Saturday, December 21, 2013

At Long Last Love '75 (2013)

At Long Last Love '75One Sunday, in Cleveland, Peter Bogdanovich came for a talk to the Cleveland Public Library downtown. It was about a book he'd just written. This had to be about twelve or so years ago. I brought my original movie poster of At Long Last Love & my original LP soundtrack of Paper Moon. I not only wanted to get his autograph on both (which I did), but I just wanted to tell him EXACTLY what I thought of At long Last Love. I said how this film was a brilliant amalgamation of both the RKO-Pandro S. Berman musicals of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, and relations between the sexes circa the sexual reveloution of the 1970's. This film is one of the best I've ever seen about intrapersonal communication between and amoungst the sexes, using the lyrics of Cole Porter (a brilliant composer and closeted homosexual who had lyrics with hidden meanings rampant throughout his entire career--lyrics designed to express true feelings and yearnings without being too too literal). In spite of this, the film appears to be, superficially, a light and frothy period piece. I love all the performances, but, let's be frank, they are uneven at best. There are those who feel Cybill Shepherd can sing and dance, and those who do not. There is NO inbetween! I feel she can...As I do about Burt Reynolds--but he really can't. I feel his charms work in spite of this, some people do not (I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder)...The rest of the cast I feel is stellar, in particular the byplay between Eileen Brennan & John Hillerman. Brilliant! Madeline Kahn is her usual magnificent self. And, about Mr. Bogdanovich's brave and foolhardy decision to spend approx. $6 million of 20th Century-Fox's money to film his cast LIVE singing and dancing before the camera...? In hindsight, I will forever be sorry it changed his career the way that it did, but I always felt, and will always feel, it made for a more real and feeling finished product. I hope this will be revisited and re-evaluated now for the great auteur piece this truly is, but I'm sure there will be those who will find it the ghastly mess that history would like them to believe it is (like "Cleopatra"...?). That's ok too...I'm just happy it has a second chance...

At long last, At Long Last Love! This hugely under-appreciated gem is finally released, on blu-ray. Unseen by millions, an absolute joy, with a superb cast, stunning production design, and of course, Cole, all the way. Long before all the fuss about Les Mis and the 'groundbreaking' live musical recording, Bogdanovich used this method for absolute spontaneity, employed in the earliest musicals. In his own words, taken from the movie soundtrack album, he states 'I didn't want to make a musical that was about singing and dancing: I wanted to make a musical about some people who sing and dance instead of walk and talk'. What a fantastic movie, and i can't wait to recapture the excitement, on seeing it several times on its original release. The LP soundtrack album has kept the memories alive since 1975!

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I love this movie! It introduced me to Cole Porter. I wore out the album and still have two LP's left. Of all the movies I have had on my list to get since DVD came out, this is the only one that was not released. I could understand why at the time it wasn't attracting audiences. Musicals where dead. They sung live! The only other time that was ever done was in Les Miserables (fortunately they had much better equipment to use for that). I feel bad the director never got to know how many people actually loved this movie. I can't wait to finally see this in widescreen! Burt Reynolds was a hoot singing and dancing. Cybil Shepard was absolutely adorable. There aren't too many movies with the late great Madeleine Kahn, so that alone is worth the watch. Eileen Brennan with that deadpan delivery priceless! "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love" is on my list of all the great movie showstoppers. "But baby if I'm the bottom, you're the top". I had no idea what that meant at 11, but it started a life long love and admiration for one of the great composers of all time and all the shows and movies that showcased his work. This gem deserves to be among them!

Read Best Reviews of At Long Last Love '75 (2013) Here

Obviously, I was of the first of the two opinions in my title. I saw "At Long Last Love" in its premier at Radio City Music Hall, and again in my then home town of Jacksonville, Florida, a few weeks later.

I've been following the progress of this Blu-ray release for about 18 months now, and word on the street was that it is a superior cut and has been restored the "right" way. Having just watched it, the transfer is not pristine, but it does match up to a number of Blu rays I own, for example "The Man from Snowy River" and "Stardust", both of which show a lot of grain and actually look better if I don't wear my glasses when watching them. LOL However, once the horrible looking 20th Century Fox intro is done, nothing about the look of the film will distract you from enjoying the story.

The soundtrack is nothing special. In fact it is apparently Mono (listed as 1.0). Once again, while it does not have the full, rich sound that we've come to expect from most DVDs and Blu rays, the charm in this movie is in the acting and the story, and you won't be displeased.

This Blu ray version runs 123 minutes, which is 5 minutes more than the theatrical release (according to Most likely an extra song sequence was added back in.

The story essentially relates one long social engagement concerning the four stars. It is light-hearted and cheerful, and filled with great Cole Porter songs. It has a wonderful throwback look to early 30s style, with highly artistic use of stark black and white in scenery and costume, accomplished with an excellent flair. I've always thought that was an homage to black and white films of that era without actually presenting the film in black and white.

Contrary to what some have written about this movie, none of the stars do embarrassing work with their singing. Reynolds certainly isn't known for singing, but he is certainly competent in this film, as is Cybil Shepard. What you absolutely DO get here are the actors "acting the songs", and in a very entertaining fashion. It adds an air of authenticity and charm that doesn't come across in absolutely flawless dubbed performances.

Madeline Kahn was of course a wonderful singer. Eileen Brennan and John Hillerman not only sing well, but provide unforgettable stretches of comedy ... she as Cybil Shepard's maid, and Hillerman as Reynold's chauffeur. Duilio Del Prete is charming and amusing as the romantic foreigner with a bit of a gambling problem.

One thing that disposes me towards good memories of this film is that I had a fun date with a great looking young lady when I saw it in Jacksonville ... a girl named Anita (So for any of you Anita's who saw this that spring in Jacksonville with a freshman from Ga Tech that year, Hi Anita!).

Letting actors with no "singing chops" do their own vocals had not been done a lot by the time this film was made ... "Paint your Wagon" comes to mind ... so maybe that was one of the reasons that critics panned this LIKE the gold pans in "Paint Your Wagon" when they came up all sand. It has been done a LOT more since this film, and with many more misses on the singing quality.

As my wife and I watched this Blu ray, we found ourselves frequently chuckling at both clear dialogue and physical bits, especially from Burt Reynolds, who has always been adroit at mugging and showing off for the camera in amusing ways.

If you don't like light romantic comedies which segue into song from time to time, just don't buy or watch this film. Otherwise, it is definitely worth taking a chance on. Cybil and Burt never looked better. John Hillerman gives you a peek at what would become the role of his career on "Magnum PI". Madeline Kahn is simply the great Madeline Kahn, and Eileen Brennan is a riot.

Highly recommended.

Want At Long Last Love '75 (2013) Discount?

Talk about "At Long Last"! I saw AT LONG LAST LOVE in the movie theater when I was a junior in college in 1975. And I have been waiting years for it to come to video. (Was it ever released on video tape?) And now it's available in, not only Blu-ray, but in the Director's Cut! Up to now, all that's been available has been pirated copies. It's wonderful to have the real thing. It will look great next to my vintage soundtrack recording (which, incidentally, is in stereo).

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