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Fiddler On The Roof

review by Zach B.


Rated G

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 179 minutes

Starring Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Paul Mann

Screenplay by Joseph Stein
adapted from his stage play
Adapted for the screen by Tom Abbot
Based on the stage play "Fiddler On The Rof" adapted from Sholom Alechichem
Stories by Special Arrangement by Arnold Perl

Music by Jerome Robbins
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

Directed by Norman Jewison

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Norman Jewison, Theatrical Trailer, Collectible Booklet

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selections

Ah, "Fiddler On The Roof." Where to begin? Being of the Jewish faith, I suppose this musical does hit pretty close to me. When I was a wee lad, I saw it on broadway and couldn't sit since I was so young. However, my "Fiddler" madness didn't end there. At an old school of mine, it was the annual play and my sister was in it, since that year her grade did the annual play. So I sat through the movie when she rented it, heard the songs over and over and blah. Not to mention sitting through her performance three times over. Still, I like "Fiddler On The Roof." A lot of the values and ethics in this movie I can relate to, probably since I grew up in a Jewish household and studied Hebrew for all those years. Still, if you're not Jewish, there's plenty to enjoy here as "Fiddler On The Roof" is one fine musical, and a great film to boot.

The classic story, based on the tales of Sholom Aleichem, is all about the wise, great-natured Tevye, who is a poor milkman in his Jewish village in Russia. Tevye is a kind and loving man, who loves his wife and his daughters. However, Tevye is at an important stage in his life. It's pre-revolution in Russia, and he has to come to terms with his changing lifestyle. His daughters are growing and looking for love, the pre-revolution and of course, other ties that bond into his family. Believe it or not (well, you should know) all of this works in a fine musical of morals, meaning, great character and emotion. There's a never a dull moment. It's three hours long, but it always feels far less than that to me... and I have trouble sitting for long movies.

There's no surprise why this movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards®, it's just really good and well made. Truly one of the greatest musical movie adaptions ever. As I said, this movie goes really quick for me. Every scene in this is necessary and the dialogue just flows well and sounds great, all from Joseph Stein. There's just this great knack to it and it really comes to be an incredible and very enjoyable story.

This musical is quite memorable as far as songs go. Yes with my sister I heard 'em all dozens of times, but the tunes are rather catchy and sound traditional. They just fit really well and come up at the right times. From the grand opening "Tradition" to "Matchmaker" to "Sunrise, Sunset" there's simply a greatness to them that can't be denied. They have messages and go with what's going on. The lyrics go well too and it's just a fine fit for it all. Really memorable tunes in all of this.

The performances here are great, especially the Academy Award® nominated Topol as Tevye. Topol is just a great fit for the role as he really brings the character to full life. The strength, the happiness and the conflicting emotions. I don't know why, but Topol just has this real strong presence on the screen that's such a joy to watch. He's brilliant in this role as he really does capture everything in the role. He makes it feel and seem so real. Truly an impressive performance. The supporting cast is also good and play off Topol well. The singing voices are great too.

Still, I think the real star of all of this is Norman Jewison. His directing skills, which have always been strong as he's done great films, but here he really creates a fantastic movie here. The way he conveys and sets up his shots as he captures the characters actions and feelings as we're viewing it all through our eyes. The editing and pacing is also fantastic. His wide and long shots are marvelous. I really just love his style and how it works in all of it. I wish this movie won the Oscar® for his direction, but it did win for cinematography.

"Fiddler On The Roof" is one fine musical, as there is such richness in its characters and stories. Great acting, directing and adaptation all around, if you haven't seen this movie, what are you waiting for?

MGM has delivered a great 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film, and it looks glorious. It's the best shape I've ever seen the film in and is sure to please. However, it's not perfect. Contrast seems to be a bit high, while a good deal of shimmering and noise is present. There's also a decent amount of grain, dirt, blemishes, nicks and scratches on this print (especially in chapter 2). Still, they're not too distracting. Sometimes the image can be a bit soft. Jewison's amazing vision and shots look really lovely and are fantastic on this disc. Colors are well saturated, while fleshtones and hues are pretty good as well. Throw in some great scenery, backgrounds and locations, good shadow detail, good general detail and fine black levels and you have yourself one terrific transfer. The best looking version of "Fiddler," all right here! Though I wish it was cleaned up a bit more.

We have an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track on this release and since this is a musical and its musical presence is very strong. Surrounds here come in all shapes and sizes. Whether its horses neighing, water being splashed or dancing, but obviously, most of the surrounds come from the music. Since this movie is thirty years old, it's not as strong as it is remixed, but it really gets the job done and sounds perfectly fine for what it is - especially with the age as that is impressive. .1 LFE is decent, but you do feel like you're in the world of Tevye with this 5.1 track. Good sound activity all around. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear and nothing overpowers it. English subtitles, Spanish subtitles and French subtitles are on the disc, plus English closed captioning. There's also a French Dolby Surround track.

We have an Audio Commentary with Norman Jewison and Topol that is rather good. Yes there are moments of long pauses which are really annoying, but there's good information to absorb from all of this. Jewison offers a lot of praise for the cast and crew while talking about how he set things up and what he wanted. Topol's comments are more spares but when he's heard he says good things. This track can be a bit slow at times due to the annoying pauses, but if you have the patience there's good things in this. Also included is the Theatrical Trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen and a Collectible Booklet inside.

A great musical with a very good presentation and a good commentary. However, I would hold off for the upcoming special edition...

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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