Essential Classics: American Musicals
The Music Man (1962)/Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)/Seven Brides for Seven Brothers(1954)
Since the discs in "The Essential Classics" collections have all been previously released, I will be departing from my usual format of comprehensive reviews, and focusing instead on highlighting the contents of the discs in a more general sense.
The Music Man (1962 - Warner Brothers - 151 minutes)
Directed By: Morton DaCosta
Starring: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford, Ron Howard
This single-disc special edition of "The Music Man" was originally released way back in the DVD stone age of February of 1999. While it beats many titles of the time hands down just by providing a 5.1 remix and a 16:9 enhanced video transfer at something close to the film's original Technirama dimensions, it falls short by 2007 standards in terms of compression artifacts (plentiful), and edge enhancement (Cheese and crackers! It's everywhere!). An introduction from Shirley Jones plays as soon as the disc is inserted, and the old-style static menus allow you access to a nice documentary featurette called "Right Here in River City: The Making of Meredith Wilson's The Music Man", some textual production notes, and a couple of theatrical trailers. Subtitles are available in English and French.
While this is to date the best version of this highly enjoyable musical on DVD, it still is past due for a revisitation.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944 - MGM - 113 minutes)
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli
Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Marjorie Main, Leon Ames
Included here is the first disc of the "Meet Me in St. Louis: Two-Disc Special Edition", originally released on April 6th, 2004. Extras on the disc include a commentary by John Fricke with Margaret O'Brien, Hugh Martin, Irving Brecher, and Barbara Freed-Saltzman as well as a Vincente Minnelli trailer gallery. For a comprehensive run-down of the outstanding audio video quality including the Ultra Resolution transfer, check out Herb Kane's forum review by clicking on this link
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954 - MGM - 102 minutes)
Directed By: Stanley Donen
Starring: Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall
Included here is the first disc of the "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Two-Disc Special Edition" originally released on October 12, 2004. This disc contained the 2.55:1 Cinemascope version of the film as opposed to the "flat" separately filmed 1.77:1 presentation that appeared on the second disc. Extras included are a commentary by director Stanley Donen and a Stanley Donen Musicals Trailer Gallery. For a complete assessment of the audio and video quality of this transfer from a problematic Cinemascope element for which proper protection elements were never created, check out David Boulet's forum review of the Two-Disc Special Edition at this link
The discs come in a tri-fold digipack with artwork on all sides, including behind the clear plastic disc trays, which is housed inside an attractive foil-highlighted case. The discs themselves have exactly the same art silkscreened on them as they did in their previous releases, which creates a mild disconnect when the packaging refers to "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" as "Disc Two" and 'Disc Three" respectively, but the artwork on the discs themselves reads "Disc One" and "Disc 1 - Cinemascope Original" respectively. Since the authoring of the discs themselves is identical, all menu references to additional features on the non-present second discs are also still intact.
This package represents an attractive and economical way of picking up the latest and greatest DVD presentations of these three undeniably classic American musicals if you don't mind foregoing the extras that came on the bonus discs for "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". There is some minor confusion caused by the old menus and disc labeling not connecting with the new packaging, but with a manufacturer suggested retail price of under US$31, it is hard to argue about the value of this set if you do not already own these films on DVD. Even though they represent the best rendering of these films on home video to date, keep in mind that "The Music Man" has a dated, artifact-ridden transfer and that "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" offers a very good transfer of a very problematic film element.