Release Date(s)2014 (December 18, 2018)
Studio(s)A2B Media/Odeon Entertainment (Filmrise)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B
Not well known today, Mantovani was a recording sensation in the 1950s and well into the 1960s and early 1970s. The documentary Mantovani: The King of Strings pays homage to the man, his career, and his distinctive style. As several former associates, musicians, and record producers attest, Mantovani “knew every side of the music business.”
Born Annunzio Paolo Mantovani in 1905 in Venice, Italy, he was brought to England at the age of four. After graduating from Trinity College, he formed his own orchestra, which played in and around Birmingham. Orchestras were rarely permanent back then, so Mantovani found a degree of permanence by playing the great hotels of London. He later broadcast a lunchtime show over the BBC and went on to play cabarets and dance halls featuring tango dancers.
A conductor, arranger, and performer, he innovated the style of cascading strings that became his signature sound. He became the toast of London, signed with Decca Records, and racked up millions of dollars in record sales over his career. When Decca introduced Full Frequency sound for 78 rpm records, Mantovani’s instrumentals were perfect for showcasing the new, higher quality recording technique. His records were also in the forefront of stereophonic recording. His best-selling records included Charmaine, Greensleeves, and The Song From Moulin Rouge.
Even when rock ’n’ roll began dominating the charts in the late 1950s and 1960s, Mantovani was still selling millions of records. He undertook 15 successive tours of the United States and also toured the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Germany, and South Africa, conquering the international market. A perfectionist, he was a tough taskmaster with his musicians and even insisted that bald members of his orchestra wear wigs to look “prim and proper.” Quite dashing himself, the conductor appeared in 39 black-and-white episodes of a 1959 British TV series that featured both British and American guest stars. Several excerpts from that series are included. Mantovani stopped touring in 1969 and passed away in 1980.
This documentary presents an interesting overview of Mantovani’s professional career, but is not terribly revealing about his non-professional life. There are a few color home movies and references to him as a family man, but other than that, little is included to shed light on the private man.
The visual quality of the 1080p resolution Blu-ray release varies, since it contains archival footage and recently recorded interviews. The TV excerpts look very good, with no scratches, skips, or jumps. Modern color footage is sharper and more detailed. Aspect ratio is 1.78:1 for most of the documentary, 1.37:1 for the TV segments.
Sound is 2.0 monaural Dolby Digital, which is disappointing since so much of the documentary hinges on Mantovani’s innovative arrangements. A stereo soundtrack would have brought the music to greater life and allowed the audience to experience the artist’s music to optimum effect.
Bonus extras include 10 performances from Mantovani’s 1959 TV series: The Melba Waltz, Charmaine, Cara Mia, As Time Goes By – Petula Clark, Tonight (Perfidia) – Edmund Hockridge, Ol’ Rockin’ Chair – The Hi-Lo’s, How Deep is the Ocean – Vic Damone, My Foolish Heart – Carol Carr, The Blue Danube, and The Agnes Waltz.
– Dennis Seuling