- Dec 9, 2001
- Fishkill, NY
- Real Name
- Rich Gallagher
1776, one of the most eagerly-anticipated Blu-ray releases of the year, is being released by Sony in a spectacular edition which will please the film's most demanding fans. It has been fully restored in 4K under the supervision and support of Sony's Grover Crisp and Jeremy Glassman, and it includes both Peter H. Hunt's 166-minute Director's Cut and an Extended Cut with a few minutes of additional footage. "I'm ecstatic," says Hunt. "1776 is back to where it should be. The work done by Grover and his team is miraculous. It looks better than when it premiered. It's gorgeous!"
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 45 Min. (Director's Cut) 2 Hr. 47 Min. (Extended Cut)
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletStandard Blu-ray Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/02/2015
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The truth with film-making – as it is now on Broadway– Is that the story is everything. You’ve got to have a story.
Broadway changed; it used to be: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.
When Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Rodgers were writing, they were writing a show every year. These shows came and went, came and went…So every year you would have twelve more songs from them. Well, chances are, you’re going to get a couple of hits every year.
All of a sudden, the “story” in a musical became more important than the music. That’s why most hit shows, not all of them, but most hit musicals today – barring, say, Andrew Lloyd Webber – usually don’t have hit songs at all. You can’t really mention a hit song from most musicals, because with most musicals, it’s not about the music. - Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Hamlisch was not specifically referring to the Broadway musical 1776 when he made the above comments, but he could have been. The music by Sherman Edwards is pleasant but not particularly memorable. It is not the sort of musical which will have you humming any of its tunes after the closing credits have rolled by. However, as a historical drama (with some humorous scenes, to be sure) it works exceptionally well, even though anyone who is familiar with the Declaration of Independence knows how it turns out. It is the process through which the Founders agreed to declare independence from Great Britain which is so fascinating.
John Adams (William Daniels) of Massachusetts is the firebrand who is trying to push the Continental Congress toward independence, but he finds himself to be continually frustrated. While he has the support of Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva), Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) and John Hancock (David Ford), he is opposed by the delegation from the South and from Pennsylvania. Part of the problem is Adams' abrasive personality - even he comes to realize that he is disliked by many of the delegates.
As temperatures in Philadelphia rise in early summer, Jefferson is feeling randy and is anxious to get home to his wife Martha (Blythe Danner) in Virginia. Jefferson speaks little but writes brilliantly, and he is persuaded to remain in Philadelphia to draft a declaration which clearly spells out the grievances which the colonists have against King George. However, he is so preoccupied with his absence from Martha that he develops writer's block. Franklin, who understands such things, sends for Martha to come to Philadelphia, which leads to several very amusing moments (Danner is charming as Martha, and I would have liked to have seen more of her in the film). Adams, of course, is married to Abigail (Virginia Vestoff), but she is back in Massachusetts attending to their farm and their children. They communicate by letter, but they correspond as if they are having conversations and that is how their exchanges are portrayed in the film. When they sing to each other their lyrics are largely based upon their actual letters.
Most of the cast were members of the original Broadway cast, including William Daniels, who sings quite well. Howard Da Silva plays Ben Franklin a bit broadly, but he certainly looks the part. The rest of the cast performs exceedingly well and they do a fine job of re-creating the feel of the times.
One thing not seen in this Blu-ray release is the 142-minute theatrical cut, which was the result of studio interference and political pressure. Some may be disappointed by its omission, but as Robert A. Harris puts it, "many of the film's delights had hit the cutting room floor" in order to release it at 142 minutes. Those additional delights have been restored for all to see. Even more delightful is the ability to see the full version of "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve" in the Extended Cut of 1776. Director Hunt states that significant parts of the scene were cut "primarily, in fact, totally for time."
From a purely historical standpoint, 1776 stands up well. One error is its suggestion that Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence would have condemned slavery outright. Biographers of Jefferson are in agreement that his intention was to condemn only the slave trade and blame it on King George. It is true that both South Carolina and Georgia were desirous of continuing the slave trade, so the deletion was necessary to have the Continental Congress approve the declaration.
I encourage readers of this review to read Ronald Epstein's comments and interview with Peter H. Hunt for additional insights into this wonderful Blu-ray release.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
This outstanding 1080p presentation utilizes the AVC codec and is framed at 2.35:1. The picture is highly detailed and very sharp. The color timing is excellent, black levels are inky, shadow detail is fine, and contrast is strong. There is not a hint of damage, and an appropriate level of film grain has been retained.
Many readers of this review are going to want to have it compared to the prior laserdisc and DVD releases of 1776. I have not seen those versions, nor did I see the original theatrical release. Therefore I encourage you to read the words of our esteemed expert Robert A. Harris, as well as the many worthwhile comments by many Home Theater Forum members:
Audio Rating: 5/5
The DTS HD-MA 5.1 audio is every bit as good as the video. The musical numbers are done with outstanding fidelity and excellent separation. Every word of dialogue is clear and understandable, and both English and English SDH subtitles are available. English subtitles are available for the commentary tracks, as well.
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
Fans of 1776 will be very pleased with the extras on this Blu-ray release.
There are two commentary tracks available on the Director's Cut, both of which include Peter H. Hunt. Joining him on one commentary track are Williams Daniels and Ken Howard. On the other Hunt is joined by screenwriter Peter Stone. The commentaries provide many interesting insights into the making of the film. The exterior for Independence Hall was built in the San Fernando Valley, and on the night that they shot "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve" it was so cold out that they could see William Daniels' breath while he sang. They solved the problem by having him suck on ice cubes before he sang!
Viewers who listen to both commentaries will note that Hunt does repeat himself a bit, which is pretty much unavoidable.
There are three deleted/alternate scenes and one alternate scene. One of the scenes, of course, is the aforementioned full "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve," which is shown both with and without commentary by director Hunt. His commentary is limited to explaining that the scene was cut because he wanted to get into the story more quickly. Next is a short reprise of the "Lees of Old Virginia" scene which features Ron Holgate and Richard Henry Lee. The reprise also is shown with and without commentary by Peter Hunt. He explains that it was cut because he felt that it was too theatrical and that it interfered with advancing the plot. He also had reservations about it because it shows John Adams stepping into a fountain and stumbling about a bit. Lastly, there is the scene where Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island (Roy Poole) arrives late to cast a decisive vote because the Continental Congress did not have its own "pisser." Apparently the word "pisser" was deemed to be objectionable in 1972, so it was changed to "privy." The original dialogue is now in the Director's Cut, but it is still "privy" in the Extended Cut.
Also included are nine screen tests, featuring William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, William Hansen, Patrick Hines, Daniel Keyes, Leo Leyden, Ray Middleton, James Noble, and Rex Robbins. The screen tests are shown in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The colors are faded and the pictures in general shown signs of age, but they are watchable and surprisingly sharp.
Finally, we have a teaser trailer (one minute) and the original theatrical trailer (three minutes, twelve seconds). The teaser trailer is shown in 2.35:1 and the theatrical trailer is shown in 1.85:1. Both trailers are in very good condition.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
The many fans of 1776 have been clamoring for a Blu-ray release of the film for many years, and they have finally been rewarded with an outstanding one which is sure to please them. Sony, which for years has continually released exceptional Blu-rays, has outdone itself with this one. That fact that is has been reasonably priced helps to make it an easy Blu-ray to recommend for purchase.
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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