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The Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Fox
May 11 2014 12:48 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Fox
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC, 1080I/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, 2.20:1, 2.55:1
- Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
- Subtitles: English SDH, Other
- Rating: Not Rated, G
- Run Time: 14 Hr. 1 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type: keep case with leaves in a slipcase
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 05/06/2014
- MSRP: $199.99
The Production Rating: 4.5/5State Fair – 4/5
It’s time for the Iowa State Fair, and the Frake family is ready for anything. Father Abel (Charles Winninger) has his prize boar Blue Boy vying for top honors while mother Melissa (Fay Bainter) is entering once again her pickles and mincemeat in hopes of finally gaining a blue ribbon. Son Wayne (Dick Haymes) and daughter Margy (Jeanne Crain, vocals by Louanne Hogan) are leaving behind unsatisfying sweethearts hoping to find the excitement of new romances at the fair, and they find them in band singer Emily Edwards (Vivian Blaine) and news reporter Pat Gilbert (Dana Andrews, vocal by Ben Gage) respectively. So, while the fair brings some thrills both domestic and romantic to all the members of the family, there are some disappointments along the way as well which allow the youngsters to grow up just a bit.
After the phenomenon of their Oklahoma! on stage, Rodgers and Hammerstein were asked by Darryl Zanuck to bring some of their Americana enthusiasm to an old property of Fox's which had been filmed in 1933, State Fair. The result was a tuneful and lovely musical version of this sturdy story featuring six delightful new songs performed by a most engaging cast. Though Rodgers and Hammerstein had produced a truly integrated musical with Oklahoma! with songs and dances developing out of dramatic moments, much of the score for State Fair at first appears to be stage performance numbers. Only later does one realize that Hammerstein (who wrote the script for the film) has craftily manipulated on-stage numbers like “It’s a Grand Night for Singing,” “That’s for Me,” “Isn’t It Kinda Fun,” and “All I Owe Ioway” to serve as both performance pieces and character-based numbers, taking Fox’s usual musical motif of stage production and turning it on its ear. The score’s most famous song, “It Might as Well Be Spring” (which won the 1945 Oscar for Best Song), is clearly a book song springing from Margy’s restlessness about her domestic situation and longing for something more, but the entire score is a winner. Even with a (really expertly) dubbed voice, Jeanne Crain is really appealing as the wide-eyed waif, and this is probably Dick Haymes best film performance much less wooden and inexpressive than was his norm.
Oklahoma! – 4.5/5
Farm girl Laurey (Shirley Jones) and cowboy Curly (Gordon MacRae) harbor very tender feelings for one another, but their pride prevents them from truly expressing how each feels for the other. Things come to the breaking point when Laurey accepts the invitation of her hired hand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger) to accompany her to a box social but makes it clear that her heart really is only for Curly which drives the jealous, infatuated, and somewhat unbalanced Jud to seek revenge on Curly. There’s another off-kilter love triangle in the territory: cowboy Will Parker (Gene Nelson) has his heart set on marrying Ado Annie Carnes (Gloria Grahame), but the lascivious Persian traveling salesman Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert) has sweet talked her into mistakenly expecting a marriage proposal from him.
The team’s groundbreaking 1943 musical took its time coming to the screen (and wisely since the master duo was busy with other stage shows and the show sent out numerous national touring companies for over a decade), but when it arrived, it was clearly worth the wait. With experienced director (but a novice at musicals) Fred Zinnemann at the helm and Rodgers and Hammerstein producing it themselves thus assuring the stage version wouldn’t be adversely Hollywoodized, the screen version is a canny blend of the most positive aspects of both the stage incarnation and the wider expanse that films could offer. Agnes De Mille’s trademark ballets are intact, and the outdoor panoramas offered up in either Todd-AO or Cinemascope could take one’s breath away. And Rodgers and Hammerstein chose the perfect movie cast including two magnificent singing actors for their leads. Shirley Jones made an astonishingly confident screen debut as Laurey and Gordon MacRae embodied Curly down to his toenails. And with all of the principals doing their own singing, this is one of the more unique movie musicals in that respect as well. Zinnemann’s inexperience with musicals does cause some of the fancy tapping in “Kansas City” to get cut off at the knees at one point and the pace to lag a bit in the second half, and the loss of the haunting ballad for Jud, “Lonely Room,” is keenly felt for those familiar with the stage version. Still, this is among the most faithful of all Broadway-to-Hollywood movie adaptations and still a movie that offers the viewer the feeling that he hasn’t missed anything not seeing it on stage.
