Connor Bynum // Film Critic
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Warner Bros. has shown a very good track record with recent 4K releases of its older films. In honor of its 70th anniversary, the classic musical SINGIN’ IN RAIN is the latest entry to earn this treatment.
Movie Grade: A
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is a dazzling musical romp set in the late 1920s as Hollywood studios were on the brink of entering a new era of filmmaking: the talkie. Hollywood superstar Don Lockwood, played by the legendary dance master Gene Kelly, is practically the king of the silent picture and couldn’t be happier with his career. But Lockwood begins to doubt his on-screen chemistry with the beautiful but shrill-voiced Lina Lamont (Jean Hagar) when his studio decides to make his next picture a talkie. After a disaster out test screening, Lockwood’s foray into the talkies seems to be the end of his days in the spotlight. But with the help of his comic relief best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) and his offscreen sweetheart Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), Lockwood attempts to breathe new life into his film as a musical and find his footing in Hollywood’s new frontier.
The musical and dance sequences in the film are nothing short of masterful from start to finish. The numerous tap dances are delightfully elaborate both in choreography and cinematography, filled with countless long-running wide shots that brilliantly showcase every step. Gene Kelly shines not only as Don Lockwood but as the choreographer for the film, and the effortless way in which he performs truly showcases him as a master of his craft.
It’s certainly no secret that Hollywood loves movies that make Hollywood look good, and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN could be the king of Hollywood glamorization films. But the film is simply so irresistibly charming that even the most cynical viewer can’t help but enjoy themselves with this one. Being set around actual historical events like the release of THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), a film regarded by many as one of the first talking pictures, gives a sense of legitimacy to the story. Numerous scenes where the characters are making the film within the film demonstrate real methods used for recording sound while making a film and the complications that can easily arise in the process.
Video/Audio Grade: A-
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is presented in native 4K resolution in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and is easily the best the film has ever looked. Having been originally captured on 35mm film, there is a fair amount of grain left intact while still providing a crystal clear image. Some imperfections such as an infamous jump-cut between two different takes during the “Broadway Melody” sequence near the film’s end are unfortunately more noticeable with the increased visual clarity, but the benefits certainly outweigh such missteps. Details in costumes, hair, and set design are excellent with a clear standout being the classic musical number where Gene Kelly sings (and dances) in the rain. The scene is timeless, and the increased resolution may just tempt the viewer to grab an umbrella.
The aforementioned Broadway Melody sequence is far and away from the best showcase of the newly increased color palette of HDR10. While the scene was initially used as a showcase for the then-budding technicolor technology for its theatrical release, it’s rather poetic that the same scene is made all the more colorful with today’s new technology. The rest of the film fares just as nicely with the broader dynamic range. The “Singin’ in the Rain” sequence, in particular, stands out with the darker buildings and streets contrasted with the brighter drops of rain sprinkling down from above.
However, things are somewhat conflicted in the audio department. For a film with a story based so heavily on the importance of sound being incorporated into movies, there doesn’t seem to be anything necessarily show-stopping when it comes to its audio presentation. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is perfectly fine but plays it far too safe for my liking. While dialogue, scoring, and every tap come out beautifully clear without a hint of that tinny sound often plaguing older films, it all comes out relatively balanced without much separation for the rear left and right channels. It’s by no means a deal-breaker as the mix really is quite good. I just had hoped it would bring something more to the table. As a side note, however, the inclusion of the theatrical mono mix is also a welcome addition. It does act as a gesture of good faith on Warner Bros.’s part in an attempt to preserve the original experience on the audio front.
Extras Grade: C
The 4K disc features no special features aside from a well-rounded commentary track featuring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, and author Rudy Behlmer. Unsurprisingly as many of these names are no longer living, this commentary is not new, but its inclusion on the 4K disc is nevertheless welcome. The 4K disc contains one additional feature called Musical Numbers giving viewers the ability to skip ahead to any of the film’s fourteen musical sequences. Aside from that, the included 1080p Blu-ray contains the same special features it had for its 2012 release.
Final Grade: A-
Aside from a lack of new bonus material, there’s very little to complain about with this release. Given the age of the film, the visual and audio quality on display for this release is simply exceptional. Viewers hoping to see something on par with modern day releases may find the upgrade underwhelming but rest assured, this is a pristine 4K viewing experience of a musical classic that any fan of film and film history should be glad to add to their collection.