The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Robert Wise
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 174 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio7.1 English; Dolby Digital 4.0 English, 5.1 Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: November 2, 2010
Review Date: November 2, 2010
Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music should be required viewing for any filmmaker who’s considering bringing a stage musical to the screen. The studio hired a screenwriter who had respect for the original material without being slavishly devoted to it. It found a director who was able to keep a three hour movie moving all the time so that it never remotely seems that long and has opened up static stage scenes into wonderfully cinematic moments that remain in the memory decades after first viewing them. And wonderful actors were hired who fit the roles to perfection, even if some had to have trained voices do the singing for them. The result is possibly one of the most perfect screen musicals ever made: joyously humane without unnecessary sentiment, musically and dramatically resonant, and ecstatically beautiful to watch.
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 Plummer) 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 his 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 for the movies: how a treasured moment on stage can be reconceived and presented on film to even more glorious effect. Of course, no one can ever forget that iconic moment when Julie Andrews whirls around and launches into the title song in a rapturous arrangement that combines her lyrical singing with the splendors of the Alps. Wise also films the movie’s two most romantic moments, the “Laendler” dance when the Captain and Maria first confront their burgeoning love face-to-face and the deeply shadowed and magisterial “Something Good” that seals the deal, in such softly glowing and intimate ways that we almost feel embarrassed for eavesdropping on such private moments. And even non-musical sequences such as the confrontation scene between Maria and Captain on his return from Vienna or the hyper-tense search through the church cemetery for the fleeing von Trapps is handled with surety and sublime authority.
Enough cannot be said about 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 Sound of Music would have been infinitely poorer without her participation in it. Christopher Plummer may have been dubbed by Bill Lee for the singing, but his dramatic performance takes what could have been a stale, stock character of the Captain and gives him some breadth and dimension. Eleanor Parker gets to be glamorously scheming as the Baroness, and Richard Haydn gives the film much of its wry humor as the calculating Max. The children all come across naturally performing the sure-fire musical material with effortless charm. Dan Truhitte as the telegraph messenger Rolf who gets swallowed up in the Nazi regime sings and dances endearingly with Charmian Carr’s Liesl but gets backhanded in the climactic moments by the screenwriter’s turning Rolf into a coward in the face of the von Trapps (in the stage version, it’s his decision to let Liesl and the family escape. This was my biggest disappointment in the show’s voyage from stage to screen).
But this is a great film, a musical which hasn’t dated at all in over four decades since its original release, and one which is likely to remain a cherished classic for generations to come.
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. (However, shadow detail is by far the most impressive ever seen for the film.) These quibbles 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, and it’s pretty much a revelation. The film has been divided into 60 chapters.
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 popping or crackling artifacts that might date the material. Overall, it’s an appealing representation of a classic score.
“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.
The Music Machine sing along mode can take you immediately to musical numbers if one doesn’t want to watch the dialogue scenes in between them.
Two audio commentary tracks are available. 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.
BD-Live offers Live Lookup from the IMDb during the film. There is also an interview with Tony-winning actress Laura Benanti talking for 3 ½ minutes about the play and the film.
A second disc of bonus features is the second Blu-ray disc in the package.
“Musical Stages: Creating The Sound of Music” is an interactive walk through three sets from the film with a host of featurettes about different aspects of the stage and film versions of The Sound of Music. Here are the featurettes, all in 1080p:
- “Maria in the 21st Century” is 7 minutes showing how many films and TV shows have used iconic moments from the movie to fashion comedy or music for their own ends.
- “Restoring a Classic: Bloom and Grow Forever” offers a too brief 5 ¾-minute overview of the restoration efforts to bring the movie to Blu-ray
- “Edelweiss” has original Captain Theodore Bikel discussing the song as the last one ever written by Oscar Hammerstein and its effect on the show. It’s 2 ½ minutes.
- “I Have Confidence” details the origins of the cobbled-together soliloquy for Maria from parts of a Rodgers song plus other bits composed by associate producer Saul Chaplin. It runs 3 ¼ minutes.
- “My Favorite Things” has an interesting history in the show and out of the show as told in this 2 ¾-minute featurette.
- “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” has Charmian Carr recalling filming the number in both Austria and Hollywood in this 2 ¼-minute vignette.
- “After the Escape” gives the real story of the von Trapps after leaving Austria in an 8 ¾-minute featurette.
- “Rodgers & Hammerstein: Partnership at Its Peak” gives a very brief biography of the team during the creation of their final show. It runs 3 ¾ minutes.
- “Shaping the Story” tells where ideas for the Broadway show came fron in this 4 ¾-minute clip.
- The Von Trapps Today” interviews surviving family members in Stowe, Vermont for 5 ¾ minutes.
