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Two stories set side by side about love and loss set in the wartime tropics. Adaptation of the 1949 stage play.
For more about South Pacific and the South Pacific Blu-ray release, see South Pacific Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 30, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Joshua Logan
Writers: Paul Osborn, Oscar Hammerstein II
Starring: Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr, Ray Walston, Juanita Hall, France Nuyen
» See full cast & crew
South Pacific Blu-ray Review
One of the great Musicals arrives on Blu-ray as a must-own package.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 30, 2009
Some enchanted evening...
Once upon a time there was a cinematic genre that was perhaps more sincere, approachable, and lovable than any other -- the Musical. It was a genre where song and, sometimes, dance, served as an integral part of the story -- either stating or reinforcing plot points -- and added another level of fun and magic to the tale. Throughout the course of cinema history, from The Wizard of Oz to High School Musical, the genre has seen ups and downs, surges and declines in popularity, and films aimed at just about every audience. The genre enjoyed its peak -- in popularity, quality of films, and broadest appeal -- during the era of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, a collaboration quite unlike any other, the names forever linked as one Broadway's, and subsequently Hollywood's, most popular, successful, and ingenious tandems. Though 1958's South Pacific may not enjoy the same level of admiration and acclaim as some of Rodger's and Hammerstein's other films, particularly 1956's The King and I and 1965's The Sound of Music, it is nevertheless a quintessential Musical, one that covers the themes of love, loss, confusion, and hope in a time of great distress. The film certainly lacks the grace of The King and I and the timelessness of The Sound of Music, but it's nevertheless essential cinema and a fantastic Musical in its own right.
Set in the Pacific theater of World War II, South Pacific, based on James Michener's 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific, tells the story of three primary characters as they deal with budding love and the shadow of war. Marine Lieutenant Joseph Cable (John Kerr) arrives with orders to covertly place forward observers on enemy-occupied territory to provide real-time intelligence on Japanese troop and equipment movements. He believes his mission will be more successful with the help of a Frenchman by the name of Emile De Becque (Rossano Brazzi) who knows the islands inside and out. De Becque is reluctant, having just met the beautiful Little Rock, Arkansas native girl and Naval nurse, Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor). The two find themselves falling for one another, but several secrets from De Becque's past and Nellie's own prejudices may leave their relationship damaged, and De Becque's reliability on the mission questionable. The Naval brass and Lt. Cable learn of Nellie's relationship with De Becque and ask her to, in essence, spy on him and determine his loyalty to the war effort. Meanwhile, Cable finds himself falling in love with a young native girl named Liat (France Nuyen), whose mother, Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall), is pushing the two towards marriage, though Cable's own prejudices and his undertaking of the dangerous mission may put a damper on those plans. Will Cable be able to complete his mission with De Becque at his side and will true love shine on both men, or will the war and old prejudices keep them from true happiness?
South Pacific works on a number of levels. First, and most importantly, the film offers a timeless tale of love and loss set against a difficult and perilous backdrop. Each day in the South Pacific naval base brings songs, dreams, and romance, all of which serve as both a reprieve from the harsh realities of war and a reminder of all that is good, simple, and honest about life and love. The film's script is light and easy to understand; it does very well to combine the drama and terror of impending combat with both levity and love through the power of song. Each performer plays their parts with both gusto and grace, seemingly enjoying the opportunity to perform and, in doing so, immersing themselves in the characters, story, and backdrop. Audiences will come to care for and admire each individual, for they are all honorable people if only misguided in certain aspects of their lives. The characters aren't perfect, but they allow the situation, location, and one another to show them what really matters in life -- love, respect, honor, and courage, to name a few -- not old prejudices and misguided judgments of character. South Pacific is the sort of film that is easy to become lost in; the cinematography and locations are mesmerizing, the characters engaging and endearing, and the action intense and serious in tone. Lastly, the songs are all catchy and do very well to tell and reinforce the story, including those that offer more in the way of levity and those that speak of sadness, doubt, and regret.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of South Pacific is its use of heavy filters and diffusion around the frames that offset particular segments of the film. This lends an interesting and novel appearance to the film, in a way highlighting not necessarily the moments of song but the scenes that serve as the film's emotional core. The radical change in tone lends a surreal appearance to each scene and adds to the dreamy qualities of the film where true love seems fast and easy but often becomes as complex and potentially damaging as the world of distrust, deception, and destruction that surrounds the characters. The budding romances that punctuate the first half of the film serve as a welcome reprieve from the realities of a war zone, even if the reprieve, for some, comes only inside the imagination and through verbalization in song. The filters seem to, at first, set the more breezy, happy moments of the film apart, adding to them a sense of easygoing levity and also lending to them a sense that, at least for a few moments, there is nothing wrong in the world, that the world seems to stop to conform to and embrace the joys of love and to recognize something that remains pure, honest, and good. Of course, as the film progresses and love and joy are interrupted by the realities of war and prejudice, the tone shifts, and the film continues to set apart the moments of tragedy and uncertainty, too. What the film seems to show is that, no matter the circumstances -- the place, the time, or the person -- love conquers all, if even for a brief moment, if even in the realization that love is gone or that love will never, or can never, be.
