Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
for seven brothers
two-disc special editionStudio:Warner Brothers Year:1954RunTime:102 minutesAspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.55:1 OAR, 16x9 encoded 1.77:1 “flat” alternate versionAudio:5.1 DD English (2.55:1 version), 2.0 DD English (1.77:1 alternate version) Subtitles:English, French, SpanishSpecialFeatures:Feature Commentary, Musical Trailer Gallery, Behind-the-scenes documentary “Sobbin’ Women”, New York Premiere & MGM 30th-Anniversary Celebration Newsreels, Vintage Short MGM Jubilee Overture ReleaseDate:Available
Apology: I wasn’t able to obtain a pre-release screener for this title and my work schedule has prevented me from posting this sooner. Please accept my apology and I hope that this review is of value to you.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the “classic” 1950’s era musicals that often receives (in my opinion) more criticism than it warrants and less attention than it deserves. It’s not a perfect film. But what musical (other than perhaps The Sound of Music) is? Conceived more along the lines of a “B” grade musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers lacks a certain air of sophistication present with some of its more evolved relatives like My Fair Lady and Camelot. But the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers predates most of these more lavish productions and the less polished appearance lends itself nicely to the more “earthy” story around which it is constructed. The premise is simple but enchanting…six frontiersmen brothers in a rural mountain farm, inspired by the story of the “Sobbin’ Women” told to them by their eldest wedded brother (making the total of seven), decide to take themselves each a wife from the nearby town…by means lacking in social propriety. But small-town girls aren’t so easily wooed, and these brothers (all seven of them) learn some real-world lessons in how to court a lady. Just leave your politically correct sensibilities about respect and equality of the sexes on the end-table with your remote and dive head-first into the romance of another era; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers will happily entertain.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (just like Brigadoon) was being produced at a time when not all theaters were outfitted to project the widescreen anamorphic prints of the 2.55:1 image. And so (just like Brigadoon, and the animated feature Lady and the Tramp for that matter) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was actually filmed in two formats: an anamorphic scope 2.55:1 version and a “flat” 1.77:1 version that did not require the use of anamorphic lens apparati and therefore could be projected by theaters not equipped for the 2.55:1 feature. For the first time ever on home-video, both versions of this amazing film are preserved and presented here…both from newly restored prints and both features 16x9 encoded. I’m not certain if the two versions represent two distinct “takes” of the film or if the two cameras were filming simultaneously…the performances look identical to my eyes but I don’t want to presume (experts please chime in). I know that in some other cases, as with Oklahoma, the two distinct film versions represent two entirely different takes…two completely independent films as far as the performances and dance numbers are concerned.
Bravo to Warner Brothers for providing both versions for the collector to enjoy. I hope that more studios (FOX) start to honor their rich musical library with the type of care and effort that Warner has clearly put into this two-disc DVD edition of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
On the surface, I found the picture quality of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to be a bit of a disappointment. But don’t lose heart. Let me qualify. Firstly, I’m viewing on a very large screen (106 inches diag.) at a generously wide viewing angle…1.6:1 screen-widths away…which is about as wide as one can go with DVD source-material before the limits of the DVD format's resolution start to become a distraction. So my viewing system is about as revealing as most that the disc will likely encounter. Also, the faults with the image on this disc are almost entirely film-source related and not a symptom of poor film-digital transferring or bad disc authoring/mastering. In the truest sense of “image quality”, if a studio has taken care to locate the best available film-source material, restore those elements to their best potential given the studio’s means, and then present that image on DVD in a manner that is as transparent to those elements as possible, then the DVD and the studio are both deserving of praise, as is the case here. My exposition of the issues and problems with the image quality then are not to be taken as criticism of the disc or Warner Brothers studio, but merely as an effort to explain as accurately as I can my impressions of the image so that others can gain insight into how the overall image quality might translate into their own system (or how it might appear on a more revealing system, if you’re considering upgrading to a new front-projection system and wondering how this disc might look).
A largely DVD-artifact-free image…
Do we expect anything less from Warner Brothers? Except for their stubbornness to not 16x9 encode their 1.66:1 transfers, WB has really taken the lead in demonstrating to the other studios how well a DVD can replicate the film-source material from which it is mastered. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is virtually completely free from any distracting “ringing” from EE, and despite the challenging (noisy) film material, is compressed remarkably well…with only occasional MPEG artifacting which is a forgivable necessity given the high level of entropy (film grain) in the film content and Warner Brother’s tendency to preserve the natural detail information without employing overly-aggressive high-frequency filters as (sadly) do many other studios. All of this is a good thing. It means that the DVD medium isn’t getting in the way of the image quality…it’s just “letting through” the film-source material as best it can. Bravo Warner. Other studios would have whimped out and tried to DNR this transfer to death and robbed it of all naturalness in an effort to “videoize” it. Thanks for resisting.
