The Sound Of Music appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I had few complaints about this satisfying presentation.
At almost all times, sharpness looked terrific. A little softness occurred at times, but those elements were minor and seemed related to photographic filters. The majority of the film displayed strong clarity and accuracy. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. Source flaws were a non-factor in this clean presentation.
Colors worked well. The movie usually stayed with a somewhat subdued palette, but that didn’t mean the hues were dull and flat. They looked accurate at all times, and when necessary, they could be quite vivid and full.
Black levels always appeared dead-on, as they seemed very deep and rich, with virtually no signs of fading. Contrast was also strong, and low-light situations were reproduced cleanly and smoothly. This was a consistently terrific transfer.
For the Blu-ray, we got a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix. The soundfield was 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, though I thought it oriented too much to the left.
Especially in comparison with the active front speakers, the rears had little to do. They provided some light reinforcement of the forward channels and that's about it. I think they became a little more active during the thunderstorm, but even then, the mix remained biased toward the front.
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. Dynamics were more than acceptable for a 45-year-old mix. Ultimately the soundtrack of Music was more than satisfying.
How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to those of the 40th Anniversary DVD? Audio was pretty similar; the DTS-HD mix offered a little more punch, but I thought the discs sounded a lot alike.
Visuals showed a more apparent step up in quality. While I liked the 2005 DVD, it couldn’t remotely compare to the depth and detail of the Blu-ray. The new disc offered a big jump in terms of accuracy and made the movie look much better.
We get a mix of old and new extras here. We start on Disc One with an audio commentary/semi-isolated score. Also found on the prior DVDs, this piece combines remarks from director Robert 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.
Another audio commentary comes from actors Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Charmian Carr, choreographer Dee Dee Wood, and Johannes von Trapp. Each was recorded separately for this piece. With so many participants, you’d think they’d be able to easily fill the length of the movie, even for a long flick like Music. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as lots and lots of dead air occurs along the way. I’d not be surprised to learn that there’s more than 30 minutes of information here.
That’s too bad, for when the participants speak, they offer quality remarks. The track lacks much happy talk and can actually be pretty bitchy at times – in a good-natured way, that is. Andrews starts out with complaints about problems during the opening sequence, and Plummer tosses in gripes about challenges related to working with kids, playing guitar, and other areas. We also get notes about devising and executing musical scenes, acting challenges, the reality behind the story, locations and other production issues. Again, I like the information we hear; I just wish we got comments on a more consistent basis.
For fans of the movie’s music, a couple of options appear. We can Sing-Along with the flick’s songs via a subtitle track. This lights up the lyrics as they appear on screen. We also get a chapter option for the Music Machine. This will allow you to jump to any of the film’s 24 performances – or watch them all in one big 57-minute, 58-second package.
Something new to Blu-ray arrives via Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration. Ala a similar program with Rocky Horror Picture Show, this provides four options that can run during the film. “Making Music: A Journey In Images” places elements in the upper right corner of the screen. These show photos from the shoot, script elements and storyboards/conceptual art. “The Sing-Along Experience” works the same as “Sing-Along” earlier, as it simply offers lyrics as subtitles. “Many a Thing to Know” contributes facts about the real-life folks behind the movie as well as film-related material, while “Where Was It Filmed?” quizzes us on the flick. To fit the title, most of these ask about locations, but some other subjects arise as well.
Because it’s redundant, “Sing-Along” seems like a waste, but the other three components work pretty well. “Know” throws out a lot of good facts connected to the movie, and “Journey” delivers a solid collection of images. “Filmed” also manages to provide additional information in a fun way. This isn’t one of the best picture-in-picture features I’ve seen, but it’s enjoyable.
Moving to Disc Two, we get all the elements broken into various areas. Under Musical Stages, The Songs delivers information about the movie’s music. Across its 30 minutes, 50 seconds, we hear from The Sound of Music Companion author Laurence Maslon, stage actors Theodore Bikel and Rebecca Luker, musician/arranger Peter Kiesewalter, Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization president Theodore S. Chapin, Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary Rodgers Guettel, Oscar Hammerstein’s daughter Alice Hammerstein Mathias, actress Marni Nixon, stage director Richard Hamburger, and Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization Senior VP – Communications Bert Fink. We learn details about the various tunes, with notes about their writing and other elements. “Songs” explores the music in a satisfying manner that adds many good details.
