Review: Evening Primrose DVD

Evening Primrose DVD boxSTUDIO: Entertainment One | DIRECTOR: Paul Bogart | CAST: Anthony Perkins, Dorothy Stickney, Larry Gates, Charmian Carr
RELEASE DATE: 10/26/10 | PRICE: DVD $29.98
BONUSES: video and audio interviews, color test footage, booklet
SPECS: NR | 52 min. | Musical | 1.33:1 fullscreen | mono | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

This DVD release of television musical Evening Primrose is the first time the movie has been released on any home entertainment format. In fact, Evening Primrose has not been seen since it originally aired in 1966 as part of the ABC-TV Stage 1967 series of specials.

The production was shot in color but is transferred for the DVD from the best surviving source, a good quality black-and-white 16mm print provided by the Archive of American Television, a division of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.

The teleplay by James Goldman (The Lion in Winter) is part Giraudoux-esque whimsy, part Rod Serling. It revolves around the eccentric denizens of a New York City department store who have been secretly living there for years but who only come out at night. Late one evening, a young poet, Charles (Anthony Perkins of Psycho), ventures into their domain, with consequences romantic and sinister.

Evening Primrose has achieved cult status among theater buffs largely because of the music of Stephen Sondheim, who by this point had already written lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, as well as music and lyrics for Anyone Can Whistle and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He was on the verge of redefining the American musical with Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, et al.

Pre-echoes of Company are in Charles’ opening number (a paean to the end of the work day), with the song’s repeated exclamations of “I am here!” foreshadowing Carlotta’s anthem of survival in Follies. Two of Sondheim’s other Primrose songs — “I Remember” and “Take Me to the World” — have become cabaret staples.

The cast includes Dorothy Stickney (of the 1934 pre-Code cult classic Murder at the Vanities). Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in The Sound of Music on Broadway, is lovely in this musical as Ella, complete with 1960s ingénue long, straight hair. And then there’s Perkins, reminding us what a fine actor he was before film buffs embalmed him as Norman Bates. He is sensitive, sexually aware, lithe, athletic and possessed of a pleasant singing voice.

Evening Primrose is a fascinating memento that holds up as an entertaining 52 minutes. Yes, there were only eight minutes of commercials in the 1966 broadcast. Now that’s nostalgia.

The fine special features package includes a newly recorded video interview with director Paul Bogart, a new audio interview with Carr, color test footage with Perkins and a booklet featuring written contributions by Sondheim and Jane Klain of the Paley Center.


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.