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Blu-ray Review The Fantasticks Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    XenForo Template The Fantasticks Blu-ray Review

    Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s The Fantasticks is one of those intimate, charming theatrical parables whose utter preciousness either works for an audience or it doesn’t. It obviously worked for New York audiences since the original production ran off-Broadway for forty-two years, a record for New York theatrical events which is likely never to be broken. But turning such a delicate piece of theater with a tiny cast and a simple story into a feature film is a project one wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. Amazingly, director Michael Ritchie along with the show’s creators Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt completely reconceived the material for the big screen, and the result is a surprisingly tart tale of blissfully youthful romance and a rude awakening to reality that goes far afield from the tone of the original play and yet works on its own terms quite wonderfully.


    Cover Art


    Studio: MGM

    Distributed By: Twilight Time

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: PG

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 27 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    clear keep case

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: All

    Release Date: 04/14/2015

    MSRP: $29.95




    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Two fathers (Joel Grey, Brad Sullivan) want nothing more than for their teenaged children Matt (Joe McIntyre) and Luisa (Jean Louisa Kelly) to fall in love and marry, so to help matters along, they pretend to be feuding and wanting their children to stay far away from one another. It works as the two innocents are drawn to one another and are hopelessly in love. To seal the deal completely, the fathers hire a chameleon carnival entrepreneur named El Gallo (Jonathon Morris) to pretend to abduct Luisa so Matt can rescue her and save the day further cementing their bond. The scheme works until the two lovebirds find out about their fathers’ machinations and in the cold light of day discover that perhaps each is not the perfect partner for the other. Thus begins each of them on his or her quest to experience the world more truthfully leading to some painful realizations for them both.

    With Schmidt and Jones’ idea of turning El Gallo into a carnival owner/huckster running a traveling circus filled with illusions, the movie becomes a study in illusion versus reality, a theme that will weigh heavily on all the characters but especially for the character of Luisa. From her opening song of delirious wanting “Much More” to her big (artificial) romantic set piece with El Gallo “Round and Round,” Luisa’s journey is filled with experiences which bit by bit shake the stardust from her eyes allowing her to see the world as it really is and to begin to make decisions as a young woman and not an adolescent. While director Michael Ritchie has cast the movie with a couple of actors who are shaky in the vocal department (especially Brad Sullivan as Matt’s father), the beautiful score is given its due especially by the two singing young stars. Their duets to “Metaphor,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” and “They Were You” are beautifully felt and emotionally expressed, and the sour, soul scorching “This Plum Is Too Ripe” in which the two families express disillusionment over the plan gone wrong in the cold light of day makes a great moment of conflict come alive at the halfway mark in the story. The musical’s seminal song “Try to Remember” in the final cut offered here is placed at the end of the film as a kind of reflective comment on what has gone before, not exactly ineffectual but the one jarring note to fans of the theater piece which opened with the song (and which is included in the director’s original theatrical version also on this disc). Its omission from the beginning now certainly makes the viewer aware that this is not The Fantasticks that he’s used to seeing on stage. Ritchie’s use of Panavision widescreen for such an intimate tale might also give one pause, but he uses his wide canvas expressively (a lovely dance sequence in the middle of “Round and Round” makes ultimate use of the wide frame) and throughout shows he has the imagination and wherewithal to direct a musical even though previously the closest he had come to the form was Bette Midler’s Divine Madness which was simply a record of her stage extravaganza.

    With a lovely voice and expressive eyes, Jean Louisa Kelly makes an ideal Luisa handling the vocalizing and acting with abandon. Fresh from New Kids on the Block, Joe McIntyre also is a solid, appealing Matt. Even paired with the less worthy singing of Jonathon Morris’s El Gallo, his “I Can See It” offers the thrill of new adventure, and all of his duets with Kelly are special and heartfelt. Joel Grey and Brad Sullivan are wonderful fathers, Grey especially making use of his singing and dancing talents to add subtle touches of fatherly love and affection in scenes with Kelly. Jonathon Morris’ singing voice may be a tad light for the animated El Gallo, but he’s otherwise wonderful in the role offering verve and brio at all the right moments and a touch of wistfulness, too, at his more rapscallion-like maneuvers. The always terrific Barnard Hughes and amusing mime Teller do very nicely with the Old Actor Henry and his companion Mortimer who weave into and out of the narrative at important moments.



    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    The theatrical Panavision 2.35:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. On the whole, the image is beautifully sharp and colorful with realistic flesh tones and nice detail in close-ups. There are occasional long shots that are soft, and there’s a sprinkling of dust specks here and there but not to the point of distraction. Contrast has been consistently applied. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.



    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The disc offers DTS-HD Master Audio in two combinations: 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround. The 2.0 track offers the smoother relationship between singing voices and orchestral accompaniment while the 5.1 offers a wider slate for those gorgeous Jonathan Tunick arrangements of these classic songs. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and is present in the center channel in each mix. You actually can’t go wrong with either track.



    Special Features Rating: 4.5/5

    Audio Commentaries: here we have an embarrassment of riches: three commentary tracks, all of them filled with interesting and important information on the production of this film. The first offers director Michael Ritchie on his own discussing his approach to turning the show into a film. There are no gaps in his commentary on a film that’s obviously very special to him. The second track offers show biz entrepreneur Bruce Kimmel sharing his thoughts on the film and stage show and interviewing the film’s female star Jean Louisa Kelly who has her own memories to share about the movie and about her career pre and post The Fantasticks. The third track offers producer Nick Redman talking with entertainment journalist Chris Willman who wrote a succession of stories about the production and its problematic release, yet another track filled with anecdotes and engaging conversation.

    Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

    Original Theatrical Cut of The Fantasticks (1:49:46, SD): this is Ritchie’s original cut with “Try to Remember” up front and “Plant a Radish” back in the running order.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:11, SD)

    MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)

    Six-Page Booklet: offers a selection of color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enlightening essay offering information on the original stage production, the film, and its aftermath.



    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    The Fantasticks is a lovely show either on stage or screen though the movie version has a different look and tone from its stage counterpart, not a bad thing when one is discussing reconceived cinematic versions of hit stage properties. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.


    Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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  2. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    It's interesting that the longer cut is called the "original theatrical cut." Did it actually get any theatrical playdates before they brought in Francis Ford Coppola to cut it?
     
  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    In the third commentary that Nick Redman conducts, it's mentioned that it was quite strange that even though the Coppola cut was ready to go at the time of the [four theater] theatrical release of the film, MGM released the original cut, not the Coppola cut.
     
  4. Virgoan

    Virgoan Supporting Actor

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    Thanks so much for your in-depth review. I was most disappointed by the sparse, if positive, thoughts in another column. The film was a labor of love for Ritchie and it is a very interesting and charming film in spite of its history. I wish the first look at this month's Twilight Time releases had been yours, but the wait yielded rewards.
     
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  5. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

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    Really? Everything I've read said that it was the Coppola cut that was shown in theaters, and that the Blu-ray is the first time the 109-minute version has been released at all.
     
  6. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    The DVD had the deleted scenes outside the film, but this has it—albeit in SD only. If Yentl got both cuts in HD, this should have, too, unless something happened that has made that impossible.* At least it's there.

    It is a damn shame that they buried this film the way they did. When I heard this was getting a movie version (I read about it in a DTS trade ad in some laserdisc magazine), I wondered when and where I could see it. But it never came to my hometown. Ever. In any version. More than anything else, that felt like the final nail in the coffin of live-action movie musicals pre-Chicago. And this is M-G-M we're talking about. Metro. Goldwyn. Mayer. They practically invented movie musicals. But that M-G-M's legacy now belongs to Warner Bros., the studio that did sound-on-film first.**

    *Historically, MGM/UA's track record in keeping outtakes—and taking good care of them once they actually find them—is spotty at best. At least on the UA end of things. M-G-M was better at keeping this stuff, with the exception of the little insect that got away. And I will hand it to them; they really tried to make "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" happen.
    **And, all in all, the studio that was the most respectful of theatrical source material.
     
  7. Virgoan

    Virgoan Supporting Actor

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    Mine arrived today, and I cannot wait to see it!
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Stop back by and post your thoughts once you have!
     
  9. Virgoan

    Virgoan Supporting Actor

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    "The Fantasticks" is a significant achievement in the art of movie musicals inasmuch as it was produced in an era when no one was making movie musicals and most of those who had made movie musicals were no longer around..Happily, it was done with love and attention to what makes musicals "work".


    This is a United Artists production (distributed by MGM, of course) and was, more or less, independently produced on a sparse budget. It was shot on location near Nogales, Arizona...the "same" region where Fred Zinneman's "Oklahoma!" was filmed. Studio work was not done at MGM studios in Culver City. In her commentary remarks, Jean Louisa Kelly said the interiors were done in "San 'somewhere'" -- sorry I don't remember the name of the town/city, but it wasn't Culver City.


    I can second most everything Matt Hough had to say about the film. I watched both the Blu ray AND the DVD version of the film, and I think it was a mistake to lose "Try to Remember" from the start of the film. Yes, it ends the film, but not in its whole form. The point of having it in the beginning is to set the mood for the proceedings to come. The DVD features the film as it was shot, and it's quite nice/lovely to have the complete song in its proper place.


    I think it's fair to say that Jean Louisa Kelly's performance is truly the heart and soul of this film. It's not that the other players aren't splendid, because they are, but she seems more thoroughly in touch with her character. Her vocals are splendiferous. All the other players are very fine. I would have loved for Jonathon Morris to have had a soaring voice but he acquits himself very well in his vocals. The meaning comes through every time. Joe McIntire makes a very good Matt.


    Kelly also mentioned that Michael Ritchie, in opening up the play for the screen, had to replace our imaginations with visual imagery. On stage, the story is told simply with no scenery. It's the singing and the words of the songs that light the lamps in our minds that give us images that are ours alone in a theater setting. Here there must be literal images, and it's quite an admirable visual treat to see this carnival of mystery and mysticism become the backdrop for the major action.


    The glory of "The Fantasticks" is the phenomenal score by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. At no time can it have ever been so magically and musically presented as it is here with the large orchestra under the leadership of master Broadway orchestrator Jonathan Tunick. Extraordinary work. The score is enchantment with the film and as an isolated element (sans vocals).


    Highly recommended.
     
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  10. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor
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    Ordered Blu-ray due to your review. It's on the way and when it arrives I'm sure I will enjoy it. Thanks.
     
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  11. mackjay

    mackjay Agent

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    When it was released, this film had such dismal reviews that I saw it in a nearly empty theater. Since I love the show I had to see it no matter what. To my surprise it's not at all bad--as some here point out. Kelly is the best thing in the cast, while I agree the others are just fine. The setting is beautiful and the songs come to life the way they should in any movie musical. I also agree with another comment that I think the Coppola version was the one we saw in the theater (the version I saw had "Try to Remember" only at the end. I heard Coppola was brought in to 'save' a seriously problematic version. Now I'm wondering if this film will get the attention it deserves...almost none my music theater friends wanted to see it due to the reviews.
     

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