• Gang's All Here, The

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: July 12, 2016
    Director: Busby Berkeley
    Cast: Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Phil Baker, Benny Goodman and Orchestra, Eugene Pallete
    Year: 1943
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    As Danny freakin' Kaye once lamented, "One and all keep us guessing what the heck they're expressing, instead of dance it's choreography!", and let me tell you, as 1943's Busby Berkeley film opens, I found myself wondering the same thing. A floating head on a black screen, singing in a foreign tongue? Panning to seemingly out-of-place diagonal lines....oh! It's a big ship! The Brazil...and now the lyrics make a little more sense, but still, what the hell is going on? Singing and dancing and crazy stage choreographed production, am I watching a musical, or a Broadway show?

    The Gang's All Here clears that up quickly as the camera zooms out from the stage and pans across, revealing the setting; this IS a stage production, taking place at the Club New Yorker, an upscale hot spot in Manhattan, early 1940's. While the war rages overseas, New York's upper crust take in exotic locales and personalities in the comfort of the chic establishment, treated to vocal stylings in foreign dialect, set amongst banana trees, monkey-wielding organ grinders, and a fruit basket-hat bearing belly-dancer named Dorita (Carmen Miranda, who was later cartooned up for Bugs Bunny in "Slick Hare). It's in this setting that AJ Mason and Peyton Potter meet for the floor show, two affluent men about town. And while AJ is perfectly at home in the risque-for-the-time environment, Potter spends most of his time worried that the paparazzi will snag a photo of him with a chorus girl.

    Potter's anxiety is briefly broken up by the appearance of Andy, AJ's enlisted son, home on leave from the army and eager to make the acquaintance of the talented Club New Yorker ladies. One in particular, Edie Allen (Alice Faye), catches his eye, but she's quickly spirited away to the Broadway Canteen to dance with an assortment of soldiers. Rocking to the live sounds of Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Andy woos the young singer, though gives his name as "Casey", and foregoes honesty to give Edie the impression that he's not from the area, and that he's not currently engaged to Peyton Potter's gorgeous daughter, Vivian. He is, however, shipping out to base the next day, and his boyish persistence wins him the girl...so much, in fact, that she accompanies him on the Staten Island Ferry late at night to sing him a song of her affections. A goodnight kiss follows, with a tearful goodbye at the train station the next day, and "Casey" is off to his post, leaving a lovestruck Edie in his wake.

    Following through on her promise to write everyday, Edie and Andy correspond regularly, until Andy is decorated in the Pacific and rewarded with his ticket home. His proud father AJ decides that a homecoming celebration is just what the doctor ordered, and what better place than the Club New Yorker? What better place, you ask? Why, how about the lavish home and grounds of Mr. Peyton Potter, where Andy can be reunited with the beautiful Vivian? And why not bring Andy's favourite club with them, by hiring the entire staff of the Club New Yorker, including the beautiful Edie Allen, to come and perform there? As Vivian and Edie talk about their soldier boys returning home, and wouldn't it be funny if they knew each other, comedic chaos ensues, and Dorita broken Englishes her way into the middle to spare the two girls a heartbreak that's certain to occur once The Gang's All There. Er, here. Once The Gang's All Here.

    Not really a full-on musical, where the plot is spelled out through lyrics, The Gang's All Here's most noticeable weak spot is its near absence of any kind of plot. The conundrum is established fairly early in the picture, and nothing is done to build on that as the film progresses, and even the resolution seems like it was thrown together at the last minute. This is not a screenplay that will dazzle with complexity, or keep the viewer guessing. Then again, this is Busby Berkeley, a man known largely for his choreographer skills moreso than his directing skills, so what we DO get in The Gang's All Here is rapid-fire direction and dialogue, a treasure-trove of hep 40's lingo ("Don't be a square from Delaware!"), and some impressive visuals in the form of dance numbers, prop design, and camera-lens trickery.

    Using the Club New Yorker as a backdrop allows the film to insert the beautifully colourful and somewhat surreal sets that would normally find their exaggeration more appreciated on a stage, rather than the usual city backdrop, and Berkeley uses this to his advantage throughout. A wealth of crane shots and clever scene insertions guarantee that there is always something to look at on the screen...every frame jammed with something fun, and something happening every 5 seconds. What it lacks in plot substance, the film makes up for in visual and sonic style, and a competent, glamourous cast that bring a long-gone but appreciated aesthetic to the screen.


    Twilight Time brings The Gang's all here to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.33:1 transfer that looks fantastic. The crazy colours during the complicated choreography sequences pop off the screen, but don't sacrifice black levels in doing so...check out that neon ring number near the end for a fine example as the detail of how those rings are floated down is preserved. Detail is crisp and clear, and lacks any noticeable issue with dirt and debris.

    Two main audio tracks are provided, a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, both English. Truth be told, the only difference that I noticed between these was a slight increase in presence when the 2.0 was selected, a result of the switching of speakers in my home theatre setup. Dialogue is perfectly clear and coherent throughout, balanced nicely with the score and orchestration, which is surprisingly full for a track that doesn't utilize surrounds. Good dynamic range is required to present the range of instrumentation found in the film, and good dynamic range is available in spades.

    An Isolated Score Track (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) is also available, as are English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

    First up in the Supplemental Features is Busby Berkeley: A Journey With A Star (19:29), which features experts chiming in on the studio reaction to Berkeley's very unconventional vision, which was most definitely not the style at the time. They also comment on the pros and cons of making a film during wartime, as well as Berkeley's background in film.

    Alice Faye's Last film: We Still Are! (24:13) features Alice Faye (Edie from the film) walking the viewer through her history in film, a companion piece shot and produced by Pfizer to accompany Alice when she spoke at conventions as a still-active senior.

    Deleted Scene: The 64 Dollar Question (5:06) is a comedy routine that was struck from the final show at Potter's house.

    Twilight Time has also included two audio commentaries. The first features the awe-inspired film historian Drew Casper technically analyzing the film's unconventional opening, and then providing an analysis of the dialogue, and certain techniques that Berkeley employs. He touches briefly on the director's lack of involvement with the plot and makes a few comments about the cast, but this commentary is largely for film scholars, as Casper sets up the scene by describing how it was done, and then remains quiet while it plays out.

    A second commentary with film historians/authors Glenn Kenny, Ed Hulse, and Farran Smith Nehme is a little more conventional in the way of giving more background on the cast and discussing the wardrobe and choreography, though they do also discuss the abstract nature of the film as Casper's commentary does. This one doesn't have a lot of breaks, and the commentators are lively.

    The extras are rounded out by a Trailer, the Twilight Time Catalogue, and a finely-written booklet essay by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo.

    The Final Word:

    If you're a fan of musicals and cool-looking films, you'll be hip to this one. Twilight Time provides a top-notch transfer with a wealth of extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Those screen caps DO look fantastic. I own a lot of Busby Berkeley films on DVD but somehow haven't watched a single one!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      The man knows his choreography!
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Kewl. I need to give him a shot sometime!