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MISCELLANEOUS VIDEOS

NOTE: This section will list the many various films which have shown up in unauthorized releases.  Usually these documentaries are cobbled together from public domain film clips, utilizing several reels from Sinatra's television programs of the 1950's or early films which have lost their copyright control.  I'll try to list duplicate titles here (since often the same program gets recycled under different names) and also try and point out anything of interest for collectors.  Tread carefully here - most of these items have been put togeher haphazardly, and with little care for the subject.


Frank Sinatra: His Life & Times 
Madacy Entertainment, 480 min.
Released October 15, 1997

 

DVD Features:

  • Ten features on five DVD's - nearly eight hours of entertainment.
  • Fifteen biographies of people close to Frank Sinatra, from Tommy Dorsey to Ava Gardner.
  • Twenty-five trivia questions, with answers.
  • Complete discography
  • Complete filmography
  • Chapter search

REVIEW: This disaster - which is only available on VHS through Amazon (I picked up the DVD version on eBay), is typical of the type of wasteland excess that Madacy Entertainment commonly shovels onto the marketplace.  What appears to be a lengthy documentary of Frank Sinatra is in reality a hashed-together mess of odds and ends, strung together with nothing resembling coherence.  The first program, "The Early Years" is a typical example, with the narrator (sounding like a young, enthusiastic Casey Casem) spouting off generalities about Sinatra's birth and early career, and then switching suddenly to a spoken narrative by Frank himself, talking about his traumatic, nearly fatal birth - and while the gruesome narration is spinning out, trailers from Frank's early musicals are playing!  So we have chorus girls and Gene Kelly yukking it up in the foreground while Frank discusses the incompetent doctor scarring him for life and the midwife placing him under a cold stream of water to get the infant Sinatra breathing!  It's so surreal, I'm expecting Pink Floyd music to be blaring from the speakers.  But that's not all - the film suddenly drops the narration, and switches to a September 27, 1959 Bing Crosby television special featuring Frank, Louis Armstrong, and Peggy Lee, and commences to show several disjoinited clips from the show, many of which don't feature Frank at all.  The second program is even worse: "The Radio Years" is nothing but scratchy radio appearances by Frank playing over a disjointed photo montage - for 40 minutes! The second DVD, "The Hollywood Years" is similar, with lots of film trailers (in very poor quality) joining a lengthy television featurette on the 1968 film The Detective, as well as a complete filmed perforamance of "Boys and Girls Like You And Me" (from Take Me Out To The Ballgame) sans dialogue.  "The Television Era" has the annoying quality of the narrator obliterating a complete performance by Sinatra on The Bob Hope Show, and then presents the entire cheesy Welcome Home Elvis show from Frank's self-titled 1960 program.  The entire set runs like this, with the odd television appearance, Rat Pack performance, or jarring photo montage carried along by a narrator who obviously has no idea what he's gotten himself into.  Its a real hodge-podge of material, all of it in dodgy sound and picture; a junk-heap of clips which most fans will find tries their patience.



Sinatra: Gold Collector's Edition
Triton Media, 300 min.
Released 1999

 
  • Featuring the 5 hour televised miniseries: "They Were Very Good Years"
  • Plus exclusive interviews with Sammy Davis Jr., Stells Stevens, Ernest Borgnine, Juliet Prowse, Shecky Green, Phyllis McGuire, Francis Gershwin, Gene Kelley, Al Martino, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, Craig Huxley, Jacqueline Bisset, Raquel Welch
  • Big Band Karoke of "Witchcraft" & "Come Fly with me"
  • Complete Discography & Filmography

