Sonny & Cher: The Ultimate Collection (1971) (NTSC)

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Released 12-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Cher - Selected Scenes
Interviews-Crew-Producers, Parts 1 And 2
TV Spots- Network Promos
Credits
Additional Footage-1969 TV Pilot
Karaoke
Music Video-2
Discography
Radio Spots-Radio Jingle
Notes-History Of The Show
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 450:40 (Case: 540)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Art Fisher
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Sonny Bono
Cher
Teri Garr
Steve Martin
Case Gatefold
RPI $49.95 Music Various


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Cher comments on favored cosmetic brand.
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If you have ever listened to popular music on the radio for any period of time you will most likely have heard the song I Got You Babe in one of its many versions. The original was by Sonny & Cher who, apart from producing a string of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s, also hosted a very popular TV variety show. Cher of course has since become an Oscar winning actress (for Moonstruck) as well as a popular solo star (she started a Farewell Tour in 2003 which is available on DVD, and as far as I know is still wandering the world). As I write, Sonny (who eventually became a US Congressman) has been dead for 7 years, but his legacy lives on in this collection of discs.

    This one is really a blast from the past. I have some very vague memories of watching this show back in the 1970s. Short excerpts have also popped up on music DVDs from Cher (Half Breed) and Jim Croce (the latter a humorous cover version of Bad Leroy Brown). The original show ran for three years in the early 1970s and was brought back again in 1976 (after the stars had divorced in real life). This 3-disc set includes moments from all four seasons as well as a swag of extras. It is a great window into the mysteries of 70s fashion, a time when Sonny was still alive and Cher still had her own face (before she developed a love for plastic surgery).

    Disc one in the set includes 3 shows from the first season of the show dating from 1970-71. While the show looks a little rough around the edges it is still fresh and enjoyable today, and it is easy to see what made it so popular in its day. The first show (running time 51:49) was aired on 27/12/1971 and has the title The Sonny & Cher Show and includes Cher performing her hit song Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves. The next show has the name the series had for the rest of its initial run, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. It was first aired on 14/2/1972 and runs for 51:35. The final show on the disc (running 52:09) is from 20/3/1972 and features the couple's young daughter Chastity.

    Disc two moves along to seasons two and three of the show, beginning with the first show of the 2nd season (runs 51:44) aired on 15/9/1972. Then Governor of California Ronald Reagan is one of the guests, and is much funnier than I thought he would be. The star couple continue the good-natured bickering which was a feature of the shows (Cher on watching Sonny - "I'll be polite and bored like everybody else"). The Jackson 5 also guest star, and a VERY young Michael Jackson performs Ben. The other two shows on the disc are from 12/9/1973 and 16/1/1974 and run for 51:34 and 47:10 respectively. Unfortunately the initial run of the show ended abruptly, at the height of its popularity, when the two stars split in real life.

    After their joint show ended both Sonny and Cher had solo shows, which enjoyed limited success, and somehow they were persuaded to appear together again. The final disc in the set includes examples of the show during its final season, after the 1974-75 hiatus. I was curious to see how well Sonny & Cher would work together in these shows, since they were taped after they had divorced in real life. Well, we all found out in the first show which aired in the USA on 24/10/1976 (running time 47:35) which is a little forced, but still enjoyable. By 4/2/1977 the show (run time 46:36) was better, but the ratings were down, Farrah Fawcett and Glen Campbell guest star (and Campbell performs his popular hit Rhinestone Cowboy, amongst others). The final show on the disc (and possibly the last in the series), runs 50:28 and is dated 11/3/1977. Tina Turner is a lively guest star and has a nice duet with Cher.

    To be honest, the show is as corny as a Kansas wheat field (hmm, note to self, poor mixed metaphor). Most of the jokes are bad, though some of them are funny enough. Sonny was never able to sing very well (and Cher makes a lot of jokes about that during the show), in fact he had no talent at all (which is possibly the reason he ended up becoming a politician) - you will probably be left wondering how he was an integral part of such a popular act. Of course, the reason behind the phenomenal success of the pair in the 1960s and 1970s is Cher, and she looks and sounds great here (and before the loyal fans stone me, I must admit there is some likeable charisma between her and her diminutive husband).

