Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand in an Academy-Award Winning performance, is a wonderful (albeit somewhat whitewashed) musical biopic of Ziegfeld Follies headliner Fanny Brice. The film is now available in a stunning Blu-ray release, the result of a remarkable 4K restoration of the original film negative by Sony Pictures' Colorworks. The stunning picture quality and the glorious audio each approach perfection. Those qualities, along with the attractive price of this Amazon exclusive (see the end of this review for a link), combine to make Funny Girl one of the most compelling Blu-ray buys of the year.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5,0 DD, French 5.0 DD, Italian 5.0 DD, German 5.0 DD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Run Time: 2 Hr. 35 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayBlu-ray Amaray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/30/2013
Hello, Gorgeous. - Fanny Brice, addressing her image in a mirror
The Production Rating: 5/5
Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand in an Academy-Award Winning performance, is a wonderful (albeit somewhat whitewashed) musical biopic of Ziegfeld Follies headliner Fanny Brice. The film is now available in a stunning Blu-ray release, the result of a remarkable 4K restoration of the original film negative by Sony Pictures' Colorworks. The gorgeous picture quality and the glorious audio each approach perfection. Those qualities, along with the attractive price of this Amazon exclusive (see the end of this review for a link), combine to make Funny Girl one of the most compelling Blu-ray buys of the year.
This Blu-ray presentation opens with the film's original, nearly five-minute overture from the score by Jule Styne. The action opens outside The New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City, where the name of Fanny Brice (Barbara Streisand) is emblazoned on the marquee for the Ziegfeld Follies. Fanny arrives long before opening time. She walks out onto the stage in front of an empty auditorium and plays a few notes on the piano before taking a seat in the orchestra. Something significant and exciting is going to happen that evening, but we are not yet let in on the secret. While seated Fanny learns that her boss, Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon), wants to see her in his office. "Did you hear that, Mrs. Strakosh?" Fanny asks aloud, although she is alone. "Zeigfeld is waiting for me." She puts her head back and continues, "For me. See, you were wrong, Mrs. Strakosh." Fanny then begins to reminisce about her life, beginning with her entry into the world of show business.
Growing up on the lower east side of New York City, Fanny Brice has aspirations to be on the stage, but friends of her family dismiss her ambitions as unrealistic. "For a girl, for average, you're a pleasure," asserts the aforementioned Mrs. Strakosh (Mae Questel). "But when people pay good money in the theater - especially the male element - they want something extra to look at." The implication, of course, is that Fanny is not sufficiently pretty to make her mark on Broadway. Fanny is not dissauded from heading out to a chorus girl rehearsal at a burlesque theater. The rehearsal turns into a catastrophe and she is fired on the spot by the manager, Mr. Keeney (Frank Faylen). However, the pianist, Eddie (Lee Allen), recognizes that Fanny has talent. "You're no chorus girl," he tells her. "You're a singer and a comic." Eddie offers Fanny a second chance to dance in a roller skating number he has choreographed. The number turns out to be unexpectedly hilarious due to Fanny's shenanigans, and she is rewarded with a solo singing performance ("I'd Rather Be Blue") which concludes with a standing ovation from the audience.
After the show there is a knock on the dressing room door. It is Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif), a handsome and dapper gambler who is intrigued by Fanny's performance and has come backstage to meet her. Fanny never expects to see him again, but months later she receives a telegram inviting her to audition for Ziegfeld's Follies. She wins the impresario over with a performance of "Second Hand Rose," but, in spite of promising to do whatever he asks, she balks at doing a straight performance of a number in which she has to play a beautiful bride. Fanny develops a way to downplay her plain looks by infusing comedy into her rendition of the song, all without Ziegfeld's prior approval.
Becoming a Ziegfeld Girl gives Fanny the opportunity to once again meet Nicky Arnstein. Following her debut performance for Ziegfeld she brings Nicky to her mother's saloon on the lower east side for a celebration. Eventually the two of them take a walk outside and Fanny sings what was then Streisand's signature song, "People." Fanny falls in love with Nicky and they are married, but it proves to be a troubled, up-and-down union. The actual marriage was, by all accounts, even more difficult than the one which is portrayed in the film. Funny Girl is a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, which was based upon a book by Isobel Lennart. Some sources contend that Lennart went easy on the character of Nicky because the real Arnstein was still alive when the show was produced and there were concerns about libel litigation.
Funny Girl follow Fanny Brice's career up to the point where her marriage to Nicky comes to an end. The film was, of course, followed by the less-successful sequel, Funny Lady, which focuses upon Fanny's later relationship with Billy Rose. However, Funny Girl stands as a fully-realized musical in its own right. Barbra Streisand shared the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role with Katherine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter), and the film was nominated for seven other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The supporting cast, which includes Anne Francis, is excellent (particular Kay Medford as Fanny's mother and Walter Pidgeon as Ziegfeld), but from start to finish this is Barbra Streisand's show. Funny Girl was the only musical ever made by the esteemed director William Wyler, and some members of the cast complained that they were being bossed around on the set by Streisand. "You'll have to forgive Barbra," Wyler reportedly responded, "this is the first picture she's ever directed." That is a very amusing comment, and it undoubtedly contains more than a kernel of truth.
As noted, the video presentation is a joy to behold. I would call the reader's attention to comments about Funny Girl made by our resident expert, Robert A. Harris:
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
Color, density, shadow detail, grain structure. It's all there. In spades. David Bernstein was in charge of color for this one...The main titles are perfect for the first time on video. The dark reds are dead on. The flesh tones, perfect, as are the blacks...An absolutely perfect Blu-ray release.
Please read Mr. Harris' full comments to whet your appetite while you wait for a genuine Blu-ray treat.
The audio is just as satisfying as the video. The 5.0 DTS HD-MA soundtrack for this musical provides the viewer with a deep, expansive and thoroughly immersive experience. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout and the numerous musical numbers are glorious. The wonderful score by July Styne has already been noted, and this is a good time to mention the exceptional lyrics by Bob Merrill. The various foreign language soundtracks are in Dolby Digital 5.0.
Audio Rating: 5/5
The extras on this Blu-ray consist of two standard-definition featurettes.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
"Barbara in Movieland" follows Charlie Peterson, the caretaker of the Jersey Central Railroad Station in Hoboken, New Jersey, where Barbra Streisand sings "Don't Rain on My Parade" in Funny Girl. The station had been closed for five years when it was selected as a location for the film. Peterson was a close observer of the filming and was even hired to essentially portray himself during a scene in the station. The featurette in in excellent shape and has a running time of about ten minutes.
"This is Streisand" is a brief promotional short about the early career of the multi-talented star as she embarked upon her first motion picture role. It is letterboxed and has a running time of 5 1/2 minutes.
Sony also has included previews of Playing For Keeps and Amour.
The single disc is packaged in a standard amaray Blu-ray case.
I will once again steal a thought from Robert A. Harris, who has declared that this release of Funny Girl "is a thousand dollar Blu-ray at a trifle of that cost." It is difficult to see how any fan of Barbra Streisand and any admirer of Funny Girl could quibble with Mr. Harris. The only disappointment is the absence of more extras. Who would not jump at the chance to hear a commentary track by Streisand and Sharif? However, that is no reason to avoid this Blu-ray disc, particularly in view of its very modest price. Funny Girl is a treat from start to finish.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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