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The Sound of Music(1965)
Julie Andrews lights up the screen as Maria, the spirited young woman who leaves the convent to become governess to the seven children of Captain Von Trapp, an autocratic widower whose strict household rules leave no room for music or entertainment.
For more about The Sound of Music and The Sound of Music Blu-ray release, see The Sound of Music Blu-ray Review
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Richard Haydn, Eleanor Parker, Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond
Director: Robert Wise
» See full cast & crew
The Sound of Music Blu-ray Review
If the film is one of your favorite things, you’ll want to pick this Blu-ray up immediately.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 3, 2010
Hollywood insiders called it "The Sound of Money" when it started raking in loads of box office cash. Leading man Christopher Plummer, thinking it was too sentimental, referred to it as "The Sound of Mucus." Influential film critic Pauline Kael even deemed it a "sugar-coated lie that some people seem to want to eat." But let's set the cynicism aside for a moment. It may be syrupy, and it's definitely a Hollywood cash cow—even now, 45 years after its release—but has there ever been a film more sincerely joyful, more wide-eyed and earnestly optimistic than The Sound of Music? (If there has, I haven't seen it.) It's easy to be wary about unbridled hope, but this movie musical—the eighth and final collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein, the greatest composer/lyricist duo of the 20th century—comes by it honestly. There's no pandering here, no wink-wink irony, no sense of kitsch or camp. The Sound of Music genuinely believes in the possibilities of love, the certainty of good's triumph over evil, and the redeeming, transcendent power of song. Critics can scoff and cynics cringe, but there's a reason audiences world-over have been singing along with the film since 1965.
The based-on-a-true-story is almost universally familiar by now. Broadway star Julie Andrews plays Maria, a good-natured but troublemaking postulant at a convent in the Austrian alps. Perhaps "troublemaking" is an overstatement. In the song "Maria," sung by her wimple-wearing supervisors, we learn that Maria's main offenses are waltzing on the way to Mass, whistling on the stair, and—gasp!—singing in the abbey. Knowing that she's "A flibbertigibbet! A will-o'-the-wisp! A clown!" and perhaps too flighty to become a proper nun, the Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) puts Maria on probation and sends her to Salzburg to serve as the governess of the seven strapping von Trapp children. Their father, Georg (Christopher Plummer), is a widower and former Navy captain, a hardcore disciplinarian who orders his kids around with the aid of an impossibly shrill whistle. Maria, of course, takes a different tact, winning the children over with song, sewing play clothes out of old drapes, climbing trees, going on mountaintop picnics, and putting on puppet shows. The captain's heart is slowly opened when he sees the change in his children, and he breaks off his engagement with the coldly shrewd Baroness Schraeder (Eleanor Parker) to marry Maria. Alas, there's trouble in paradise. These are the last golden days of Austria in the 1930s, and the Nazi threat looms over the alps like a thundercloud. Don't worry, though, this is The Sound of Music, not Schindler's List, and despite a tense climax that finds the von Trapps hiding from SS foot soldiers in a graveyard, the dénouement is pure—literal and figurative—escapism.
Every junction, twist, and turn of the plot is accompanied by song, and the musical numbers are so memorably infectious, there ought to be an auditory branch of the Center for Disease Control working 'round the clock on an antidote for the inevitable ailment of getting these tunes stuck permanently in your head. Nearly every song has since become a bonafide classic, from the title track—which finds Maria, arms outstretched, spinning in euphoria—to "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," the inspiration closer. In between, there's "My Favorite Things," an ode to joyful listmaking, "Do- Re-Mi," a veritable music lesson, and "The Lonely Goatherd," a lyrical tongue twister if there ever was one. And let's not forget the fact that most people think "Edelweiss" is an actual Austrian folk song, and not a brilliant creation of Rodgers and Hammerstein. There's an air of abject wholesomeness that pervades all of the music—which led Pauline Kael to controversially say, "we have been turned into emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs"—but delve into the subtext of Hammerstein's lyrics and you'll find slight shades of passion, and even sex, as when eldest daughter Liesl (Charmian Carr) sings, "I am sixteen, going on seventeen, innocent as a rose." Since when were the delicate, sensual petals of a rose considered innocent? Still, this is family friendly stuff all around, and while it may be overly sweet, I don't think it's fair to say it's sickeningly so. Not every film needs to be a gritty, philosophically loaded, emotionally exhausting drama.
The Sound of Music is, at the very least, well-made fluff, but it's frequently much more than that. The film is exhilarating from the first frames, as Director Robert Wise takes us on an aerial tour of the alps, culminating in a helicopter shot that swoops down on a twirling Julie Andrews right as she erupts into song. Wise has a keen sense of mise-en-scène, and all of his compositions emphasize depth and movement, particularly his arrangements of the seven von Trapp children. The kids themselves come across as precocious, but never obnoxious, and when Christopher Plummer's steely eyes soften at the sound of their singing, even the most hardened moviegoer is likely to break into an insuppressible smile. The movie is essentially engineered to make you feel good, to make your heart swell, and whether or not you think this is manipulative or superficial, it's certainly effective. I can think of few better cures for the blues than spending 174 minutes with The Sound of Music. Yes, at nearly three hours long—thanks to reprises of just about every song—the film would seem to run the risk of sagging in the middle, but it surprisingly never does, floating along instead on its own glee-filled effervescence. And the source of this bubbly propulsion is Julie Andrews, who practically radiates joy and goodness. It's easy, maybe even fashionable among critics, to dislike The Sound of Music, but we could all stand to be a little bit more like Maria, waltzing, whistling, and singing our way through life.