The Show includes six featurettes; packaged together, they last a total of 28 minutes, 50 seconds, and provide remarks from Maslon, Chapin, Luker, Guettel, Nixon, Bikel, Fink, Mathias, Kiesewalter, Fraulein Maria creator Doug Elkins and stage performers Laura Benanti and Brian Davies. They discuss the origins of the stage project as well as aspects of its development, story, staging, cast, changes for the movie and its legacy. “Show” follows in the same steps as “Songs” and provides similarly strong information. It can be a little fluffy, but it still has more than enough useful material to succeed.
When we move to The Family, we get another four featurettes. With a total running time of 23 minutes, 37 seconds, these offer notes from Fink, Bikel, Maslon, Benanti, Luker, Johannes von Trapp, Maria von Trapp, Sam von Trapp, Kristina von Trapp Frame, assistant director Georg Steinitz, publicity assistant Uta Atwood, and Maria’s adopted son Kikuli Mwanukuz. “Family” looks at the real von Trapps and their involvement in the film. The programs tend to be a little scattershot, but they offer some intriguing details about the folks behind the flick.
Finally, The Restoration delivers two featurettes: “Restoring a Classic: Bloom and Grow Forever” (5:43) and “Restoring a Classic: A Glorious Sound” (5:31). In these, we hear from Nixon, Executive in Charge of Restoration Andrew Oran, 20th Century Fox Senior VP – Asset Management/Film Preservation Schawn Belston, digital colorist Mark Griffith, digital restoration artist Dan Mendoza, Mi Casa Studios’ John Bird, Mi Casa Studios president/chief engineer Brant Biles, sound restoration engineer Nicholas Bergh, Mi Casa Studios engineer Holger Thiele and 2nd assistant cameraman Donald C. Rogers. Restoration featurettes tend to be self-congratulatory, and these follow that template. I appreciate the work done on the film, but these pieces aren’t particularly interesting.
With that, we shift to A City of Song. It offers an exploration of various locations via a whopping 18 featurettes. All together, they go for 34 minutes, 38 seconds and include remarks from Fink, Rogers, Steinitz, Maria von Trapp, Hamburger, Salzburg Vice-Governor Wilfried Haslauer, Nonnberg Abbey Mother Abbess M. Perpetua Hilgenberg, Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden, Salzburg Panorama Tours president Stefan Herzl, Salzburg Tour Ltd. Special Projects Dr. Christian Piller, Salzburg Panorama Tours guide Walter Gruber, movie publicity assistant Uta Atwood, City of Salzburg Director of Gardens Wolfgang Saiko, Salzburg Marionette Theatre artistic director Gretl Aicher, Mondsee tourism director Thomas Ebner, and Sheraton Salzburg general manager Herbert Mosbruck. At times, these pieces come across as reels to solicit visitors to Austria – not a surprise, given how many tourist reps appear here – but that doesn’t make it a superficial waste of time. We still get a good look at the various locales, and I must admit the tourist spiel works; the programs do make me want to head to Austria!
As part of “City of Song”, two stillframe components appear. To accompany the featurettes about the various locations, we can read text “Fascinating Facts” about them. We also get a mix of “Photos” related to the different locations. Both of these add interesting material.
Vintage Programs provides three subdomains. Under “The Sound of Music”, we get seven pieces. From Fact to Phenomenon delivers a one hour, 27 minute and 22 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”. Ultimately "From Fact to Phenomenon" is a terrific documentary that even non-fans like myself should enjoy.
From there we head to My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers. In this 63-minute and 18-second program, we hear from Andrews as well as Carr, Plummer, Wise, Wood, Johannes von Trapp, Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization president Ted Chapin, writer Russel Crouse’s widow Anna, and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The program covers a mix of topics. They discuss the real Maria von Trapp and her attitude toward the production, approaches to characters, factual details and liberties, other versions of the von Trapp story, and experiences with Rodgers and Hammerstein. From there we go through the development of Sound, facets of its music, adapting the stage show for the big screen and the contributions of writer Ernest Lehman, choreography and staging aspects of the film, Wise’s impact on the production, the performances and Plummer’s relationship with the kids, problems with rain during the shoot, rehearsals and general anecdotes from the set.
