14 June 2008 | simonton-4
Brilliant and highly entertaining musical biography.
Every scene propels the film through the collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan, hitting most of the high points and portraying the lows with the sympathy and understanding that creative geniuses deserve. I was predisposed to liking it, because I was a fanatical G&S enthusiast first, but it was a relief to discover that this film was a worthy tribute to their legacy. Providence deserves the credit for forcing friends to acquaint me with the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, when I was dead set against them (for no apparent reason). Later, Providence rewarded my open mind by delivering into my hands (from out of the blue) a 35mm Technicolor print of the film. My reason for mentioning it is that the print had an intermission at about the one hour point. It seemed silly at first, but I later discovered that the print had been shown "double system," with separate hour-long reels of 35mm magnetic sound tracks. This was confirmed by an article in the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, which stated that The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan had been one of the earliest films presented with magnetic stereo sound (before the composite magnetic prints of Cinemascope). I never found the magnetic stereo tracks, but the print also had the usual monaural optical track, of very good quality. My print eventually decomposed from vinegar syndrome, but I was able to buy a VHS tape from a G&S society in England, which apparently owns the rights. I wonder whether they own the stereo tracks, or will ever release a DVD. Are there not enough G&S fans in the world to make it hugely profitable?