Guys and Dolls: Deluxe Edition Joseph Mankiewicz

The sets are lavish, the costumes bright and beautiful, the voices sharp (with a couple of exceptions) and the cast is enthusiastic. So why does this adaptation of the Broadway smash seem less than perfect? Director Joseph Mankiewicz has re-imagined the light and airy stage original into something clumsy and dialogue-heavy. There’s no reason that the Damon Runyon-derived tale of two grifters — one (Frank Sinatra) desperate for a bankroll for his floating crap game, the other (Marlon Brando) betting him for it and his general sense of pride — should be anything other than a fleet-footed romp with love and laughter. And for long stretches Brando pursues stuffy missionary Jean Simmons while Sinatra waffles on his 14-year engagement to Vivian Blaine with the effect being real entertainment. But Mankiewicz distends the non-singing scenes to absurd proportions, succumbing to the thrill of All About Eve’s witty banter rather than providing a frame for Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics. As a result, the songs get crowded by the chatter, instead of the other way around. To be sure, they’re a big kick once they actually arrive, with Michael Kidd’s lively choreography making great use of a stylised Times Square set, but they’re few and far between when separated by all that (admittedly clever) talk. It’s not a bad movie, but it will create frustration in more discerning musical fans. Extras for the deluxe edition include a detailed "making of” that covers the production soup to nuts, an excellent second documentary that counterpoints the play and the film, extra footage not used in the first documentaries, a photo gallery, and a terrific 72-page booklet with an array of pictures and promotional materials. (Sony/MGM)