First a complaint: what’s up with the title of this program? It implies that we’ll get an hour with Andrews, but instead she’s just one of many. I don’t even think she’s the dominant participant, though we do hear a lot from her. This is really just an overview of the entire project without any particular focus on Andrews.
That gripe aside, this is a fine program. It covers Music from its earliest stages through its creation and touches on most of the topics we’d like to hear. It renders the Andrews, et al., commentary nearly moot, as many of its notes pop up here. The documentary is brisk and informative.
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence fills 19 minutes and 24 seconds. Unlike its predecessor, it lives up to its title, as it shows the actors together while they chat. Unfortunately, it proves to be much less informative. Some of the details repeat from the other components, and much of the time, Andrews and Plummer simply gush about what a great experience the film was. It’s nice to see them reunite, but we don’t learn a lot.
More new material appears during From Liesl to Gretl: A 40th Anniversary Reunion. This 33-minute and 33-second piece presents a meeting with actors Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond, Heather Menzies, Angela Cartwright, Duane Chase, Debbie Turner and Kym Karath. They discuss their casting and characters, interactions with and thoughts about Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, mistakes they made, and many other memories. The strength of this program comes from its format. No Music fan will be able to resist seeing all of the former youngsters together again after all these decades. They interact in a warm and fun manner as they generate a lot of nice stories about their experiences. And who new little Gretl would turn out to be such a babe?
After this we get Salzburg Sight and Sound, a brief featurette from 1965. The 13-minute, three-second 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!)
Next we find the 22-minute and 33-second On Location with The Sound of Music. Hosted by Carr, we get a look at Austria. We find a history of Salzburg and hear a couple remarks from Vice-Governor Dr. Wilfried Haslauer. The overview talks about Mozart and the region’s music, various landmarks and movie locations, and tourist activities related to Music. We learn some of the same information elsewhere, but this gives us a decent little trip through Salzburg.
For a look at the movie’s enduring popularity, we head to the 12-minute and 50-second When You Know the Notes to Sing: A Sing-Along Phenomenon. This focuses on a sing-along screening at the Hollywood Bowl and includes remarks from host Melissa Peterman, Hollywood Bowl Director of Presentations Steve Linder, Sing-A-Long Productions’ Thomas Lightburn, and plenty of annoying audience members. We see the big show and meet some special guests like the von Trapp great-grandchildren, and all the von Trapp children actors from the movie.
Am I the only one who thinks this experience looks really obnoxious? Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I think I’d have to kill myself if I ever had to attend such an event. It’s moderately interesting to see all the ruckus, though, and fans may enjoy this glimpse of this aspect of the Music phenomenon.
Under “Rodgers and Hammerstein”, two programs appear. Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music” dates from 1985 and goes for one hour, 23 minutes, and 25 seconds. Hosted by performer Mary Martin, “Music” offers info from Bikel, Wise, Guettel, directors Joshua Logan and Rouben Mamoulian, choreographer Agnes De Mille, widows Dorothy Hammerstein and Dorothy Rodgers, writer James Michener, son William Hammerstein, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyricist Martin Charnin, and actors Alfred Drake, Gordon MacRae, Joan Roberts, Shirley Jones, Celeste Holm, John Raitt, Yul Brynner. Starting with Oklahoma!, “Music” examines R&H productions such as Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music.
“Music” mixes many film/stage/TV clips with good analysis of the various projects. We find quite a few nice insights and learn a lot about the shows. Personally, I would’ve preferred fewer of the clips, but I understand that fans will enjoy them, and they’re necessary to illustrate the comments. All works well in this engaging documentary.
The Sound of Movies comes from 1996 and fills one hour, 36 minutes and 36 seconds. Hosted by Shirley Jones, Rita Moreno, Nancy Kwan, and Charmian Carr, those women offer the majority of the comments; we get some quick notes from Marni Nixon and Julie Andrews, but no other external interviews appear. While “Music” viewed stage and screen, “Movies” focuses more heavily on cinematic R&H. It looks at the film takes on State Fair, Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, State Fair remake, and The Sound of Music.
Expect “Movies” to follow the same path as “Music”. Actually, I think “Music” proves to be a bit more in-depth and informative, but both work well. We get a good take on movie-related subjects here and find a likable show.
