The Sound Of Music appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although much of the movie presented solid visuals, nagging concerns caused problems.
The main issue stemmed from edge enhancement. Moderately prominent haloes were noticeable throughout the film. To my surprise, these didn’t affect sharpness in a tremendous manner, as much of the movie looked reasonably crisp and clear. Some moderate softness crept into a few scenes, but this didn’t become as bad as I expected given the prevalence of the edge enhancement.
Moiré effects and jagged edges seemed non-existent while print flaws appeared very insignificant. I noticed a few isolated examples of speckles and grit. However, for such an old movie, the number of defects seemed extremely low.
Colors were usually pretty and accurate, though they looked a bit inconsistent. Most scenes rendered the hues in natural and adequately-saturated tones, though some variations occurred. At times, colors are slightly pale, and some scenes render them a little too heavily; for example, I noticed overly-pink fleshtones at times. However, these parts were exceptions, and most of the movie presented attractive colors.
Black levels always appeared dead-on, as they seemed very deep and rich, with virtually no signs of fading. Contrast was also strong, but shadow detail was slightly weak at times. Overall, low-light situations were reproduced cleanly and smoothly, but a few shots toward the end of the film tended to look a bit excessively dark. Though the edge enhancement caused some distractions, the overall picture was good enough for a “B-“.
The film's sound worked well for its age. One oddity: although the case touted a Dolby Digital 4.1 mix, my receiver clearly indicated a 5.1 track. A fine interview with documentarian/DVD producer Michael Mattesino on DVD File provided the answer to this question. Here's the quote from Mattesino: "The audio was done from 6-track and had to go through the process of being transferred into 5.1. I don't know if a lot of people realize that six-track from an old movie is not the same as 5.1 in terms of where the channels are. The 6-tracks on The Sound Of Music were five channels across the screen and one mono surround track. You have to turn those five front channels into three front channels, generate an LFE track for scenes that might need it - and on Sound Of Music there weren't too many - and basically the surround track is two tracks of surround but they are both the same, so it's essentially 4.1. But Bob Wise felt this was the way to remain true to the original 70 mm presentation."
The soundfield was very heavily biased toward the front channels. In that spectrum, the audio spread quite broadly across the three forward speakers, as the sides participated actively in the production. From music to effects to dialogue, the left and right speakers had almost as much to do as the center. I found this to work well and to create a vivid sense of place.
Especially in comparison with the active front speakers, the rears had almost nothing to do. They provided some very light reinforcement of the forward channels and that's about it. If any additional audio stemmed from the surrounds, I must have blacked out during those segments.
Audio quality seemed good for its age. Dialogue usually sounded clear and easily intelligible. The lines displayed some mild stiffness at times but always were understandable and relatively strong. Effects seemed acceptably accurate and crisp, with adequate range. Music appeared fairly lush and lively. Sometimes I thought low-end could have been better, but dynamics were more than acceptable for a 40-year-old mix. Ultimately the soundtrack of Music seemed pretty good for its age.
This two-disc set tosses out many extras. First up is the only supplement on DVD One: an audio commentary/semi-isolated score. This piece combines remarks from director Wise with long passages of music. The songs have had the lyrics removed so listeners can focus on the backing track itself. Wise speaks on top of some of the music, but most of it plays without interruption. Actually, I believe that the only parts marred by speech are those that appear cleanly in the film anyway, so I don't think Wise's comments hurt the isolated music.
Even if his statements do cover some tunes, they're worth the interruption. Wise fills almost all non-musical segments with very interesting and informative comments. He covers a wide variety of topics, but most compellingly discusses changes made from the historical story and from the stage production. He also divulges nice details about casting and other decisions. All in all, it's a fine commentary that added a lot to my enjoyment of the film.
The second DVD contains the bulk of the supplements. In the "Documentaries" section, we find two video programs. First we get Salzburg Sight and Sound, a brief featurette from 1965. After a 45-second introduction from actress Charmian Carr (shot in 1994, I believe), the 13 minute show progresses mainly as a travelogue; we watch Carr as she checks out the sights and sounds of Austria. The piece also tosses in some very good "behind the scenes" clips as well; we witness some fun snippets from the set that offer a nice look at the shoot. Obviously the program lacks depth, but it compensates through charm. (I was also grateful to see more of the exceedingly-lovely Carr - too bad the film wasn't shot in Spain so we could have seen her at the beach!)
A more substantial look at the movie comes from The Sound Of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon, an 87-minute and 50-second documentary produced for the 1994 laserdisc set. This piece offers an absolutely terrific look at the entire picture, not just the making of the film. It starts with historical data and discusses the facts of the matter before it segues into the history of various stage and screen adaptations of the tale and ultimately covers all aspects of the creation of the film itself. We witness a nice variety of materials, including modern interviews with Andrews, Plummer, Wise, and many others involved in the production plus sound bites from some of the children and grandchildren of Maria and others. We also observe production stills, shots from the film, behind the scenes clips and other pieces of memorabilia.
