Meet Me in St. Louis appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite a few small concerns, the movie mostly looked excellent and transcended it age-related origins.
Some of the minor problems connected to sharpness. While most of the film appeared nicely distinct and detailed, occasional issues popped up in that domain. Some shots came across as moderately ill defined and soft. The concerns weren’t enormous, though, and they were typical for Technicolor flicks of the period. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering showed up, and the movie also seemed to be free of edge enhancement. Source flaws were also a non-factor.
A Technicolor extravaganza, the film’s hues provided some of the transfer’s strongest elements. Skin tones looked a bit brownish at times, but these concerns were overshadowed by the image’s positives. The movie enjoyed a warm palette, and the colors came across as vibrant and dynamic at all times. Black levels were dense and deep, and low-light shots appeared appropriately concise and clear. Overall, I felt pretty impressed with the transfer of Meet.
I felt less pleased with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.0 soundtrack, though it was acceptable. The audio took the flick’s original monaural material and gave it a modest reorientation, but the soundfield remained fairly heavily anchored to the center channel. The side speakers added modest breadth to the imaging at times, mainly via the musical numbers heard throughout the film. Stereo separation didn’t seem especially strong, but the tunes and score spread adequately from the center.
Effects also showed moderate extension to the right and left. This mostly provided ambient audio, but some decent localization occurred at times, such as when a phone rang on the left side of the screen. Speech was usually focused in the center, though it occasionally leaned a bit together the right. Surround usage was light to non-existent; this was essentially glorified mono.
Audio quality seemed erratic but generally acceptable for a film of this era. Dialogue tended to be a bit thin and flat, but the lines were average for their age and always remained easily intelligible. Music seemed a little distant but also seemed acceptable, and effects fell into the same range; they didn’t impress but they never disappointed, either.
As a multichannel remix, this one was perfectly adequate, but I question its need to exist – at least without the addition of the original mono track as well. A chatty, song-heavy movie like Meet doesn’t appear to be a great candidate for an active soundscape; it could broaden music – which it does – but what’s the point when the songs and score can’t be given a true stereo presentation? I think the audio’s listenable but feel disappointed that WB didn’t include the original mono mix as well.
Adapted from an earlier DVD release, the Blu-ray comes packed with extras. An Introduction by Liza Minnelli goes for four minutes, 59 seconds. The daughter of both the movie’s director and its star, Minnelli gives us an appreciation for the flick and a few anecdotes. She offers a decent lead-in to the movie.
After this we find an audio commentary with biographer John Fricke, composer Hugh Martin, screenwriter Irving Brecher, producer’s daughter Barbara Freed-Saltzman and actors June Lockhart and Margaret O’Brien. Fricke introduces the piece and acts as a host; he provides a running, screen-specific discussion into which the others’ remarks have been edited. We learn about the project's origins and development, story/character topics and deleted scenes, production design and sets, cast and crew notes, music and choreography, and the film’s reception and legacy.
Although I referred to Fricke as the track’s “host”, he’s really the star attraction. For all intents and purposes, this is Fricke’s commentary; we get occasional remarks from the other participants but I’d estimate that a good 90 percent of the material comes straight from Fricke.
And that’s fine, for he offers a strong overview of the project. Granted, he peters out a bit as the commentary progresses – and we hit one long dead spot along the way – but Fricke usually digs into the film well. He combines with the archival statements to make this a solid examination of the flick.
Narrated by Roddy McDowall, The Making of An American Classic goes for 30 minutes, 47 seconds and features O’Brien, Freed-Saltzman, Minnelli, Martin, director Vincente Minnelli, and actors Lucille Bremer and Dorothy Raye. The show discusses the project’s origins and development, cast, characters and performances, story and script, music and choreography, sets, costumes and production design, and the flick’s release.
“Classic” repeats some information from the commentary, but it usually stays with exclusive material, and it gives us some different perspectives. Though it never becomes the most in-depth piece, it has some good moments, especially when we hear two sides to a story about how O’Brien cried on screen. We get a breezy and enjoyable show here.