For the final “Vintage Programs” area, we go to Audio Interviews. 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.
Next comes “1973 Reissue Interview with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise”. It goes for eight and a half minutes as Steve Gray chats with the pair. It doesn’t do much more than promote the flick.
"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 finishes 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.
For the next domain, we go to Rare Treasures and its five areas. Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall: The Pratt Family Singers runs six minutes, 40 seconds and shows us a spoof. As part of the 1962 Carnegie Hall TV special Andrews and Carol Burnett parodied Music. It includes two tunes to riff on “My Favorite Things” and “Do Re Mi”. It’s not the most biting parody, though it does mock the sickly-sweet side of Music. It’s definitely a cool extra, especially since the earlier DVDs alluded to it but failed to show it; I’m happy to finally get a chance to check out this clip.
The Julie Andrews Hour: Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp comes from 1973 and lasts 17 minutes, 33 seconds. Andrews appears with the real-life inspiration for her movie character as they yodel, chat about Maria’s life and the film and sing “Edelweiss”. This maintains the rehearsed frivolity typical of a variety show, but I still like the time spent with von Trapp.
Within Screen Tests, we get three more components with a total running time of 26 minutes, 13 seconds. We see a segment from a 1999 special called Hollywood Screen Tests (16:12); it features comments from Wise, Andrews and Cartwright and shows try-outs from Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Greg Bauer, Kim Darby, Tish Sterling, Danny Lockin, Dan Truhitte, and Keith Michell. Another piece shows Mia Farrow’s tests (0:35). Finally, we watch a reel in which voice double Marni Nixon (8:26) does a collection of songs from the movie to use as a guide for foreign language dubbers. The 1999 piece is the best aspect of this package, as it gives us a nice string of tests. The Farrow bit is intriguing but awfully short, and frankly, the Nixon piece is kind of boring; it’s nice to have for archival reasons, but it does little to interest me.
Lifted from the last DVD, the 40th Anniversary DVD Introduction by Julie Andrews appears next. During this two-minute and 10-second chat, she discusses the movie’s enduring popularity and relates what a special DVD that set was. I think intros like this are fairly useless, but they’re also harmless, I suppose.
Finally, Galleries breaks into three areas, all of which offer still frames. “Pre-Production” (70 images) shows storyboards and sketches as well as photos from rehearsals and audio recording. “Production” (124) includes shots from the sets, while “Promotion and Publicity” (90) displays snaps of premieres and ads. All are fairly good, though I found navigation a little clunky, especially during “Promotion”; for reasons unknown, it took considerably longer to advance frame by frame in that area.
This now sends us to the last domain: Publicity. Fox Movietone News shows a two-minute, 46-second glimpse of the 1966 Academy Awards ceremony at which Music took home bunches of trophies. Oddly, this lacks the original newsreel audio; we simply hear movie score as we watch the footage. Despite that problem, I still like the shots of the celebration.
Teasers and Trailers features seven ads, while TV Spots throws in another two clips. Surprisingly, both of those come from a 1973 reissue; we see no television promos from the 1960s. Four Radio Spots end this domain.
Finally, the package includes a Bonus DVD. This gives us a version with a few extras, but not many; oddly, it eliminates the commentaries. Still, if you want a version of the film to take on the road with you, this one’ll do.
That’s a lot of Music-related information – does the Blu-ray drop anything from earlier sets? Yup, but not much. The biggest loss comes from “The von Trapp Family: Harmony and Discord”, an episode of A&E’s Biography. It was a good look at the von Trapps, so it’s too bad it doesn’t make the cut here.
The Blu-ray also comes with fewer still frame components than its predecessors. Its 284 stills shows a decline from the 2005 DVD’s 326 – and that was a massive fall from the 2000 DVD’s roughly 2440 shots! I don’t know why Fox has made the still frame areas smaller and smaller.
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 Blu-ray itself provides strong picture and sound plus an excellent selection of supplements. Though the absence of a few previously-released bonus materials creates a small disappointment, the otherwise exhaustive nature of the set satisfies. Without question, this becomes easily the best release of Music to date; it’s a really splendid package for a classic flick.
To rate this film visit the 40th Anniversary Edition review of THE SOUND OF MUSIC