    Many of the regular skits in the show (The Vamp, The Pizza Store, The Prisoner) are very funny, though some (Laverne at the Laundromat) have aged badly. The shows also featured a nice selection of guest stars; on the first disc Glenn Ford, Burt Reynolds and Carol Burnett Show regular Harvey Korman all show up. Some of the regulars may also be familiar; a young (and pretty) Teri Garr shows up frequently in comedy sketches (she would star in Young Frankenstein shortly after her run on the show), as does a very young Steve Martin. Backed by a great selection of extras, and widely available in discount stores for less than thirty dollars, this is great value for anyone who likes a good variety show, or is curious to see what we all watched back in 1972.

    A brief note on running times: The packaging mentions 9 hours of entertainment backed by hours of extras - those 9 hours seem to refer to the 9 episodes of the show included in the set; they may have run 9 hours when originally shown (with ads) but are about seven and a half hours here. Still good value, but this is a ploy used a little too often for my liking. Interestingly, each disc is around 5 minutes shorter than its predecessor, possibly reflecting a slow increase in the amount of advertising over the years.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer on these discs looks pretty much as you might expect for a TV show produced over 30 years ago. With that in mind, it is one of the better transfers from a source such as this that I have seen in a while (I have seen some much more recent TV shows look a lot worse on DVD). The transfer looks even better on a smaller screen (I watched segments on my 80cm Toshiba CRT screen and it looked great) - a projector tends to magnify any shortcomings in the original.

    The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.29:1, non 16x9 enhanced, accurately representing its TV origins. The discs are in NTSC format (not PAL) so make sure your equipment is capable of playing it back if you intend to view it.

    The transfer has a soft focus (as often found on older videotaped material) but not overly so. The picture is quite bright, with acceptable shadow detail and no appreciable low level noise.

    The program was sourced from an older NTSC production, so that colours are a little variable (with reds (as at 37:36 on disc 1, show 2) and yellows being particularly susceptible). Having said that, the colours are quite vibrant and improve across the discs (though various shades of orange in the final few shows tend to bleed a bit too much). I should also mention the variety of gowns worn by Cher - the bright colours she tends to favour show up very nicely in contrast with her jet black hair.

    The artefacts on show in the transfer are frequent but generally minor, and do not detract from the enjoyment of the program. There are minor positive and negative artefacts (particularly in the animated segments) and minor aliasing (chequered shirts are the worst offenders, as they often are - check out that chequered vest (groan, sorry about that, the bad jokes in the show are getting to me) at 26:50 in show 3 on disc 2). The only other notable artefact is the presence of vertical lines at the edges of the picture at times which appear to be some sort of videotape wear.

    There are no subtitles - it would have been nice to have song lyrics as an option.

    I did not notice the layer change on any of the discs - they most likely occur between episodes of the show.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer reflects its mono TV origins, but is pretty good overall, belying its age. In fact, it sounds pretty much as good as any more recent TV variety show (excepting newer surround sound shows) does on my equipment.

    There are only two audio tracks on the disc, the primary one being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at a bitrate of 192 Kb/s. The second track is the audio commentary track which has the same specification. The soundtrack is a little thin and unfocussed, so I listened to the discs primarily in ProLogic mode which had a much better sound.

    Dialogue is clear for the most part, and audio sync is good. At times some dialogue was a little indistinct, particularly in comedy sketches involving a large number of cast members. This appears to have been due to bad microphone placement in the original recording rather than the audio transfer having any problem.

    The music is a key element in these shows; the incidental music is average but the songs and musical numbers come across well, with good audio level and a nice mix of musical styles (though Cher performed a few too many torch songs for my liking).

    The level of surround activity is limited. It all feels a little flat, though the audience laughter and applause added some depth in ProLogic mode (the show uses a mix of live and canned audience effects which sounded quite natural). The subwoofer contributed a little bass during some songs and effects but did not have much work to do.

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

Extras

    There is a very nice selection of extras included with this DVD set. They are spread across all 3 DVDs so that the name of the extra below is preceded by a number in brackets to indicate which DVD in the set it comes from. They are large in number (17 in total) and vary from very interesting to, well, ordinary, but combine to make a pretty decent package which adds a lot to the enjoyment of the set as a whole. All of the extras have the same aspect ratio and audio as the main feature.

Menu

    The menu on each disc has animation and audio. From the menu you can select: Play All, Play Show 1 2 3 , Scenes (varying in number between each show), Extras (a one page menu screen for the Extras on discs 1 and 2, two pages of menus for the extras on disc 3).