- “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is a 2 ¼-minute tribute to the difficulty of the song as a prayer of hope.
- “Stage Vs. Screen” is a cursory discussion of the differences between the stage and screen versions of the property for 3 ¼ minutes.
- “Maria” offers 3 minutes on the way the song was constructed to be a mix of chatter and character byplay.
- “The Sound of Music” describes where ideas for the song came from in this 2 ½ minute clip.
- “Maria and the Musical” details the problems the real Maria had with the dramatization of her life on stage and film. It runs 5 ¼ minutes.
- “Cutting Room Floor” discusses the three songs from the stage version cut from the movie. It lasts for 2 ¾ minutes.
- “Something Good” has Rodgers’ daughter Mary describing her father’s somewhat limited talent as a lyricist in this 2 ¼ minute clip.
- “The Lonely Goatherd” contrasts the play and movie uses of the tune for 2 ½ minutes.
- “Do-Re-Mi” is discussed as a great and effective song on both stage and screen for 3 ½ minutes.
- “So Long, Farewell” discusses the song for 1 ¼ minutes.
- “A Generous Heart” finds Maria’s daughter Maria talking about her parents for 4 minutes.
- “Final Dream: Oscar Hammerstein Remembered” is 6 minutes about the lyricist final few months of life.
- “Stories from Broadway” has interview with the original actors who played Rolf and Captain Von Trapp on Broadway. It lasts 4 ¼ minutes.
- “Restoring a Classic: Glorious Sound” details the work going into cleaning up and making the original soundtrack ready for high definition. It lasts 5 ½ minutes.
Mozartsteg (1 ¼ minutes), Von Trapp Villa (¾ minute), Nonnberg Abbey (2 ¾ minutes), St. Peter’s Cemetery (1 ½ minutes), Leopoldskron (1 ¾ minutes), Rock Riding School (2 ½ minutes), Siegmundplatz (1 ½ minutes), Winkler Terrace (1 ½ minutes), Residenzplatz (2 ½ minutes), Salzburg Marionette Theatre (3 minutes), Mirabell Gardens (2 ¼ minutes), The Sound of Music Tour (2 ¾ minutes), Rossfeld (1 minute), Werfen (1 ¾ minutes), Gazebo (1 ¾ minutes), Frohnberg (1 ½ minutes), Mondsee Cathedral (2 ½ minutes), Mellweg (2 ½ minutes).
These are the vintage featurettes repeated from previous releases of the film or previous disc releases relating to the movie. All of the following featurettes are in 480i.
- The Sound of Music: From Film to Phenomenon” – 87 ½ minutes
- My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers – 63 ½ minutes
- Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence – 19 ½ minutes
- From Liesl to Gretl – 33 ½ minutes
- Salzburg: Sight & Sound – 13 minutes
- On Location with The Sound of Music – 22 ½ minutes
- When You Know the Notes to Sing – 12 ¾ minutes
Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music is the 1985 television special hosted by Mary Martin discussing the five memorable stage productions of the legendary team. It runs for 83 ½ minutes.
Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Movies is the 1996 television special hosted by Shirley Jones which discusses the film versions of the many landmark stage shows by the famous team (along with their written-for-the screen State Fair). It runs 96 ½ minutes.
The audio interview section features three location interviews with Andrews, Plummer, and Peggy Wood along with a Reissue interview with Andrews and director Robert Wise, a telegram from Daniel Truhitte, and the comprehensive remarks by screenwriter Ernest Lehman about his experiences writing for the team for films.
Rare Treasures offers these treats:
- “Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall” features a satirical musical number based on The Sound of Music as the two ladies play members of the Pratt Family. It runs for 6 ¾ minutes.
- “The Julie Andrews Hour” offers a 16 ½-minute excerpt with Julie on her variety show visiting with and performing with Maria von Trapp.
- Screen Tests offers a 16 ¼ minute excerpt from the TV special Hollywood Screen Tests detailing some of the people who auditioned for the roles of the children in the film. Another ½-minute test features Mia Farrow singing (poorly) and doing a little movement. Marni Nixon sings a medley of songs from the movie in a 9 ½ minute test.
- Julie Andrews’ 40th Anniversary introduction to the new DVD release runs 2 ¼ minutes.
The Publicity section offers silent film shot for the Movietone newsreel at the 1966 Academy Awards, seven unusual trailers for the film, two TV spots, andfour radio spots.
The third disc in the set is theDVD release of the movie.
5/5 (not an average)
In every way, The Sound of Music is an American classic, and this Blu-ray release features superb picture and sound for its best-ever home video release. An exhaustive array of bonus features completes a don’t-miss package. Highest recommendation!