Movie Review – “Brigadoon”

Continuing with the post-Halloween lighter material,
here’s a review of a musical fantasy from 1954.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Gene Kelly as Tommy Albright

Van Johnson as Jeff Douglas

Cyd Charisse as Fiona Campbell

Written by Alan Jay Lerner

Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Complete information is available from the

Buy from:
Note that that particular DVD release has a transfer
that seems
unrestored, with non-anamorphic widescreen, and a
lousy bit rate. It
does have English, French, and Spanish subtitles,
though, and it’s the
only DVD release of this movie I can find.

Past movie reviews can be found here.


Two weary hunters lose their way in the Scottish
highlands, and
stumble upon a village that seems untouched by modern

High Point

Mr. Lundie: They were indeed horrible destructive
women. I dinna
suppose you have such women in your country?

Tommy Albright: Witches?

Jeff Douglas: Oh we have ’em. We pronounce it

It’s funny with the delivery, and it’s surprising to
hear this dialogue
in a happy, family musical made in 1954. The Jeff
Douglas character
was actually pretty

Low Point

The love dances. There are two of them (“Heather on
the Hills” and
another near the end of the film) and both feature
exaggerated acting and choreography. It’s far too

Close runners up were the time required to fall in
love (which is
needed for the story, so it’s not quite as bad as the
above), the
unnatural restriction on the people which seems to be
there solely to
justify a sense of urgency near the end, and the use
of dates that
would make Fiona a teenager (from her perspective),
played by an
actress who was 33 years old at the time.

The Scores

It’s a formulaic romantic comedy adapted from a play.
The most
original thing about it was using a fantasy
setting as a
backdrop. You still have the lead character engaged
to someone he/she
doesn’t really love, who meets his/her true love,
falls in love in
minutes, and leaves his/her fiance/e to stay with
his/her true love
instead. How cheating on someone became a stock part
of a “great love
story” is something I don’t understand, but it
happens so often that
it seems to have become accepted by the romantic
comedy audience. The
filmmakers usually make the original significant
other unlikable in
some way to try to justify the relationship, but I
don’t think that’s
enough. I give the originality 4 out of 6
for the fantasy
backdrop with a genre that generally tries to avoid
fantasy elements
of any kind.

The effects were done with a fog machine and
switch a matte
painting. The absence of makeup effects near the end
is a problem,
though, although the MPAA probably would have given a
harsher rating
than the studio would accept at the time if the
effects were
realistic. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is very light, and all the
interesting bits are
related to the sidekick (Jeff) instead of the lead
(Tommy.) In fact,
the most interesting set-up in the movie is for what
Jeff will do
after the movie ends, but that’s not a story that
gets told. The main
plot is a very forced romance, and the main side plot
is a transparent
mystery, leaving the best story as the third
priority. I give it 3
out of 6.

The acting from Van Johnson is pretty good.
His drunken
state is a little too sober, but that’s probably to
maintain audience
sympathy. Gene Kelly could dance, sure, but he
wasn’t much of an
actor. Cyd Charisse wasn’t much better. Too bad
Gene and Cyd were
the leads. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response ranges from amusement
and interest in
the C plotline to boredom with the A and B plotlines.
Jeff can be
funny a lot of the time, and “Come Ye To The Square”
is an enjoyable
sequence, but the rest of the choreography is far too
exaggerated and
extended to really entertain. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production is pretty shaky. We’ve got
old anamorphic
lenses with serious spherical abberation at the
sides, which wouldn’t
be as bad if we didn’t have to focus on characters at
the sides of the
screen at times. We’ve got clothing that seems far
too bright and
elaborate for a town this size to create (although my
understanding of the history of fashion may be wrong
on that count).
We’ve got characters being directed to follow a road
that nobody
follows because it’s painted on a backdrop. Almost
everything about this
screams that they’re filming a play. By 1954,
filmmakers should have
broken that habit. The only saving grace in that
respect was the
active camera, but I found that does little more than
draw attention
to the spherical abberation I mentioned. I give it 2
out of 6.

Overall, it’s recommended to musical fans
who want to see all
of the work by Kelly and/or Charisse. If you’re
looking for Gene
Kelly, check out Singing in the Rain or
An American In
instead. I don’t know enough about
Charisse’s career to
recommend alternatives for her fans. I know she’s in
Seven Brides
for Seven Brothers
, which has a good reputation
but I’ve never
been able to sit through, and that she’s in the funky
nightclub dream
sequence in Singing in the Rain that doesn’t
seem to serve a
purpose other than giving Charisse screen time. As
Brigadoon, I just can’t strongly recommend
it to anyone but
the die hard fans, and if you’re that big a fan, I
can’t imagine you’d
be satisfied by this particularl DVD release. I give
it 2 out of 6.

In total, Brigadoon receives 21 out of 42.
Fiziko receives
confusion, as he remembers preferring this to
Singing in the
and The Music Man when he was
young, and can’t seem
to remember why. Maybe I was just latching on to the
fantasy element
that I’ve learned to love that was missing from most
of the other
movies my Mother raised me on.

2 replies on “Movie Review – “Brigadoon””

  1. I like it
    Just mentioning this movie get the song “Bonnie Jeanne” going in my head. For all the comments on how boring the dance sequences were, they seem about par for musicals of the time. I though the acting was sufficient but it’s not outstanding to be sure and I agree, Singing in the Rain is a better movie.

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