(1) Cher's Commentary

    Each disc has an option to hear commentary by Cher - on the first disc only it is limited to the first two shows on the disc. The commentary track was recorded in 2003 and is patchy, both in terms of how often she says anything and in its quality. I suggest you choose the option to listen to the commentary segments only, rather than to the episodes with commentary, as the amount of commentary varies from one minute or so to just over ten, and waiting close to an hour for a comment seems a little wasteful. I will discuss the content in more detail below.

(1) Producer's Interview Part 1

    This is a very interesting discussion about the show, its stars, and many of the guest stars from producers Allan Blye and Chris Bearde. On this first disc (in a segment running 22:16) they discuss how the show came to be made, and some behind the scenes topics from the first season. The reason for the success of the show? - "THAT relationship" and "It was FUN" (which it was).

(1) CBS Network Promos

    There are two promotional spots for the show here, running 0:59 and 0:29. They are quite interesting (OK - fun - that word again).

(1) Credits

    Original production and DVD credits for the first disc in a scrolling list.

(2) Cher's Commentary

    The commentary continues - it is all a bit of a blur but I do recollect that Cher has quite a fixation for beads ("Nice beads!!", Tina Turner "likes beads too"), and many of the comments also deal with her makeup, nail polish, clothes and hair ("Look how long my hair was!"). Sprinkled in with all of this there is some obvious affection for the departed Sonny, and a nice dig or two as well ("The one with the biggest nose is setting me up for the nose joke!!").

(2) Producer's Interview Part 2

    In this segment (runs for 18:15) we find out more about seasons 2 and 3, and the abrupt end to the show when the stars split up. Once again I found this very interesting, with lots of insight into the show and the production process. A different production team took over the show in its comeback season (to its detriment in my opinion) so that this interview does not continue on the third disc.

(2) Credits

    Oh look, more scrolling credits.

(3) Cher's Commentary

    Let me see, what else caught my fancy in Cher's commentary? Oh yes: "Who's the chick? - Oh! It's me!" and then wonders "How did I ever let them do that to me?", in response to a comedy skit in which she was heavily made up and bewigged.

(3) 1969 TV Pilot

    This is a segment from the Barbara McNair Show (no, I've never heard of it either) in which the host let Sonny & Cher do their thing "for as long as they feel like grooving". Well, apparently they felt like grooving for 17:16 in this interesting segment which gives us a sample of their cabaret act at the time.

(3) Sonny & Cher Karaoke

    Time to sing along everyone, and you can choose to yodel to Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, I Got You Babe or All I Ever Need Is You.

(3) Music Videos

    There are two music videos available, and they appear to be excerpts from other shows in the series. The songs are "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves and Dark Lady. The latter is nicely animated by John Wilson who also provided the amusing animation used in various parts of the show during the first three seasons.

(3) Discography

    12 pages of album covers and chart positions for Sonny & Cher LPs.

(3) Radio Jingle

    A very LOUD and short (0:29) jingle from WABC radio in New York.

(3) Network Promos

    An interesting pair of promos which advertise the solo shows the two stars had during 1974. The interesting part is the different approach each promo takes. The one for the Cher Show on CBS highlights the star's physical assets ("Cher - her midriff's so bare"). The ABC promo for Sonny's Comedy Revue takes a satirical look at his status as one of the century's great comedians.

(3) History Of The Show

    Two pages of text.

(3) Biographies

    Two text pages on each of the 2 stars of the shows.

(3) Credits

    More scrolling.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc seems to be missing an audio CD available in the Region 1 release (they are identical otherwise). Apparently this contains some live versions of Sonny and Cher songs. This gives the edge to the Region 1 release, though you can pick up the Region 4 version at a very attractive price from most discount stores which makes the local version of interest to all but the most rabid Sonny and Cher fans.

Summary

    This is an excellent compilation, a packed box of fun at a great price. My family enjoyed it all very much, even if my eldest stated that it was "so old-fashioned, like The Beatles or something". It takes a certain magic for a variety show to appeal to a wide audience, and (at least while the stars were still married) this show had it, and it still sparkles today. Yes, parts of it are old and some jokes which were once topical are now incomprehensible, but if you would like a solid hit of retro 1970s fun (platforms and polyester optional), then it is hard to go past this set.

    The video transfer is good considering the age and the source material.

    The audio transfer is solid enough.

    The extras are varied and entertaining on the whole, though some are rather insubstantial.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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