FrankSinatra5FilmcoverGrade: B
Entire family: Yes, but…
1945-1964, times vary (see below), Color
Approved (would be PG for some adult situations)
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: Varies (see below)
Featured audio: DTS-HD MA 1.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1 (Guys and Dolls)
Bonus features: C
Amazon link

For family movie night, the best bet in the Frank Sinatra 5-Film Collection is Robin and the 7 Hoods—a 1964 prohibition musical-comedy set in Chicago that offers an amusing gangster version of the Robin Hood legend. That film and others in this collection new to Blu-ray are available as single titles as well. Whether the five-film collection is worth buying will depend on how much your family likes old musicals (four out of five films are musicals) and how tolerant the kids are of older films. But at least all five are in color, and all are the equivalent of PG-rated films. The discs seem to be identical to the single releases, with the same bonus features, but with a handsome hardcover book of color and black-and-white photos from the five films and the discs on separate plastic pages in an oversized Blu-ray case, all tucked inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase. Picture quality is terrific for all five films, though the Mono DTS on four of them may not be what viewers are used to. But if your family loves musicals—old ones included—this is a great collection.

Robin7HoodsscreenRobin and the 7 Hoods (1964, 123 min., 2.40:1 widescreen, trailer)—This clever and funny riff on the Robin Hood legend stars Peter Falk (TV’s Columbo) in a hilarious role as Guy Gisbourne (in the movies, it was Sir Guy of Gisbourne), who bumps off Big Jim and takes control of the city racketeering, with the Sheriff offering protection for a fee. Naturally Robbo (Sinatra) objects, and their rival factions square off in a battle for speakeasy supremacy. Bing Crosby stars as the troubadour Allen A. Dale, with Dean Martin playing John Little (instead of Little John), and Sammy Davis Jr. as Will Scarlet. But the Robin Hood legend really kicks in when Big Jim’s daughter, Marian (Barbara Rush), thinks the Sheriff responsible for her father’s death and Robbo responsible for his disappearance. She gives Robbo a $50,000 payoff. “Get rid of it,” Robbo says, and his merry men donate the whole bunch to an orphanage. Other charities follow, and it’s fun to watch this legend play itself out on Chicago gangsterland turf. There’s bootlegging and flappers in skimpy costumes but no sex, no language to speak of, and no onscreen violence. Great songs, clever plot, and funny moments. My teenage son gave it an A, he liked it so much. I’d say it’s more of an A-.

GuysandDollsscreenGuys and Dolls (1955, 150 min., 2.55:1 widescreen, trailer)—The second best title in this collection is the film adaptation of the Broadway hit that itself was based on a Damon Runyon story about Broadway gamblers. Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) runs a floating crap game and has been dating dancer Adelaide (Vivian Blaine) for more than a decade. He’s fond of her but unable to commit to marriage because he’s just as fond of gambling and his gambling pals, which include his “second,” Nicely-Nicely Johnson (comic actor Stubby Kaye). There are plenty of Broadway denizens in need of saving, and Jean Simmons plays Sarah Brown, who is in charge of the local Salvation Army. The action is set in motion when Lt. Brannigan (Robert Keith) puts the heat on and the only place that will host Nathan’s illegal gambling operation for one night wants $1000. How to get it? With famous better Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) in town, Nathan tries to get him to bet on a sure thing for him. When Sky brags that he can convince any woman to go with him to Havana for the night Nathan looks out the window and points out Sarah Brown. “I choose her,” he says, and the bet is on. The song-and-dance numbers are old-school musical and the dialogue is Runyonesque, but after a while you get used to it. My son liked this one too, and we’d give it a B+.  

AnchorsAweighscreenAnchors Aweigh (1945, 143 min., 1.37:1 ratio, trailer)— Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly star as sailors on leave in Los Angeles in this old-time musical with a patriotic tone. Kelly is a womanizer with a girl in every port, while Sinatra plays a naive Brooklyn boy who just wants to find the right woman for him. Kelly is trying to hook up with old flame Lola, but a small boy running away at night to join the Navy derails him. Since the boy seems enthralled by the two sailors, a cop asks them to go with him to return the lad to his home. He’s an orphan whose father was killed in action and who lives with his Aunt Susie (Kathryn Grayson), an entertainer and aspiring actress. Sinatra is convinced that Aunt Susie is the woman for him, and the rest of the film follows Kelly’s attempts to coach him, while also clearly falling for Susie. Both get involved in a little white lie about arranging an audition for her with conductor José Iturbi, who plays himself. Pamela Britton stars as the Girl from Brooklyn in this musical, which seems long at times but is engaging because of the characters. It’s a solid B.

Oceans11screenOcean’s 11 (1960, 127 min., 2.40:1 widescreen, trailer)—Contemporary caper films have gotten so action-packed and crisply paced that this early heist movie will seem excruciatingly slow in the first act when we’re introduced to the 11 major characters in what seems like an overly long round-up of an old Army unit by former Sgt. Danny Ocean (Sinatra) and his lieutenant, Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford). But it takes a full hour for them to introduce the guys (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Conte, Joey Bishop, Henry Silva, Buddy Lester, Richard Benedict, Norman Fell, Clem Harvey) when the interest picks up and we actually hear their plan of knocking off five Las Vegas casinos simultaneously on New Year’s Eve. Complicating matters: one of them is deathly ill, Ocean’s ex-wife (Angie Dickinson) and ex-mistress (Patrice Wymore) cause problems, and another deals with the discomfort of his rich mother marrying a well-known racketeer. Sinatra doesn’t sing but Rat Pack pals Martin and Davis Jr. get to do a few numbers. Aside from a slow first hour, the film’s other shortcoming is a single attempt at a running joke that gets old after the first two times. But the caper itself is interesting enough to where what might have been a C movie ends up being a B-.

OntheTownscreenOn the Town (1949, 98 min., 1.37:1 ratio, trailer)—What was once one of the strongest films might be the weakest for families, because what little plot there is seems like nothing more than glue to hold together a random collection of song-and-dance numbers that will strike contemporary viewers as even more old-fashioned than the other forties’ entry in this collection. Once again Sinatra and Gene Kelly play sailors on leave, this time in New York City and this time with sailor pal Ozzie (Jules Munshin). They take a taxi, and a female cabbie (Betty Garrett) and her roommate (Alice Pearce) become a part of their shore leave as they tour (and wreck) a museum and see the other sights of New York City, while Kelly pursues a woman named Ivy (Vera-Ellen). Call it a condensed version of Anchors Aweigh without the added interest of the kid, without as much character development or romance, and with more songs. If your family watches classic TV, the most interest might come from seeing Pearce (nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched) and Garrett (Edna Babish on Laverne & Shirley) in different roles. Grade: C+/B-.

Language: N/A
Sex: N/A
Violence: One comic bar brawl in Guys and Dolls
Adult situations: Drinking and smoking and flappers in Robin and the 7 Hoods
Takeaways: Old-time musicals really looked like fun for the actors, and Sinatra held his own as both a song-and-dance man and a dramatic actor