Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1985 // 58 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // September 20th, 2007
And a-one, a-two, a-one-two-three-four!
James Brown may have held the title of "The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz" for much of his life, but my vote goes to Sammy Davis Jr. A life-long entertainer, Davis famously left school at the age of four to tour on the vaudeville circuit as a child actor and dancer. Davis would go on to become one of the most recognizable performers in the world, his talent spanning the realms of acting, singing, and dancing. Most recognizable as a member of the 60s-era "Rat Pack," Davis amazing ability earns him my vote as the most talented performer of the era.
The Best of Sammy Davis Jr.: Live from Eagle Rock Entertainment is further proof of the man's ability. At sixty years old, it's great to see Davis singing and dancing with as much passion and verve as twenty-five years earlier. Filmed live during a 1985 concert in Germany, Davis gives fans a taste of his talent and drive. The set list is comprised of the following:
1. Where or When
2. New York, New York
3. What I Did For Love
4. Candy Man
5. I'm Singing In the Rain
6. What Kind of Fool Am I w/As Long as She Loves Me
7. The Lady Is a Tramp
8. Improvisation w/ I've Got You Under My Skin
9. I've Gotta Be Me
10. For Once in My Life
11. As Time Goes By
12. Mr. Bojangles
By the 1980s Davis had settled into a comfortable routine as an entertainer. His best years were certainly behind him, but his health had improved recently and he began touring and performing again. His act itself had also become somewhat predictable, as Davis had stopped producing new music in favor of performing his established classics. The set list for The Best of Sammy Davis Jr.: Live reflects this, as Davis includes his many hits including "Mr. Bojangles" and "Candy Man" (although Davis was rumored to be less-than-enamored with that particular song himself).
Even at the time of this performance Davis still had his touch, and this twelve-song set shows it. Davis is the consummate entertainer, interacting with his orchestra, dancing, tapping, and improvising scat routines and be-bop at a moments notice. To be sure, he isn't as animated as in his younger years, but the voice remains nearly untouched and Davis still has a few fast moves up his sleeves. As Davis runs through his set, there is no indication of weakness or strain in his performance, just an enduring mix of talent and professionalism. It's almost inconceivable than less than five years after this show Davis would die from complications related to throat cancer.
Direction can sink a performance film if it's handled poorly. Fortunately, The Best of Sammy Davis Jr.: Live knows its subject well and captures all the action as it unfolds. Davis is a pleasure to watch on-stage, hopping, jumping, and showing off his steps throughout the performance. The camera wisely makes ready use of long shots to capture his dancing and his interaction with the band, of which there is plenty of both. Close-ups and tracking shots are still plentiful, and the director has a good feel of what to show and when.
On the audio side, Eagle Rock Entertainment has provided a bevy of options. Viewers can select a standard 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo track, a 5.1 digital mix, or a DTS digital surround sound option. I certainly give Eagle Rock credit; they have gone above and beyond the call with these options. Each track is solid and crisp, far exceeding the standards usually set by budget-priced musical titles. Horns and strings pipe from the corners on the multi-channel mixes, and even the 2-channel offering is well-balanced and nicely co-ordinates the orchestra with Davis' vocals.
On the video side, there is less to say. This performance was shot in 1985 and looks it. There is no indication that any restoration has been done, with flaring, artifacting, and a good deal of softness hampering the image. It isn't unwatchable by any means, just don't expect to be blown away by the picture. I suppose fans can be thankful that the audio aspect of this release was where the effort was concentrated, but it's still disappointing that the visual quality isn't up to par.
The Best of Sammy Davis Jr.: Live goes for less than eleven dollars on Amazon, and for the money you'll get plenty of top-notch entertainment. If you or someone you know is a fan of the classic crooners, this budget title is more than worth the price.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ian Visser; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* Full Frame
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 58 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official site