THE SOUND OF MUSIC 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 1965 Film Length: 174 minutes Genre: Musical Drama Aspect Ratio:[*] Todd-AO 2.20:1 enhanced widescreen Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 4.0 Surround [*]English & Spanish 2.0 Stereo [*]French Surround Subtitles: English & Spanish Film Rating: Release Date: November 15, 2005. Film Rating: / Starring: Julie Andrews (Maria), Christopher Plummer (Captain Georg von Trapp) Directed by: Robert Wise The Happiest Sound in All The World![/i] For its 40th Anniversary, FOX has gone all-out with the Academy Film Archive on the restoration of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. It’s an Academy Award winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Music, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and is a classic film known by more people than we want to imagine. I won’t discuss in-depth about the story of this film, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s a true-life story of Maria (Hollywood converted), a spirited young nun who leaves a convent to become a governess for seven children of a naval officer, Captain von Trapp. He’s a widower and his house is strict and there is no room for merriment and music – the opposite of what Maria’s personality is. She always has this urge to sing because it makes her feel happy and free. In fact, this is probably one of the happiest films you’ll see! Set high in the mountains of Austria and in the low-lying city of Salzburg, there are 24 musical numbers in this three-hour film and you are guaranteed that you’ve heard at least one of these songs somewhere sometime. This review is focussed on the quality of this release and its value to you, the DVD buyer. This release boasts an improved image over all other releases and is loaded with special features spread out on 2 discs. They are all new and Julie Andrews guides us through many of them. So how does it perform? VIDEO QUALITY / A new restoration of this film has been completed for this release. The original 65mm negative was used as the starting point for the restoration. It was continued with making new 70mm prints and then digital restoration in HD to clean up the dirt, tears, cue marks etc. It was this HD master that served as the final source for this DVD. Compared to the 1993 transfer, the picture quality is an improvement in colour fidelity, contrast, and resolution. Since colour temperature on this release is more neutral, the greens, blues, reds, greys and blacks look much more natural. It’s not a small difference, it’s quite obvious. The previous transfer looks purple in comparison and lacking in resolution. This release is pleasant in terms of detail, but it does look soft overall. In fact, it still looks too soft. Colours are good but not vibrant as one would wish; since many prints were made off of the original 65mm negative that was used as a starting point for this restoration, there is no doubt that print would suffer some fading. Colours also appear somewhat inconsistant at times. Compression artefacts are kept to a minimum. I can’t remember any instances that artefacts of that sort stood out to me. FOX has done a good job at keeping this release as ‘smooth’ as possible...but again I will say it's too smooth that it feels like I'm missing detail. There are some instances of edge enhancement but not as bad as what was on the previous release. It’s on-off throughout the film, most noticeable when Andrews walks in the mountains against the bright blue sky at the beginning of the film. It is easy to detect a halo on the right her body but it’s tough to say when in the restoration chain that happened. One problem I did detect was the noticeable shift of the colours of red and cyan. The opening titles, the river between the mountains, the candles in the convent – all have the “red” element of the object the right of it. At first I thought it was an effect of the title, but when I saw it on objects I knew that it wasn’t. Also, the same effect can be seen with a cyan smear to the right of an object, for example, when looking at a nun. This problem wasn’t noticeable in every shot; people with small screens may not notice this, but on my 110” screen it was clear as the mountain sky on a sunny day. AUDIO QUALITY / There are two English audio options available; a Dolby Digital 4.0 presentation as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo version. Sounds placed in the soundstage seem very similar between the two soundtracks but the 4.0 surround version is clearly wider. Dialogue and singing is directional and extend further to the sides in the 4.0 mix than the stereo version. I chose to review this title using Dolby Digital 4.0. The 4.0 channel audio delivery on this DVD is taken from a 35mm 6-track mag element and restoration was completed on the original mix. The 6 channels consisted of 5 channels across the front (like 8-channel SDDS) and a single mono surround channel. The 5 channels across the front were folded down to three discrete channels for home theatre – left, center, right. The directionality of dialogue, effects, and singing is well preserved. Using three identical Focus Audio FC-50 speakers