"That's Entertainment!" turned out to be a surprise hit upon its release in 1974, with MGM/UA Home Video's rousing laser-disc version (three discs, CAV, $70) confirming why. The original compilation was so successful that it spawned two sequels not quite that entertaining, but still great fun to watch.
Both of these copycats, "That's Entertainment, Part II" (MGM/UA, CAV, three discs, $70) and "That's Dancing!" (MGM/UA Home Video, CAV, $45) hold up well on laser disc.
Special attention was given to this special edition of "That's Entertainment, Part II," which was digitally mastered from MGM's 35mm archival negative with letter-boxed sequences mastered from the original features. Film sequences were restored to their original projection dimensions; movies shown "scoped" in theaters are letter-boxed here. The sound was matrixed for Dolby Surround from MGM's six-track stereophonic magnetic masters. The result is a transfer that does justice to the material.
Narrator-hosts Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly offer more than routine continuity with their timeless class and superb timing in their first film appearance together since the 1946 "Ziegfeld Follies." Another bonus is the inclusion of six musical sequences deleted before the film went into wide distribution: the devilishly clever Oscar Levant "Concerto in F" from "An American in Paris"; "The Lonesome Polecat" from "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (a film finally made intelligible in its widescreen format); Fred Astaire's still impressive "Drum Crazy" from "Easter Parade," and three others.
Unhappily, when "That's Dancing!" was originally released in 1985, many of these films had not been restored for the home video market and consequently they are vastly inferior to the new Warner Bros./RKO full-length individual releases on laser disc. This is true of some of the MGM material as well. Recent laser issues of many of the MGM films from which these clips were culled, are crisper and sharper.
But there are enough surprising moments to keep your finger on the freeze frame: clips with Isadora Duncan, Bob Fosse, the Nicholas Bros., a very young Sammy Davis Jr., the deleted "If I Only Had a Brain" dance sequence from "The Wizard of Oz." Even more surprising is how Michael Jackson's 1983 "Beat It!" holds up in this star-studded company.
MGM/UA has done an exceptional job of packaging these discs, with well-delineated chapter searches--55 on "That's Dancing!" and 67 on "That's Entertainment, Part II"--making it easy to skip from one favorite bit to the next or to stop motion and keep a particular scene suspended in time.
The only annoying flaw seems to be the abrupt cutoff of Jacques D'Amboise's remarkable "Carousel Waltz" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" at the end of Side 2. Anyone interested in seeing the full ballet in better color and sharper image should ferret out Fox's recently released special wide-screen laser disc edition.