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Mini Movie Reviews: Song and Dance

Today's theme is musicals featuring films by Jacques Demy, Vincente Minnelli, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Hiller, and Joshua Logan.

Man of La Mancha (1972)
Miguel de Cervantes is unexpectedly arrested by the Spanish Inquisition and thrown in prison where his follow prisoners stage a mock trial and he has to defend himself by performing the tale of a madman who believes himself to be a knight named Don Quixote. It's never a good sign when a musical hires movie stars who can't sing instead of actual singers. Might've fared better if they'd just got Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren to star in an actual adaptation of Don Quixote instead of staging a musical no one involved with this production seemed all that enthusiastic about.

Rating: ⭐⭐
Donkey Skin (1970)
After the success of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, Catherine Deneuve teamed up again with director Jacques Demy for this bonkers fairy tale. A king vows to his dying wife that he will not marry again unless he can find a princess more beautiful than her. When one of his councillors points out that his own daughter is more beautiful, the king becomes determined to marry her, forcing the princess to escape with the help of her fairy godmother. Demy's tribute to Jean Cocteau (he even drafted in Jean Marais as the king) is a truly daffy, but charming musical fantasy.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Wiz (1978)
Dorothy Gale (Diana Ross) is an introverted elementary school teacher living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Harlem. When her dog Toto runs out during a snowstorm, Dorothy chases after him and they are both quickly whisked away by a tornado to the very New York looking magical Land of Oz. Looks great and sounds amazing (there are few songs as utterly joyous as 'A Brand New Day'), but drags way too much, especially during those final goodbye scenes.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Camelot (1967)
The peace of King Arthur's kingdom is challenged by Queen Guinevere's affair with Lancelot and the arrival of Arthur's treacherous son. Originally a hit on Broadway with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews (who both declined to reprise their roles), this was a passion project for Jack L. Warner in his final days at Warner Bros. While director Joshua Logan puts on a grand show, this is a painfully overlong and sluggish film with few memorable musical numbers. Despite not being trained singers, Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave are still great as Arthur and Guinevere while David Hemmings makes for a suitably slimy Mordred, but Franco Nero is just vacant as Lancelot and his love affair with Guinevere comically rushed and unconvincing (ironic since he and Redgrave did fall in love during filming and eventually got married in 2006).

Rating: ⭐⭐
An American in Paris (1951)
Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is an American expat living in Paris and trying to make a name for himself as a painter. A lonely heiress becomes interested in Jerry and offers to support his work, at the same time Jerry falls in love with shop girl Lise (Leslie Caron) unaware she's engaged to another man. Directed by Vincente Minnelli and written by Alan Jay Lerner, this lavish production was built around music and songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Unable to shoot in Paris, it was filmed at great expense on 44 specially built sets in the studio backlot which Kelly still thought looked cheap, but he was notoriously difficult to please. Like a lot of classic studio musicals, the plot is just a flimsy excuse to string together various song and dance numbers, the most spectacular being that climatic 17-minute ballet sequence. But the film's biggest weakness remains the various hollow romantic relationships (which are all resolve way too neatly) and the uncomfortably obvious age gap between Kelly (38) and Caron (19).

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig


  1. I've seen 3 of these.

    It is so sad that they decided to cast non-singers for Man of La Mancha. I've seen the play at a community theater and it was excellent. The score is great and it just gets lost with Loren and O'Toole playing the parts. The acting wasn't really even enough to compensate. They are both good actors, but didn't captivate me here.

    The Wiz: Good looking, great songs, again and at least they cast people who were actual singers. I do think that aging up Dorothy, so that Diana Ross could play her takes away from the story. An introverted adult does not bring the same feelings as a child or young adult being taken from home and dealing with Oz. This is a swing and a miss for me.

    Camelot, oh Camelot. Again casting non-singers strikes again. Okay Richard Harris did have some musical background but he wasn't a powerhouse performer. I agree it is sluggish and just doesn't engage me. It's a nice attempt, but didn't work. Maybe if they could have gotten Andrews and Burton it would have worked, but as is it's not bad, it's just not very good either.

  2. My paternal grandparents had the Camelot sound track on vinyl, but never saw the movie.

    I did see the Wiz, but it's been a long time. I do recall enjoying it though. It had some solid musical numbers.


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