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Blu-Ray : Recommended
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Release Date: June 27th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1953

Dangerous When Wet - Warner Archive Collection

Overview -

Warner Archive continues saluting swimming star Esther Williams with this breezy mix of romantic comedy, tense drama, spritely songs, and acquatic feats. Dangerous When Wet chronicles a farm girl's aim to swim the English Channel, but it's Williams' water ballet with animated friends Tom and Jerry that's the highlight of this pleasant trifle. A beautiful 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor camera negative, solid audio, and all the extras from the 2007 DVD make this Blu-ray release a treat for Williams fans. Recommended.

Esther Williams and Fernando Lamas star in this musical, romantic aquacade -- Williams as a girl from Arkansas who has vowed to swim the English Channel to raise the money to save her family farm; and Lamas as the rich man who wins her heart and almost blocks her from reaching her goal . . . but who comes to realize that the woman of his dreams is Dangerous When Wet. Featuring a delightful original music score written by Johnny Mercer and Arthur Schwartz, the film is best remembered for Esther's famous swim with M-G-M's beloved animated characters Tom & Jerry.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM THE ORIGINAL TECHNICOLOR NEGATIVES (2023)
  • Audio-only interview with Esther Williams and Dick Simmons
  • "C'est La Guerre "- Unused musical outtake with Darcel and Lamas
  • Audio-only demo recordings by Lyricist Johnny Mercer
  • Classic Tom & Jerry cartoon "THE CAT AND THE MERMOUSE" (HD)
  • Classic Pete Smith Specialty short "THIS IS A LIVING?"
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM THE ORIGINAL TECHNICOLOR NEGATIVES (2023)
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Length:
96
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.37:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Theatrical Trailer
Release Date:
June 27th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

MGM found many creative ways to get Esther Williams into the water and designed many outlandish spectacles around her once she took the plunge. Though Dangerous When Wet certainly sounds like just another splashy - pardon the pun - Williams vehicle, it actually provides the aquatic star with one of the her most plausible scenarios. As a farm girl who's tapped to swim the English Channel as a publicity stunt by a traveling salesman who hawks an energy elixir, Williams foregoes water ballets and death-defying stunts for meat-and-potatoes swimming that shows off her athleticism. Okay, okay, she does frolic underwater with MGM's animated icons Tom and Jerry during a captivating dream sequence. After all, it is an Esther Williams movies and old habits die hard.

Taking the water analogy one step further, Dangerous When Wet is kind of a kitchen sink movie, mixing light comedy, romance, a bit of suspense, and several catchy tunes by Arthur Schwartz and Johnny Mercer into its patchwork fabric. Despite some quirks, somehow it all works, thanks to a breezy script by Dorothy Kingsley and a talented cast that includes Fernando Lamas, Jack Carson, William Demarest, and Charlotte Greenwood. Just check your brain at the door and don't expect much depth... aside from the fathoms of the English Channel.

The tight-knit Higgins family enjoys a healthy lifestyle filled with physical activity, so when slick salesman Windy Weebe (Carson) comes to town peddling a Vitameatavegamin-like supplement called Liquapep, he sees an opportunity to promote his product, make some cash, and flirt with the disinterested Katie (Williams), the oldest, most athletic, and most eligible Higgins daughter. Windy convinces the family of five to enter a competition to swim the English Channel, but once they arrive on British soil and realize just how arduous an undertaking the race would be, they put the burden solely on Katie’s shoulders.

During the training process, Katie gets plucked out of the sea by André Lanet (Lamas), a rich French playboy who just happens to be sailing around in a white tuxedo, and a rocky romance develops. That takes the wind out of Windy’s sails, but it allows the plucky French swimmer Gigi Mignon (Denise Darcel) a chance to swoop in and claim the windbag for herself.