REVIEW: One of the worst documentaries I've ever seen, They Were Very Good Years is to documentary films what Ed Wood (the creator of such anti-films as Plan 9 From Outer Space) was to independent cinema.  Grossly edited together, painfully narrated by someone who sounds like Walter Cronkite with a bad cold, showing no regard for historical timelines, and written without any style or intelligence, this five-part miniseries is a hacked-together disaster, and has unfortunately shown up in many guises over the years, in five, three and this two-disc edition.  Each segment is supposed to focus on a single era of Frank's life: "The Bobby Sox Years," "The Hollywood Years," "Hollywood, The Second Time Around," "The Swinging Years," and "The Vintage Years."  Fine and good, except the film clips veer around from era to era, the narration swings perilously between world/social/and political events without ever tying them to Frank; and vague generalities abound.  The narrative obliviously pulls in people like Axel Stordahl, briefly mentioning his importance in Frank's sound, and then quickly recounts that he "worked with Sinatra on an album shortly before his death."  Huh?  Which album?  Why are we discussing his death in the first segment of the documentary?  Tossed in without any regard to authenticity or actual events, the film shows clips of Frank's short film The House I Live In, before World War II ever happens, or Frank has even become famous - yet there he is on film, singing and acting as if he's a big star, and the documentary is still supposedly focused on his childhood!  Jumps like this are common throughout, with clips from his 1950s films rubbing shoulders with shots of him with Tommy Dorsey, and the Narrator droning on and on, without ever seeming to realize that he's just jumped decades in time without ever wondering if any of this is making sense; and if he makes a mistake or a flub (and there are several) they are left in.  This excruciatingly confusing and amateur work should be avoided at all costs, and in whatever guise it takes.  Even the interview segments look to be swiped from vintage 1970's television shows.  The only recommendation I can give for this mind-numbing disaster is that there are some rare film clips included: a live show with Frank, Bing, and Bob Hope performing for some troops; some rare cartoons which show the effect which Frank has on women (and chickens!) and numerous clips from his movies.  But nothing here is shown in full, it's all just bits and pieces, as if it were edited together by a pack of hyenas fighting over the video tape.  A pitifully amateurish production.



Frank Sinatra [Hollywood Hall Of Fame - Suddenly]
Brentwood Home Video, 105 min.
Released February 22, 1999

 

DVD Features:

  • Hollywood Hall of Fame video biography - from Frank's earliest film and music performances through his long reign as one of the all-time greatest stars of screen and music.
  • Suddenly - full presentation of this excellent film-noir starring Frank Sinatra as a crazed hit-man with a mission to assasinate the President of the United States.
  • Interactive quiz on the life and works of Frank Sinatra

REVIEW: The title of this video might lead one to believe that it's some sort of official program which was produced for the fictional 'Hollywood Hall of Fame' - of course there is no such organization, and this budget DVD is nothing more than another hack job of Sinatra film trailers and television clips strung together, albeit with some sense of order, and a narrator who adds a bit of panache with his rich British accent and authoritative tones.  What's disappointing about this 30-minute long overview of Sinatra's film career is that although the narration gives a good, if incomplete, overview of the highlights of Frank's filmography, beginning with Anchors Aweigh and ending with The Detective, the clips which are used are of horrible quality, easily the worst I've seen on a cheapie DVD release - the color clips from the musicals are often shown in single tint, or worse, in black and white, with even the best clips blurry or clipped around the edges, with lots of video artifacts and jumping in the film trailers.  Anyone could've walked down to their local rental shop and found better footage than what's found here.  Added to the package is the public domaign film Suddenly, which is shown in the original 1:75:1 letterbox format.  The final aspect to this package is a nine-question trivia game which uses clips from the Hall of Fame documentary included, and is generally worthless.  So, you have an OK documentary, with horrible quality film stock, the very good Suddenly in widescreen format and a less-than-pristine print, and a short, pointless trivia contest.  Not worth getting too excited about.



Frank Sinatra Memorial: Dec. 12, 1915-May 14, 1998
Passport Video, 90 min.
Released January 5, 2001

 

Features:

  • Appearances by Tony Bennett, Wayne Newton, Tom Selleck, Sidney Poitier, Debbie Reynolds, Joey Bishop, Roseanne, Tommy Sands, Shecky Green, Phyllis McGuire, Quincy Jones & Betty Garrett.
  • Clips from his films and farewell performances.
  • Bonus materials: "The House I Live In" (1945) and a 1950s era Edward R. Murrow interview with Frank Sinatra from his home.

REVIEW: Passport Video, which is responsible for all of the dreck on this page, has apparently made a full-time job out of re-selling the same film clips of Sinatra, using interviews from the same celebrities, over and over.  They even use the same song for their closing credits! (The completely lame "Frank's Song" sung by Sinatra-wannabe Steve Blackwood).  This particular video, called a "memorial" to cash in on Frank's death, rips off TV footage of interviews with stars who attended Sinatra's funeral, and ties it together with old interview clips which they've already rehashed on the five-part documentary "They Were Very Good Years."  Here, they've extended some of the interview clips, some of which have to deal with Sinatra's passing, but many simply talk about his films and career - which works fine in a retrospective way, if the films or events they discussed were in fact the highlights of Sinatra's life; but most times, they're not.  Betty Garrett talks about co-starring with Frank for the first time in Take Me Out To The Ballgame, Tommy Sands seems to be bemoaning his career slide more than disucssing Sinatra, and Joey Bishop is shown in an extended interview segment shortly after Frank's death.  There are some nice remembrances of Sinatra's many charitable acts, which lists several specific instances of Frank's generous gifts and aid, but other moments on this video just baffle, with lame, sound-bite moments from such 'stars' as Roseanne Barr and Wayne Newton, all of whom are just grabbing the spotlight for a chance to invoke Sinatra's name.  The memorial portion of this video only runs about 45 minutes, leaving the rest of the time to be taken up by two shorts: The House I Live In - the oscar-winning 1945 short film starring Frank Sinatra and dealing a heavy-handed message about tolerance, and a 10-minute long interview with Frank Sinatra in his new Bel-Air home by Edward R. Murrow, where Frank discusses his career and shows off his house in a disarmingly candid interview.  A mishmash of moments, some good, most simply off the track - a 'memorial' that should have been much better.



