Documentaries like this one are a dime a dozen—and Judge Maurice Cobbs is looking for the guy who's supplying the dimes.
Our reviews of Frank Sinatra: Around The World (published June 1st, 2011), Frank Sinatra: Concert For The Americas (published November 27th, 2010), and Frank Sinatra: The Frank Sinatra Shows (published September 17th, 2008) are also available.
An in-depth look at the life and music of an entertainment legend!
Producers of mediocre offerings like Frank Sinatra: The Man and the Myth are the natural predators of the passionate collector; they know that somebody who really digs Sinatra will fork over a modest price for this disc, even though they'll likely feel burned by the skimpy offerings and overall poor quality. Meanwhile, these creeps laugh all the way to the bank. The coo-coo cats at Kultur certainly give us a look at the life of the legend that is Frank Sinatra, but it's hardly an in-depth look, and other than acknowledging that there were in fact myths surrounding the singer's life, they only manage to examine a couple of them—and not very deeply, at that.
You could argue that collectors would want a disc like this for one of two reasons: The veteran fan would want something that offers a few tidbits of information he hasn't discovered yet; and the novice fan would want something that explores the life of his newfound interest. But this disc offers nothing in the way of new info, and it just doesn't dig deeply enough into the life and mystique of its subject. Granted, not even the dry documentary form of this particular offering from the Harvs at Kultur can make the life of Frankie S. anything less than interesting, but it lacks the kind of ring-a-ding-ding that brings it all to life, dig? It's not even as sordid as the garbage that creep Kitty Kelly published. That you could make a mediocre biography of the most popular entertainer of the 20th century is admittedly quite an achievement, but it ain't the sort of thing these guys ought to be proud of.
The facts are all here, to be sure, but none of the flavor, and if you're not going to give us the flavor, why bother? For instance, when briefly examining the kidnapping of Frank Jr., the biographers fail to mention that there was speculation that Frank Jr. himself was behind it, and that Frank sought help not only from J. Edgar Hoover but from certain amici di amici as well. How could these interesting and essential details be overlooked? Frank's stormy marriage to Mia Farrow is only briefly touched on, and his fourth and last wife, Barbara, becomes little more than a footnote. Nothing much is said about Sinatra's infamous battles with the press that alternately adored and demonized him; for instance, the singer had a long-running and bitter feud with newspaperman Lee Mortimer, who sued Sinatra for attacking him in a nightclub. (Sinatra gleefully paid the settlement, then allegedly got his revenge years later by urinating on Mortimer's grave. But you wouldn't know any of this, or anything like it, from watching this DVD.)
Astoundingly, very little time is spent examining the musical artistry of Frank Sinatra, and this is the DVD's most egregious failing. The disc acknowledges the impact that Sinatra had on the public, but the examination of his talent doesn't go beyond that. No commentary is given at all about his particular style and talent for phrasing, nor does the documentary examine with any real depth why Sinatra was able to appeal to each new generation as he had to the previous one. This is extraordinarily puzzling, as the main thrust of any work on Sinatra would have to be the music.
While there are some interesting interviews with nigh-celebrities like author Gay Talese and Jack Scalia, bona fide celebrities like Tommy Lasorda and Robert Loggia, and people you never heard of like Pat Cooper and Joe Varsalona, Kultur has done the unthinkable by not even bothering to gather stock footage interviews with some of the people who knew him best, such as daughter Nancy, Frank Jr., Tina Sinatra, Mia Farrow, Lauren Bacall (to whom he was briefly engaged), and his last wife, Barbara. The insight that could have been provided from such close friends and family members might have padded out this bare-bones release to some point of respectability, but as it stands, this DVD is strictly nowheresville.
Even worse is the lack of special features—there is a wealth of interesting material out there that could have elevated this disc from the mire of mediocrity, but Kultur hasn't bothered with any of it. The entire presentation seems like little more than an opportunity to cash in on Sinatra's fandom, and as a Sinatra fan, I found myself walking away from the documentary feeling vaguely insulted.
While it would have been a nice special feature for a DVD release of one of the Chairman's movies, as a stand-alone release, Frank Sinatra: The Man and the Myth just doesn't have the weight or depth to do the man, his life, or his myth justice. Clocking in at a brief 70 minutes, the documentary lingers only briefly on important landmarks in the singer's career, and this rather shallow release only whets the appetite for more. Good night!
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