Mario Lanza: Video Reviews

Warner Home Video has released a pair of Mario Lanza films (his final two) on DVD for the first time. The first is the 1957 United Artist musical Seven Hills of Rome (aka Arrivederci Roma), Mario Lanza’s penultimate film. The soundtrack features several original songs, including the minor pop hit “Arrivederci Roma.” For the record, the creative team includes Art Cohn and Giorgio Prosperi (screenplay), Roy Rowland (direction), Tonino Delli Colli (cinematography), Gene Ruggiero (editing), Piero Filippone (art direction), Luigi Gervasi (sets), Maria Braoni (costumes), and Renato Rascel (original songs). The cast includes Mario Lanza, Renato Rascel, and Marisa Allasio.

Derek McGovern (IMDB): It’s undoubtedly Mario Lanza’s weakest movie effort. … Still, there are a few compensations along the way. … Ironically, the biggest vocal highlight of this movie is Lanza’s imitations of … Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Dean Martin and – believe it or not – Louis Armstrong. … This movie will probably not win Lanza any new admirers, but diehard fans will enjoy it. Happily, Lanza’s next (and final) movie, For the First Time, was a considerable improvement, with enough opera and popular ballads to satisfy every type of music lover.

The second release is the 1959 MGM musical For the First Time, Mario Lanza’s final film. The soundtrack features a few Italian arias, including a handful from Verdi’s Otello, as well as original songs, including Lanza’s cover of “Come Prima.” For the record, the creative team includes Andrew Solt (screenplay), Rudolph Maté (direction), Aldo Tonti (cinematography), Gene Ruggiero (editing), Fritz Maurischat (production design, art direction), H.J. Kiebach and Heinrich Weidermann (production design), Alfred and Charlotte Bücken (costumes), and George Stoll (original songs). The cast includes Mario Lanza, Johanna von Koczlan, and Kurt Kasznar, with Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Mike Clark (Home Media): Lanza looks mighty puffy here. … On the other hand, he is in very good voice, which is why his fans rate this picture near the top of his admittedly small big-screen pool. … The film’s music selections embrace not just the operatic (Othello and Aida) but also a not-quite-rocker (but getting-there) confection called “Pineapple Picker.” … Had some restoration been done on this print, the Capri-and-more locales would have probably made this one of the best-looking MGM movies of its era available a home format because Time was shot in Technirama.

Mick LaSalle (S.F. Gate): This very good movie gets extra credit for being one of the best showcases for Mario Lanza, the best in terms of conveying his personal appeal, and for being his swan song. … Before this film, he lost a lot of weight, but still looks chubby. … What I like, even love, about this film is the way the real Lanza comes through: big-natured, impulsive, lovable, unreasonable, a glutton, an artist, just another guy from Philly, and the man who can sing “Come Prima” better than anyone who ever lived. What a talent, and what a loss.

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