Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

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Released 13-Apr-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Main Menu Audio
Introduction-Liza Minnelli
Audio Commentary-John Fricke And Others
Featurette-Making Of-Meet Me In St Louis: The Making Of An American Classic
Featurette-Skip To My Lou
Isolated Musical Score
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1944
Running Time 108:15
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Vincente Minnelli
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Judy Garland
Margaret O'Brien
Mary Astor
Lucille Bremer
Leon Ames
Tom Drake
Marjorie Main
Harry Davenport
June Lockhart
Henry H. Daniels Jr.
Joan Carroll
Hugh Marlowe
Chill Wills
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Ralph Blane
Hugh Martin
Roger Edens


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Spanish
French
Italian
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Croatian
Slovenian
Greek
Hungarian
Turkish
Czech
Dutch
Romanian
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Okay, this has got to stop! Not long ago I reviewed one of the classic MGM musicals of the 1940s, Easter Parade. While the DVD was nice, the local Warner Brothers distributors had cut it down from 2 discs to 1 compared to the Region 1 version, and we missed one or two interesting Extras here in Region 4 as a result. Now, along comes another classic film, and again we are left with a single disc release, which is missing a significant slew of Extras compared to the 2-disc Region 1 set. This is just not good enough!

    Well, complaints apart, I was really looking forward to this disc as Meet Me In St. Louis was one of the few classic MGM musicals I had not seen previously. Starring Judy Garland in her prime it boasts some very well known songs, and comes to DVD with a video and sound restoration. It is one of the joys of home cinema to be able to see great films like this for the first time the way they were meant to be viewed; up on the wall, in the dark, with an appreciative audience to enjoy it all - and this disc did not disappoint in that regard.

    The rather slim plot is based on a series of articles by Sally Benson who wrote in the 1940s about her childhood in turn of the century St. Louis, with the background of the World Fair coming up in 1904. The film is a nostalgic montage following the fortunes of the Smith family in the year leading up to the opening of the Fair. There is a romance between Esther (Garland) and the boy next door, Halloween antics with 'Tootie' (a 7-year old Margaret O'Brien), and some minor drama when Father decides to move the family to New York.

    The studio executives at MGM were rather nervous about the slim plot, but they needn't have worried - the film has a simple family charm which carries it through on the back of the great musical score. At the time it was the highest grossing film MGM had produced themselves (they were only the distributors of Gone With The Wind). The direction by Vincente Minnelli is immaculate, displaying impressive fluidity, especially considering the massive Technicolor cameras he had to work with.

    The cast are uniformly good, with perhaps just a touch of over-acting from O'Brien (who still won a special miniature Oscar for her performance). I have never been a major fan of Judy Garland but she is luminescent in this film - the camera seems to have loved her as much as the director (who proposed to her during filming, with Liza (or was it Lisa?) the result two years later). It is hard to single anyone out for attention, but others in the cast who do well are Mary Astor (best remembered for The Maltese Falcon) and for my part Chill Wills (who provided the voice for a certain talking mule in a series of discs I reviewed a few months ago). This is definitely one of those "they don't make films like that any more" movies, heartily recommended for all the family.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer (advertised in the USA as an "Ultra-Resolution" restoration) is very good, and has a glow which only early Technicolor seems to have. It looks great on my projector, and even better on a smaller screen.

    The aspect ratio is 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, accurately reflecting the original 'academy' ratio.

    The picture is nice and bright, with good, sharp focus. Shadow detail is mixed, but acceptable overall (try scenes at 3:51 and 38:20 as examples), with some imaginative lighting well represented. There is no low level noise.

    The colours are simply magnificent. I am a big fan of early three strip Technicolor and this film shows why. The costumes show up to excellent effect, and check out those roses on the porch at 7:00. Flesh colours are fine as well - a pat on the back for the team who did the colour restoration.

    The transfer looks in fine physical shape, though there are some minor artefacts, a little aliasing, and an occasional hint of grain.

