There is at least a feeble attempt to construct a premise for this hotch-potch: from his suite in Heaven, Ziegfeld (William Powell -- who played the character in The Great Ziegfeld but here appears to be a weird cross between a peeping Tom and Captain Kangaroo) maps out one final, ultimate Follies to be remembered by. His reminiscences of days gone by are acted out by a troupe of truly creepy-looking puppets. This is a fitting beginning to what is perhaps the "fakiest" movie I've ever seen. Literally everything in the movie is completely unreal and stylized -- which, I suppose, was the point. This is supposed to be pure escapist entertainment. As you might expect, things are hit-or-miss. Fred Astaire (the closest thing to a headliner; he is featured in four major pieces and three dance routines) exudes class whenever he's on stage, even when he plays a suave jewel thief in "This Heart of Mine." His memorable "Babbitt and the Bromide" duet with Gene Kelly is unquestionably the film's highlight and really should have been the final number. Instead, we get a rather leaden delivery of a ballad called "Beauty" by Kathryn Grayson, in a production number that notoriously turned into a near-disaster thanks to a hyperactive bubble machine. Think Lawrence Welk on steroids. I suppose that this number, with its bevy of beauties, was meant to be a bookend for the opening "Pink" number starring Lucille Ball and a cast of babes, but, given that part of that earlier bit involved pink-clad Lucy cracking a whip at women in cat costumes, it couldn't help but come up a bit short. The recently deceased Lena Horne's sassy delivery of "Love" should also be mentioned, though setting the performance in what contemporaries might have termed a "low Negro den" tended to undercut the very idea of featuring a woman of color at all.
The "old-time" comedy routines hold more historic interest than actual entertainment value. It is instructive to see such old Ziegfeld troupers as Victor Moore and Fanny Brice plying their trade, and watching a frustrated Keenan Wynn eat a telephone (!) is certainly memorable, but the most famous business shown here is Red Skelton's "Guzzler's Gin" routine, and, quite frankly, I wasn't impressed. This is strange, as I've always liked the equally broad humor of The Honeymooners. Actually, the best comedy bit of all herein is the strangely rap-anticipatory "The Great Lady Gives an Interview" starring Judy Garland, who plays a "Grande Dame" actress famous for her biographical roles. (This was apparently meant to be a poke of some sort at Greer Garson, who was originally slated for this role.) Pressed by the press to "give with the scoop" about her newest bio-pic, Judy basically starts to rap about the story of the female inventor of... the safety pin! It's very funny and well-choreographed, and Judy is, as always, excellent.
Oh... and Esther Williams swims around for a while, too. I guess that the phrase "you had to be there" applies equally well underwater.
Overall: a pleasant viewing experience, but certainly not a "new era in entertainment," much as MGM might have wished it were so.
The extras include a brief documentary on Ziegfeld Follies' production history and the trailers for the three MGM Ziegfeld movies. Now, for the other subjects:
(1) A black-and-white Crime Does Not Pay short, The Luckiest Guy in the World (1947), starring Barry Nelson (the first actor ever to play James Bond, let's not forget). This series was not based on the famous comic-book series of the same name; the first CDNP film actually predated the comic books by some seven years. The Luckiest Guy is the classic tale of a guy who thinks he's gotten away with murder, BUT... This was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject.
(2) Tex Avery's The Hick Chick (1946) and Hanna and Barbera's Tom and Jerry joint, Solid Serenade (1946) (aka "The One Where Tom Sings and Talks More Than He Ever Did Before or Would Ever Do Again, At Least at MGM"). Both good, both completely representative of the vastly different styles of their creative "driving forces." Never having been much of an Avery fan, I prefer the classic H-B mayhem. The female cat (she actually has an official name: Toodles Galore [why not Pussy? Never mind...]) is a treat for the eyes, especially those that enjoy looking at Miss Ma'amselle Hepzibah.
If you ever run across this DVD, you could do much worse than renting it for an enjoyable night's entertainment in the grand MGM tradition. Buying it, now... that's probably another story, depending upon how much of an obsessive-compulsive MGM completist you are.