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The Sound Of Music: Five Star Collection

review by Anthony D.

 

 

Rated G

Running Time: 175 Minutes

Starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

Studio: Fox

Directed by Robert Wise

 

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Screen-specific audio commentary with Director Robert Wise, "The Sound Of Music: From Fact To Phenomenon" documentary, "Salzburg: Sight & Sound" featurette, Video interviews with the cast & crew, Radio interviews with the cast & crew, Still gallery with behind-the-scenes photos, promotional artwork and rare historical images, Production notes, Theatrical trailers, TV spots, Radio spots

Specs: 2.20:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital English 4.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Captions, Spanish Captions, Chapter Search, THX Cerified, Two Disc Set

A towering achievement in the history of American cinema, The Sound of Music makes its way to DVD. This is the film that has been dubbed mutually: "The Sound of Money" and "The Sound of Mucus;" due to its overwhelming popularity at the box office as well as its reputation as being trite and sentimental. The Sound of Music is still, 35 years after its initial road-show engagement, the most viewed film of this generation - - the first reserved seat engagement lasted over a year! The image of a young nun with outstretched arms, twirling against a breath-taking panorama of Austrian Alps is forever imbedded in our consciousness.

From that beginning, The Sound of Music captures fans of musicals, and sweeps them away to Salzburg, Austria for a true, but musically enhanced, tale of a free spirit who disrupts the life of a stern disciplinarian. (Hey, that sounds like one hundred other film scripts out there, doesn't it?) A novice takes temporary leave of the convent to be a governess to a widowed naval Captain's seven children. On the eve of his engagement to a Viennese Baroness, the Captain realizes that he loves the young governess who brought "music" back into his life.

For people who don't like stunningly photographed vistas, "adorable" children, singing nuns or storm-trooping Nazis as villains - - The Sound of Music is NOT the movie for you.

For the rest of us, there could not possibly be a better video incarnation of The Sound of Music than the Deluxe Five-Star- Collection edition that FOX has released on DVD. Painstakingly remastered from a new 65mm Todd-AO negative, this particular film has probably never been this pristine. This is not the same transfer as FOX's 30th Anniversary Edition on LaserDisc, though some of the extras remain the same. Add to that a properly framed (2.20:1) anamorphic presentation, and you have one of the best looking discs ever.

The difficult DeLuxe color is as solid and vibrant as ever. Contrast is stunning without aliasing of bright whites against solid blacks as evidenced by the amount of nuns flitting about the screen. The Captain's lapels are finally a deep forest green against his grey jacket. There is some slight, but never distracting aliasing on fences, though vertical lines in wallpaper, costumes & set furniture work beautifully. There are several process shots, in Chapter 20 which are softer than the rest of the film, but the process shot in "I Have Confidence" (Chapter 10) in undetectable. The final third of The Sound of Music takes place at night, and the clarity is astonishing - - deep, rich blacks and well-defined shadows. Robert Wise chose a very deliberate color palette for this film, and when the infrequent reds do appear, they are true reds without bleeding. The reds are almost always used to indicate a menacing force - - the Captain's almost-fiancee is decked out in a red dress, the Nazi flag.

The photography is so well-represented on this disc that there are many times that the film has a three-dimensional quality - - you feel that you could actually reach out and touch those mountains. A true pleasure to see that The Sound of Music has finally been given the video incarnation it deserves.

The Academy Award winning Sound has been perfectly reproduced on this disc with a glorious Dolby Digital 4.1 mix. Dialogue is natural, although mostly ADR-produced, lyrics are more than intelligible, after all we all know that "The hills are alive...with the sound of music.." and that "do('s) a deer; a female deer." But to hear the mix of nature and aritificial as when ADR dialogue and Foley sound effects come together on a mountain top is a true pleasure when the balance is this good. This is particularly true in Chapter 19 (Do-Re-Mi).

The audio mix also incorporates directional sound, as used in the initial theatrical runs of The Sound of Music.

As for that bass...well, when it rains it pours, and pours it does in the most unlikely of places...in a chapel for a wedding ceremony, an organ begins to play...and, well, let's just say that for as long as it takes cinematically for a couple to wed, the subwoofer will get quite a workout!