Carousel – 4/5
Fifteen years after dying in a foiled robbery attempt, carnival barker Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) from his perch polishing stars in heaven recounts his meeting and subsequent unhappy marriage to Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones). Allowed by the Starkeeper (Gene Lockhart) to return to Earth for one day to help his troubled daughter (Susan Luckey) adjust to the taunts and gossip of an unkind waterfront community, Billy finds himself puzzled by how to get through to her when he never could seem to communicate his feelings to Julie when he was alive.
The greatest of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations (and said to be Rodgers’ personal favorite of all his shows), Carousel comes to the screen slightly altered from the stage version (the first half of the film is basically a flashback, a motif not used in the theater) but with most of its musical magnificence intact. That includes almost all of the major songs and the two most famous production numbers “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” and Louise’s dream ballet, both featuring exceptional Rod Alexander choreography modeled in part on Agnes De Mille’s stage originals. Henry King’s direction drags a bit in spots, but the film’s major lapse is purely a technical one: the failure in matching the real and impressive New England location photography with obvious studio work for Louise’s ballet and the famous bench/”If I Loved You” sequence. But in the glorious singing and acting performances of Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones as Billy and Julie and abetted by outstanding supporting work by Barbara Ruick as Julie’s friend Carrie, Robert Rounseville as Carrie’s fiancé Mr. Snow, Claramae Turner as Julie’s Cousin Nettie, and Cameron Mitchell as Billy’s con-man friend Jigger (all of whom do their own singing), the cast simply could not be better, and the musical performances offered here stand among the best in any musical ever made.
The King and I – 5/5
English widow Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr, vocals by Marni Nixon) comes to Siam in 1862 to teach the royal children of the King (Yul Brynner). She’s a strong-willed, high principled woman who frequently clashes with the King who is slowly trying to accustom himself with changing mores and attitudes, but she loves her job and the king’s children taking a special interest in Prince Chulalongkorn (Patrick Adiarte) who will one day succeed his father on the throne. But there are political storms brewing when word comes to the King that Queen Victoria has been told the king is a barbarian who needs to be supervised by outside powers. Anna yields to the pleas of the King’s “head wife” Lady Thiang (Terry Saunders) to assist the monarch in combating the vicious rumors and show visiting English dignitaries that Siam is among the more enlightened of the countries in southeast Asia.
This is the first adaptation of a Broadway musical scripted by the brilliant Ernest Lehman (who would go on to improve considerably the stage books for such film musicals as West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and Hello, Dolly!), and through some simple additions and deletions, he’s created a streamlined version of the musical which plays easily without an intermission and yet doesn’t feel overlong or draggy. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to lose one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most gorgeous and haunting love ballads (“I Have Dreamed”), but all of the stage version’s high spots are firmly and memorably in place: Mrs. Anna’s “Getting to Know You” to the children in her classroom, the toe-tapping and surprisingly subtle eroticism of “Shall We Dance," and the innovative “Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Though three of the principals don’t do their own singing (Marni Nixon’s dubbing for Deborah Kerr is uncannily well matched to Kerr’s speaking voice), the music doesn’t suffer because of it, and the sumptuous production (Oscar wins for production design, costumes, sound, and score adaptation), the incredibly engaging performances (Kerr was Oscar-nominated, Brynner claimed the Best Actor award), and Walter Lang’s stylish but unobtrusive direction (where he makes marvelous use of the widescreen spreading out all those children or other collections of characters across its wide expanse) come together to produce an unforgettable musical entertainment offering tears and smiles in equal measure.