Sinatra & the Rat Pack: The Story Behind the Original Movie Ocean's 11
Delta Entertainment, 70 min.
Released Feburary 6, 2003

 

Features include:

  • The story on how the Rat Pack began, featuring capsule biographies of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
  • Several rare performances of the Rat Pack shown in archival clips. 
  • Interviews with Joey Bishop and Henry Silva.
  • Bonus footage includes trailers for three other Rat Pack films: Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sergeants 3, and 4 for Texas.
  • Also includes a 10-minute Rat Pack performance from Miami Florida.

REVIEW: Passport International video, which has produced numerous horrors capitalizing on Sinatra's name, made a mistake and actually produced this OK concise video, chronicling the making of the film Ocean's 11.  Although the packaging leads you to believe the main feature is 70 minutes long, in actuality the program runs a scant 40 minutes, with the bonus features taking up the remaining time.  The documentary is suprisingly cogent, taking in as it does, not only the film, but giving brief, but informative biographies of all the main Rat Packers, leading off with Joey Bishop (who is shown in several taped interview segments from the late 1980s), and continuing with bios of Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and of course Frank Sinatra.  The film does a good job of introducing the novice viewer to their seperate strengths and the paths that led them to the formation of a regular performing troupe.  Tied in with narration is a fairly lengthy examination of the building of the modern Las Vegas, the organized crime connections which make the town blossom, and their influence in bringing high-class talent to their hotels and casinos to draw the crowds.  There is even a gruesome shot of Bugsy Siegel, who built the fabulously expensive Flamingo resort and was subsequently shot to death by East Coast mafia as a result of his overspending.  Peppered throughout the narrative are shots of the Rat Pack performing on stage, and much of their patter is captured here in all its glory, with several instances of Frank's singing and Sammy's incredible impersonations captured live.  The narrator even goes out of his way to point out specific instances of Sammy's troubles with racism, from his being rejected by several casinos, to his romance and eventual marriage to Swedish actress May Britt.  The film also touches on Frank's association with the Kennedy's and the Rat Pack's eventual dissolution and deaths.  Amid all this, the film also ties in the concept and creation of the film Ocean's 11, but due to everything else that's discussed, not much depth is given.  The bonus clips are interesting, with extended previews of other Rat Pack films, and a 10-minute performance by Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford with frequent interruptions by the dry, deadpan Joey Bishop and Frank Sinatra.  Don't buy this looking for depth, but as an introduction to the Rat Pack, it's well done.



Sinatra: Singing At His Best
Passport Video, 55 min.
Released March 25, 2003

 

Songs Include:

  • I've Got The World On A String
  • Stardust
  • I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
  • Ol' Man River
  • Fly Me To The Moon
  • Last Night When We Were Young
  • I'll Never Smile Again
  • When You're Smiling
  • My Romance
  • Hello Young Lovers
  • Oh! Look At Me Now
  • That Old Black Magic
  • Talk To Me
  • It Had To Be You
  • Luck Be A Lady
  • High Hopes
  • Angel Eyes

