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THE SOUND OF MUSIC ($35) stands as one of the greatest accomplishments in movie musicals- a timeless film has come to appeal to millions of fans, across several generations, in the three and half decades since it was first released. This lush production 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 Rodgers and Hammerstein scores to ever grace any motion picture and the assured direction of the legendary Robert Wise.

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 her out into the world, where she secures her a position as a governess for the seven children of the widowed Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). When Maria arrives in the von Trapp home, she finds the Captain a harsh martinet, who treats his children as though they were sailors under his command. Although Mariaís exuberance turns the Captain's ordered existence into chaos, she melts through his icy exterior and restores the loving relationship between him and his children. It is also during this time that Maria wins the Captainís heart and finds out where her destiny lies. The wonderful 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 done a phenomenal job with their two-disc release of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Transferred from 65mm, the anamorphic enhanced presentation properly frames the movie at 2.20:1, while displaying amazing clarity and detail. There are some moments in the film where the image becomes soft, however this is due to the fact that the cinematographer utilized filters to give key moments in the film a romanticized look. Colors are rich and glowing; the lush greens of the Austrian countryside are especially well rendered by this exemplary transfer. Flesh tones usually appear quite healthy, although there a couple of occasions where they seem a just tiny bit pale. There are no problems with any sort of chromatic distortion, nor do the more intense hues show any sign of bleeding. Blacks are perfectly rendered and the image displays a surprisingly good level of shadow detail. Individual shots in the film that show backlit characters in silhouette precisely maintain the desired effect thanks to the flawless blacks. This is a truly excellent transfer on every count and Fox should be commended for their outstanding work on this 35-year-old movie. Although THE SOUND OF MUSIC runs nearly three hours, there are no problems with digital compression artifacts to draw oneís attention away from the presentation.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC includes a Dolby Digital 4.1 channel soundtrack that effectively maintains the original 1965 sound mix. Stereo imaging in the front channels is very pronounced, although the track only includes monaural surround information. The surrounds provide ambient sounds and musical fill, however the sound becomes fairly impressive during the musical numbers. Instead of locking dialogue into the center channel, as is done in modern sound mixes, this 1965 sound mix has the voices follow the actors to their relative on screen position in the forward soundstage. The opening musical number contains an excellent example of how effective directional dialogue can be. Dialogue reproduction itself is crisp and maintains complete intelligibility. While the original recordings are over 35-years-old, the music as presented here is very full sounding and quite pleasing to the ear. Sure, there are some frequency limitations, but this is the absolute best that the music from THE SOUND OF MUSIC has every sounded in a home video presentation. Additionally, the bass channel is fairly strong, which gives the entire soundtrack a foundation upon which to build. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus on both discs are animated and contain sound. Through the menus on disc one, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as another audio track that contains a commentary with director Robert Wise. However, instead of talking for three hours, Wise intersperses his comments between isolated stereo passages in the filmís musical score. This arrangement is effective, since it allows one to enjoy two features at once. Wise provides an entertaining talk that recounts the filmís production in great detail, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that the events happed over 35 years ago. Disc two contains the majority of the DVDís supplements, which have been broken down into 5 separate sections.

Documentaries include the 1965 featurette Salzburg: Sight and Sound, which runs 14 minutes and is hosted by Charmian Carr, who played the eldest of the von Trapp children. The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon runs 87 minutes and includes recent interviews with cast and crewmembers, as well as tracing the production from the life of the real Maria von Trapp through the Broadway stage and unto the silver screen. Broadcast Promotions and Interviews includes five theatrical trailers, two TV spots, four radio spots and an 8-minute radio interview with Robert Wise for the filmís 1973 theatrical re-issue.

Audio Supplements include on location interviews with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Peggy Wood, which run 5 to 12 minutes each. A Telegram from Daniel Truhitte runs 13 minutes and in it the actor, who played the role of Rolf, recounts his experiences on the movie. Ernest Lehman: Master Storyteller runs 35 minutes and includes an extended interview with the screenwriter, which allows for further comments and anecdotes about the production that were not included in the documentary. Gallery contains an enormous wealth of text supplements that are too numerous to cover in detail here. Letís just say that there is a lot of good reading to be found in this section of the supplements. There is also a DVD-ROM section of supplements included on disc two, for those with a properly equipped PC.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a marvelous motion picture, and thanks to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, a fantastic DVD. This marvelous disc belongs in every DVD library. Absolutely recommended.





DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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