South Pacific – 4.5/5
Serving in the Pacific arena during World War II, WAVE nurse Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor) and Lt. Joseph Cable (John Kerr, vocals by Bill Lee) fall in love with individuals who would not win approval back home in Little Rock and Philadelphia respectively. Nellie’s problem is that her love, French expatriate Emile De Becque (Rosanno Brazzi, vocals by Giorgio Tozzi), has two mixed race children from an earlier marriage to a Tokinese woman while Cable falls for the beautiful young daughter (France Nuyen) of Tokinese goods trader Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall, vocals by Muriel Smith). In both cases their own prejudices along with their fears over reactions from their bigoted relatives color decisions they make in their personal lives. But with the war with the Japanese going on, there are missions that need to be accomplished, and Cable must try to persuade De Becque to assist him since the Frenchman knows the islands in the area so well that their mission together would have a greater chance of success than if he tries it unaided.
While even more spectacularly staged and shot on location than even Oklahoma! or Carousel, the film of one of the team’s most popular shows has a couple of needling problems. Paul Osborn’s script has juxtaposed some scenes in the early going from the stage original that don’t make any real dramatic sense. And director Josh Logan, who also helmed the stage version of the show, opted to use color filters frequently during musical numbers (and even occasionally in dramatic ones) to heighten emotional peaks. For some, these intrusions of saturated color strangely drain emotion rather than magnify it, but their use certainly gives South Pacific a one-of-a-kind sensation as a film, and when seen on the big screen or in high definition as on this Blu-ray disc, the colors which have been chosen achieve a kind of mystical, hypnotic effect while folks are singing and dancing that grips an audience and pulls them in (little wonder this was the most financially successful of all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein movies until the advent of The Sound of Music). While most of the main cast is dubbed, the voices match their actors well enough and perform the team’s most hit-filled score rather grandly. Mitzi Gaynor has that all-American fresh-scrubbed innocence that works well and she does her own singing, another great plus. That she might not plumb the very depths of the dramatic moments is only a very slight problem because she is mostly quite fine, and top-billed Rossano Brazzi makes a wonderful romantic partner for her.
The Sound of Music – 5/5
Because of her independent spirit and her inability to maintain the strict discipline needed to succeed at life in a nunnery, novice Maria (Julie Andrews) is sent to act as a governess for a widowed sea captain (Christopher Plumme, vocals by Bill Lee) with seven children who, resentful of their father’s indifference to them, have wrought havoc with all of their previous governesses. The children take to Maria’s larkish good humor and sense of fun while their father is away wooing Baroness Schraeder (Eleanor Parker), and she teaches them to sing beautifully together, something that peaks the interest of entrepreneur Max Detweiler (Richard Haydn) who wants to feature them at the Salzburg Folk Festival. When the Captain returns home, he’s amazed that Maria has brought music and joy back into the cold, rigid household and begins to fall in love with her, something that displeases the Baroness not a little.
Having already done masterful jobs bringing The King & I and West Side Story to the screen, screenwriter Ernest Lehman’s script demonstrates a superb job of cutting what needed to be cut (the two songs shared by Max and the Baroness which were fun on stage but utterly unnecessary for the film), juxtaposing songs which worked better in other places in the movie (“My Favorite Things” as a song to calm the children’s nerves during a thunderstorm, “The Lonely Goatherd” as a puppet show for the children to entertain their father), adding new song spots where needed (Maria’s tour de force “I Have Confidence” to display her uncertainty but steely resolve and the romantically sensual “Something Good” which replaced the dullest song Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote, “An Ordinary Couple”) and generally keeping a tight reign on anything overly sappy or sentimental (really only two traces remain, both in musical numbers: when the children provide an extemporaneous choir-like harmony when their father begins singing “The Sound of Music” and when the party guests sing “goodbye” to the children at the end of their “So Long, Farewell” number). Robert Wise’s direction is a marvel of brisk pacing and fluidity. Among the highlights are the show’s unforgettable showstopper “Do-Re-Mi” staged in the film as a travelogue all around Salzburg that makes a terrific song into a memorable musical number never equaled. It’s a picture-perfect example of opening up a show: how a treasured moment on stage can be reconceived and presented on film to even more glorious effect. Enough cannot be said for Julie Andrews’ performance as Maria. She’s been around for so many years and enhanced so many films both musical and nonmusical that it’s easy to take that remarkable voice for granted, but clearly there has never been another artist in musical cinema who has been able to show such a range and power in her singing in both her chest and head voices without the least difference in quality, with a purity of tone and clarity in diction that separate her from all others. Added to that are undeniable acting gifts that give her Maria a depth of characterization that few heroines in musicals ever get to play. The other actors abet her beautifully with their own solid and memorable characterizations.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
State Fair – 4/5
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent throughout, but the problematic Eastmancolor elements Fox has been left to work with have rendered a very inconsistent picture in terms of color depth and realistic skin tones. At its best, the color can be bright and appealing and surprisingly rich, but in darker lit scenes especially, blacks tend to obscure details, and flesh tones take on a thick, pasty quality that’s very unappealing. But the image is pristine from an artifact point of view. The movie has been divided into 28 chapters.