So what’s not to like? Well, as faithful as the DVD is to those film-source elements, that film print just isn't that impressive—this film just isn't as pretty as My Fair Lady or Singing in the Rain. From what I understand, Warner did a great deal of work to secure the best possible elements and did even more work to get them in as good of condition as we see here…so my discussion of the elements is not to discredit the wonderful job the studio has done with what must have been extremely challenging material...just to let you know what it actually "looks like" so you'll be well informed.
Scope 2.55:1 Version:
Starting with the 2.55:1 scope version on Disc 1, the image appears largely soft and often “out of focus” when viewed at my 1.6 screen-width distance. Some scenes appear a bit fuzzy, lacking in 3-dimensional depth, and contain lots of film grain. Contrast is a bit poorer than what I've become accustomed to and sometimes the image has a slightly washed-out appearance. Colors seem a bit odd...everything is overly warm and tones tend to look red lacking proper saturation of greens and blues. From what I've read (and from discussion in this thread) much of the blurriness is a result of the anamorphic lenses used for the scope version (clarity is much improved in the 1.77:1 flat version) as well as some of the other picture quality concerns. In that thread HTF member Conrad_SSS has this to say:
Regarding the 2.55 version, there are reasons why some may find it not as sharp or colorful as the 1.85/1.77 version.
I attended a screening of 7 Brides at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills in '95 or '96 where they had the cast and crew in attendance, and a new "restored" print of the scope version. The president of Turner (who owned the film at the time, pre-Warner) introduced the film and mentioned the restoration work they did was made difficult by the fact that the original negative had been seriously damaged when MGM blew the film up to 70mm for its 1968 re-release to theaters, and that the original red/green/blue safety separations of that version were made incorrectly by the lab back in the '50s. So they had to do the best they could with the elements they had.
Add to this, the poor optics of early Cinemascope lenses, and the instability of Ansco Color, and you've got a recipe for problems.
Taking all that into consideration I think the new, anamorphic transfer of the 2.55 version is much better than anything I've ever seen before, and certainly the "flat" version is sharper than the scope version, given the lack of lens problems.
All in all, a lot of work has gone into providing us with both versions of this wonderful movie. For that, I am most grateful to Warner Bros., and I happily ditched my old, ugly
non-anamorphic snapper disc yesterday
So the bottom line is that we should be grateful for what we have...and indeed the image on this disc is the best looking presentation of this film yet to emerge on any consumer video format.
Also, allow me to comment for those with smaller displays or who view their screens from a narrow angle (farther away relative to the width of their screen), the image of the 2.55:1 may appear satisfyingly sharp to your eyes in your system. I noticed as I moved backwards into the room away from the screen that once the image got to a 2-screen-width distance away, it started to "sharpen up" a bit and take on a more 3-dimensional quality...though the lack of contrast and strong black level kept it from ever becoming a truly depth-filled presentation. Most folks who watch DVDs on televisions...even large-screen HD displays, are likely viewing from a distance of greater than two screen-widths so for most viewers out there the concerns about the soft-image won't be so important.
New 16x9 DVD to previous 4x3 lbx DVD Comparison...
Not as dramatic an improvement as one would usually expect, but the benefits of the new transfer/DVD are real and do make a difference. Color seems astonishingly similar to my eyes...perhaps a tad more saturated in the new transfer. The real improvement to my eyes is in detail. And given the already soft-focus nature of the film-elements, any improvement in actual picture detail is welcome. Those with small-to-moderate displays probably won't notice too much difference, but if you have a large-screen 16x9 display or a wide-angle viewing distance as in most front-projection environments, there's no question that you need to upgrade to this new disc on the basis of improved video alone.
Flat 1.77:1 Version:
Well, as you know by now one of the claims-to-fame of this new two-disc SE set is that it also provides the film collector with the here-to-fore unavailable "flat" version of this film. This version was produced as an alternate version to send to theaters not capable of 2.55:1 anamorphic projection as at the time not all theaters were equipped for the new process. Because of the lack of the (not yet perfected) anamorphic camera lens, the clarity of the 1.77:1 transfer is strikingly improved. Still not sharp as some of the best prints Warner has been able to work with (their Victor Victoria DVD looks almost hi-def it's so detailed and clear), but in comparison to the 2.55:1 version of this film on Disc 1, the increase in detail with the 1.77:1 version is notable. Film grain is still abundant (but natural in appearance) and color, while still subdued and understaturated, also appears improved...especially in regards to correcting the red-bias of the 2.55:1 image. Flesh tones are more comfortably rendered in the flat version and the mind only dreams of an image the would combine the benefit of both...the dramatic 2.55:1 framing with the clarity and more natural color of the 1.77:1 image.
