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The Busby Berkeley Disc

The Busby Berkeley Collection

There is no denying Busby Berkeley's genius, and taken as a thing itself, The Busby Berkeley Disc — the bonus disc available only to those who buy Warner's "The Busby Berkeley Collection" box-set — is a wonderful assemblage. It offers 21 numbers from Berkeley films and allows them to be played in sequence, with a complete running-time of 163 minutes. It's the sort of DVD that could be streamed in the background at a party, eventually winning over distracted guests from their conversations and cocktails as they become entranced by the striking choreography of human bodies that Berkeley made famous. From 42nd Street, there's "Shuffle off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and the titular "42nd Street." Next up is Gold Diggers of 1933 with "Were in the Money," "Pettin' in the Park," "Shadow Waltz," and "Remember my Forgotten Man." Then there are the numbers from Footlight Parade: "Ah, the Moon is Here," "Sittin' on a Backyard Fence," "Honeymoon Hotel," "By a Waterfall," and "Shanghai Lil." From Fashions of 1934 (1934) there's "Spin a Little Web of Dreams," and from the same year's Wonder Bar is "Don't Say Goodnight." Dames offers "The Girl at the Ironing Board," "I Only have Eyes For You," and "Dames," while Gold Diggers of 1935 is represented with "The Words are in My Heart" and "The Lullaby of Broadway." From 1935's In Caliente is "The Lady in Red," while rounding out the disc is "All is Fair in Love and War" from Gold Diggers of 1937. These are all great numbers, and, again, as a disc for parties and for those not familiar with the works of the director, it's an eye-opening affair. But as a bonus disc available only to those who buy the box set, its something of a disappointment. Three-fourths of the material here are sequences from films that one must own to even get this, leaving only four numbers for those looking to watch Berkeley set-pieces from films that will likely never see digital daylight. This could have been a collection of forgotten and lost numbers from films like 1933's Roman Scandals, but alas this is mostly a repackaging of a Laserdisc release — meant at the time for those looking to get a Berkeley fix with few alternatives — and is almost identical in content (less the blackface number "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" from Wonder Bar). The material itself is top notch, these are without doubt some of the best numbers that Berkeley produced, and some of the greatest sequences from musical films — but there's also no ignoring the opportunity wasted. Keep-case.
—DSH



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