REVIEW: One of the better videos which Passport has put together, this compilation gathers mostly full performances taken from TV appearances, with some true rarities making their debut.  The sound and picture are certainly not pristine quality, but that's to be expected from TV sources from this era (which spans from 1943 to 1959).  The video begins with "I've Got The World On A String" which is actually three different performances edited together into a rather confusing chop-job; it made me groan, thinking that perhaps the entire video would be like this, but no - the next song "Stardust" is an early "Lucky Strike" Hit Parade performance, with a very young Frank singing the entire song with orchestra and chorus.  Other clips of note include "Ol' Man River", taken from the film Till The Clouds Roll By which is in fluxuating color - it's interesting to see Frank's white suit change from pink to blue, but is an otherwise lush performance.  "It Had To Be You" again baffles in it's presentation: it begins as a television performance with Frank stepping onto the stage to screams from the audience, but then the video cuts away to several shots of Ava Gardner and clips from Frank's films while the music plays underneath - it's baffling.  Several tracks are taken from the mid-to-late 50's when it appears he's somewhat grizzled and unshaven; it gives the saloon songs like "Talk To Me" an added dimension of world-weariness that actually helps sell the song.  And on three of the numbers, all taken from the same show, Frank actually sports a pencil-thin mustache!  The dramatic back-lighting helps the mood of "That Old Black Magic", and Frank teams up with the Count Basie Orchstra for a rip-snorting cover of "Luck Be A Lady."  Frank also gets to sit down with an enthusiastic children's chorus for "High Hopes" (and seems to be enjoying himself tremendously) - while the final number, "Angel Eyes" captures Frank's magnificent performance of this show-stopper, when he steps out of the spotlight and sings "...excuse me while I disappear..."  Each song is prefaced by a short note about the composers of the songs, which helps the flow from track to track.  The video ends with the perennial Passport signature, "Frank's Song" over the closing credits (give it a rest guys!) but this video is interesting and with enough fine performances to merit a recommendation.



Frank Sinatra: They Were Very Good Years
Passport Video, 270 min.
Released July 22, 2003

 

Features:

  • Five part documentary "They Were Very Good Years"
  • Bonus video: "Frank Sinatra Memorial"

REVIEW: The exact same documentary as the Gold DVD set above, with the added inclusion of the Frank Sinatra Memorial program, filling out the final DVD in this three-disc set.  Passport Video has simply repackaged this incredibly inept and uneven documentary in a cardboard slipcase, but otherwise kept the same potpourri blend of spliced together footage, a narrator who isn't paid enough to correct his mistakes, and a chronological flow that is the equivalent of a rockslide, bouncing from here to there without rhyme or reason.  There are some nice moments and rare videos thrown into this mix, which might make it interesting to the hard-core collector, and the interviews with Juliet Prowse, Ann MIller, Joey bishop and Ernest Borgnine, among others are nice for viewing once, but since the bulk of material is re-used over and over again, that most viewers will be experiencing deja-vu by the time the final reel is shown.  This hack job is so amateurish and takes such a shotgun approach to presenting Frank's life that it's not recommended for casual viewers.



Frank Sinatra: Singing With Friends
Passport Video, 47 min.
Released September 7, 2004


 

Songs include:
1. Together (Bing Crosby/Dean Martin)
2. Can't We Be Friends? (Ella Fitzgerald)
3. Birth Of The Blues (Louis Armstrong)
4. Good Old Songs [Medley] (Bing Crosby/Dean Martin)
5. You're The Top (Ethel Merman)
6. Love Song Medley (Bing Crosby/Rosemary Cloony)
7. Harold Arlen Medley (Lena Horne)
8. Jimmy Durante Medley (Dean Martin/Bing Crosby/Mitzi Gaynor/Jimmy Durante)
9. Birth Of The Blues (Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr./Johnny Carson)

REVIEW: This cheap rip-off of the better Classic Duets DVD takes eight film clips from Frank's 1950s television show, duplicating five tracks from that release, while adding three extended medleys from same, as well as the final number, which has been cribbed from the St. Louis show featured in its completeness on the Live and Swingin' CD.  It's hard to count the ways in which this DVD misleads the consumer: the cover, which shows several scenes from Frank's early film roles (none of which are featured in this program); the fact that the back cover claims that the clips are in black and white AND color (all the clips are in black and white); the running time - which is thirteen minutes shorter than the sixty minutes listed; the final track, which shows as "Frank's Tune" with Steve Blackwood, which is nothing more than a Sinatra wannabe singing over the closing credits!  Of course, you know you have to beware when the front cover so prominently dispays the disclaimer: "This DVD is neither endorsed nor authorized by the estate of Frank Sinatra" - it's practically a clarion call that this is a cheap rip off.  But there you are.  For collectors, the three medleys on here may be enough to purchase this item, although to see Frank, Dean, and Bing clown their way through a medley of 'old songs' (including "Old Man River" "Old Devil Moon" and "My Old Kentucky Home") isn't exactly revelatory - but the trio of Bing, Frank and Rosemary is a knockout - with the two men sparring musically over the coy Clooney, and singing bits and pieces of two dozen songs, while throwing good natured jabs at each other - it's a real treat, especially Clooney who's a real pro, even picking up when Frank flubs a song entrance.  The final medley, which is a tribute to Jimmy Durante, is more slap dash, with lots of Schnozz imitations being thrown around, Mitzi Gaynor joining in at the end, and Mr. Durante stealing the spotlight at the end with a surprise appearance.  The sound and video quality are about what you'd expect for these archaic pieces - the sound buzzes on the high end, and the picture quality is just OK, with the Merman sequence fairing the worst, with poor source quality.



