Dean Martin

That's Amoré [Capitol DVD/Video]

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"Dean Martin: That's Amoré! is a performance-driven special, not a documentary or a straight-ahead biography," reads a sleeve note for this video, and it's a useful distinction. The writer/producer/directors, David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, having access to the archives of The Dean Martin Show and some black-and-white kinescopes from the days of Martin & Lewis' television appearances, as well as an interview with Greg Garrison, the writer/producer of The Dean Martin Show, have packed 25 songs into this video (which, from the segment editing, appears to have been designed as a TV show itself, ready for commercial or pledge-break interruptions). Running one performance from Martin's TV program after another emphasizes the sameness of the show from week to week. Over and over, Martin sashays down a staircase from nowhere into a set made to look like someone's suburban den. Wearing a tuxedo, he sings his song, cigarette in hand, mugging to the camera in a single shot. When the song reaches its middle-eight, he plops himself on a chair and turns to a second camera in close-up to finish off the song, then applauds himself as if in the audience, remarking comically on his own performance. Or, he is reclining on a sofa in a single shot as the camera slowly moves in to his face during a ballad. On a couple of occasions, he is discovered leaning over a piano and slowly walks out of the set. Given the repetitiveness of the visual images, the inclusion of duets with Petula Clark and Peggy Lee, as well as the six black-and-white '50s clips (three of them new to the DVD edition), are a welcome relief. Garrison's remarks also break up the monotony, and they are illuminating, if slavishly devoted to the star. Martin is a masterful pop singer, as he demonstrates here, even as he throws the lyrics away and preens for the camera. This is a video for his devoted fans, who will be delighted to have these excerpts from his long-running TV series.