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‘The Jazz Singer,’ credited as the first sound film, gets a Blu-ray upgrade

Published: Friday, Jan. 11 2013 4:53 p.m. MST

Eugenie Besserer as Sara Rabinowitz and Al Jolson as Jakie Rabinowitz in "The Jazz Singer."

Warner Home Video

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“The Jazz Singer” receives a new Blu-ray upgrade this week in a three-disc set packed with bonus features.

“The Jazz Singer” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1927, b/w, three discs, $35.99, early sound short films, documentary: “The Dawn of Sound,” excerpts from “Gold Diggers of Broadway”; 88-page book packaging). The Al Jolson “talkie” that changed the movie business in the late 1920s and early ’30s is a major historical feature because it ushered in sound after two decades of silent movies. But that’s not to say it’s a great film.

It is, however, an interesting film, despite characters and a story that were already clichés in 1927, and in truth it’s largely a silent picture with just a few sound interludes. However, there’s no disputing its historical significance, which cannot be overstated, and Warner Bros. has cleverly packaged this set with more than enough bonus material to appeal to film buffs.

This triple-disc collection includes an array of vintage Vitaphone shorts, early sound films that chronicled Vaudeville even as movies (and radio) were killing it off. There’s also a feature-length documentary, "The Dawn of Sound," excerpts from the 1929 early sound film "Gold Diggers of Broadway" and some short films touting the arrival of "talkies."

Basically this is the same set as the 2007 DVD release, but with the picture and sound having received a Blu-ray bump up in quality. All the same bonus features are here, and the packaging is more compact, despite the presence of an 88-page booklet that includes all of the materials that were loose in the DVD set.

“God’s Gift to Women” (Warner Archive, 1931, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Frank Fay is largely forgotten now but he was a big star in his day, and he has the lead in this bedroom farce about a womanizer with a reputation who finally falls in love but then has trouble convincing her — and her father — of his sincerity. Fay is overly chatty and may strike some as obnoxious, but the film, an early sound Vitaphone/Warner production, is saved by the women in the cast, especially Joan Blondell. Laura La Plante and Louise Brooks are also on hand. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)

“Wonder Woman” (Warner Archive, 1974, $14.95). This TV movie was a proposed pilot starring Cathy Lee Crosby that didn’t sell (a year before the TV-movie pilot that led to Lynda Carter’s series). This one is set in the present day and veers from the traditional comic book so much that fans were in an uproar at the time. Now it passes as an OK cliffhanger-style curio that is now mainly for completist fans of the character.

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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