South Pacific – Collector’s Edition (1958/Fox DVD-Video)
Picture: B Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B-/B
NOTE: This film is now available in an
upgraded Blu-ray edition with extras that you can read more about at this link:
early and very successful Rodgers & Hammerstein feature film Musical was so
because it was shot in the original 70mm version of Todd-AO. Joshua Logan’s South Pacific (1958) started at a longer 70mm Road Show
cut, with a prints that toured the country in the larger film frame and a
higher ticket price was attached. For
years, the shorter version was the only one around, but now, Fox has managed to
reassemble the longer Road Show cut for this Collector’s Edition DVD set.
DVD 1 offers the Original Theatrical Release and DVD 2 has the Road Show
Version. The extra footage is not in as
good shape, but they fix it the best they could and it is an even better film.
World War II and a U.S. Navy group is in the Pacific and specifically the title
island, but they are no alone. A young
nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) is involved with a Frenchman (Rossano Brazzi), while the
men see this part of the world for the first time. A Navy Lieutenant (John Kerr) starts to get
to know Nellie Forbush (Mitzi) enough that a love triangle develops. There is Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall) who
shares the mystery and wonder of Bali Ha’i,
one of the many famous songs here and as much about the location as a dreamlike
quality and sense of escape or maybe nirvana.
The film does not go near this.
classic songs include Some Enchanted
Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man
Right Outa My Hair, There Is Nothin’
Like A Dame, A Wonderful Guy and
many others fans would know better than anyone else. In the long version, the music and pacing are
far better, more than justifying the extra 15 minutes. The film is considered too still-looking and
somewhat plastic by some despite the location shooting, but they were using
heavy cameras and trying to do it to follow (sometimes too closely) as
strategy. Until Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) innovated large-frame editing in part
inspired by the French New Wave (which arrived the year after this film came
out), this was as much of the strategy as keeping most of the speakers being
behind the screen.
there is the controversial issue of the color lenses being used and maybe
overused during the film as they were on stage.
For stage, the idea is to make the story seem to be in another world and
since you can’t move the stage and audience, but it sometimes seems redundant
here. The use in the Bali Ha’i number is the best, but
afterwards, especially when it has diffusion in the corners, it becomes
counterproductive. On Stanley Donen’s Funny Face released the year before and
shot in the equally grand VistaVision process also took color liberties to look
like special film printing, negative footage and even flattening out images to
look like print magazines of the time.
That worked very well there.
Logan cannot figure out what dreamlike means, so it becomes a spoof of itself,
which is why the visuals should not have been attempted like this unless there
was some kind of at least philosophical hook to it besides backing vocals that
oooh and ahhh all over the place. This
is a clash of readerly and writerly approaches, which is why it is hard in
Classic Hollywood narrative form to cover dream ideas with the former. The color filters become almost a spoof,
though the film stays serious avoiding more calamity. They cut into the fidelity of the frame,
which eventually becomes counterproductive.
supporting cast includes Ray Walston as Luther Bills (which he played on stage in
England), France Nuyen, Tom (Billy Jack)
Laughlin, Ron Ely, Doug McClure, Joan Fontaine, John Gabriel, James Stacy and
writer James Michener (whose writings are the basis for this film) and his wife
Dorothy play missionaries if you can find them in Chapter 26.
anamorphically enhanced 2.20 X 1 image was shot in the large-frame Todd-AO 70mm
format, like its R&H predecessor Oklahoma!
(the very first, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and is only the third film
ever to use the format. British 35mm
prints were even issued in three-strip Technicolor, but large frame formats
have color quality that is superior to shooting in 35mm and that gives the
filmmakers latitude when doing reduction prints to begin with.
prints here are somewhat different for the original theatrical cut and Road
Show version in color too, with the shorter theatrical cut offering regular
color and good definition. The longer
Road Show version at its best has color that looks a bit sharper and with
slightly better color, yet extra footage is almost colorless and definition
also drops. That is strange, but that is
the case and helping all cuts of this film was a switch to improved lenses by
Panavision for the shoot. Leon Shamroy,
A.S.C., was the cinematographer and shot three R&H features in all starting
with the 1945 State Fair. He had just shot The King & I and
knew exactly what he was doing with the material. The longer cut proves this and the Dolby
Digital 5.0 mix from the original magnetic 6-track stereo in 70mm presentations
has been remastered well enough here.
Wonder what the differences (print in particular) will be like on
include full-length audio commentary by Richard Barrios, Ted Chapin and Gerard
Alessandrini, Sing-A-Long Subtitles, Making of South Pacific, 60 Minutes: The
Tales of The South Pacific, Vintage Stage Excerpt: "I'm Goint To Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," "Finale," "Some Enchanted Evening," & "A Wonderful Guy" performed by Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, "South
Pacific" On The Screen: A Perfect Hit, State Department Confers
High Honor on "South Pacific", Screen Test: Mitzi Gaynor, the original theatrical
trailer and stills.
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
- Nicholas Sheffo