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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > The Sound Of Music - 40th Anniversary Edition

The Sound Of Music – 40th Anniversary Edition


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



In the middle of Hollywood’s troubled period of competing against television while the original studio system collapsed and a new Golden Age was approaching in American Filmmaking unbeknownst to those studios, each major was fighting to keep its audience and make money.  In the 1950s, films went widescreen for good, and by the 1960s, epics shot in large-frame formats were like 65mm negative were at their peak.  20th Century Fox had just had one of the all-time big budget disappointments with the 1963 epic Cleopatra (also in 70mm) and still had The Sound Of Music produced in the same format.  The result is what they had hoped on the earlier film, the biggest hit since Gone With The Wind.


Unfortunately, that would be the commercial peak of the Musical in Hollywood for over a decade, as the studios would loose an untold fortune on films in the genre that usually bombed.  Yet, this sappy, troubling story of a former convent resident Maria (Julie Andrews) coming to help with the Von Trapp Family in domestic chores continues to have appeal.  Their military father, a Captain (Christopher Plummer) had militarized the family of seven children, which is too disturbing by today’s standards to think about.  Of course, this will be no match for the oncoming onslaught of the Nazis who would like to hunt them down and kill them all.  Mel Brooks addressed the problems with its conformity in the original 1968 non-Musical version of The Producers, just remade with the same Springtime For Hitler sequence in tact.


Of course, this is never to say (without being politically correct) that The Sound Of Music is in any way anti-Semite, especially from Rodgers & Hammerstein who were Jewish.  The majority of the film is not about their being hunted down either.  It is just that even though it is based on the real life Maria’s story that actually happened, the Musical take is very childlike and was a hit because it was such a well-timed follow-up to Andrews’ stunning success with the Walt Disney production of Mary Poppins the year before.  Though this critic feels it is not as good as better R&H works (particularly The King & I, which this is too often like), looking at it again in this restoration, I was struck about how enclosed and effective a narrative (sort of how we think of Spielberg films now) and so grand from the famous opening aerial shots.  The film wants to be huge, is shot in a huge frame format and never lets up in this respect.


That still does not save the film from its ideological trouble, derivativeness or sappiness of many of the songs, but the success of its grandness and casting, along with their exceptional chemistry is why this film continues to be a winner for so many who cannot get enough of it.  If it successful at one thing, it is its smoothness and the screenplay by Ernest Lehman (Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest) deserves a ton of credit for this.  Andrews is also frankly in rare form that always works.  So if you enjoy the film and already own it, is the new DVD set worth getting to replace the previous versions?


The 2.20 X 1 image was shot by cinematographer Ted McCord, A.S.C., with Paul Beeson B.S.C., covering additional shoots, all in Todd-AO 70mm, with aerial views using an MCS-70 camera.  The film has not really looked that good in recent decades, compounded by the suspicious print for the “Sing-A-Long” tour version.  Now, finally, Fox has gone back and started working on fixing the original 65mm negative.  Remarkably, it is still in good shape, which is not the case for the majority of films from the time that are fading, have completely faded or worse.  This is especially surprising for a film that was such a huge hit in which the negative was used to make all the prints.  Even films from the late 1980s are fading.  They have fixed and cleaned it up, which is fine for starters, then did a digital clean up for this and digital High Definition use that will be a model for the most part of the further repairing of the film in the future.  As the comparison segment in the extras shows, this is a major improvement and makes the older video copies look terrible.


More of the kind of ultra-vivid imaging the 65mm negative is capable of can be seen here, but it is still not as amazing as some of the best 65mm films on DVD we have seen.  As for the sound, the film originally had 6-track magnetic stereo, five speakers behind the screen and one surround track.  Here, we get a 5.0 Dolby mix that is not bad, but Fox should have finally offered DTS for the film, especially with the music in such good sonic shape.  The Dolby English 2.0 Stereo has some Pro Logic surrounds, the Spanish Pro Logic version is maybe a bit stronger and you also get Spanish Dolby Mono.  The combination is the best yet, but still not quite where it should be.


Extras are massive, including new introductions by Andrews on both discs, DVD 1 adds sing-a-long subtitles, previously released track combining commentary by the late director Robert Wise with many section offering isolated music and sound effects in stereo.  It is worth listening to, even if you do not like the film or even Wise.  These films had traveling dialogue and sound effects.  Another commentary track is a solid new one with Andrews, Plummer, co-star Charmian Carr, choreographer Dee Dee Wood and Johannes Von Trapp.  Andrews hosts and it is not bad either.  DVD 2 has the aforementioned restoration comparison, A&E’s Biography installment on The Von Trapps, a screen test by Mia Farrow for Andrews’ lead role, trailers, TV spots, a new documentary and four new featurettes made for this new set and the inevitable Blu-ray release.


This set is also available in a nice new compact DVD collection with all six R&H titles (eight films in all not including alternate cuts of the main film) in The Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection Box Set.  Like their Mel Brooks Collection (reviewed elsewhere on this site), the DVDs is thicker regular cases are here in slender cases (two each!) for The King & I, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Carousel and State Fair.  Our page links to all six reviews at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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