Oklahoma! (Todd-AO) – 5/5
Oklahoma! (Cinemascope) – 3.5/5
The Todd-AO 2.20:1 restoration (1080i using the AVC codec) is a remarkable achievement especially when one recalls the dismal mess that was last released on DVD for this version. Sharpness is crystal clear and color is remarkably rich and clean with appealing skin tones and no varying of hues from shot to shot. Black levels are rich, and contrast is consistently maintained. This is the best video transfer in the set. The film has been divided into 44 chapters.
The Cinemascope 2.55:1 version (1080p using the AVC codec) does not look nearly as fresh as its Todd-AO counterpart. Contrast is very inconsistent throughout, and there are dust specks that pop up occasionally during the running time. At its best, the image can be sharp and appealing, but there are soft shots and sometimes color gets a bit mottled. Black levels can’t compare with the rich blacks in the Todd-AO version.
Carousel – 4.5/5
The Cinemascope 55 theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 in a 1080p resolution transfer using the AVC codec offers a beautiful, sharp, and engaging picture. There may be occasional problems in darker scenes with getting all of the details out of the shadows, but color is strong throughout, and flesh tones don’t often veer into the blotchy orange skin that subdued brightness sometimes brings forth. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The King and I – 3.5/5
The Cinemascope 55 theatrical aspect of 2.55:1 is rendered in 1080p using the AVC codec. This is a very inconsistent transfer visually. Some scenes seem color timed a bit coolly, others seem warmer and more natural. Many scenes seem to lack the one characteristic for which The King and I has always been known: dazzle. While there are no problems with sharpness, color often just doesn’t sparkle or pop in the way one would expect for such a luxurious production, and in fact, colors are sometimes a bit heavy and look dullish (“Shall We Dance” seems a bit dark with rather lifeless color). There are even a couple of moments which appear a bit digital in appearance. On the positive side, this is the first video incarnation of the film where Anna’s striped dress in “Getting to Know You” is fully resolved without video artifacts by the increase in resolution. With Schawn Belston’s usually astute track record in bringing classics to Blu-ray, one perhaps should trust that this is the way The King and I should look, but it’s certainly different from any version of the film I’ve ever seen projected or on any previous home video format. The film has been divided into 49 chapters.
South Pacific – 5/5
The film’s 2.20:1 Todd-AO theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image is as sharp as they come with perfect contrast and rich color with believable and very appealing flesh tones. Even when the highly saturated color filters make their way into the various shots, the transfer resolves them beautifully making this by far the most effective home video version of this film ever released. The film has been divided into 48 chapters.
The Sound of Music – 4.5/5
The Todd-AO 2.20:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film has never had a really first rate video presentation, and this is as close to perfect as it’s ever likely to be. Sure, there are some flesh tones which veer too much toward brown, and there may even be a thin edge halo or two. Black levels are good but not the deepest blacks you’ll ever see, but shadow detail is by far the most impressive ever seen for the film. These are minor considerations when one remembers what we’ve had before. More to the point, the dimensionality of the image is spectacular, and the details you’ll notice in the weaves of fabrics (Frau Schmidt’s jacket, Max’s herringbone coats) are not only noticeable for the first time but solid as a rock with not a hint of moiré to be seen, something that could have been a nightmare in careless hands. Additionally, there’s no aliasing in those cobblestones in the abbey courtyard, another potential problem area that is rock (no pun intended) solid. And color saturation throughout far eclipses anything we’ve seen before on home video. We’re finally getting something close to the brilliant image quality that one could see in theaters. The film has been divided into 60 chapters.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5State Fair – 4/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix offers a solid mono-era fidelity with no age-related problems like hiss or noise interfering with the listener’s enjoyment. Dialogue and lyrics are always easily discernible, and the orchestral accompaniment and sound effects never clash with the words being spoken or sung by the performers.
