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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Fiddler on the Roof



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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted April 10 2011 - 05:03 PM

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Fiddler on the Roof
Release Date: Available now
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX" with slipcover
Year: 1971
Rating: G
Running Time: 3:01:07
MSRP: $29.99


  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 7.1 / Dolby Digital: Spanish 1.0, Portuguese 1.0  / DTS: French 5.1, Italian 5.1, German 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French, Portugese, Italian, German SDH, Castellano, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Magyar, Norwegian, Swedish, Same

The Feature: 5/5
Times are changing for the people of Anatevka, a Jewish town in one of Czarist Russia’s restricted settlement areas. Though there’s growing talk of an uprising against the established order, nothing seems more revolutionary than the idea that a girl can decide for herself whom she should marry. For the milkman Tevye (Topol) the question is decidedly personal, having three daughters of marrying age, each with her own ideas about who makes a suitable match. For the eldest, Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), he’s her childhood friend and village tailor Motel (Leonard Frey); for Hodel (Michele Marsh) he’s the teacher and progressive activist Perchik (Michael Glaser); and for Chava (Neva Small) he’s the young Russian field hand (and Gentile) Fyedka (Raymond Lovelock). While Tzeitel’s and Hodel’s choices try their father’s patience and understanding, it’s Chava’s that ultimately goes too far for the devout and traditional head of the household. It will prove to be the greatest test of Tevye’s search for stability in an altogether uncertain existence.

Adapted from the award-winning stage musical, “Fiddler on the Roof” garnered similar accolades when it hit movie theaters in 1971, yielding multiple Academy Award nominations and awards for the filmmakers and cast. The critical recognition and the longstanding regard for this classic film musical speaks to the care with which the production was brought to the screen - illustrated by the wonderfully detailed sets and excellent casting of Topol as Tevye  -  but also to the strength of its central message around survival and fortitude amidst trying circumstances. Though endlessly entertaining musical numbers like “Tradition” and “Matchmaker” are what the film is best known for, it’s ultimately the story’s closing sense of hope and promise that makes it such an enduring classic.

Video Quality: 4.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Much has been said already about the quality of the film transfer, and my observations are consistent with those who have already praised it. The image features excellent contrast, deep and strong black levels, richly saturated colors (though the palette skews heavily to earth tones), and pleasing, warm flesh tones. Fine object detail is quite good - particularly in close-ups - though softness inherent to the source material is also apparent from time-to-time. There’s no indication of attempts to “fix” those issues with digital processing tools, and likewise there’s no signs of heavy handed grain reduction. All in all it’s a terrific looking transfer befitting a classic in its 40th year.

Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround activity consists mainly of support for the orchestral score, though the effect is nicely balanced and seamless. Detail in the track is best illustrated by the Fiddler’s violin solos, which have the satisfying grit of the bow grabbing the strings. Low frequency effects are non-existent, but the track has great depth and fullness throughout all the musical numbers.

Special Features: 4/5
The extras include most of the items from the 2007 two-disc collector’s edition DVD. Items that inexplicably  didn’t make it over to the Blu-ray release are the featurettes “Historical Background” and “The Stories of Sholom Alecheim” and the still image galleries of sketches, storyboards and production photographs. Though the items aren’t exactly critical to the release, collectors will likely balk at the incompleteness of the package.

Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Norman Jewison and Topol: Jewison and Topol (recorded on separate occasions) provide plentiful anecdotes from production and some interesting analysis of the performances and story.

Norman Jewison, Filmmaker (49:33, SD): Vintage documentary offers a sometimes rather candid look behind the scenes of the production, though at almost an hour in length the piece can seem a little longwinded.

Norman Jewison Looks Back

  • On Directing (3:28, SD): How he got involved in the film adaptation, in particular how the executive producers reacted when he revealed he was a gentile.
  • Strongest Memory (:57, SD): Reflecting on capturing the film’s iconic image.
  • Biggest Challenge (1:11, SD): Fighting with the weather.
  • On Casting (1:20, SD): His rationale for choosing Topol over Zero Mostel.
  • A Classic? (2:34, SD): What makes the story universally appealing.
  • “Tevye’s Dream”

  • In Full Color with an Introduction by Jewison (5:56, SD): The sequence as originally shot before being desaturated for the final product.
  • Side-by-Side Comparison (1:39, SD): Split-screen view of before and after.
  • John Williams: Creating A Musical Tradition (11:32, SD): Williams reflects on how he adapted the original theatrical score for the film production.

    Songs of Fiddler on the Roof (14:43, SD): Screenwriter Joseph Stein, lyricist Sheldon Harnick, and original composer Jerry Bock reflect on the creation of “Fiddler’s” signature melodies and lyrics.

    Deleted Song - “Any Day Now”: Rare audio demo of the excised number is accompanied by still images from the filming.

    Tevye’s Daughters (16:28, SD): Rosalind Harris (Tzeitel), Neva Small (Chava), and Michele Marsh (Hodel) reflect on being cast and working together.

    Set in Reality Production Design (9:50, SD): Production Designer Robert Boyle discusses the locations and sets.

    Storyboard to Film Comparison (21:04, SD): Side-by-side view of the storyboards with finished scenes - Tradition, Matchmaker, Introduction to Miracle of Miracles, Tevye’s Dream, Lazar Wolf and Tevye.

    Trailers, Teasers and TV Spots

  • Original Theatrical Trailer (4:04, SD)
  • 1979 Re-Release Trailer (1:52, SD)
  • “Reserve Your Seat” Teaser (1:46, SD): With information for reserve seat ticket purchasing.
  • “Will Rogers” Teaser (2:03, SD): For a screening to benefit the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital.
  • 1971 TV Spot (:31, SD)
  • 1979 TV Spot (:28, SD): To promote the theatrical re-release.
  • DVD: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic and Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kbps. The disc also includes the Jewison and Topol audio commentary track.  

    Recap
    The Feature: 5/5
    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Special Features: 4/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

    MGM Home Entertainment turns in an excellent technical presentation for a touching and celebrated film musical. The special features package is oddly missing some items from past releases, which will likely frustrate some collectors. But for those who just want to enjoy the feature in high definition, with a respectable range of extras, this 40th anniversary Blu-ray release more than satisfies.


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    #2 of 3 OFFLINE   ahollis

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    Posted April 11 2011 - 12:53 AM

    I just hope the rest of the MGM/Fox titles in the next few months can live up to this release.  Thanks for the excellent review.


    "Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


    #3 of 3 OFFLINE   lukejosephchung

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    Posted April 11 2011 - 05:38 AM

    I watched this over the weekend...it's the best I've seen this look and sound since I saw it at the Golden Gate Theater here in San Francisco, back when it was a first-rate movie house in 1971! Call me one very happy camper with this release!!!Posted Image