Cast: Judy Garland, Vic Damone, Chita Rivera, Martha Raye, Peter Lawford, Rich Little
During the 1963-64 television season, Judy Garland hosted her own variety show on CBS that sadly came to an abrupt end due to stiff competition and Judy's own personal troubles. Perhaps the show was just too out of touch with the impending counter culture that swept the nation over the course of this tumultuous decade. Nevertheless, Geneon Entertainment has preserved this forgotten gem that will most certainly entertain long-time fans of this shining talent and hopefully bring in some new ones.
This disc contains two hour-long episodes that originally aired in January 1964. The first is sheer heaven, with guest appearances by Vic Damone, Chita Rivera, and Louis Nye. Highlights of this episode include an energetic dance solo by Rivera and a beautiful, achingly romantic medley of songs from "West Side Story" sung by Damone and Judy. Louis Nye stops by for a quick comedy routine, and Judy delivers some spine-tingling solo numbers, most spectacularly "By Myself" from her final movie, "I Could Go On Singing."
The second episode begins with Judy in a tremendous rendition of "76 Trombones." We then get a special treat in seeing a very young Rich Little in his TV debut, delivering some of his uncanny impersonations of Hollywood celebrities, including Jack Benny, Jimmy Stewart, and Ed Sullivan. Peter Lawford and the indomitable Martha Raye make an incredible trio with Judy, offering side-splitting laughs with their tongue-in-cheek tribute to the hit parade of 1964.
In both episodes, Ken Murray delights the audience and Judy with some of his famous home movies of the stars. Filmed on 16mm film in the 1930s, these films offer candid views of top Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, Eleanor Powell, and even Judy herself. Part of the fun is hearing her witty remarks and gasps of amazement at some of the footage. These moments are a bittersweet reminder of the classiness and style of a bygone era that will never be equaled.
Geneon Entertainment has certainly ensured that "The Judy Garland Show" makes its way to DVD in style. Presented in their original fullframe aspect ratio, the prints have been amazingly restored. There is some slight digital noise, but considering the show's age and rarity, this must be one of the best television restorations available. Contrast is excellent, and the prints reveal a level of detail and clarity that is astounding. Some occasional lines crop up, but these are part of damage to the video source and in no way hinder the enjoyment of the show.
Judy Garland's powerful, quivering vocals sound amazing in the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The quality is nothing short of miraculous, and viewers will be fully immersed in the vigorous musical numbers. For purists, the original mono track is also available. Both tracks have been cleaned up and are largely free of distortion and pops. They are certainly a cut above most other presentations of TV shows from this period.
The only special features on this release are some outtakes, but what fun they are. The funniest ones involve Martha Raye's shameless mugging during a dress rehearsal with Judy. It is explained that some of these were eventually aired instead of the final version because they were so funny. Viewers will also get a kick out of seeing Peter Lawford flub his lines over and over, and they'll get an even bigger laugh out of Martha Raye's reactions.
"The Judy Garland Show" is a timeless piece of nostalgia that captures the talent, charm, and magic of one of our greatest entertainers. For her loyal fans, this is a DVD to cherish. For those who know her only as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," here is a fine introduction to the boundless energy and versatility that made her a legend. Above all, this is a moving showcase of her warmth and humanity that the world lost much too soon. The loving care that Geneon took with this release is in clear evidence, and it's a genuine delight from start to finish. I can't recommend it highly enough.