Oklahoma! (both versions) – 4.5/5
The Todd-AO version boasts a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix, but it has been encoded at a lower volume level than necessary. Turning the volume up 5 clicks offered rich, full-bodied sound without any distortion. (Your mileage may vary.) Dialogue and song lyrics are always clearly presented in the center channel (with some occasional directionalized moments), and the magnificent Oscar-winning orchestrations and musical adaptation spread the music across and through the soundstage magnificently.
The Cinemascope version presents a DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix. Volume levels are much better realized here, and the rich sound is quite impressive. Dialogue seems to be somewhat directionalized but is never compromised by the music or the sound effects. Neither soundtrack shows its age at all in terms of artifacts.
Carousel – 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix is a wonderful aural document of the masterpiece that is this score. There is directionalized dialogue throughout, and the speech and song lyrics are always clearly presented and never compromised by the lush orchestrations or seaside sound effects which get superlative treatment. The film’s age is never a problem with the tonal quality of this outstanding soundtrack.
The King and I – 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix seems a delightful rendering of the original film elements with outstanding fidelity. There is engaging directionalized dialogue, and the music gets superlative treatment in Alfred Newman’s expert hands. Neither the music nor the sound effects ever prevent the words in speech or song to be anything less than completely discernible.
South Pacific – 5/5
The disc offers the soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 4.0, and Dolby Digital 2.0. The lossless encode features directionalized dialogue and the sweeping sound of the Fox orchestra under the direction of Alfred Newman. It’s a flawless, encompassing achievement (little wonder the sound won the film’s only Academy Award). Everything has been perfectly mixed so that speech and song lyrics get their due without being overpowered by the music or the ambience of the Hawaiian locations where the film was shot.
The Sound of Music – 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix isn’t as enveloping and immersive as modern soundtracks, but this is still far and away the best the musical soundtrack of this movie has ever sounded. We’re hearing some honest to goodness bass in those arrangements to thrilling effect, and the music’s high and mid ranges have impressive clarity. Directionalized dialogue is present but doesn’t always work to the film’s advantage on video sticking out somewhat instead of blending in seamlessly. The ADR work that had to be done with the location filming likewise is more noticeable due to the quality of the overall recording as presented losslessly on this disc. The track is certainly free from any aural artifacts that might date the material. Overall, it’s an appealing representation of a classic score. A Dolby Digital 4.0 sound mix is also available.
Special Features: 4.5/5State Fair – 4/5
Audio Commentary: film historian Richard Barrios and State Fair Broadway librettist Tom Briggs have an entertaining give and take about the various movie and stage versions of the piece even if their comments grow fewer and more spaced out as the film nears its conclusion.
Sing Along With the Movie (HD): may be turned on to provide subtitled lyrics when the songs numbers occur. The songs are also available separately for a sing along.
Music Machine (HD): twelve song sequences and reprises may be played individually or in sequence separated from the film’s plot.
From Page to Screen to Stage (29:52, SD): Richard Barrios, Tom Briggs, Ted Chapin, and others give the history of State Fair from its origins as a novel through three movie versions and the later stage adaptation.
Theatrical Trailer (2:18, SD)
Stills Gallery: three separate page-through sections which show set and costume stills, behind-the-scenes shots, and lobby cards and one sheets from around the world for publicity.
Oklahoma! – 4.5/5
Audio Commentaries: the Todd-AO offers producer Nick Redman and star Shirley Jones in an interesting and wide-ranging talk about the film and Shirley’s career. The Cinemascope version offers Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization president Ted Chapin and musical historian Hugh Fordin in a drier but nevertheless informative discussion of the film.
Sing Along With the Movie (HD): may be turned on so that subtitled lyrics will appear during musical numbers. The songs only can also be sung to apart from the film.
Music Machine (51:25, HD): plays the musical numbers and reprises in the film either individually or in montage.
Cinemascope Vs. Todd-AO (12:06, SD): a brief history of the creation of Todd-AO and the differences between it, Cinerama, and Cinemascope are discussed in this featurette by film historian Richard Barrios, Michael Todd, Jr. who is the son of Todd-AO founder Mike Todd, and others.
