SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN
For my money, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS ($27) is one of the best "little back-lot" musicals to ever come out of the MGM Studios. SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS really is infectious entertainment at its best, with its rollicking backwoods story of frontier love, delightful musical numbers by Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul and exuberant choreography by Michael Kidd (letsí face it, the barn raising dance sequence has become one of the most thrilling and unforgettable from all musical cinema). Of course, at the time it was being made, MGM had no idea that they were about to have a tremendously successful film on their hands, one that would make back its tiny budget many times over, earn an Academy Award for its music (not to a nomination for Best Picture) and become an enduring classic that many musical fans count as their favorite movie of all time.
Based upon the Stephen Vincent Benet story The Sobbin' Women, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS is set in the Oregon territories of the 1850s and tells the story of backwoodsman Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) who decides to find himself a wife the next time he travels into town. After looking over the available prospects he settles on Milly (Jane Powell), for whom it truly is love at first site, when she lays her eyes on Adam. After a lightning fast marriage, Millie finds herself back on the Pontipee farm with her new husband, as well as his six brothers- a little detail Adam left out of his marriage proposal. Although angry at first, Millie and Adam discover they really are in love, and she proves to be a formidable presence- almost instantly civilizing her six mangy brothers-in-law.
Of course, having a woman around the house causes the rest of the Pontipee men to long for wives of their own; however after the Pontipees unsuccessfully attempt to court six of the young townswomen, eldest brother Adam suggests that his brothers take a page out of Millieís history book and carry off their intended brides- just like the Romans did with the Sabine women. As you might expect, Adamís ill-advised plan succeeds, but it doesnít sit well with Millie, nor the six frightened young women, nor their families that have been left on the other side of a mountain pass that has been sealed off for the winter by an avalanche. The cast of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS also features Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Marc Platt, Matt Mattox, Jacques d'Amboise, Julie Newmar, Nancy Kilgas, Betty Carr, Virginia Gibson, Ruta Lee, Norma Doggett and Ian Wolfe.
Warner Home Video has made SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS available on DVD in a widescreen presentation, which is slightly shy of it 2.55:1 theatrical aspect ratio, although it has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a really nice looking transfer that has been slightly limited by the original production. The early CinemaScope lenses werenít as refined as later iterations, nor was the Ansco Color an impressive replacement for Technicolor. Sharpness and detail are a bit variable, with sequences shot under the most controlled conditions and lighting looking the best. Actual outdoor sequences and anything optically processed tend to look a bit soft, but it is never too bad. The hues fluctuate a bit on the fades, but otherwise, are pretty stable. Colors can look a little flat at times, but under good lighting they appear pretty vibrant and rather appealing. Blacks are accurate, whites hold up well enough and contrast is good. The film elements used for the transfer display few blemishes or scratches, which is quite good for a movie celebrating its Fiftieth Anniversary. There is a bit of grain here and there throughout the presentation, but is usually pretty mild. Digital compression artifacts are nicely contained.
For its age, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS comes with a rather pleasant sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Not surprisingly, the forward soundstage dominates, with the surround channel providing a nice amount of fill to the score and musical numbers. Fidelity isnít at modern levels, but is great for a movie hitting the half-century mark. The music is smooth and enjoyable, without any harshness or tinny sounding elements. Singing voices sound warm and rather pleasant, so fans of Howard Keel and Jane Powell are certain to enjoy the track. Dialogue is always understandable, although some of postproduction looping is a bit obvious. A French language tracks is also provided, as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running audio commentary by director Stanley Donen. Although sparse in places, Donen shares his memories of making the movie, as well as a respectable amount of production detail for someone remembering five decades down the line. A Stanley Donen Trailer Gallery featuring ON THE TOWN, ROYAL WEDDING, SINGINí IN THE RAIN, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954 & 1968 re-issue) ITíS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, THE PAJAMA GAME and DAMN YANKEES closes out disc one.
Moving on to disc two, one will fine the setís biggest supplement- namely the alternate "flat" version of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS that was shot at the same time as the CinemaScope version. When SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS was being made, CinemaScope still hadnít proven itself, so MGM hedged their bets by making sure the film could be screened in any theater that wasnít equipped to show movies in Ďscope- thus this rarely seen alternate version. Presented at 1.78:1 in 16:9 enhanced widescreen, the "flat" version of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS looks slightly sharper and better defined than the CinemaScope version, although the monaural soundtrack is a bit dull sounding. Next up, is Sobbin' Women: The Making Of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, which was originally made in 1997, but the documentary has been newly updated to include new interviews with Jane Powell and Jacques d'Amboise. The program proves to be an enjoyable forty-minute retrospective hosted by Howard Keel that features interviews with many members of the cast and crew of this classic musical. Newsreel footage of the New York premiŤre and the MGM 30th-Anniversary Celebration are also included on disc two, as is the theatrical short MGM Jubilee Overture.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS is a classic musical and personal favorite that I am delighted to see offered on DVD in a Special Edition. The CinemaScope version of the movie looks and sounds better here than past incarnations, plus fans will be delighted to finally have the alternate version of the film available to them. If you are a movie musical buff or just happened to love SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, this is a must own DVD. Highly recommended.
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