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Fiddler On The Roof
review by Zach B.
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
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, Norman Jewison: Filmmaker documentary,
Norman Jewison Looks Back, Deleted Song - Any Day Now,
Tevye's Dream In Full Color, Tevye's Dream Comparison,
Sholom Aleichem Stories, Historical Background, Production
Design & Storyboards, Storyboard To Film Comparisons,
Original Production Notes, Photographic Production Diary,
Promotional Materials, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby
Digital 5.1 Surround, English Closed Captions, English
Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene
Selections (36 Scenes)
Released: October 2nd, 2001
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
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
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 only have an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track on this
release, but in either case, 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.
This special edition is basically a port of the
laserdisc, but there's some new extras here to sweeten the
deal. Fans of the flick will love the supplements. On the
first side 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 on this side is the Theatrical
Trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Side two is the bulk of the supplements. A great and one
of the best documentaries I've seen on DVD is included, and
really worth checking out. That documentary, exclusive to
this release is Norman Jewison: Filmmaker and even
has twelve scene selections for it. Clocking in at about
fifty minutes, this documentary chronicles a good deal of
the movie's production. It was filmed during production of
the movie and is well-edited and well set-up. The film was
made at a time when there was no big budget films really out
there, and the film was behind schedule. Jewison is
obviously getting frustrated as it seems things don't go
exactly right. There's not much cheesy narration, and this
is really well made as we learn about Jewison making the
film, his challenges, the studio and how it couldn't be a
flop. Do yourself a favor and check this out, even if you
don't like the film. This really holds up after thirty
years. It's in full frame.
Norman Jewison Looks Back has Jewison discussing
the film in five separate pieces that can be viewed
separately or at the same time. "On Directing," "Strongest
Memory," "Biggest Challenge," "On Casting" and finally "A
Classic?" are the name of the pieces. These are in
anamorphic widescreen and look quite nice. Anyway, Jewison
is really passionate here as he discusses getting the job,
seeing the show on broadway and literally being squeezed in
to see it. I seriously can't believe though that Norman
Jewison is not Jewish, as he talks about that and reaction
of studio executives when they learned that. Whew.
The Deleted Song - Any Day Now is included with a
nice text intro beforehand. No film does exist for the song,
as it was set to be made but was never shot, but it was
orchestrated. The song is played against clips from the film
and still photos.
We also have Tevye's Dream In Full Color that has
a video intro with Norman Jewison that is very well done.
The intro and dream are in anamorphic widescreen.
Interesting to watch and it looks pretty good and sounds
well. There's also a Side by Side Comparison to see
it in full color and how it looks in final film, also in
anamorphic widescreen. What a difference! However, the
sequence is trimmed and only shows clips. Nice nonetheless.
Norman Jewison narrates two Sholom Aleichem
Stories - "The Bubble Bursts" and "Modern Children." I'm
familiar with Aleichem's works being brought up in a Jewish
household and studying Judaism, and these are nice
additions. The stories are entertaining, and Jewish has a
nice voice, so watch these. He narrates over still drawings
and the like.
There's a Historical Background which is also read
by Jewison, as stills are shown he talks about what's true
and not about "Fiddler." Very interesting.
Production Design & Storyboards feature a
number of stills to view and are pretty cool, while you can
do Storyboard To Film Comparisons for "Tradition,"
"Matchmaker," the intro to "Miracle Of Miracles," "Tevye's
Dream" and "Lazar Wolf and Tevye." Worth watching. And yes,
Original Production Notes are more stills where
you can view casting, make-up, call sheets and shooting
schedule sheets. Very cool.
The Photographic Production Diary shows even more
stills, divided into five sections: "Norman Jewison,"
"Yugoslavia," "On Location," "The Songs," and "New York
Premiere." Also good to look at.
Rounding it all out are Promotional Materials
where you can view the original release poster, original
press booklet, re-release poster, re-release pressbook,
international release posters and the animated souvenir
program. There's also the Re-Release Trailer,
"Reserve Your Seat" Teaser, "Will Rogers"
Teaser, a 1971 TV spot and and a 1979 TV
A fine presentation for a great musical, and some
fantastic extras, this is yet another great special edition
from the fine folks at MGM. The price is ridiculously cheap
for what you get, so do pick up this fine musical!
(4.5/5 - NOT included in
(4.5/5, NOT an average)