It all creates a wonderful view of the production. The documentary provides a tight and smooth program that offers a highly entertaining look at history. No show of this sort can ever answer all questions I may have, but this one does an excellent job of touching on all of the appropriate subjects. It also usually demonstrates the subjects well; for example, when we hear on the first film adaptation of the story, we then see a clip from Die Trapp Familie. There are a few disappointing omissions, such as a clip from an Andrews/Carol Burnett TV special that mocks the tale; we hear of it but don't see it. However, these flaws are minor and rare. Ultimately "From Fact to Phenomenon" is a terrific documentary that even non-fans like myself should enjoy.
One note that relates to flaws: I experienced a few glitches as I played the program. Three times during the show, it paused for no apparent reason. I reversed the image slightly and it then played appropriately from that point. I've heard a few other comments about similar concerns from others, so be aware that this problem affects at least a few of us. It was a non-fatal defect, at least.
The next section is called Broadcast Promotions and Interviews. In this we find publicity features. We get a slew of promotional materials. There are five trailers - some for the original release and some from a 1973 reissue - plus two TV ads for the reissue. In addition, we get two 60-second radio ads (one 1965, one 1973) and two 30-second radio spots (one 1965, one 1973). Finally, this area features an eight and a half minute interview that Steve Gray did with Andrews and Wise in 1973. These pieces are mildly interesting but nothing special; however, I do appreciate their inclusion.
In the Audio Supplements domain, we find a lot of, uh, audio supplements. Most substantial is "Ernest Lehman: Master Storyteller". This 34-minute and 45-second program provides outtakes from the interview sessions with Lehman conducted for "From Fact to Phenomenon". Some of Lehman's statements are framed by semi-introductory comments from Claire Bloom, who also narrated "Fact". Some of Lehman's remarks are redundant for those who've already seen the documentary, but much of the material is new, and virtually all of it is interesting and entertaining. Lehman provides a great deal of information in a stimulating manner.
"A Telegram From Daniel Truhitte" provides 13 minutes of additional interview comments from the actor who played Rolf in the film. His remarks follow the same format as those from Lehman, and he also adds some fun anecdotes from his experiences.
This area finished with some "On Location Interviews". Done by Steve Gray, we hear comments from Julie Andrews (11 minutes and 50 seconds), Christopher Plummer (five minutes, 10 seconds), and actress Peggy Wood (six and a half minutes). As implied by the title, the clips all come from the era during which the movie was made. These are pretty dull in regard to the information they provide, but they're a nice historical curiosity.
The DVD's Gallery includes an incredible wealth of stillframe material. The various sections offer between six and 541 (!) frames of data, all of which adds up to almost 2400 frames. These areas detail virtually every aspect of the production, from a basic primer in Austrian history to the facts of the von Trapp family to insanely minute factors of the shoot itself. The materials combine text with a load of terrific production photos. Much of the text comes from actually production documents, including correspondence between various participants. Some folks don't care for stillframe sections because they aren't sleek and sexy like interactive features, but the fact remains that as a conduit for in-depth information, there's no better way to supply data. The "Gallery" on Music provides an invaluable archive of materials related to the creation of the film, and it added immensely to my enjoyment of the film; in fact, I liked the supplements much more than the movie itself. I found the "Gallery" so fascinating and detailed that it single-handedly elevated my "Extras" grade from a still-solid "A-" up to the rare air of an "A+"; this domain is absolutely amazing.
Music presents a few DVD-ROM features. The "Melody Maker Game" plays parts of three songs ("Do Re Mi", "My Favorite Thing", "Sixteen Going On Seventeen") and you then need to replicate the notations for these tunes in the correct spots. This is a pretty lame little game, but I suppose it's educational at least; it can teach you a bit about reading music. You can also create your own songs by manipulating notations, and your ditties can be reproduced with canned guitar or drum accompaniment. It's kind of a dopey feature, but it's sort of fun as well.
Next is computer "Wallpaper". Six different shots can be displayed on your monitor, and each of which can be seen in varying resolutions (640X480, 800X600, 1024X768).
Finally, the DVD offers some "Weblinks". We get connections to the Music "Destination Page" (the official site for the movie), an official Rodgers and Hammerstein page, plus the "Official Fox Site" and locations for both Fox Home Entertainment and Fox Movies. Of course, all of these sites are available to anyone with an Internet connection, though I suppose it's nice to have these easy links.
While I continue to dislike musicals, I must admit that The Sound Of Music presents a fairly satisfying piece that will definitely continue to shine for fans of the genre. The DVD itself provides erratic picture with good sound and some absolutely terrific extras. For anyone who likes classic musicals, The Sound Of Music comes highly recommended.
To rate this film visit the 40th Anniversary Edition review of THE SOUND OF MUSIC