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Sound Of Music, The (45th Anniversary Edition) (1965) Print E-mail
Monday, 15 November 2010
Image"The Sound of Music" is no doubt a film that has reserved a place in cinema history.  However, when it comes down to it, the film is much more of a success on a technical and musical note than really as a film in terms of story.  Luckily, the story is sufficient enough to make the film successful.  Still, at a runtime of 174 minutes, it is hard to actually sit and watch this movie.  There are too many drawn out sequences that could easily be cut.

The film is best known for the opening twirl of Julie Andrews on the Swiss Alps, singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music."  It is iconic, used in virtually ever history of cinema documentary.  While musical numbers here and there are infectious, most of the songs appear as pointless, singing about the do re mi scales.  There were two songs that were left out of the film, which had the most to say.  See the special features section of the Blu-ray for more details.

The film is based on a true story of the Von Trapp family in Austria in the months leading up to the start of WWII and Germany's occupation of Austria.  Maria (Julie Andrews) is a nun in training.  She is problematic and too headstrong for the sisterhood.  Basically, instead of being silent and passive she sings, whistles and skips about the grounds.  Not exactly the type of stuff that one would consider going against God.  The mother of the Abbey believes that Maria needs time away from the convent to discover where her heart truly lies.

Maria is assigned as a governess to Captain von Trapp, who is a single father of seven children.  He believes in discipline, strict schedules and zero fun.  Maria is outspoken and constantly contradicts the Captain.  The romantic tension between them is palpable.  At first it is simple playful/stern banter.  Then it becomes blushing and silent.

Maria wants the children to have fun.  She teaches them to sing and climb trees.  She believes it to God's will to help the children prepare for a new mother and bring them closer to their father.  The Captain is seeing a Baroness in Vienna, who is thought to be the new mother by the end of the summer.  The Baroness, the wicked stepmother in terms of fairytale speak, has her own agenda.  She sees the budding romance between the Captain and Maria and makes it her duty to drive Maria away.
While the story was fresher in 1965, it is nothing that we haven't seen many times over since.  What keeps fans drawn to this film is the music.  Rodgers and Hammerstein created numerous musicals, with this being their last.

To round out the film, the von Trapps must flee Austria in order to keep the Captain from joining the naval forces of Germany, who have taken over Austria and are forcing all service men into the Third Reich.

While the film may or may not be suited to your musical tastes, the anticipation of this film on Blu-ray was simply for the audio and video qualities.  The previous SD DVD releases of this film have been worse than sub-par.  The releases were always taken from second and third generation sources.  The original 70mm print of the film was deemed too damaged to use.  However, new digitizing technology has allowed for the original print to be scanned at 8k and restored in 4k.  Past releases have had terribly inaccurate colors, fleshtones and contrast levels.  I am pleased to report that this new transfer is the best the film has ever looked since its initial theatrical run.  Maybe it is even better.  Sure, the video quality is nowhere near the level that newer films have the potential to be at, but it is the best this particular film has looked.  The black levels are stable, though there are numerous crushing instances.  Shadows don't really retain any delineation, though this seems to be due to the original cinematography and lighting design.  Where this Blu-ray transfer shines, is in color reproduction.  You will have never seen the Swiss Alps with such green hue.  In addition details come alive.  New textures and details can be found in every scene.  The tweed costumes and von Trapp estate landscapes are exceptional.  Film grain noise is intact and fairly stable.  While I give props to the video restoration editors for the millions of specks and spots and scratches that they removed, there are still numerous video impairments.  The open skyline shot has a number of film print lines.  However, most all the dust and dirt that remains doesn't detract from the viewing experience.  In some ways it may actually enhance it.  I did find many of the background stair-stepping renderings to be annoying at times.  Nevertheless, for the quality of the original print, this is a marvelous transfer.

Just like with the video, the audio was restored from the original 6-track stereo master.  This has never been used for any of the past DVD transfers.  Using the original master audio affords for better cleaning and more clarity and transients from the start.  As a Todd AO 70mm release in 1965, the film had a 6 tracks of audio: left, left-center, center, right-center, right and a mono surround channel.  In the past, DVDs have contained a 4.0 LCRS mix that simply combined the left-center and right-center channels accordingly.  With Blu-ray technology the original six tracks were preserved and remixed for 7.1.  The DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track is stellar.  While it is largely front heavy, this is to be expected since there were originally five front channels and one surround channel.  The new four surround channels provide some ambience and reverberated spaces, but nothing else.  There are no discreet effects in the surround channels.  Dialogue and singing is beautifully rendered.  The sound restoration editors did a beautiful job with this audio track.  While 7.1 isn't needed, I am glad they made the attempt instead of simply discarding some of the original 6-track stereo audio track.

As a 45th anniversary edition, "The Sound Of Music" has a terrific bonus materials package.  There is an expanded collector's edition with music box.  This review however covers the materials found in the 3-disc Blu-ray set.  The first disc contains the feature along with two audio commentaries.  The first commentary is with various cast members and contains information few and far between.  The second commentary is director Robert Wise and offers much more information.

Also on the first is a Sing-Along function and Music Machine, allowing you to jump to songs within the film.  "Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration" is an interactive mode that provides four options.  One provides a picture-in-picture with storyboards and photos.  Two provides a karaoke track.  Three is a trivia track.  And the final option is for a multiple-choice quiz.

The bulk of the bonus materials are on disc two, also a Blu-ray disc.  "Musical Stages" is the first section.  Entering this section brings you to the interior foyer of the von Trapp residence.  There are three walls in which to choose any of 24 featurettes.  The segments cover information about the songs, the restoration of the film, its production and the influence.  The next section is "A City of Song," which focuses on the different locations in the film.  There are 18 featurettes in this section.  "Vintage Programs" contains 13 segments that were present on previous SD DVD releases.  This is an expansive collection and will take some time to weave through.  The "Rare Treasures" and "Publicity" sections contains screen test footage, trailers and photo galleries.

The third disc in the set is a DVD Copy of the film.

"The Sound Of Music" isn't going to be for everyone.  I doubt that the current generation or those a bit older will enjoy it.  However, for those that experienced this film during its initial run or in the decade following will gladly pick up this Blu-ray edition.  Regardless, the restoration job is spectacular and shouldn't be missed.  Highly recommended.

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