Another documentary arrives via the 50-minute, 31-second Hollywood: The Dream Factory”. Created in 1972, narrator Dick Cavett provides all the information as we trace the history of Hollywood during the “Golden Era”, with an emphasis on MGM. We hear a little about the films and participants as we watch a lot of movie clips.
And I do mean a lot, as those snippets comprise the vast majority of the show’s running time. That’s not a bad thing objectively, but unfortunately, we don’t usually get much context for these clips, so they’re left to stand alone. “Dream” has some good moments but acts too much like a compendium of vaguely-connected film snippets and too little like a real examination of the period.
Becoming Attractions: Judy Garland lasts 46 minutes, 10 seconds and provides narration from Robert Osborne. He leads us into a collection of Garland trailers: we find ads for 1938’s Everybody Sing and Love Finds Andy Hardy, 1939’s Babes in Arms and The Wizard of Oz, 1942’s For Me and My Gal, 1943’s Presenting Lily Mars, 1944’s Meet Me in St. Louis, 1945’s The Clock, 1948’s The Pirate and Easter Parade, 1950’s Summer Stock, 1954’s A Star Is Born, and 1963’s I Could Go On Singing. It’s fun to check out all these promos, and Osborne adds good perspective to them.
For something unusual, we get a 1966 TV Pilot. It goes for 26 minutes, 35 seconds and features Shelley Fabares as Esther and Celeste Holm as the mother. It’s not a musical; instead, it treats the tale mostly as a sitcom. This doesn’t mean it bothers with a plot - like the movie, it focuses on the love life of the lead actress – but at least it’s over more quickly. It ain’t good, but it ain’t a disaster – at least Fabares was a babe!
Two relevant short subjects follow. Bubbles (7:54) appears because the 1930 reel shows an eight-year-old Garland with her sisters, while 1941’s Skip to My Lou (3:11) lets us hear Meet songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane sing “Skip to My Lou” with a group called the Martins. Neither is what you’d call “entertaining”, but they’re both interesting for historical reasons – and in a redeeming factor ala the TV pilot, the two female “Martins” are pretty hot.
An Outtake goes for three minutes, 37 seconds. It shows “Boys and Girls Like You and Me”, a deleted song. We see photos to accompany the vocal performance from Garland. It’s too bad the film footage no longer exists, but this offers a good compromise to give fans a sense of the number.
An archival piece appears with a 12/2/1946 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast. It runs 57 minutes, 12 seconds and brings back Judy Garland, Tom Drake and Margaret O’Brien to reprise their movie roles. Given the film’s lack of plot, it doesn’t have to drop much from the flick’s narrative, though it does eliminate the Agnes character and alters some events; for instance, the radio show’s Mr. Braukoff is nicer and less threatening than the film’s. Nothing here delivers much entertainment, but it’s still a fun addition.
By the way, the listed air date perplexes me. We hear that Meet is currently in movie theaters, but December 1946 came more than two years after its premiere. Was it still on the screens so long after its debut? I know films ran theatrically longer back in those pre-TV/video days, but this still seems like an awfully long exhibition. I’m not sure if the radio broadcast occurred earlier than 12/2/1946 or if the flick just played forever.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the Blu-ray presents a Music-Only Track. As expected, this multichannel presentation lets you hear the movie’s score and songs without other elements. It’s a nice bonus.
Two non-disc-based components appear. We find a CD sampler with four tunes: “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”, “The Boy Next Door”, “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.
We also find a Hardcover Book. This comes as part of the package; open up the disc’s casing and the book appears on the left half. It features a mix of components. It presents notes/trivia about the film, a few biographies, some song lyrics, and photos. It’s a nice way to wrap up the package.
After nearly 60 years, Meet Me in St. Louis continues to earn consideration as a classic movie musical, but I must admit it does little for me. While it displays enough charm to keep it from flopping, it’s too slow and meandering to be enjoyable. The Blu-ray displays very good picture and supplements as well as decent audio. Although I don’t care for Meet, the film’s fans will embrace this fine presentation.