High DVD list prices move Judge Gordon Sullivan—away from a purchase!
Judy will move you like no one else!
Judy Garland is one of the more tragic figures in the great Hollywood saga. Although phenomenally talented as a singer and performer, Garland was long plagued with insecurities about her weight and appearance (fueled by unscrupulous producers). This lead her down the dark path to addiction and recovery, with her weight and her fortunes continually rising and falling. One of the brighter spots, especially late in her career, was the variety program she starred in called The Judy Garland Show. Each week featured Garland's performances along with the comedic styling of series regular Jerry Van Dyke and special guests which included some of the most famous performers in Hollywood. Although it only ran for twenty-six episodes, The Judy Garland Show was beloved by fans both for Judy's performances as well as the strength of her guests. Now, almost fifty years later, that single season is coming to DVD in several volumes, each featuring a pair of episodes.
The Judy Garland Show: Volume One includes two episodes (one broadcast November 10th, 1963, the other on the 17th). The first features guests Count Basie, Mel Torme, and Judy Henske. The second includes Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli, Soupy Sales, and the Brothers Castro.
I've never been a huge fan of the variety show format, precisely because it depends so heavily on the quality of the guests. However, with these two episodes it works just fine. Count Basie swings like you'd expect, Mel Torme was still years away from his Night Court appearance, and Liza Minnelli proves she's as talented as you'd expect the offspring of Vincent Minnelli and Judy Garland to be, dancing and singing both solo and with her mother. Some of the comedy has aged less well, with Jerry Van Dyke seeming particularly hokey, but that does give the show a nostalgic charm that's difficult to find in this day and age, especially when he trades off with Soupy Sales.
Credit has to go to Infinity Entertainment for rescuing this show from obscurity. According to the case, they went back to the original two-inch master tapes to digitally restore these episodes, and it shows. The black-and-white picture is generally very clean, with a decent amount of contrast. I've become too used to public domain releases of old TV shows, with their torn prints and lots of flickering. Not so with this release; Garland fans will be pleased with the way she looks here. In the audio department, fans have the option of the original mono soundtrack, or a newly minted 5.1 surround option. For extras we get some outtakes.
I can't argue that Garland fans are going to love the look and sound of this release and be especially thankful that it's out at all. However, they may balk at the price. The MSRP of this disc is $19.98, and includes only two episodes of twenty-six. The packaging promises that there will eventually be thirteen volumes to cover the whole show, with two episodes per disc. That works out to $259.87 for a season's worth of television, assuming the subsequent volumes keep a similar price. That is, frankly, ridiculous. I could almost understand it if there were some music rights issues that necessitated a high price, but the packaging doesn't mention it. I could also understand if Infinity is hedging its bets because this is a niche release and won't make much money, but ten dollars an episode is highway robbery. Fans are also in a serious bind, because I'm guessing that if Volume One doesn't sell well, then Volume Thirteen won't have much chance.
There's no doubt in my mind that this is a release Garland fans have been hoping for since the advent of DVD, and it's almost more than they could hope for with an excellent audiovisual presentation and some outtakes. However, the price tag causes me to urge a rental for fans until someone releases a box set of the entire series for a reasonable price.
Judy may move me like no one else, but this release is guilty of failing to move me to recommend a purchase.
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