    The English subtitles are acceptable, though occasional missed words alter meaning slightly. The English for the Hearing Impaired titles are better as they have very good cues for audio effects such as Man whistling or Honking. The disc has another 19 or so sets of subtitles which I did not sample.

    I did not notice the layer change on my equipment.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is good - apparently it has been restored as well. The results are not as spectacular as for the video restoration, but this is still very good for a 60 year old film.

    There are 5 audio tracks on the disc, with the main ones being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at a bitrate of 384 Kb/s, and German and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 tracks encoded at bitrates of 192 Kb/s. I listened to the English track in its entirety and to portions of the German. The latter was reasonable except when the songs started, as the dubbed German actors sounded nothing like their English singing counterparts. There is also an Isolated Music Score track, which is a Dolby Digital 5.0 track encoded at 384 Kb/s; the final track is the English Audio Commentary, a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at a bitrate of 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue is clear for the most part, with good audio sync (which slips occasionally in songs - Judy Garland never seems very good at lip-syncing back to her vocal performances). The only caveat I have is that once or twice a line of dialogue seems far too quiet, almost as if it was lost in the remix.

    The music is excellent, supported by a nice mix of period tunes and contemporary songs. This is the film which introduced Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to the world, and Garland delivers this and the other memorable songs in performances which must rank among her best.

    The surround presence is rather limited, with dialogue anchored to the centre of the screen, and music spread to the side but not projecting forward to any extent. The surround speakers are hardly used, and the sub is, well, subdued. The audio elements are well balanced in relation to one another, but the music is the key to the success of the film, and is the element which dominates what surround activity there is.

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

Extras

    There is a nice selection of extras on the disc, keeping in mind the fact that we are missing a lot more compared to the Region 1 release. All of the Extras are shown at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Menu

    The menu is static with audio. From it you can choose: Play Movie, Scene Selections, Special Features, Languages. There are a generous 32 scene selections to choose from.

Introduction by Liza Minnelli

    Oh, look, it was a 'Z'. This runs for 4:58 as Liza provides some background on her mum and dad's film.

Commentary by John Fricke and Others

    This is a very informative commentary track by Garland biographer Fricke who we also heard from on Easter Parade. He intersperses his monologue with historic audio excerpts from others associated with the film including Margaret O'Brien, songwriter Hugh Martin and screenwriter Irving Brecher amongst others. The commentary makes reference to some of the other Extras on the DVD (including some we are missing - grrr).

Meet Me In St. Louis: The Making Of An American Classic

    This is an interesting half-hour documentary narrated by Roddy McDowall which looks behind the scenes at the film, its creative talent, and its impact on the public at the time of its release.

Skip To My Lou

    A bit of a curio, but hey, that's where Extras shine. In this 3:11 piece the film's songwriters perform one of the songs they would use 3 years later in the film with their group The Martins.

Music-Only Track

    This is an isolated musical score (that's right, not even the singing in the songs). Interesting, if only to see how often even a musical can have long periods without any music.

Theatrical Trailer

    A trailer for a reissue of the film - "Judy Garland JOY" it proclaims - well, it got that part right.

R4 vs R1

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

    Weep, sigh, it is so hard to write this section.

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 is the version of choice.

Summary

    This is an excellent MGM musical from the famous Arthur Freed production unit. It is presented here with a glorious video restoration and should be a firm family favourite.

    The early Technicolor picture is shown here to fine effect.

    The sound is good for a musical of this vintage.

    The Extras are interesting, but sadly lacking compared to the Region 1 release. As an afterword I see no real reason for this. We are often told that local distributors have difficulty obtaining the rights to some Extras, but surely the outtakes from the film on the disc should present no such difficulty? It seems this is a simple case of saving the cost of the second disc. Given this lack of respect from the distributor, local buyers should wonder why they are expected to support local manufacturers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Wednesday, September 21, 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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