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By Phil Hall | May 15, 2007

Don’t be fooled by the packaging of the DVD release of “La Revue des Revues,” which bears the promise “featuring Josephine Baker” while displaying a portrait of the barely-clad entertainer vamping merrily. Baker turns up in only two very brief scenes, properly dressed on both occasions, so assuming she is the star of this long-lost production would be a mistake.

What is also a mistake is sitting through this painfully awful production, which combines the worst back stage cliches with a seemingly endless skein of clumsy performances. The meager plot involves the adventures of Gaby (a jowly Helene Hallier), a chorine who is whisked to unlikely cabaret stardom as part of a publicity stunt.

This story, however, is often junked in favor of clumsy dance numbers – there was no sound for this 1927 movie, thus making it something of a silent movie musical. Each number is worst than the next: marzipan showgirls wearing goth-worthy make-up high-kicking their way through zany numbers (“One Night in Mexico,” “The Orgies,” an inane “Egyptian temple” setting); Taranta-Babu’s modern jazz soundtrack, created for this release, bears little rhythmic relation to the on-screen action.

And Josephine Baker? Well, she shimmies through a “plantation” number and then turns up doing the Charleston in a jazz club setting, but she’s barely on screen and her brief flares of energy and sensuality seem out of place among “talent” that is so deficient that you half-expect to find Jaye P. Morgan sitting in front of a giant gong at the side of the stage.

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