The Miracle of Todd-AO (11:41, SD): a short film which played before Oklahoma! in theaters which offered a range of inclusive camera shots to show off the picture and sound of Todd-AO.
The March of Todd-AO (17:00, SD): another featurette extolling the marvels of Todd-AO taking Navy men into the skies, to the 1958 World Exposition, and to Rome and Vatican City as a new pope is christened.
Oklahoma! Staged Excerpts (2:57, 2:26, SD): a 1954 television tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein featured staged recreations of famous numbers from all their shows to that time. Gordon MacRae performs “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” and he and Florence Henderson perform “People Will Say We’re in Love.”
Stills Galleries: a behind the scenes gallery and a brief poster art gallery may be stepped through.
Trailers (1:07, 3:27, SD): the teaser and theatrical trailers for the popular price release of Oklahoma! after its roadshow run.
Carousel – 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: producer Nick Redman and star Shirley Jones have another wonderfully engaging and informative chat about the making of the film.
Sing Along With the Movie (HD) subtitled lyrics during song numbers appear when this bonus is activated. One can also sing to just the songs separately.
Music Machine (41:22, HD): eleven songs and reprises may be played individually or in montage.
Isolated Score: presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
Liliom (1:57:04, SD): the 1934 French film version of Ferenc Molnar's play which Carousel was based on offers English subtitles.
Turns on the Carousel (22:36, SD): Richard Barrios, Ted Chapin, musical historian Ken Bloom along with audio interviews with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein tell the story of bringing the original play to musical life on the stage and then its transcription to screen.
Carousel Stage Excerpts (12:31, SD): original stage stars Jan Clayton and John Raitt recreate the bench scene on the 1954 television tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Additional Songs (2:49): two brief tunes recorded but cut from the film “You’re a Queer One, Julie Jordan” and “Blow High, Blow Low” are presented with accompanying black and white stills.
Movietone News (1:35, SD): the Los Angeles and New York premieres for the movie are covered for the newsreel cameras.
Theatrical Trailer (2:28, SD): Darryl Zanuck introduces the new Cinemascope 55 process to audiences and announces that Carousel will be the first movie using it for production.
Stills Gallery: three step-through galleries feature storyboards, behind-the-scenes photos, and lobby card/one sheets.
The King and I – 5/5
Audio Commentary: musical historians Richard Barrios and Michael Portantiere provide a fact-filled (with only an occasional error: Rita Moreno wasn’t the first EGOT winner; actually, Richard Rodgers was) and occasionally sprightly commentary trading bits of trivia and offering discussion of the stage and screen versions of the property.
Sing Along With the Film (HD): subtitled lyrics can be turned on during the film or the songs can be sung to separately.
Isolated Score: offered in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
Music Machine (38:33, HD): ten musical moments of the film can be viewed individually or in montage.
Something Wonderful: The Story of The King and I (21:43, SD): journalist and author Steven Suskin, Richard Barrios, Ted Chapin, Laurence Maslow, and vintage audio interviews with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein trace the history of the story from book to screen to stage and back to screen again.
The Kings of Broadway (10:42, SD): James Hammerstein, Ted Chapin, Mary Rodgers, and Yuriko (who played Eliza in the ballet on stage and screen) talk about the casting of the show, various tidbits about the writing of the score, and the construction and revamping at the last minute of the ballet.
The King of the Big Screen (5:04, SD): Mary Rodgers and Ted Chapin discuss the bringing of the team’s classic musicals to the screen at the most opportune moment when the widescreen and stereophonic sound could be fully utilized.
The King and I Stage Version (17:07, SD): something of a misnomer of a title, this featurette actually features co-stars Carlos Riva (Lun Tha) and Yuriko along with screenwriter Ernest Lehman, and James Hammerstein talking about memories of working on the movie and being on stage and screen with Yul Brynner. Conductor John Mauceri discusses the brilliance of Alfred Newman’s musical work when he used the movie score to make a studio album of the show.
The King and I Royal Archive (2:24, SD): producer Nick Redman offers something of an introduction to the movie.
Anna and the King TV Pilot (26:04, SD): the 1972 pilot episode for the series which starred Brynner and Samantha Eggar. Eggar is also present for an optional audio commentary sharing memories of working on the series.
