Fox Reissues Five Star Classic
Fox has reissued some of its classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals
in "anniversary" collections, and they're fine DVD's well
worth your time if you're a fan of this genre.
Each of the three titles we got (The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!
and State Fair) are two disc sets with supposedly digitally remastered
material as well as plenty of extras.
The one we were the most pleased to see
was Oklahoma! This had been available before, but not in true anamorphic
widescreen, so owners of 16x9 TV's had to zoom the letterboxed picture
out to fill the screen, with a resultant loss of resolution that
was a damn shame.
All is better now, though we'd like to see an even better restoration
before a new reissue. But this version not only comes in true anamorphic,
you get two separate versions: the original Todd AO presentation
(aspect ratio of 2.20:1) and the Cinemascope on (2.35:1).
They're different, and not only in screen size. The travelling
Todd AO road show version has different opening titles, a full overture,
and more. Alas, while we hoped to prefer the "original"
version (both were shot separately, apparently, but at the same
time - according to a featurette on the disc) we thought the picture
quality was superior on the Cinemascope disc.
Now, neither version is unwatchable and in fact they're both big
improvements over the non-anamorphic one Fox released earlier.
Plus you get all kinds of extras, from the aforementioned Todd
AO retrospective to audio commentaries, singalong karaoke subtitles
and a buch of other stuff.
We love Oklahoma! and are pleased as punch to see it given a better
treatment on DVD than it had received originally.
The Sound of Music is a wonderful
movie as well, a five Oscar-winner (including "Best Picture") that
has also been given a new, Todd AO aspect ratio release on DVD.
Also available as part of 20th Century Fox's "Five Star Classic"
series, this new 40th anniversary edition is a two disc extravaganza
that not only includes a good anamorphic widescreen version of the
film, but enough extras to keep "Music" lovers happy.
The film itself is well known. Directed by Robert Wise and starring
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, it tells the song-filled
tale of would-be nun Maria (Andrews) who's sent to be governess
for Captain von Trapp's (Plummer) seven children.
Like Mary Poppins, Maria's just the latest in a long line of governesses
for the kids, but (like Mary Poppins) it turns out she's just what
the doctor ordered. Her sunny disposition, love of music, and strength
of character quickly breaks down the barriers between herself and
the kids - and the barriers between the unhappy Captain von Trapp
and life in general.
The Captain falls in love with Maria and they marry, only to have
their new family life threatened by the rise of Nazi Germany and
its takeover of von Trapp's beloved Austria.
Speaking of "beloved Austria," this movie was filmed on location,
and that was a wonderful decision by the producers. Austria is gorgeous
and the locations enhance the beauty of the overall film, as well
as lending a feeling of authenticity.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is a masterpiece, with wonderful
songs performed wonderfully. Andrews' singing is effortless and
she plays the part of Maria with guts, vulnerability, and bravado
(perhaps a strange combination, but she pulls it off). Plummer is
also good as the crusty Captain, a shattered man who, thanks to
Maria, finds reason to sing and to love again.
The widescreen picture is very good, as is the Dolby Digital 5.0
audio - with one exception. We'd have liked to seen some of the
dialogue remixed to the center front channel, because sometimes some
onscreen characters' voices were coming from the left or right speaker,
which made it sound like their voices were disembodied. But on the
whole that's a pretty minor criticism for a marvelous video adaptation
that undoubtedly chose to remain true to the original audio soundtrack.
Disc one also includes a full length running commentary from director
Robert Wise as well as a second one with the wonderful Julie Andrews
and Christopher Plummer.
Disc two features a series of documentaries, including a 1965 look
at the film and at Salzburg and some all new presentations including
"My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers." We have
a lot of time for Julie Andrews, and recommend pretty well anything
she's in. Well, Star isn't a great film, but even there, she far
outshines the material.
It's a complete package that for the first time does "video justice"
to this timeless classic.
State Fair is the weakest
of the three musicals, but even it has received a special treatment
here. This 60th Anniversary edition features not one, but two versions
of the musical: the 1945 Walter Lang production starring Jeanne
Crain and Dana Andrews and the 1962 Jose Ferrer-helmed one starring
Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and Ann-Margret.
Disc one is the "oldie," released in its original 1.33:1
full frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital stereo audio. It also
features an audio commentary by film historian Richard Barrios and
author Tom Briggs. There's also a featurette "From Page to
Screen to Stage", a singalong Karaoke feature, the trailer
and a series of stills.
Disc two is the "modern" version, presented in anamorphic
widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) with Dolby Digital 4.0 surround.
It's accompanied by a commentary courtesy of much-maligned star
Pat Boone, a vintage stage excerpt from a 1954 TV tribute, a rare
"State Fair" TV pilot, and the trailer.
Rodgers and Hammerstein changed the musical and though State Fair
isn't up to the quality of Oklahoma! and the Sound of Music, these
titles are all well worth seeing.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think