as my L,C,R (for this test) I was able to hear the singing pan across the soundstage with little error and conforming to the movements of the actors on the screen. I like directional dialogue because for those of us who do use large screens and whose speakers are placed relatively close to the same width of the screen, it gives a greater sense of movement and realism. But…the only problem is that when panning between left-center or center-right, the effect isn’t perfectly realized because positioning and design of these two speakers are different. It still works though and it’s refreshing from the common “center-channel” prison dialogue receives. Background sounds in the surrounds are quiet and not that effective. The soundstage is up front while the surrounds provide a slight amount of ambience. Background noise is not noticeable at regular listening levels. Once the volume is turned up past a 75dB reference level the hiss becomes apparent. SPECIAL FEATURES / This release gets top grades for special features. Both discs get a two-minute introduction by Julie Andrews. The first disc also includes the original audio commentary by Robert Wise that was taken from the laserdisc release. He speaks in select moments in the film and the track also serves as an “effects and music” track. There is no dialogue to the film and no singing. So if you want, you could use this track to sing the lyrics of each song to. This disc also features an all-new audio commentary by Julie Andrews as well as Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, choreographer Dee Dee Wood, and the real Johannes von Trapp. These commentaries were recorded separately and are edited together when topics of interest come up. All are well spoken and interesting to listen to. Disc 1 also has a sing-along option that is available in English, Spanish, and French (there are a few songs that aren’t available in French). These subtitles can be activated when watching the movie or these 24 scenes are accessible individually in the menu. The bulk of the features are on Disc 2 and all of them are new. None of these are featured on the Five Star Collection and no features from that out-of-print collection are featured on this disc. The first feature is My Favourite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers and it’s basically about her recalling the von Trapp family and how their story was converted to Hollywood and Broadway. It’s 1hr.03min long and also features Christopher Plummer, Johannes von Trapp, and Robert Wise. This feature is 4:3. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence (20min, 16:9) features these two comfortably sitting beside each other talking about the past. There is a lot of that on this disc because there is another features called From Liesl to Gretl: A 40th Anniversary Reunion. All seven of the von Trapp children, as featured in the film, reunite in this “family reunion” as they look to the past (34min, 4:3ws). Since The Sound of Music was filmed in the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria, there is a feature devoted to it. On Location with The Sound of Music has Charmian Carr taking us through a 23-minute walk through Salzburg and the areas used (and not used) in the film (16:9 with an SD camcorder). When You Know the Notes to Sing is a feature covering the event that took place at the Hollywood Bowl for the 40th Anniversary of this film. Julie Andrews hosted the crowd of 18 000 during costume contests and the sing along to the film (12min, 4:3ws). Also check out the A&E Biography - The von Trapp Family: Harmony & Discord (50min, 4:3), restoration comparisons, a Mia Farrow Screen Test (35s, 2.20:1), still galleries that include storyboards, behind the scenes, and Lobbycards and One Sheets. A theatrical teaser, a trailer, a 1st Anniversary Trailer, a 1973 Re-issue trailer, a testimonial trailer and two T.V. Spots are included too. None of them are enhanced for widescreen displays even though they are letterboxed. They appear to come from composite sources since associated artefacts are on the screen. IN THE END… FOX did a great job at assembling a very good DVD release for the 40th Anniversary for The Sound of Music. The disc looks fantastic, the original soundtrack hasn’t had any dramatic changes to it and still delivers directional dialogue as the theatrical presentation did. The special features on this disc are of very high quality in comparison to other classic titles but are still shy based on some other feature-loaded releases we’ve seen on the DVD market lately. I wish FOX would put more effort into the quality of how the special features of their films are presented. All-new materials (not just for this release but for all FOX DVDs) always appear to be shot with consumer standard-def camcorders and the images are cropped (or not) to fit as a widescreen enhanced feature. It seems like all of these interviews and location shoots look like hack compared to other studios that actually shoot their special features with HD cameras. At least the film was spared – because it’s the best presentation we’ve seen thus far. For this, I recommend this title to HTF readers. Michael Osadciw November 14, 2005.