Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Studio Line: Disney - One of the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Generations of fans have fallen in love with Walt Disney's 15th animated masterpiece - an irresistible song-filled adventure about Lady, a lovingly pampered cocker spaniel, and Tramp, a roguish mutt from across the tracks. As one of Disney's most delightful and captivating classics, Lady and the Tramp has earned praise as a marvel of animation!

When Aunt Sarah moves in with her devious felines Si and Am to baby-sit, the very protective Lady soon finds herself being fitted for the unthinkable - a muzzle! In her bid for freedom, she meets and is charmed by Tramp, dog-about-town. Together with friends Jock, Trusty and Peg, they share thrilling adventures on a lovely bella notte as Lady learns what it means to be footloose and leash-free.

Now the exquisite Disney animation, memorable music and happiest of endings are captured for the first time in this spectacular DVD edition.

Director: Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson
Cast: Peggy Lee-Darling/Si/Am/Peg, Barbara Luddy-Lady, Larry Roberts-Tramp, Bill Thompson-Jock/Bull/Dachsie/Joe, Bill Baucon-Trusty, Stan Freberg-Beaver
DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1; audio English Digital Stereo, Spanish & French Digital Stereo; subtitles: none; closed-captioned; single side - single layer; 22 chapters; rated G; 76 min.; $34.99, street date 11/23/99.
Supplements: Theatrical Trailer.
Purchase: DVD | Disney DVD Collection | Book | View-Master 3D Reels

Picture/Sound/Extras: A-/B/F

If there's any subject for which I'm a completely sentimental sucker, it's dogs. My affection for those critters runs so high that I fall for material - jokes, movies, cartoons, whatever - that deals with them, even if the quality of the stuff is poor and I would have shunned it if it considered any other subject. Geez, the part of Independence Day that most scared me was when we saw the dog attempt to outrun the fireball; underneath the din, moviegoers could hear me cry, "Go Poochie!!!"

Since I'm also quite fond of Disney's animated features, one would assume that the combination of canines and cartoons would completely enchant me. One would be pretty much right, as I discovered when I watched one of their dog-oriented films, Lady and the Tramp.

This 1955 feature easily stands as one of my all-time favorites. It's a bit of a departure from the usual Disney formula in that it really doesn't feature a true villain. Our characters withstand some threats, such as from cat-loving Aunt Sarah and the dogcatcher, but none of these are presented as really nasty presences; by the end of the film, it's implied that Aunt Sarah has reconsidered her antipathy toward pups, and the dogcatcher generally appears as a fairly caring individual who's just doing his job. The nastiest characters we see are Sarah's Siamese cats, who really are terrible, but they're such a minor part of the film that they don't live up to true villain status.

In any case, the lack of a strong antagonist is not a problem in any way; the film proceeds quite wonderfully without one. LATT packs in generous helpings of romance, humor, well-depicted characters, action and pathos. Our main characters - genteel cocker spaniel Lady and rough and tumble (but charming) street mutt Tramp - both are likable and still have a lot of spark to them, and the cast of supporting pups offers a wide variety of fun poochies. We come to quickly like and enjoy each and every one of them. (By the way, keep an ear out for Alan "Fred Flintstone" Reed as Boris the Russian Wolfhound!)

The humans don't receive nearly the breadth of characterization, but they're not supposed to; this story is seen from a "dog's eye" view, and the humans retain the broad strokes through which we can imagine a pooch would see them. Indeed, we never learn the names of Lady's owners beyond "Jim Dear" and "Darling"; they're presences in how they relate to her but not in any other way.

Without such wonderful animals in the acting roles, this could have flopped, but it works out fantastically. LATT is an absolutely charming film; I don't know if I'll go so far as to call it Disney's all-time best, but it's unquestionably in the top five.

The DVD:

Lady and the Tramp appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The DVD definitely offers the best presentation of the movie it's seen since at least its theatrical issue.

Sharpness is virtually flawless, no mean feat for such a widescreen film; normally some softness would creep into smaller characters, but that doesn't occur here, and the entire film looks crisp and well-defined. I noticed no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges at any time. The print itself is absolutely immaculate; it never displayed any evidence of grain, grit, scratches, speckles or other flaws, a fairly amazing fact considering the age of the movie.

Colors looked deep and rich throughout the film, with no signs of bleeding or smearing. Black levels were appropriately deep and rich, but shadow detail seemed a bit heavy, especially during the climactic scene where Tramp attacks the rat; the image appeared too dark and heavily shaded at that and other nighttime occasions. Still, it's a minor quibble for such a stellar transfer; despite that small issue, the DVD itself offers a really great picture, one that makes it look like the film was drawn yesterday.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of LATT is a reasonably nice presentation for a film of this age, but nothing that will dazzle you. The image remains pretty well stuck in the center channel, with music that spreads to the sides plus some occasional effects from those speakers as well. The separation seems a little crude, with noticeable jumps when the audio transitions from one channel to the next, but it's a decent effect and it adds some life to the mix. The surrounds almost completely devote themselves to gently reinforcing the music; I won't say absolutely no effects appear back there, but I can't recall any significant instances when that happened.

Quality of sound also seems decent. Dialogue seems reasonably natural though a little thin; some vaguely mechanical reverberation also occasionally creeps into the audio, but not to a significant extent. Strangely, the speech from Bull the English Bulldog sounds notably more flat and dull than from anyone else. Music is subdued and lacking in bass, but smooth and clean, and effects seem reasonably realistic and lack distortion. Again, it's a good but unspectacular mix.

LATT provides no supplemental features, not even the Peggy Lee clip that appears on the CAV laserdisc edition of that film. Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of a fullscreen version of the movie, since there clearly remained enough space to include it. Normally I wouldn't care about this - I never look at fullscreen images if I can help it - but LATT is a special case. When the film hit theaters in 1955, a lot of them weren't yet equipped to handle widescreen films such as this. As such, Disney also created a 1.33:1 aspect ratio edition of the movie, one that has been occasionally touted as essentially an alternate version of the picture, not just as a "pan and scan" edition.

When LATT received its most recent laserdisc release in 1998, this 1.37:1 version also made its initial bow on home video. I didn't buy it or see it, but I followed the discussion, and the common consensus seemed to be that it essentially was nothing more than a cropped version of the widescreen image. Because I haven't witnessed it myself, I can't confirm that, but I do know that it's a shame Disney didn't see fit to include that edition on this DVD; I would have loved to see it for myself, and Disney wasted the opportunity to let consumers see the differences.

With or without supplements, Lady and the Tramp remains a classic, one that belongs in everyone's collection. The DVD provides terrific picture and solid audio, though it completely omits any extras. Despite that flaw, it's such a great movie that I wholeheartedly recommend this DVD.

Menu: DVD Movie Guide | Archive | Top