2 classic musicals get Blu-ray upgrades

Published: Saturday, Nov. 19 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Two best-picture Oscar-winning musicals and a bevy of cartoon classics get Blu-ray upgrades, and seven Jean Harlow movies land on DVD for the first time, as a wide array of golden oldies are released on home video this week.

"West Side Story: 50th Anniversary Edition" (MGM/Blu-ray + DVD, 1961, three discs, $29.99). This flashy musical adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" is loaded with great songs and exciting choreography as it tells the tragic love story of a teenage couple (Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer) caught in the middle of New York gang rivalry in the early 1960s.

Wood and Beymer suffer from a lack of chemistry but the location staging (given a visual boost by this high-def version) and the unforgettable music more than make up for it, with such classic songs as "Tonight," "Maria," "America," "I Feel Pretty," "Somewhere" and many more. Also great are the supporting players, Oscar-winners Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn. (Wood's warblings are, of course, dubbed by the wonderful Marni Nixon.)

This Blu-ray reboot is great most of the way. There are a few minor (and well-publicized online) visual problems that most viewers will probably not even notice.

Extras: widescreen, featurettes (including two that are new), song-specific audio commentary (by lyricist Stephen Sondheim), storyboards, trailers (also available in a four-disc collectible box set that includes a tribute/cover CD of eight songs, a hardback photo book and 10 postcard reproductions of international posters, $69.99)

"My Fair Lady" (CBS/Paramount/Blu-ray, 1964, G, $32.99). Audrey Hepburn (with her singing dubbed by the lilting Marni Nixon) is luminous in this adaptation of "Pygmalion," and Rex Harrison won an Oscar for the performance he honed on the Broadway stage.

The familiar story has guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle receiving diction lessons from pompous Henry Higgins and, as unlikely as it seems, they fall in love. More great songs we all know: "The Rain in Spain," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Get Me to the Church on Time," etc. Solid Blu-ray upgrade nicely highlights all the lush visuals and gorgeous music.

Extras: widescreen, featurettes (both recent and vintage), alternate Hepburn vocals, trailers

"Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, Volume One" (Warner/Blu-ray, 1944-80, three discs, $79.98). There are some cartoons here that have never been on DVD but most can be found on other sets. But in Blu-ray, these high-definition versions really sparkle.

And that's the reason to invest in this set, to see classic cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies gang looking better than ever. Many of the classics are here: "Duck Amuck," "What's Opera, Doc?" "One Froggy Evening," "Duck Dodgers," "The Dot and the Line," etc. As well as some of the best documentaries from previous sets, such as "Chuck Jones: Extremes & In-Betweens."

Extras: full frame/widescreen, 50 cartoons, audio commentaries, documentaries, featurettes; 56-page booklet, Bugs Bunny shot glass, litho cel, magnet tin (also in a scaled-back set without collectibles, $59.96)

"Jean Harlow: 100th Anniversary Collection" (Warner Archive, 1933-37, seven discs, b/w, $49.95). Some of Harlow's most familiar titles have been released previously on DVD — both individually and in other star sets. But these seven films, once available on VHS, have never been on DVD before.

Some are certainly better than others but Harlow shines in each, and now the vast majority of her best work is at last attainable for fans. Included are "Bombshell," "Reckless," "Suzy," "The Girl From Missouri," "Riffraff," "Personal Property" and the film she was making when she died, "Saratoga" (completed with her stand-in).

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