South Pacific Blu-ray, Video Quality
20th Century Fox presents South Pacific on Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080p, 2.20:1-framed transfer. The film looks positively immaculate, and is proof-positive of the power and wonder of the Blu-ray format in its ability to revive the classics. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the disc is the mesmerizing color reproduction. Blues are the most pleasing to the eye, both in the beautiful and clear Pacific waters and the denim-colored shirts worn by the seamen. The sandy beaches and the tan-colored Naval dress uniforms, in addition to the lush and lovely green vegetation, all come together to offer the film a pleasing, classic technicolor look. As noted above, the film will sometimes drastically alter its color scheme, with particular hues dominating the scene that reinforce the themes of love and loss in the film. The image may take on a heavy blue or golden tint, for example, that lends a very uniform and unique look to the picture. South Pacific also enjoys excellent detail throughout; the wooden appointments of the military headquarters, the clothing, and the vegetation all offer viewers the chance to absorb the finer details and textures of practically every object on-screen. Flesh tones are consistently accurate throughout, and the disc sports a fine layer of film grain that lends a wonderful finishing touch on what is one of, if not the, finest transfers -- classic catalogue title or not -- available on Blu-ray. With releases like South Pacific, 20th Century Fox has positioned itself as the leader in quality in classic catalogue releases on Blu-ray.
South Pacific Blu-ray, Audio Quality
South Pacific debuts on Blu-ray with a quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, in addition to four-channel and two-channel Dolby Digital tracks. Like the video, the soundtrack is a pleasure to behold. Dialogue and song lyrics are presented with authority and vigor, strong and clear as the solos flow from the center channel with the singing of the full cast emanating from the entire front soundstage. From the most raucous of songs to those sung quietly and "internally" -- the characters thinking to themselves in song -- all are presented clearly and accurately. The accompanying orchestral music is strong and clear, each instrument heard distinctly and together making for a harmonious, pleasant, crisp experience. The rear channels are sparsely used, the best outburst heard during an action sequence near the end of the film. Atmospherics are decent; the rolling Pacific waves may be heard rushing onto the beach in several scenes, with the water audibly flowing, albeit lightly, across the front. The film's action-oriented sequences, such as a plane under fire from surface flack, rumble the soundstage a bit while the constant hum of the propellers spreads out across the front, doing a decent job of placing the listeners in the craft's cockpit. The lossless soundtrack adds a nice bit of extended range and clarity to the experience. Thankfully, the presentation here hasn't been aggressively re-mixed to throw music and effects all over the soundstage. South Pacific makes for a pleasant, high-quality listen that supports the lavish visuals nicely.
South Pacific Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
South Pacific comes to Blu-ray with a myriad of supplements spread across two discs. Disc one offers viewers the 157-minute "general release" cut of the film. The abbreviated supplements included on this disc begin with a feature-length commentary track with President of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization Ted Chapin and Gerard Alessandrini. The pair share a wealth of knowledge about the history of the production, both the stage version and the film iterations. Their vast knowledge of the cast, from the primaries to tertiary characters; the differences between stage show and film; the variations between the numerous releases of the film; and more, shine through with each sentence. Their track is about as interesting as the film, with honest comments and observations that often feels like friends discussing the film rather than dryly recounting anecdotes and filmmaking techniques. Also available on disc one is Singalong, an on-screen karaoke-style presentation of 19 songs from the film, and Songs Only Chapter List, simply allowing viewers to skip directly to their favorite songs.
