Sammy Davis Jr-In Australia: In Concert 1979 (1979)

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Released 4-Aug-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation-Sammy Davis vocal "I Can Do That".
Trailer-(04:03) Jazz on a Summer's Day, 1.33:1.
Trailer-(02:33) Nina Simone Live at Ronnie Scott's, 1.33:1
Trailer-(03:00) Chet Baker Live at Ronnie Scott's, 1.33:1
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 73:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Peter Faiman
Studio
Distributor
Channel Nine
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Sammy Davis Jr
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Frequent smoking by performer.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis


For just on thirty years Sammy Davis Junior was a regular visitor to Australia. From his spectacular initial April 1959 appearance at the Sydney Stadium, supported by Diana Trask and The Australian Jazz Quintet, through to The Ultimate Event at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in March 1989, when he shared the bill with Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, Australian audiences had a love affair with this diminutive star. His career is indeed the stuff of legend; trained by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, working with his father and uncle as one of the Will Mastin Trio, being disfigured and losing his left eye in a horrific car accident in 1954, a star on Broadway, on record, in nightclubs, Las Vegas, concerts, a member of the Rat Pack and his enduring friendship with Sinatra. During his 1979 tour Sammy made numerous appearances on televisions The Don Lane Show, more than once causing the late night show to extend beyond midnight, with the megatalented Davis singing, dancing, playing drums, doing commercials ... whatever took his fancy. Happily the closing night of his 1979 concert tour was taped, in Melbourne's Festival Hall, for showing on network television, and even better news is the fact that Umbrella Entertainment have released the Peter Faiman directed television entire performance, allowing us once again to enjoy the magic of one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

The program begins with ninety seconds in the star's dressing room, and an introduction by host Don Lane, who then announces that the show will open with One from the Australian cast of A Chorus Line. What follows is a pretty abysmal performance of the iconic number, by an extremely slack line of twenty or so high (?) stepping beauties, who sing poorly and possibly move even worse. I think our theatrical skills have improved over the past thirty years. Enter the star.

Dressed casually for the usually tuxedoed showman, Sammy Davis's first three songs are bits of throwaways, though big crowd pleasers. First there's Sing, uptempo and bright with the man's mastery of microphone technique obvious from the first breath. No microphone hiding the face when the performer knows what he or she is doing. Next is Candyman, one which audiences demanded from Davis, with more examples of superb breathing and phrasing, even in a song as light as this one. Then the tie comes off. Next is the Theme from Baretta, a then popular TV show. Not much of a song, but clever, and by its close the cobwebs are gone and the real work starts - and the smoking. It is a sad footnote to the performance to watch the number of cigarettes at least started by Sammy Davis during this little over an hour on stage. Ten years later, in 1989 with Sinatra and Minnelli, he was in fabulous voice, thrilling audiences with The Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. Just fourteen months later, in May 1990, he was dead of throat cancer. Enough of that.

The fourth song at Festival Hall is Rodgers and Hart's The Lady is a Tramp. Great song and a great performance, the witty lyrics always lending themselves to seemingly ad-libbed inserts - Princess Grace and Billy Dee Williams each get a mention. This really swings, the musos wailing along with Davis, and justly getting a brief encore. Then during the personal intro to I Gotta be Me a baby cries. Davis looks to the roof plaintively asking :"Why me, Lord?" The song is emotional and builds to a thrilling close. Then there's a moving If I Loved You from Carousel, Richard Rodgers again, but this time writing with Oscar Hammerstein. The first time through the singer is accompanied by a lone guitar, reminiscent of Davis's beautiful duet album with Laurindo Almeida for Sinatra's Reprise label in 1966. A complete change with the next number, the exuberant I Can Do That from A Chorus Line, with Davis dangling his mike at ankle height to catch his delightful tap routine to the interpolated Dietz/Schwartz standard By Myself.

