In 1972, Melvin Van Peebles adapted his hit Broadway musical Don't Play Us Cheap
for the screen, but beyond a handful of showings the movie never received a theatrical release, and it remained all but unseen until the film was released on home video by Xenon Pictures in the mid-'90s. Now Xenon has released Don't Play Us Cheap
on DVD, and while the new edition isn't a dramatic step up over the previous VHS release, the project certainly merits the upgrade to the digital medium. Don't Play Us Cheap
has been transferred to disc in the full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The film appears to have been shot in 16 mm using the stage sets from the original Broadway production; as a result, the visuals often betray the movie's low budget, but the colors for this disc are bright and strong and the shadows of the lighting don't look quite as severe on DVD. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo from the film's original monophonic sound mix, and while the occasional flaws of the source track remain, the sound is richer and cleaner than on VHS. The dialogue is in English, with no subtitles or multiple language options. Two bonus featurettes have been included for this release: an onscreen introduction from Melvin Van Peebles, who discusses the genesis of the original show, and a short documentary featuring the director talking about his early days in filmmaking called "The Real Deal (What It
...Is!)" Trailers for three Van Peebles films (including Don't Play Us Cheap
) round out this package, which is well worth a look for anyone interested in Melvin Van Peebles' body of work or African-American theater in the 1970s.