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King Of Jazz Criterion Blu-ray Review


To quote Monty Python: “And now for something completely different.”

In this early talkie Technicolor film, viewers are treated to a different sort of cinematic experience. There is no narrative here. Instead, the almost experimental film plays like a cross between a vaudeville, Broadway, and variety show in that it’s comprised of comedic and musical segments. The basic set-up is that bandleader Paul Whiteman’s (AKA the King of Jazz) scrap book is containing all of these stories/segments that include an animated segment about Paul Whiteman, a “Bridal Veil” musical number, comedic sketches about everything from wartime to goldfish, lovers singing on a park bench, The Rhythm Boys (featuring a young Bing Crosby!), a “Happy Feet” number, chorus girls, a climactic “Melting Pot Of Music” extravaganza, etc.

“King Of Jazz” is a definite oddity, but a fascinating one at that. I can’t really compare it to anything else. It’s a grand production filled with camera tricks, technical achievements (especially for the time), big sets, giant props, a variety of costumes, lavish song and dance number and huge stages. It often feels like a grandiose filmed stage show celebrating 30’s era entertainment which makes sense given that a theater director named John Murray Anderson helmed this.

In terms of the actual content of “King Of Jazz,” it’s hit-and-miss (much like any sort of variety show that showcases different acts). The comedic sketches themselves tend to be eye-rollers and some of the song numbers go on too long, but there’s a lot to admire here. The astonishing rag doll dance number will have your eyes glued to the screen, the dazzling “Rhapsody In Blue” sequence with a gigantic piano is a clear highlight, and the violin “Pop Goes The Weasel” bit is a great piece of entertainment.


Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it sound? The 4K digital restoration will wow you. I was blown away by how clean and clear it looks considering the film was released in 1930.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? The audio has been cleaned up tremendously here.

Extras: A colorful booklet containing photos, credits and an essay by writer Farran Smith Nehme, 4 deleted scenes, 2 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons titled “My Pal Paul” and “Africa,” a 21 minute musical short film titled “I Know Everybody And Everybody’s Racket” that features Paul Whiteman, an interview with jazz and film critic Gary Giddins about Paul Whiteman’s music, an interview with musician Michael Feinstein who discusses the musicians whose work is included in ‘King Of Jazz,” another short film titled “All Americans” which is essentially another staging of “The Melting Pot Of Music” number featured in ‘King Of Jazz,” 5 video essays about Universal Pictures, the score, production, the animated sequence, and the Broadway influence by authors James Layton and David Pierce who wrote a book on “King Of Jazz,” and a commentary by Gary Giddins, Gene Seymour, and Vince Giordano that provides lots of info about the film, history, music, jazz and more.

March 6, 2018 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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