Disc two features the long-thought-lost "Road Show" version of South Pacific, a cut that increases the film's length by 14 minutes. The added footage is of noticeably lesser quality, particularly evidenced by faded colors, thanks to the limited availability of prints from which to cull the missing scenes. Please note that no lossless audio track is available with this version; only several Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks -- 5.1, 4.0, and 2.0. -- are included. Nevertheless, the additional scenes are a welcome addition, and one cannot knock either quality or the studio for including them. Moving on to the bonus materials, disc two also begins with a commentary track, this one featuring Musical historian Richard Barrios. Barrios addresses the particular version of the film presented on disc two, pointing out the new edits and why the extended edition works better than the more readily available and widely-seen "general release" edition. His commentary is generally wonderful; Barrios delivers his comments with an easygoing authority, and his knowledge seems limitless. This is a rare commentary track that is a definite must-listen for all viewers.
Passion, Prejudice, and 'South Pacific:' Creating an American Masterpiece (1080i, 1:34:05) is a four-part feature that examines the film in-depth, beginning by placing it in the historical context of World War II and the segregation of America, and moving on to looking at the writing of the screenplay and music for the stage and, finally, the silver screen. Examined is the search for lead characters, the themes of prejudice that run throughout the movie, the quality of the songs, the use of the Todd-AO wide-angle camera, and much more. 20th Century Fox always seems to produce first-rate documentaries for their classic films (Behind the Planet of the Apes, for example), and the studio has another winner here.
Making of 'South Pacific' (1080p, 14:01) is a vintage black-and-white making-of piece that looks at the use of the Todd-AO camera, the construction of sets, casting, shooting the combat scenes, the native people's hospitality towards the cast and crew, and more. 60 Minutes: The Tales of the South Pacific (480p, 22:25) is a piece hosted by Diane Sawyer that looks at the life works of Author James Michener. Vintage Stage Excerpt (480p, 9:38) features several black-and-white clips from the actual stage production, including I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, Finale, Some Enchanted Evening, and A Wonderful Guy performed by Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. Fox Movietonews is a pair of vintage pieces -- 'South Pacific' on the Screen - A Perfect Hit (480p, 1:20) and State Department Confers Highest Honor on 'South Pacific' (480p, 0:52). Screen Test: Mitzi Gaynor (1080p, 6:51) features the actress rehearsing for her role. Concluding this impressive assemblage of special features is a still gallery and the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:43).
South Pacific Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
South Pacific is a classic Musical with all the right touches to make it a timeless picture with broad appeal. The songs are fun and catchy, the romance a bit sappy but well-developed, and the action exciting and meaningful. The film enjoys great direction, locations, and acting, punctuated by a series of dreamy, surreal scenes that set apart the film's segments that feature the progression of love and romance set against the backdrop of World War II. South Pacific isn't the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein cannon, but it's fantastic classic cinema that is family-friendly and a fine example of filmmaking at its best. 20th Century Fox continues to impress with its dedication to catalogue titles on Blu-ray. South Pacific is another title that is revitalized thanks to Blu-ray, the format allowing this classic to sparkle as brightly as ever with vivid colors and breathtaking detail. The soundtrack, too, is quite good for all that it is, and the studio has included a treasure trove of extras, not to mention two complete versions of the film. South Pacific marks an important title on Blu-ray, the first Rodgers and Hammerstein Musical released to the format, and if this presentation is any indication, film fans need be thrilled at the prospects of additional like-titles in the future. South Pacific is easily an early candidate for 2009 Blu-ray release of the year, and it earns my highest recommendation.
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South Pacific Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Making of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific - August 12, 2011
Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific was the first of their work to be released on Blu-ray. Learn here about how the stage version was born, the story behind the film all the way through its premiere including some very rare behind-the-scenes photos and a special ...
• Today on Blu-ray - March 31st - March 31, 2009
When 'Slumdog Millionaire' was released theatrically, it was pegged as the "feel-good film of the year" by many who reviewed it, but most probably didn't realize how true that assessment actually was. Originally financed by Warner Independent Pictures, the ...
• 50th Anniversary Blu-ray for South Pacific Announced - December 16, 2008
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'South Pacific: 50th Anniversary Edition' to Blu-ray on March 31st, day-and-date with the DVD re-release. This two disc set will present both the theatrical and roadshow versions of the film ...
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