This is a fab set of old films starring one of Brazil's greatest samba singers, Carmen Miranda. True, these are not her "best" movies, but Hollywood ruined Carmen quickly and once she came to the US, all we ever really got to see were glimpses of her dazzling performing power. As it is, I would highly recommend this collection to anyone who is curious about the Carmen Miranda legend... The first film, "The Gang's All Here," is a frothy collaboration between Carmen and the great choreographer Busby Berkeley, who indulges himself in some wonderful visual gags and inventive tracking shots. The movie has a playful, giddy tone, and Miranda thrives in it from the first frame until the end. She has great costumes and strong musical numbers, with backing from her ace Brazilian band, Banda Da Lua. This film alone is worth the price of admission.
The other movies aren't on the same level, but they're still fun, particularly if you have a taste for World War Two-era B-movies. (In the burlesque-tinged "Something For The Boys," erstwhile female lead Vivian Blaine actually turns to the male lead and says, hey, the boys have lots of talent, and we've got this big old house -- "Let's put on a show!") The Fox studios surrounded Carmen with a cast of regulars that included Vivian Blaine (yawn), Don Ameche, Phil Silvers and Perry Como. In "Greenwich Village," an affable Ameche shines as an aspiring classical composer who gets caught up in the heady, bohemian art scene, while that lovable lug William Bendix hams it up as a gruff nightclub owner who nonetheless fixes things up so that Ameche can become a star...)
The real draw, of course, is Carmen Miranda, an artist who sizzled like a live wire when she came to the United States in 1939 (if you can, check out the samba records she made before she came here, and you'll hear where her famous charisma started...) and she continued to dazzle whenever given half a chance (check out the shockingly vaginal pink-and-black dress she wore in"Greenwich Village" - still scandalous after all these years!) Sadly, Miranda worked herself into an early death, but she also created and kept tight control of her own cannily-crafted public image as a kooky, warm-hearted Latin bombshell, and these movies, even if they have their shortcomings, are still vital parts of her legacy.
Not only are these top-quality prints of vintage movies that have mostly never been on DVD before, the folks at Fox also wisely decided to augment them with archival features such as old TV appearances and movie shorts (including a follow-the-bouncing-ball singalong trailer that was shown in theatres in the 1940s) and, even more wonderful, there is a feature-length documentary tacked onto "Something For The Boys" that profiles Carmen Miranda's career, from her early years in Brazil to the meteoric rise and slow fizzle of her Hollywood career. The doc includes thoughtful, insightful commentary by numerous Brazilian and American film scholars, journalists and Carmen Miranda mavens -- and LOTS of cool archival footage from throughout Miranda's career. Definitely worth checking out. (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue Brazilian Music Guide)