Kultur // 2004 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // March 24th, 2005
A fascinating portrait of one of the world's most admired entertainers!
At some point in your life, you've probably said something along the lines of, "I don't care what you think." You may have said it even if you didn't really mean it. The thing about Dean Martin is, he never said that, but you could tell that he really honestly meant it -- he just didn't care. And that is the basis of his appeal.
Dean Martin: The One and Only does a pretty good job of bringing home the laid-back, to-hell-with-it attitude that translated so well into his easy, breezy stage manner. If you listen to Dean Martin, you know what I mean; right up in my top ten favorite recordings ever is Dean Martin's 1954 version of "Sway," the ultimate in suave nonchalance. You can't beat it; it's debonair to the extreme. And the main thrust of this presentation is Dean's remarkable ability to do, well, practically anything with effortless grace and style -- an ability envied by even his close friend, fellow performer, and drinking buddy Frank Sinatra.
If Sinatra was Chairman of the Board, the Dino was certainly Vice President in charge of Cool. Tracing Dean's remarkable life and career, from his humble beginnings in Steubenville, Ohio, through his days as one half of the most popular movie comedy team in history, through the heady days as one fifth of Sinatra's Rat Pack (the only member of that elite group Sinatra couldn't dominate) and beyond, Dean Martin: The One And Only manages to cram a lot of material into a skimpy 70 minutes. The biography races along in some places, and it seems that key events are only touched on, but for the most part the people at Kultur have done a fair job of giving Dino his due. It's certainly better in some respects than the Sinatra biography released simultaneously by the same company; here, interviews with Dean's daughter Deana, former wife Jeanie, and luminary and former partner Jerry Lewis are presented, offering the kind of unique insight that only the man's friends and family could offer -- even if most of it is stock footage. Also presented are some interesting clips from a rare interview with Dean himself, nicely rounding out the material.
Really, though, for all that is covered, much is conspicuous by its absence. Dean's days as super-campy superspy Matt Helm are hardly mentioned, even though he made four movies as the character; nor is there any mention of his hysterical Cannonball Run romps with Sammy Davis Jr., although ample time is of course given to his 16-year association with Jerry Lewis, who has the dubious distinction of being the one person in the history of the world who is more annoying than Jim Carrey, Gilbert Gottfried, and Carrot Top combined. How Dean put up with that guy is beyond me; I'd have strangled the spastic lunatic and dumped his body in a sump. But then again, I'm not as cool as Dean. Dean's dramatic side is also touched on, with a look at his critically acclaimed performance in The Young Lions with Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando, and his scene-stealing turn as the drunken sheriff in the John Wayne western Rio Bravo, the first of several western adventures for the singer.
All in all, this DVD isn't great, but it does manage to land itself in squarely in the "all right" category. It could have been a little more in-depth, but for what it is, it's acceptable. Veteran fans probably won't find anything new here, but those who are new to Dino's velvet tones might get a kick out of this DVD. A class act to the very end, Dean Martin remains the textbook example of high, easy living as well as one of our most popular pop-culture performers, having successfully transitioned through more types of media than any other, with smash hit records, sold-out live performances, blockbuster movies, and a hit television show -- something not even Sinatra managed to score with. Plus, Dean was funny, a lot funnier than Jerry Lewis, for sure -- another trait that the Chairman envied. Sinatra, on his best day, could do comedy like a lobster could knit a sweater. Dean was the funny one, and he could do all that other stuff, too. Who else would be cool enough to knock the Beatles out of the number one spot at the height of their popularity? After his recording of "Everybody Loves Somebody" displaced the boys from Liverpool, Dean sent a telegram to his good friend Elvis Presley: "If you can't handle the Beatles, I'll do it for us."
And how cool is that?
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Dean Martin Fan Center