Warner did an admirable job here given the challenge and condition of this source material. The scores here reflect the “objective” appearance of the picture quality in the context of just looking at the image on the screen without consideration of any historical context or criteria. By standards of being faithful to the film-source material, both film versions on this DVD set do remarkably well with very little “DVD signature” artifacting to mar the visual experience of the film-source material. The visual artifacts that do exist are almost entirely film-source related, and not due to transfer or DVD authoring/mastering discrepancies, and therefore the studio deserves high-marks for delivering the best-available image to the consumer given the potential that the DVD format provides.[/i]
Scope 2.55:1 Version: 3.5 / 5
:star: :star: :star:
Flat 1.77:1 Version: 4.5 / 5
:star: :star: :star: :star:
Surprisingly good. Dynamic range seems a bit restricted, and fidelity lacks the natural, airy, "open" character of the better (more modern) scores. But given the age of this film I was surprised to find the audio presentation as satisfying as I did. Vocals were clear and didn't come across harsh or abrasive even in musical numbers where the volume was pushed a bit. Front soundstaging was pleasingly wide on some of the musical numbers and the effect had a fullness that again was not expected. The 5.1 track on the 2.55:1 version comes across with naturalness and ease...and the presentation of the mix doesn't sound contrived or "processed" like many older mono or stereo scores reconstituted for 5.1 channels. The 2.0 mix on the 1.77:1 version sounds pleasing as well, though lacks the front L/R separation of the 5.1 mix and the vocals also lack the solidity and stable positioning that they posses in the 5.1 mix. In both mixes (the two versions of the film), there is often a pleasing ambience in the surround channels that accompanies the musical numbers though most of the "regular" dialog and action is pretty center-heavy.
Don't expect direct-to-disc LP-fidelity or Empire Strikes Back 5.1 whip-lash and you'll be ok...
HTF member Roger Rollins had this to say:
There is a reason for the difference in soundtracks.
The 1.77:1 version was never mixed for stereo or intended for stereo distribution. Only a mono track was created for it.
The 2.55:1 version received a full four-track stereo mix which went into theatrical distribution. From those elements came the new 5.1 track.
The 1.77 version was given a basic Left-Right stereo mix using the music pre-recordings and existing dialogue and effects tracks. Remember it's a "different film" but has the same music elements.
Sound Quality: 4/ 5
:star: :star: :star: :star:
Tonight I'll finish exploring the SE content and update my comments here. Many of you already have the disc in hand so I invite you to share your own impressions and thoughts about the special feature content of this disc with everyone here.
[*]Feature Commentary: We're treated to screen-specific commentary for the feature film by Director Stanley Donen. His speaking style may not be invigorating, but his comments are worth listening to and he exposes many of the political and production problems and issues that affected this film's production in addition to the usual list of casting and filming issues. Well worth the listen for anyone who is a fan of this film or who want to explore a little bit of film history right there for the taking.
[*]Donen Musical Trailer Gallery:
[*]"Sobbin' Women" behind-the-scenes documentary : Documentary exploring the making-of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Hosted by Howard Keel and containing new interviews with Jane Powell and Jacques D'Amboise.
[*]New York Premiere and MGM 30th Anniversary Celebration Newsreels: Documentary exploring the making-of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
[*]Vintage Short MGM Jubille Overture: Documentary exploring the making-of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
A wonderful film and a classic musical that goes largely underrated. If you enjoy romance-musicals from this era like Brigadoon and Singing in the Rain, chances are you'll find yourself glad you spent 102 minutes with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. While the source elements keep the image quality of this disc from looking pristine next to the stunning Technicolor DVD transfers we've become accustomed to from Warner Brothers (Meet Me in St. Louis, Singing in the Rain), the studio has done an admirable job restoring the best available film elements and taking care to author/master the image on this disc in a manner that preserves the integrity of those elements to the greatest degree. A surprisingly good 5.1 mix accompanies the 2.55:1 version, and a satisfying 2.0 (ProLogic flagged) mix is provided with the 1.77:1 version. Special feature content is of real quality, and any fan of this film or the classical musical genre has no excuse not to purchase this new DVD set. Keep the 8-page booklet from your former non-anamorphic MGM version (something this new Warner disc lacks) and make room on the shelf. A charming film from a more innocent time, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers continues to delight, and more-so than ever with this new DVD treatment.