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The Stingiest Man in Town [Import]

DVD

Price: CDN$ 33.40 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Product Details

  • Format: Black & White, NTSC, Import, Mono
  • Language: English
  • Region: All RegionsAll Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Video Artists International
  • Release Date: Nov. 29 2011
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • ASIN: B005XT2V1Y

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Holy Grail of Lost CAROLS is found!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nov. 17 2011
By my brain span - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
If you are even remotely interested in Charles Dickens's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and the almost countless number of adaptations that it has inspired, then Christmas 2011 is going to be pretty spectacular indeed. Why? Because the absolute Holy Grail of lost CAROL adaptations has been found and is finally (!) making its long-awaited home video debut. It is, of course, THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN starring the great Basil Rathbone.

Keeping in mind that the source is a black-and-white 16mm kinescope, the quality of this new DVD release is excellent -- as is Basil Rathbone and the rest of the cast.

The news of STINGIEST MAN'S rediscovery and release broke on my blog on October 13. Please check it out at charlesdickensonscreen.com

You will also find information on STINGIEST MAN in my book; see link below. My commentary was based on viewing an incomplete copy years ago at the Library of Congress. Now that I've finally seen the whole thing I feel like I've died and gone to Dickensian heaven!

Merry Christmas -- and what a way to kick off 2012 and the Dickens bicentenary!

-- Fred Guida
A Christmas Carol And Its Adaptations: A Critical Examination of Dickens's Story And Its Productions on Screen And Television
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Musical Nov. 27 2011
By Michael B. Druxman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
As the author of BASIL RATHBONE: HIS LIFE AND HIS FILMS, it amazes me that I had never seen THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN before. But, the truth is that, when I was writing my book over thirty-five years ago, I had no idea where to find a viewing copy. Those were the days before home video.

Even if I had been able to see it, I probably would not have given the production much more of a mention than I did. My book, after all, dealt with the "Films" of Basil Rathbone, not his television appearances.

However, thanks to Video Artists International, a DVD of this 1956 musical version of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL is now available. It is a kinescope of a live black-and-white broadcast, so one should not expect the pristine quality found it most home video releases.

Certainly the strongest aspect of this Daniel Petrie- directed production is its score that features music by Fred Spielman and lyrics by Janice Torre. There are several memorable tunes in the show, such as "An Old-Fashioned Christmas," "Golden Dreams," "It Might Have Been" and the title song.

The problems with the production are more apparent today than, I think, they would have been back in 1956. Standards, after all, have changed.

Cast members like Vic Damone, Johnny Desmond and Patrice Munsel may have been marvelous singers and had major fan followings, but the play might have been better served had their roles been cast with actors who could sing, rather than simply fine singers.

Also, the cast, including Rathbone as Scrooge, seems to be giving stage performances, playing to the "upper balcony" rather than to the television camera.

Nevertheless, THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN is a very entertaining way to spend 81 minutes of the Christmas season, and we are grateful to Video Artists International for preserving this classic program for future generations.

© Michael B. Druxman
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! One of the Best (Musical) Versions of Dickens' Christmas Carol Nov. 27 2011
By Alan W. Petrucelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
`Tis the season to be jolly, and a really jolly way to enjoy this season is with Video Artist's International release of The Stingiest Man in Town. VAI is famous for bringing us TV treats from the `50s, and this musical bon-bon will keep you smiling.
Broadcast on December 23, 1956, it's based on the Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol that would have been fit for Broadway. The music and lyrics are by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre, who've given us not only "Paper Roses", but also tunes sung by Melchior, Presley and Garland. The production values are superb; the video is a tad grainy or jumpy here and there, but for a TV show more than 50 years old, it's in remarkable condition.
What's most remarkable is the cast. Basil Rathbone sheds his pipe, violin and Dr. Watson persona to play the infamous Scrooge, and he is absolutely outstanding. Singing, dancing and snarling his way through this live broadcast, it's unfortunate his talent didn't grace more musicals. He's thoroughly credible, making the transition between the stingiest man in town to the most generous, happy and joyful with an ease and a style that's just wonderful to watch.
Rathbone is supported by some of the great talents of the period. Robert Weede, from Broadway's The Most Happy Fella and the Metropolitan Opera plays Marley's ghost (in a costume that frankly makes him look like a nun in chain bondage); from the Met we also have Patrice Munsel, who was in any number of musical television broadcasts. The Four Lads, the ultimate `50s pop group, narrate and play various chorus parts, and Johnny Desmond, fresh from replacing Sydney Chaplin in Funny Girl opposite Streisand, is nephew Fred. Only two peculiar notes are struck: Vic Damone, as the young Scrooge, gives the most wooden performance since he played the Caliph in the film Kismet, and Martyn Greene playing Crachit, yet singing only briefly in a duet with Rathbone. Why hire the premiere Gilbert and Sullivan singer of his day, and give him so little?
But why quibble? In a market fairly glutted with versions of this classic, one would have to be a real Scrooge not to check out the most recently released version. And, to paraphrase the words of that little fellow on his dad's should, "God bless us, everyone, especially VAI for releasing this great DVD!"
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great musical version of A Christmas Carol Nov. 11 2011
By John Malanga - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This wonderful musical version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was originally broadcast on television in 1956. The songs are really beautiful and the cast is stellar: Basil Rathbone (best known as Sherlock Holmes) appears as Scrooge and Johnny Desmond plays his nephew. Vic Damone appears as the young Scrooge who performs two beautiful duets with Patrice Munsel. Robert Weede
(The Most Happy Fella), The Four Lads and Betty Madigan round out the cast.