The Sound of Music Blu-ray, Video Quality
Now this is how you do a restoration of a film from the mid-1960s. The Sound of Music was shot in the widescreen 70mm Todd-AO format, and for this new release, the original negatives were scanned at 8K and downsized to a 4K master that has been given an extensive restoration. Color fluctuations between takes have been corrected and thousands of instances of dirt and debris have been removed, resulting in a 1080p/AVC- encoded transfer that's absolutely pristine. Most importantly, the fine grain structure of the 70mm negative hasn't been tampered with at all and there have been no attempts to artificially sharpen the picture. It simply isn't needed. Like most of the other 70mm films to appear on Blu-ray—2001: A Space Odyssey, Baraka, etc.—The Sound of Music inherently has a tremendous sense of clarity, revealing every detail of the wool and herringbone suits, the ornately gilded interiors of the von Trapp estate, individual blades of grass on a mountaintop meadow, and the fine textures of the actors' faces. Some close-ups do appear softer, but this is only because a diffusion filter was used during filming to give a flattering glow to some of the older performers. Color reproduction is warm and dense as well, with vivid primaries, rich neutrals, perfectly attuned black levels, and skin tones that are natural and consistent. Unlike the artifact-heavy DVD, there are no real compression issues to speak of here. I did spot—briefly—some moiré-like shimmer on the fine lines of Maria's apron at the very beginning of the film, but it's hardly a distraction. I can't imagine The Sound of Music looking any better than it does here, and I have no problems giving it a full 5/5 for picture quality.
The Sound of Music Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unusual for the mid-1960s, The Sound of Music featured six-track stereo, allowing seamless pans and sweeps and plenty of room for the orchestral score to breath. For the first time, the film's restorers had access to the original six-track print master, which they've digitally restored and expanded into a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround mix. The results—without gushing too much—are flawless. I mean, you'd expect nothing less from a film called The Sound of Music, right? Well, rest assured, the music sounds fantastic—rich, dynamically expressive, and wonderfully clean. The score fills every channel during the musical numbers, and the spacious mix generates a great sense of interplay between the individual instruments. And the singing! As crisp as the alpine air. The same goes for the non-sung dialogue, which is perfectly balanced. Fans couldn't ask for more. Like the restoration of the print, it's clear that a lot of time and effort went into optimizing the audio for this release. (If you're interested, make sure to check out the Restoring a Classic: A Glorious Sound featurette for details on how the audio cleanup was accomplished.)
The Sound of Music Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Your Favorite Things - An Interactive Celebration
Like most of Fox's tent pole Blu-ray productions, The Sound of Music comes with an all-new interactive bonus features interface that can be accessed while watching the film. When you select "Your Favorite Things" from the extras tab, a brief video tutorial plays and you're taken to a menu where you can customize the experience. There are four options here, and you can select as many or as few of them as you'd like. Making Music: A Journey in Images is a picture-in-picture mode that displays many never-before-seen storyboards and photographs of the film's production in the upper right corner of the screen, The Sing-Along Experience provides karaoke-style lyrics across the bottom of the screen, Many a Thing to Know is a trivia track about the making of the film and the real Maria, and Where Was it Filmed? is an ongoing multiple-choice quiz. With all four options turned on, I find that the interface obscures too much of the film, but I can see many fans taking advantage of the karaoke mode.
Music Machine (1080p, 58:02)
From here you can skip directly to your favorite songs from the film or watch them all consecutively.
Sing-Along (1080p, 54:22)
For all intents and purposes, this mode is exactly the same as "Music Machine." In fact, I'm not quite sure what's different about the two, except that "Sing-Along" seems to trim off some of the music before the singing starts.
The disc includes two commentaries tracks. The first, with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, Choreographer Dee Dee Wood, and Johannes von Trapp, is one of those tracks where all the participants are recorded separately and patched in to comment on certain scenes. Andrews is the most vocal figure, but there are many long stretches of silence throughout. The second track, with director Robert Wise, is where you'll find more concentrated making-of information, although fans will eventually want to give both commentaries a go.
BD-Live Exclusive: Laura Benanti on The Sound of Music (720p, 3:33)
Disc Two: Extras
An "interactive backlot tour," Musical Stages allows you to explore the foyer of the Von Trapp home, which serves as a menu for a host of all-new special features, including profiles of many of the film's songs and featurettes about The Sound of Music's production and enduring legacy.
An interactive map of Salzburg, from which you can access "Fascinating Facts," photos, and brief video clips about each location seen in the film.
An enormous collection of special features that appeared on previous DVD releases, including vintage featurettes and several exhaustive making-of documentaries.
The Sound of Music Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but you'd have to be a cold-blooded, stonyhearted cynic to actively dislike a film that's so guilelessly joyful, so infectiously optimistic. The Sound of Music is cinematic sunshine—vitamin D in filmic form—and on Blu-ray, it's unadulterated home video happiness, complete with a pristine transfer, lush audio, and seemingly endless hours of bonus features. If the onset of a gloomy winter has got you down, The Sound of Music just might be the perfect remedy. Our highest recommendations!
The Sound of Music: Other Editions
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