Warner Archive chooses wisely regarding re-releasing the classic 1980 Bette Midler concert film "Divine Madness: A National Treasure Chest" in widescreen format considering that Midler rivals Dolly Parton in milking (of course, pun intended) her large breasts for commercial purposes. One spoiler is that the recorded performance of the "Divine Madness" show occurs in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, rather than being a joint gig that Midler and Barry Manilow perform in New York City bathhouses early in their respective careers.
As another aside, "Madness" is part of a series of totally tubular '80s flicks that Archive has re-released in widescreen format. Unreal TV has already reviewed the Steve Martin comedy "The Man With Two Brains" and posted thoughts regarding the River Phoenix drama "Running on Empty."
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the highly entertaining theatrical trailer for "Madness" wonderfully demonstrate the broad range of both the material in the film and the broad (referred to by Joan Rivers as the pin cushion of the '70s) who puts out to deliver it.
As a great holiday gift to critics everywhere, the information that Archive shares on the back cover of the "Madness" release nicely conveys a great deal about the film.
This synopsis states "Midler gives 16 numbers everything she's got, from "Do You Want to Dance?" to "Leader of the Pack," [to] "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" to "I Shall Be Released." In between, howl at her (mermaid impersonating) tacky lounge singer Dolores DeLago, the Toast of Chicago. Blush at her renowned tribute to the very blue jokes of Sophie Tucker."
The limited available space precludes Archive from noting that "Bugle Boy" arguably is the best number in "Madness," and that Midler also sings the titular ballad from her then-recent smash film "The Rose." Unfortunately, either the toll of the frantic pace of the performance or the overall vibe of the terrifically hyped-up audience prevent Midler from fully putting her heart into that one.
The same flaw seems to relate to this speed-dating approach to the performance. Immediately transitioning from a ballad to a hard-rockin' tune is impressive but hinders setting the mood associated with those songs or the other material that Midler expertly performs.
Midler is an all-time great, and it simply seems that trying to give the audience everything that it requests from her makes what could be a great performance a merely good one. This relates to one of the best jokes in the film in which Midler remarks that the demands that audience makes for the price of their tickets makes Midler sympathize with prostitutes whom those fans hire.
Having said the above, the entertainment that Midler provides is both divine and madness. We simply know that she can do better.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Madness" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.