More infamous for bringing Fox financially to its knees than for being the last major musical directed by Gene Kelly, Hello, Dolly! is one big-assed bull in a china shop. The film cost nearly as much to produce as Cleopatra and made far less at the box office, thus earning the film its reputation as one of Hollywood’s foremost turkeys. The role of Dolly Levi, made immortal on Broadway by Carol Channing, was given to Barbara Streisand in one of the most glaring cases of flagrant miscasting. But that’s all in the past. How does Hello, Dolly!, an update of The Matchmaker, look today? In a word: campy. Kelly, as a dancer and an actor, was never one to ask “Is this a bit over the top?” The choreography, the performances, the set decoration, the dialogue, everything about Hello, Dolly! is played directly to the back row of the theater, which would be fine on the stage, but on anamorphic widescreen close-ups tends to be more frightening than mirthful (thankfully, home viewing cuts down a bit on the mugging factor). As the youthful dancer-in-training Barnaby Tucker, Danny Lockin looks more like a gymnast doing a floor routine. Still, other aspects of Hello, Dolly! read a lot better with age. La Streisand’s rapid-fire delivery recalls such chatter-heavy early talkies as His Girl Friday. The unabated feel-good attitude and emphasis on underhanded plottiness makes the film not that far removed from Singin’ in the Rain. The film’s centerpiece scene in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant builds up to a satisfyingly complex conglomeration of multiple story threads. And Jerry Herman’s song score is peppered with flat-out great showtunes like “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” and the title song. It’s no The Band Wagon, but neither is it Paint Your Wagon.
Considering how fond Kelly is of the two-shot close-ups, it's nice to have a widescreen presentation that doesn't cut back and forth between two people to a dizzying effect. And Fox's anamorphic print looks pretty great for its age (considering the investment, they probably had it in cold storage somewhere). There's only minor grain, more apparent during optical effects shots. Colors are a bit faded, but still sharp. The sound mixes are a bit less to get excited over. Fox has provided another one of their trademark 4.0 surround tracks that, although never illegible, still sounds a bit claustrophobic. It's still better than the mono French and Spanish soundtracks provided, which end up reverting back to English during the songs. Not thrilling, but nice.
The main attraction is a brief look behind-the-scenes of the "Before the Parade Passes By" sequence, which offers a few glimpses of Gene Kelly at the helm. Also included are the English and Spanish trailers for the film, as well as two others for The Rose and All That Jazz.
Is it fair that Streisand's stolen role gets the DVD treatment when victim Carol Channing's immortal performance as the White Queen in Irwin Allen's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is still unavailable?