Click above to purchase "Divine Madness" at amazon.com
review by Tony Medina
Running Time: 86 minutes
Starring Bette Midler
Written by Jerry Blatt, Bette Midler and Bruce
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Retail Price: $14.98
Specs: 2.35:1 Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 2.0
"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
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
NOT an average)