The King and I Stage Excerpts (9:49, SD): performances from the 1954 television special honoring the authors featuring Patricia Morison in “Getting to Know You” and Yul Brynner doing “A Puzzlement.”
Additional Song (3:41, HD): “Shall I tell You What I Think of You” cut from the film and shown in stills against the soundtrack recording (which shows Kerr and Nixon swapping off speaking and singing duties with masterful precision).
Restoring Cinemascope 55 (7:07, SD): a behind-the-scenes look at how the film’s original negative was restored in 2004 narrated by Schawn Belston.
Movietone News (10:02, SD): seven brief newsreel clips pertaining to the film or the stars during the film’s initial release around the world.
Theatrical Trailers (SD): three for The King and I running 1:06, 2:19, and 3:16 respectively along with a trailer for 1946’s Anna and the King of Siam running 3:17.
Stills Galleries: three step-through galleries featuring behind-the-scenes shots, the set designs, and the publicity materials.
South Pacific – 5/5
Extended Roadshow Release Version (2:52:01, SD): the original roadshow release of the film is presented in standard definition so I’m considering it as a bonus feature. The bits which were cut for the general release version are easy to spot as their visual quality is compromised, and it’s presented in Dolby Digital 4.0.
Audio Commentaries: the general release version has theater historian Gerard Alessandrini and Ted Chapin offering a robust commentary with the former doing most of the heavy lifting and the latter answering questions posed about the stage version and the differences to the movie. Musical historian Richard Barrios is the commentator on the roadshow version. Neither set of commentators is at all reverential to the movie; they point out what they consider flaws and weaknesses consistently throughout.
Sing Along With the Movie: option available in the bonus menu for lyric subtitles to be turned on.
Music Machine (45:18, HD): it’s not called this in the menu but that’s what it is on all of the other discs in the set offering here nineteen entries which can be played individually or together.
Passion, Prejudice, and South Pacific (1:34:05, HD): the best of the making-of documentaries in the set, this tells the complete story of the film’s creation going back to James Michener’s book through the creation of the stage show and later film. Mitzi Gaynor hosts the documentary which also includes comments from several cast members of the greatly honored 2008 stage revival of the show, the daughters of both Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Robert Osborne.
The Making of South Pacific (14:01, HD): a vintage featurette detailing the making of the film on location in Hawaii. Many bits of this documentary also turn up in the previous bonus feature.
60 Minutes “Tales of the South Pacific” (22:25, SD): Diane Sawyer interviews James Michener as he returns to the Pacific island where he was stationed during the war and which offered him inspiration for the book he subsequently wrote.
South Pacific Stage Excerpts (9:38, SD): from the 1954 television special honoring Rodgers and Hammerstein comes Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza performing “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair, a “Cockeyed Optimist,” and “A Wonderful Guy.”
Movietone News (2:12, SD): two brief clips of the movie’s premiere and honors from the armed services.
Mitzi Gaynor Screen Tests (6:51, HD): Mitzi tests for her leading role with a slower version of “A Cockeyed Optimist” and “A Wonderful Guy.”
Stills Gallery: a step-through gallery of black and white and color production photos.
Theatrical Trailer (2:43, HD)
The Sound of Music – 3/5
Only the first disc from the original two-disc release has been placed in this package, so the features for this most popular of all the films are lacking in depth. Here’s what’s on the disc:
Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration: allows the viewer to watch the film with up to four modes turned on or off. One mode provides picture-in-picture artwork, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes stills popping up throughout the feature. One can turn on the on-screen lyrics for sing-along with the movie. There is also a trivia track which offers information about both the stage and screen versions of the show. And there is a trivia quiz the family can play along with.
Sing Along With the Movie: subtitled lyrics can be activated from the bonus menu.
Music Machine (58:02, HD): twenty-four musical sequences from the film may be watched individually or together.
Audio Commentaries: Robert Wise speaks eloquently between musical numbers about making the movie, a definite must-listen though this track has been around for previous releases of the film on home video. A second edited track features Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, Dee Dee Wood, and Johannes von Trapp commenting about the film. Be prepared, however, for long waits between comments though they’re certainly interesting to hear.