along with.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer promises a gay and lusty film! What a description! Running for 2:52 minutes, this trailer features many of the songs used in the film and only a little dialogue. As a result, there isn't a great deal of the story presented, just the sing-a-long bits. Video and audio are identical to the main film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This NTSC Region 4 release is obviously the exact replica of its Region 1 counterpart. The English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are a giveaway to that fact. I'll call it a draw and suggest you pick it up wherever you are able to get it cheapest.

Summary

    While this isn't among Judy Garland's more memorable roles, there is still heaps of charm on display here. The songs are great, the plot is light and a little too camp, but the whole thing is meant to be fun.

    The video is excellent considering the age of the source material.

    The audio is about as basic as it can get.

    The extras are comprehensive, which again for a fifty year-old film is remarkable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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