The surrounds are used mostly for the orchestral portions of songs until the final third of the film, when the Family vonTrapp give a concert at an outdoor auditorium. Then the rears really kick in giving the viewer the total effect of that particular venue.

In short, this soundtrack has been lovingly put together with a true feeling for the atmosphere of the film. Also, for the first time in my viewing of this film - - for better or for worse - - I was completely aware of the "enhancement" of the children's voices - - there may be only seven children, played by actors who did their own vocals - - but there are at least seven other singers augmenting their vocals; one of whom is co-star Charmian Carr's younger sister!

As with the most recent FOX double-disc releases (The Abyss, Fight Club and Independence Day), the majority of this set's special features are delegated to the second disc. The Film disc features director Robert Wise's scene-specific audio commentary over a music only track which subtracts the vocals from the songs - - anyone in the mood for a Sound of Music karaoke night will be more than happy to sing-a-long- with the 20th Century Fox Orchestra. Wise's commentary is a great addition because he is a natural story-teller and raconteur; and he always seems to be enjoying himself while educating the viewer.

Disc Two's Special Features include the brilliant "From Fact to Phenomenon," narrated by actress Claire Bloom, which was also a supplement on the previous LaserDisc set. Clocking in at eight-seven minutes, the feature relates everything about the real von Trapp family, the previous German film of their story, The Sound of Music on stage and the troubles at 20th Century Fox had been going through before The Sound of Music hit film theaters. Never dry, it is a highly entertaining as well as informative documentary. The second documentary however, can only be regarded as a novelty: Salzburg: Sight and Sound featuring Charmian Carr (Leisl) and her wide-eyed, innocence on tour of the city. This short film (14 minutes) occasionally takes us behind the scenes of the set, but mostly shows off the Austrian city to great advantage.

Also included on the second disc are several teasers and trailers, and audio "telegram" from Daniel Truhitte (Rolf), radio interviews with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise as well as an audio featurette with screen writer Ernest Lehman. All of this is topped off by a still gallery (text and photos) which covers everything from the history of Austria to the film itself, and even includes a bibliography of suggested reading materials!

 

I have always approached each video incarnation of The Sound of Music with trepidation - - this is the film experience from my childhood that video had yet to recapture. First there were the whiplash inducing pan & scan versions, on both videotape and laserdisc, which were followed closely by the incorrect aspect ratio of the first widescreen laserdisc. Until the 30th Anniversary laserdisc there hadn't been a viable transfer of the film, BUT finally with this DVD set, all fears have been laid to rest. One could not ask for a better video representation of Robert Wise's masterpiece. For once, a home viewer never has to get up and change tapes or discs, an evening of film-watching doesn't have to mean disc flipping. FOX's crown jewel has never sparkled as stunningly as it does in the digital format. I realize that this film is not everyone's cup of tea: it has a pace more in tune with the 1930's of its setting, a literate script, glorious natural special effects in its Austrian setting and I will admit, that there are times when the dialogue does not move the scene onward, but if "sentimental" is done right, and well, the film has succeeded. Robert Wise has rarely made a misstep in his choice of films - - The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sand Pebbles, West Side Story as well as The Haunting (1960) - - and his film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is the work of an artist at the peak of his career. Neither of Julie Andrews' previous films had been released when she was approached by Wise for the film, Christopher Plummer was known only on the London stage, supporting actresses Eleanor Parker, Anna Lee and Peggy Wood had been major stars in the 1940s, Marni Nixon had only been heard on screen as the voice double for many films (Gypsy, West Side Story, The King and I) but Wise cast her to appear on screen along with cabaret singer & composer Portia Nelson. Wise's casting choices, the on-location shots of the Austrian Alps, the never too-cloying children, the sumptuous scoring by Oscar-winner Irwin Kostal and a timeless story of courage against adversity have made The Sound of Music a film to remember. FOX Video has released a stunning presentation on DVD which makes The Sound of Music a DVD to treasure forever.

RELATED LINK: For further information on the producer's salvaging operation on The Sound of Music, check out for a side-by-side comparison of the laserdisc and the DVD.

(5/5, NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(4/5)

(5/5, NOT an average)

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