One word of warning, since this title has not been released, I have no way
of knowing the picture and sound quality of the DVD. I do, however, own the CD
and the sound quality is excellent, but that may not apply here.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I had more than five stars - I cannot believe one of the very FIRST original TV musicals EVER is actually here to enjoy! Dec 14 2011
By Greg Ehrbar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I have to admit to being more than a little misty-eyed after finally getting a chance to watch the original, live 1956 musical, The Stingiest Man in Town, now on DVD. I had first seen the Rankin/Bass animated remake in 1978, then found the 1956 Columbia cast album and listened to it for 30 years, never expecting to actually see the live show itself -- unless maybe I got to visit the Paley Center and they had it in their library.

To my delighted amazement, Video Artists International located an astonishingly nice-looking kinescope (a 16mm film made off a TV screen) with surprisingly excellent sound considering the limitations of kinescope -- and that musical ound is largely due to a certified Disney Legend: Tutti Camarata.

Tutti was the conductor of this special 90-minute live presentation on The Alcoa Hour. His ear for acoustics surely influenced how distinct the instrumentation come across, even in this vintage kinescope. In 1956, Disneyland Records had just begun, with Tutti as artists and repertoire director. You can hear his style in The Stingiest Man in Town, as well as what was likely some arrangements by frequent Rankin/Bass musical director Maury Laws, whom Tutti told me could have likely done some chart work for the special (the soaring violins in "An Old Fashioned Christmas" are just like the ones Laws created for such Rankin/Bass specials as "Rudolph" and "Frosty").

You have to get a feel for the temporal context to fully appreciate how ambitious this live show truly was for its period. This was the day of Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and other vaudeville-type live variety shows, as well as legendary live dramas on Playhouse 90 and Studio One. Walt Disney's filmed series was less then two years on the air, Mickey Mouse Club was in its second season and Howdy Doody was still an NBC staple.

Mary Martin's TV tradition of Peter Pan had begun a year earlier (as live shows until it was taped in 1960) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella would premiere a year later (live with Julie Andrews, then taped in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren). I can't confirm this for sure, but that makes The Stingiest Man in Town very likely the first -- or at least one of the first -- original musicals created especially for television.

Director Dan Petrie (A Raisin in the Sun, Sybil, Eleanor and Franklin) worked with in what appears to be a very limited space, with tight, elemental, movable sets. (Notice the clever transitions, such as Basil Rathbone sinking off camera in the graveyard while a "stand-in" hand grasps the tombstone, enabling Rathbone to race back to the bedroom set for his next scene.)

The cast, crew and orchestra clearly had a short rehearsal time to perform a show of this scope -- and that's what makes live TV so amazing. The cast, orchestra and chorus are right there, and if the singer misses a cue or changes tempo, the accompaniment has to keep up. Keeping all of this in mind, what unfolds is a remarkable achievement that was largely forgotten for decades, unless you happened to have the cast LP -- or the superb CD reissue also on amazon.

Young audiences may not sit still, at first, for the black-and-white, low-def, leisurely paced kinescope experience of the original Stingiest Man in Town -- more akin to a filmed stage show than a modern recorded and edited production. But if you can impress upon them the importance of these programs, how they paved the way for what we take for granted today (especially technical advances) and just enjoy the pure talent involved, they may find themselves beguiled.

These are some of the greatest Broadway and opera talents of their day, top popular singers and of course, the great Rathbone, with Fred Spielman and Janice Torre's truly memorable musical score, conducted by one of the most respected names in the music industry.

It might be fun if you watch this along with the Rankin/Bass animated remake (available in the 2008 "Classic Christmas Favorites" DVD box set on amazon) and listen to the cast album. In an ocean of Dickens Christmas Carol adaptations, this particular version is one of the all-time finest.

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