Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Finian's Rainbow (1968) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Anyone looking for perfect St. Patrick's Day viewing need search no further than FINIAN'S RAINBOW (1968), available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

Fred Astaire starred in his first movie in half a dozen years when he played the title role of Finian McLonergan in this whimsical film, which was a very early directing credit for Francis Ford Coppola.

I first saw the film at an L.A. revival theater when I was about 16, and it's been a fond memory ever since. I collected lobby cards from the film, and I've enjoyed the LP on countless occasions in the years since I first saw it.

I watched the earlier DVD release when it came out, but it's easily been over a dozen years since I last saw the film. The plot, frankly, is even crazier than I had remembered. On the one hand there's a light and fluffy fairy tale about Finian, who has come to America from Ireland with a stolen pot of gold and a leprechaun (Tommy Steele) hot on his heels; on the other hand, there's an oddball thread about race relations and Finian's daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) accidentally turning a white senator (Keenan Wynn) into a black man.

It gets a bit dark, with threats to burn Sharon as a witch -- but with that juxtaposed with musical numbers and the leprechaun falling in love with the charming dancer "Susan the Silent" (Barbara Hancock), it's hard to take the heavier aspects of the story very seriously, and that's a good thing.

Oh, and did I mention there's a botanist (Al Freeman Jr.) trying to grow "mentholated tobacco"? Yeah, the plot is just a little bit odd.

For those wishing to read a more detailed plot recap, I recommend the favorable review by Glenn Erickson. To my way of thinking, the story is merely an excuse for a great many marvelous songs and dances, with outstanding orchestrations and choral arrangements. (Choral specialist Ken Darby worked on the film.) The score includes tuneful melodies which it's almost impossible to get out of one's head, including "Look to the Rainbow," "Old Devil Moon," "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love," and the great "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"

Clark and Don Francks do a fine job carrying the lead vocals, along with Steele, who's a mite too manic as the leprechaun, but the lyrics he sings are so clever you have to forgive him. Hancock shines in her dances, and as for Astaire, watching him jumping down boxes in one dance sequence, it's hard to believe the man was nearly 70.

Like virtually every other '60s musical, it's a long one, but it moves along well. Little bits of the movie, especially the garish opening credits, seem unpleasantly "1960s" from a visual standpoint, but on the whole the film overcomes its crazier aspects to provide an engaging and entertaining 141 minutes of musical joy.

The movie was filmed by Philip Lathrop. According to IMDb, future cinematographer and director Carroll Ballard did uncredited second unit photography. Outdoor locations, including Disney's Golden Oak Ranch, are mixed with sound stage exteriors.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray has an outstanding widescreen picture which looks simply terrific. It's hard to imagine the film could look or sound any better than it does here.

As was the case with the original 2005 DVD release, this Blu-ray presents the film in its "roadshow" version with the Overture, Intermission and Exit Music intact. The Warner Archive Blu-ray also imports Francis Ford Coppola's onscreen introduction and commentary track from the DVD. Finally, the disc includes the trailer and a featurette on the movie's world premiere.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Sounds like a fun movie. Thanks for your review!

9:30 AM  

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