THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Celebrating its fortieth anniversary, THE SOUND OF MUSIC ($27) remains one of the greatest and most popular accomplishments in musical cinema. THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a timeless film with universal appeal that has garnered millions of fans, across numerous generations, in the four decades since it was first released. Based upon the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical, this lush cinematic adaptation of the material greatly benefits from superb 65mm Todd-AO cinematography, which shows the Austrian locations in all their glory, as well as having one of the most memorable scores to ever grace any motion picture, not to mention a fine Ernest Lehman screenplay that cuts down on the saccharine, plus the assured direction of the legendary Robert Wise.
Inspired by real life events, THE SOUND OF MUSIC tells the story of a young postulate named Maria (Julie Andrews), who isnít necessarily an asset to the Abbey in which she lives. Since the Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) is unsure of Mariaís future as a nun, she decides to send Maria out into the world. Maria is sent to home of the widowed Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), where she will serve as governess to the Captainís seven children. Upon her arrives in the von Trapp home, Maria is aghast to find the Captain is a harsh martinet, who treats his children as though they were sailors under his command, instead of his own flesh and blood. Not surprisingly, Mariaís exuberance turns the Captain's ordered existence into utter chaos, but she eventually melts through his icy exterior and restores the loving relationship between the Captain and his children. It is also during this time that Maria wins the Captainís heart and discovers where her destiny lies. The first rate cast of THE SOUND OF MUSIC also features Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Charmian Carr, Daniel Truhitte, Heather Menzies, Nicholas Hammond, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Kym Karath, Ben Wright, Anna Lee, Marni Nixon and Norma Varden.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made the 40th Anniversary Edition of THE SOUND OF MUSIC available on DVD in a 2.20:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This release is a big improvement over Foxís previous offering, which looked good on CRT displays less than forty inches, but had the tendency to become problematic on larger displays. This time out, the image is cleaner, smoother and less noisy than it appeared previously. Sharpness and detail are good, although some portions of the film still appear soft, which I imagine to be a direct result of diffusion lenses being employed for the filmís cinematography. Colors are a little variable, but are generally well saturated and produce fairly nice flesh tones. Blacks appear accurate, whites are clean and the contrast is pretty smooth. The restored film elements are generally free from blemishes, but an occasional imperfection still remains. Film grain is fairly modest, when it is noticeable. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC comes with a Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack. The mix seems more modernized than the previous release, as the dialogue comes across as being more localized to the center channel and less directional. Still, the mix does offer a broad forward soundstage, good channel separation and stereo imaging for the musical component. The surround content is modest, augmenting the musical content primarily and adding the occasional odd effect. Fidelity is very good for a forty-year-old soundtrack, having a solid bottom end and nice, clear highs. Dialogue is crisply rendered and easy to understand. English and French stereo surround and Spanish monaural tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English 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 starts with an introduction by actress Julie Andrews. There are two audio commentaries, the first is with director Robert Wise, while the second one includes cast members Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, plus choreographer Dee Dee Wood, and Johannes von Trapp. Please note that the Robert Wise track also serves as a music and effects track. Disc one also includes a sing-along option, for those who canít get enough of the Rogers and Hammerstein songs.
Moving on to disc two, one will find another introduction by actress Julie Andrews, as well as the remainder of the supplemental programming. My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers is a sixty-three minute program that looks back on the production of the film, as well as its real life and stage origins. Julie Andrews And Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence runs twenty minutes and features the two stars looking back on the production. From Liesl To Gretl: A 40th Anniversary Reunion clocks in at thirty-four minutes and features the actors who portrayed the von Trapp children. On Location With The Sound Of Music features actress Charmian Carr, who serves a hostess to a twenty-three minute tour of the locations that served as a backdrop to the film. When You Know The Notes To Sing: A Sing-Along Phenomenon is a twelve-minute look at the event held at the Hollywood Bowl for the filmís 40th anniversary. The von Trapp Family: Harmony & Discord runs fifty minutes and is a Biography program from the A&E Network. Restoration Comparisons, Mia Farrow Screen Test, Still Galleries, Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots close out the supplemental materials.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC is one of those truly special motion pictures that have achieved classic standing and belongs in the personal library of every musical fan or film buff. The 40th Anniversary Edition of THE SOUND OF MUSIC offers visual improvements over the previous edition and should please most fans. Recommended.
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