The thin plot often threatens to sink Dangerous When Wet, but the eye-filling Technicolor, spritely songs, and winning personalities of the lively cast keep it afloat. One of the film’s high points is the charming dream sequence that allows Williams to swim with not only Tom and Jerry, but also a host of animated sea creatures. Though it can’t top Gene Kelly’s groundbreaking dance with Jerry in Anchors Aweigh eight years earlier, it’s nevertheless a brilliantly conceived, lyrical, and whimsical interlude. The live action merges seamlessly with the animation and some clever special effects add to the fun.

Williams and Lamas create some sparks and make an attractive pair. (Sixteen years later, the two would tie the knot and remain married until Lamas’ death in 1982.) Lamas matches Williams stroke for stroke in the water and believably plays a Frenchman, despite his Latin roots. Carson perks up the proceedings with his usual blustery portrayal, and as the Higgins family mom and pop, Demarest and Greenwood supply some comic relief. The 63-year-old Greenwood also shows off her impressive flexibility during a solo dance number that’s a hoot.

Dangerous When Wet delivers solid escapist entertainment for fans of classic era musicals. It may not stand as one of Williams' best known features, but it shows off the swimming star to terrific advantage and reminds us why she ruled the pool in the 1940s and '50s.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Dangerous When Wet arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu without music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review

Ranking:

A brand new 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor camera negative yields a glorious 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Though not quite as dazzling as some of Warner Archive's other Technicolor transfers, this one nevertheless dazzles the senses with beautifully saturated primaries and delicate pastels. Shimmering blue water, lush green landscapes, bold reds, and sunny yellows all combine to produce a vibrant image that's also distinguished by excellent clarity and contrast, rich blacks, well-defined whites, and natural flesh tones. (The animated sequence with Tom and Jerry and a host of sea creatures looks especially good.)

Evident but not overwhelming grain preserves the feel of celluloid and no nicks, marks, or scratches dot the pristine source material. I don't own the 2007 DVD, but it's tough to imagine Dangerous When Wet looking more inviting than it does here. Esther Williams fans will surely want to upgrade.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track supplies clear, well-balanced sound. The musical numbers feature a bit of a volume boost that enhances their fidelity, while a wide dynamic scale handles all of their highs and lows without any distortion. I found some of the dialogue a little muffled, but most is easy to comprehend. All the splashes are crisp and no age-related hiss, pops, or crackle mar the purity of the mix.

Special Features

Ranking:

All the extras from the 2007 DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray release.

  • Musical Outtake: C'est La Guerre (SD, 3 minutes) - This charming number, performed by Denise Darcel and Fernando Lamas, makes clever use of a number of common French phrases. It's too bad it was cut.
  • Vintage Cartoon: The Cat and the Mermouse (HD, 8 minutes) - This Tom & Jerry cartoon finds the duo battling each other at the beach and underwater.
  • Vintage Short: This Is a Living? (SD, 9 minutes) - This one-reeler, part of the popular Pete Smith Specialty series, examines some off-beat, death-defying professions involving horseshoes, acrobatics, and diving.
  • Demo Recordings by Lyricist Johnny Mercer (11 minutes) - The legendary lyricist performs three songs he and Arthur Schwartz composed for the film, one of which didn't make the final musical lineup.
  • Vintage Radio Interview (5 minutes) - Esther Williams sits down for an interview with Dick Simmons. The scripted chat covers some rules swimmers should follow and how she trained for swimming in the ocean in Dangerous When Wet.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3 minutes) - The film's original preview promises "an ocean full of surprises."

Final Thoughts

Though more low-key than most Williams musicals, Dangerous When Wet focuses more on the star's swimming and athleticism than many of her "splashier" spectaculars. The mix of comedy, music, romance, and drama isn't always smooth, but the buoyant tunes, attractive personalities, and slick direction keep the film afloat. A lovely 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor camera negative, robust audio, and all the supplements from the 2007 DVD make this latest Warner Archive release of a Williams movie well worth an upgrade. Recommended.