By Richard Winters
My Rating: 9 out of 10
4-Word Review: An eye popping musical.
I would not call myself a big musical fan, but I found this one to be excellent and the gold standard for all others. The whole thing is visually stunning from beginning to end with a wide variety of backdrops and settings used. You get everything from conventional dance numbers to a fairy tale recreation where the performers dress like ladybugs and live in giant mushrooms. There is even a fun take-off on Greek mythology done in a scenic forest setting.
The best segment has the dancers on not one but two giant record players shown side-by-side and from overhead. The performers dance on top of the huge turntables while as a group make unique symmetrical designs with their bodies. Another part has them on a gigantic playing card, which reminded me of an old Busby Berkley number and who has always been considered the godfather of splashy dance numbers and yet here it seems to outdo even him.
The film carries itself on the visual level alone with a story that can be best described as a standard musical plot. It involves a group of underpaid actors who put on a tacky musical for a small group of people. The film than interweaves between the low budget numbers, which are all still really good, and their fantasies of what things would look like if they had more money. Twiggy plays the shy awkward crew hand that comes on as the star when the leading lady breaks her leg.
Sure it is at times predictable, corny, and lightweight but it makes up for it with a really good sense of humor. The songs all sound great and the dance routines are certainly extravagant. Twiggy may never score as a great actress, but she hits the mark here. She has a cute bob haircut and a constantly perplexed expression that is really amusing. All the other characters have funny idiosyncrasies as well including Glenda Jackson as the injured leading lady who comes back and is none too happy to see how successful her replacement is.
Ken Russell has immense talent and is sadly one of the most unheralded directors around. Some of his films have been considered excessive and nonsensical, but that is not the case here as his visual flair and indulgence work to enhance the production including his use of primary colors in every shot.
This is a highly recommended visual delight that is impressive even by today’s standards and fun to watch for every member of the household.
My Rating: 9 out of 10
Released: December 16, 1971
Runtime: 2Hours 17Minutes
Director: Ken Russell
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video