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Click above to purchase "Divine Madness" at amazon.com

Divine Madness

review by Tony Medina

Rated R

Studio: Warner

Running Time: 86 minutes

Starring Bette Midler

Written by Jerry Blatt, Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch

Directed by Michael Ritchie

Retail Price: $14.98

Features: None

Specs: 2.35:1 Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Chapter Search

"I know just how far I can go with the American Public Kids" says Bette Midler before a packed house at Pasadena's Civic Auditorium and with Michael Ritchie's Assistance, this is just what she does. In this filmed version of Bette's 1979/1980 Tour, she shows us why she is called the Divine Miss M.

Belting through ballads, rocking through rockers and adding a touch of theatricality, Bette commands the stage and takes us on a tour of tasteful bawdiness, thought provoking humor and musical madness.

Shortly after Bette's touching portrayal of the Rose in Fox's 1979 film "The Rose", Bette Midler Fans were treated to a concert film in where the world could see the many facets of the Divine Miss M.

As the film opens, we see and hear the ushers having a pep talk prior to the opening of the auditorium. During the title sequence at which this discussion takes place, we can tell that we are not being prepared to see any regular show. We know that we are in for a surprise. As the ushers prepare to let the audience in, the scene changes to the Harlettes (Bette's Background singers) already on stage and preparing us for the evening's hostess who is carried onto the stage on a platter... (talk about making a splash of an entrance.) As the crowd is on their feet cheering and applauding, Bette breaks into "Big Noise From Winnetka" which was from her then current album "Thighs and Whispers."

Throughout the performance, we hear about her "trip around the world" and we also get to hear her famous "Sophie Tucker Stories." One of the two highlights of the film is when Bette plays the Magic Lady and pantomimes a scene on a bench where the stage is covered with fog. When she theatrically performs this character, she then breaks into a rendition of "Do You Want To Dance." We also get to see Dolores Delago (the Toast of Chicago) who is a wheelchair bound mermaid who musically tells us that "She did it her way..." Throughout this journey we are treated to fifteen musical numbers ranging from "The Rose" to "Stay With Me" to "E -Street Shuffle" to "Paradise" to "I Shall Be Released."

The Home Video Version omits two beautiful musical numbers that were in the theatrical version which were "Shiver Me Timbers" and "Rainbow Sleeve."

All in all, this filmed record of her concert tour is a must for any Bette Midler Fan or anyone who is in the mood for some humor, theatrics, music and bawdiness. The film was beautifully directed by Michael Ritchie who makes us feel as though we are in the front row watching the show. On one note, Bette was seriously suffering from pneumonia and had a high fever when these shows were filmed but, filming continued because it would have been costly had it been cancelled. As a result, some of the music and vocals were rerecorded but, this is still a gem.

The DVD is presented in a Non Anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio preserving the widescreen presentation seen in theatres. As sharp as the disc is, you can still see some blurriness in the colors along with soft focusing but the colors are rich and when viewing make you feel like you are viewing the concert in person. Overall, the disc is adequate in quality but the transfer could have been sharper.

The audio on this DVD is Dolby Digital 2.0 and utilizes good use of the surround when the audience applauds and the music is also utilized well in this surround mode. The sound mix is not the clearest I have heard as there is limited clarity in portions but for the most part, it sounds decent. A re-mastered Dolby 5.1 soundtrack may have increased the frequency and bass response.

As far as features are concerned, there are none. This Edition merely features a widescreen version of the film and no theatrical trailers or extras.

Being a Bette Midler Fan, I religiously added this title to my collection but, more respect should have been offered in remastering the audio and video for this film. Considering the fact that two musical numbers were deleted from the theatrical release, it would have been nice had some bloopers or additional concert footage been used to make up for what was excised. The original concert from which this was filmed was two hours plus and this film deserved more effort than what was actually put into the release of the DVD. All in all, this is a fun film to watch and I would say that it shows Bette at her best.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

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(3/5, NOT an average)

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