Sammy Davis then sits on a stool to change his shoes, with the pianist seeming to aimlessly tinkle As Time Goes By. Davis jokes, "I always did like that song ... Stardust", and then segues into his incredible impersonation routine, all built about the great Casablanca standard.. This is a beautifully written piece of the act - a moment that "seems" totally ad-libbed and natural, but undoubtedly was executed exactly the same in countless performances. Then Davis begins the impersonations, all in performances of As Time Goes By, and which include Nat "King" Cole, Billy Eckstein, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Frankie Laine, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Dean Martin and finally Jerry Lewis. Unfortunately some of the originals will not be known to younger audiences, but there are enough still recognizable icons here to astonish anyone. The amazing thing is that not only does Sammy Davis sound like the other performers, he actually looks like them as well. There were many who believed that this was Sammy Davis Junior's greatest talent. I never agreed, but I can understand anyone holding that view.

Next is Mr Bojangles, personal, poignant, touching, and performed with such a sense of theatre. Immensely moving.

Normally, Davis announces, Bojangles is his final song, but tonight he is doing just one more. This is a "musical collage" from Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, the Anthony Newley / Leslie Bricusse musical in which Davis starred on Broadway in 1978. Included are chunks, some larger than others, of Once in a Lifetime, I Wanna Be Rich, Gonna Build a Mountain, Life Is a Woman, Someone Nice Like You, and What Kind of Fool Am I? Filmed in extreme close-up, only here does the performer appear to be pushing a tad too hard. By the end it is extremely moving, but a slight - just slight - come down from Mr Bojangles.

In his introduction to Mr Bojangles, Sammy Davis laments the passing of Bill Robinson. "There's no one around who can do that today. Not like you did it!'

Ditto to Sammy Davis Junior.

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Transfer Quality

Video


The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer.
Although there is a warning at the beginning of the disc that the footage is archival, and that some deterioration is present, there is nothing here to detract from the pure enjoyment of the performance.

The image quality is reasonably sharp, and benefits enormously from focussing almost exclusively on the solo performer, frequently in a tight close-up.
This is a wonderful visual record of the performer.
Director Peter Faiman used multiple cameras, with six cameramen being credited. There is excellent coverage of the performance itself, with almost no long shots.
A double image is used occasionally, with a full figure long-shot sharing the screen with a close-up.
Shadow detail is not good, and there are plenty of video artefacts which it seems pointless to focus on. The worst problem is the star's jacket, but this is soon discarded so that problem goes.
The colour is quite good and consistent, with the black backgrounds sometimes giving a wonderfully solid "canvas" for the close-ups.

There are no subtitles.
The disc is single layered.

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

Audio

There is just the one audio stream, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, encoded at 224 Kbps.


Most importantly, there is nothing here to detract from the auditory enjoyment of the concert. The man up front is who is important, and he is served extremely well.
The singing voice is clear, front and totally free from any distortion, Davis sounding immensely powerful given sufficient volume.
The quality is not up to the studio standard of Davis's stereo studio recordings, but for a live mono television programme the sound is extremely pleasing.
The balance between vocals and the musicians may lean a little the singer's way, but at key moments there is lots of punch from the musos.
There is a very slight background hum, but only noticeable between numbers - and with the volume up considerably.
There was no crackle, and no clicks, drop-outs or sync problems.
There is very little bass present.



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

Extras

The only "extras" on the disc are three promotions for other music performances also available from Umbrella.

Main Menu:
Presented 1.33:1, 4x3 with animation and audio of section of the performance of I Can Do That.
Options presented are :
Play Concert
Umbrella Trailers

Umbrella Trailers:
Each "trailer' is an unedited excerpt from the complete video. Each is presented 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Jazz on a Summer's Day : (04:03) : Good image, colour and sound, and featuring Thelonius Monk.
Nina Simone Live at Ronnie Scott's : (02:33) : Good close-up image, with varying shadow detail. Sound very good.
Chet Baker Live at Ronnie Scott's : (03:00) : Short interview footage followed by section of Love for Sale. Good image and sound.

R4 vs R1

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

This title is not available in Region 1.

Summary

It is wonderful to have a complete concert performance of Sammy Davis Junior's available on DVD. There is almost an hour and a quarter of top entertainment, well recorded, with remarkably good image and sound completely free from distortion. He was an original and there will never be another. Buy it for yourself, your friends and those you love.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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