City Lights Media // 2008 // 57 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 13th, 2008
A celebration of the original classic specials.
In the world of film, Mitzi Gaynor came and went pretty fast. She was a B-list star for a while, and then suddenly landed the leading role in the super-popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. Shortly after the film was released, she quickly returned to the B-list. That might have been the end of it, but someone came up with a terrific idea: what if Mitzi tried doing a television special? Mitzi agreed, and the results were remarkable. People fell in love with Mitzi Gaynor once again, and soon her television specials became a regular affair, almost always picking up good ratings and positive feedback. During the specials, Mitzi would dance, sing, and offer up some comedy sketches.
Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years is a 57-minute documentary that focuses on the high points of these specials, offering generous clips from each and every one of them, along with adoring comments from celebrity fans (Carl Reiner, Kristen Chenowith, Rex Reed, and Bob Mackie) and influential folks from the world of dance and choreography (Peter Gennaro, Danny Daniels, Robert Sidney, and Tony Charmoli). We also hear a good deal from Miss Gaynor herself, who looks back on each and every experience with great fondness and joy. This isn't really an examination so much as a celebration, which makes this a pleasant yet insubstantial affair.
A great deal of attention is paid to the gaudy costumes that Mitzi was so fond of. Now I'm no fashion critic (my personal wardrobe mostly consists of jeans and a dull variety of t-shirts), but I'm pretty confident in declaring most of the outfits here to be fashion disasters. Maybe they seemed like good ideas back in the 1970s, but...agh, no thank you. However, most of the participants here seem to feel otherwise, as we'll frequently hear Rex Reed saying things like, "My God, that was such an amazing outfit!" What is undeniably impressive is some of the cinematography on display here, which is frequently a bit more inventive than what you might expect from a cheesy television special. This documentary is good fun, but I couldn't help but wish that I was getting a more in-depth A&E Biography feature instead. It's too lightweight to work well as a documentary, and the clips are too short for this to qualify as a performance film.
Much of the video quality is pretty crummy. A lot of the '70s television footage has aged very poorly, and the footage is often blurry and badly damaged. It's rough-looking stuff, which is very disappointing. The interview footage is just fine, but who really cares about how good the talking head stuff looks? The 5.1 audio is pretty stellar, with reasonably vibrant and well-balanced music serving the documentary quite well.
Because the feature itself is so short, the disc is loaded down with a generous goodie bag of supplements. First up, we get eight full-length musical performances, representing each of the Mitzi Gaynor television specials. Again, video quality is an issue with these, but they are nice to have. "Mitzie and Mackie: Look Back in Fashion!" is a brief featurette that offers further discussion of the many outfits Mitzi wore over the years. We also get two performances from Mitzi as "The Kid," which are quite interesting and certainly less glamorous than the musical sequences. A comedy sequence offering a series of movie parodies is included, in which Mitzi plays the likes of Rosalind Russell and Betty Grable. Finally, we get two brief salutes from Mitzi: one new remembrance of The Beatles, and one 1974 appreciation of Steven Sondheim's Company. Combined, all of these features run about 79 minutes.
Fans of Mitzi Gaynor may enjoy the fun stuff this disc has to offer, but I'm not sure that it really has much to offer to those who are merely curious. Proceed with caution unless you're looking for nothing more than a disc full of poorly-preserved video clips and lots of praise for Ms. Gaynor. Guilty, but the disc is granted an early release due to good behavior.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: City Lights Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 57 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Musical Performances
* Additional Video Clips and Interviews