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DVD: Chorus Line, A (1985)
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1 (NTSC)

April 15, 2003



Genre: Musical  
Film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, where dozens of dancing hopefuls struggle to be noticed at an audition.  



Directed by:

Richard Attenborough
Screenplay by: Arnold Schulman
Music by: Marvin Hamlisch
Produced by: Cy Feuer,  Ernest H. Martin

Michael Douglas,  Michael Blevins,  Yamil Borges,  Jan Gan Boyd,  Sharon Brown,  Gregg Burge,  Cameron English,  Tony Fields,  Nicole Fosse,  Vicki Frederick,  Janet Jones,  Michelle Johnston,  Audrey Landers,  Pam Klinger,  Terrence Mann,  Charles McGowan,  Alyson Reed,  Justin Ross,  Blane Savage,  Matt West

Film Length: 118 mins
Process/Ratio: 2.35 :1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:   English (Stereo) / English, French & Spanish Subtitles
Special Features :  

"Marvin Hamlisch: From Broadway To Hollywood" featurette (19:42) / Theatrical trailer for "A Chorus Line" (1.85:1 Anamorphic)

Comments :

As he explains in the DVD's excellent interview featurette, Marvin Hamlisch had won three Oscars in 1973 - one for "The Sting," and two for "The Way We Were" - and in spite of his agent's pleas to accept more film scoring assignments, the composer decided to collaborate with lyricist Edward Kleban and write the music for "A Chorus Line," based on an intriguing idea by Broadway director/choreographer Michael Bennett. The resulting production ultimately won a Tony Award for Hamlisch in 1976, and enjoyed a long run, with several of the film's songs - "What I Did For Love," "At The Ballet," "I Can Do That," and "One" - becoming pop standards during the latter half of the Seventies.

The decision to mount a film version may have been emboldened by the immense success of "Flashdance," made in 1983, which treated the life of a dancer with a bit more style and robust sexuality (not to mention a massively best-selling soundtrack album), and raked in huge profits. To join the dance/aerobic/salsa/hip-hop musical genre, "A Chorus Line" needed an upgrade, and Hamlisch and Kleban were asked beef up their creation with a synth drum kit and two additional songs (including "Surprise, Surprise," which received an Oscar nomination), plus basic underscore. The screenplay also 'opened up' the show with a few exterior shots, and with typical Hollywood savvy, Jeffrey Hornaday - the choreographer from "Flashdance" - was brought in as well.

Perhaps the oddest choice in the film's production team was director Richard Attenborough, winner of two Oscars, in 1982, for "Gandhi" (Best Picture, and Best Director). Why choose a musical? It's a question the DVD's featurette never answers (nor mentions Attenborough at all), but given the director had once moved from epic drama ("A Bridge Too Far," in 1977) to modest thriller ("Magic," the following year), it's a safe bet something smaller than India's history, yet instantly commercial like a Broadway musical, seemed like the best ploy to avert the 'Oscar Curse.' [That is, the first film made after a major win shall be the antithesis of the other in every way.]

Originally produced by Embassy Films and released theatrically by Columbia, previous video versions from MGM featured full screen transfers, so the DVD marks the first time "A Chorus Line" can be enjoyed in its original aspect ratio, with a decent surround sound mix. The real treat is Ronnie Taylor's cinematography - maximizing the effectively minimal set décor of the auditorium and stage with some beautiful lighting - and John Bloom's Oscar-nominated editing (ironically, both men were brought over from "Gandhi"). The image clarity is very sharp, the colours nicely balanced, and the transfer has good blacks for the spotlight scenes.

Though most of the cast is comprised of dancers who rarely ventured into film and television territory, some will recognize Janet Jones (Mrs. Wayne Gretzky), Audrey Landers, and Nicole Fosse.

© 2003 Mark R. Hasan

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