In Concert Series: Frank Sinatra
Passport Video [DVD]; 62 min.,
Released July 25, 2006


Song List:

1. I've Got The World On A String (Arlen / Koehler)
2. Stardust (Carmichael)
3. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Berlin)
4. Ol' Man River (Kern / Hammerstein)
5. Fly Me To The Moon (Howard)
6. I'll Never Smile Again (Lowe)
7. Hello Young Lovers (Rodgers / Hammerstein)
8. That Old Black Magic (Arlen /Mercer)
9. Luck Be A Lady (Loesser)
10. Angel Eyes (Dennis /Brent)

REVIEW: I suppose it would be too much to ask these fly-by-night video production companies to stop slinging out the same product over and over again in different packaging, huh?  Or to use deceptive marketing in the titles of their product?  Poor suckers who see this DVD in their local dollar bins might think that this is a live concert by Frank, when it's actually a series of clips cut and pasted (sometimes with baffling results) from various television and film appearances which have fallen into the public domain.  Passport Video, who has an extremely spotty record of this sort of thing, once again recycles the same low-quality footage which they put out before (in the more complete Singing At His Best package, reviewed above), but instead of the generous seventeen cuts on the previous DVD, here, it's pared down to ten, and saddled with the 30-minute long "Hollywood Biography" which has shown up before on the Hollywood Hall of Fame DVD (also reviewed above).  Both segments are OK, but there's simply no reason to spend your hard-earned cash on something this slipshod and cynical until new and/or better quality footage is obtained, but since this is just the same ol', same ol' - there's not much here to get excited about.


Frank Sinatra: The Magic Of The Music [The Music Masters] (DVD+CD)
WHE International Ltd. WHEUS 3057 [DVD]; 55 min (DVD); 42 min (CD), 
Released May 15, 2007


magic of the music DVD Program:
1. Stardust
2. When We Were Young
3. That Old Black Magic
4. Ol' Man River
5. Gone With The Wind
6. Witchcraft/Love Me Tender
7. Too Marvelous For Words
8. When You're Smiling
9. Love Makes Me Feel So Young
10. I See Your Face Before Me
11. For Somebody Else
12. Angel Eyes

CD Program:
1. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
2. I Get A Kick Out Of You
3. Luck Be A Lady
4. Night And Day
5. Come Fly With Me
6. It Was A Very Good Year
7. Ol' Man River
8. On The Sunny Side of the Street
9. As Time Goes By
10. I'll Never Smile Again
11. It Had To Be You
12. My Kind of Town
13. I'm In The Mood For Love
14. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry

REVIEW:  
Despite being another quasi-legitimate release, this DVD/CD combo distributed by Braun Media is one of the better values out there, with some rare (and not so rare) video clips from various television appearances, tied together by some thankfully adept narration which manages to stick to the facts and not wander around like a lost orphan.  Yes, we get the usual expected clips from public-domain releases like the Elvis/Sinatra team-up and "Ol' Man River" from the film musical Till The Clouds Roll By, but the narration does a fine job of tying it all together with lucid, if dry prose.  Probably most annoying is the inclusion of text captions which run under the video clip being played, and the clips themselves don't often match the historical time-period being discussed.  Still, it's nice to see a Columbia-era Sinatra singing an early cover of "Witchcraft" rather than the more familiar later versions.  Another fun clip is a short, improptu duet with Bing Crosby of "People Will Say We're In Love" with Bing taking the high harmony part at the end (and joking friends shouting "Air raid!" and plugging their ears).  Also featured are clips from "The House I Live In" and a fuzzy clip of Frank performing "Gone With The Wind" and a duet with daughter Nancy on "Love Makes Me Feel So Young" (a re-written version of "You Make Me Feel So Young"); and Frank and Dean Martin's appearance on Judy Garland's own show.  The quality of the clips vary, but are all watchable, and it's all in all an OK package for those looking for a nice introductory film about Frank.  The accompanying CD the same random sampling of clips from various sources and stages of Frank's career, with no notation of their origin.  This package isn't widely available, but can be found at various on-line stores.

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