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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 11/20/00



The Sound of Music
Five Star Collection - 1965 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

THX-certifiedEnhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Sound of Music: Five Star Collection Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B/B+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
175 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.20:1), THX certified, 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:27:58, at the start of chapter 29), dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by director Robert Wise, isolated score (minus the vocal track), DVD-ROM links to The Sound of Music web sites, collectible booklet, animated film-themed menus screens with sound effects, scene access (61 chapters), languages: English (DD 4.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Special Edition Content
NR, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), original 1965 documentary Salzburg Sight and Sound (14 mins), documentary The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon (87 mins), audio supplements: A Telegram from Daniel Truhitte (13 mins) and Ernest Lehman: Master Storyteller (35 mins), 1973 reissue interview with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise, previews and TV spots, radio spots, storyboards, sketches and production stills, DVD-ROM games and links to fan site, animated film-themed menus screens with music


The Sound of Music is the timeless true tale of free-spirited nun Maria (Julie Andrews), and her impact on the Von Trapp family in Austria. She is assigned to look after the seven unruly Von Trapp children. Their mother has passed away, and their father (Christopher Plummer) is a captain in the Navy, who doesn't spend a lot of time at home. He is a strict disciplinarian and runs his home like he's directing a troop of soldiers. Eventually, Maria and the Captain's bumpy relationship starts to flourish, and he sees that her way of teaching the children through music may not be so bad after all. Of course, the children are going to come around and, of course, the Captain will see that Maria is good for him and leave the evil Baroness. Like most great family films, The Sound of Music has a simple message. But, unlike most family films, it's draped across the not so simple backdrop of WWII Europe, which makes it interesting.

Rodgers and Hammerstein created many classic musicals (including Oklahoma, Carousel and The King and I among others), but The Sound of Music may be their most beloved. It's a genuinely charming story, and its appeal hasn't really diminished with time. That can be attributed mainly to two people - director Robert Wise and Julia Andrews. Wise is one of the most versatile directors to come out of Hollywood (The Haunting, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, West Side Story and Andromeda Strain are but a few of his films) and his touch is evident in every frame of the film. His direction is simple, effective and to the point. He lets the story and the music speak for themselves. Julie Andrews is an incomparable performer, and she's just as good in this film as she was in Mary Poppins and Victor Victoria. Of course, the latter title may not be so appropriate for the kiddies, but it's not available on DVD anyway, so what difference does it make?

The Sound of Music is a joyous film that really celebrates the strength of family and the power of music. The one real weakness of the film is its sometimes wishy-washy script. Until James Cameron's Titanic came along, no film since The Sound of Music had won the Oscar for Best Picture without receiving a nomination for Best Screenplay. But it managed to overcome its weaknesses with strong performances and direction, and great location shooting. The film does lose a bit of its steam after about the two-hour mark. The focus of the story changes from the Von Trapp family to WWII and Nazi Germany. That's not to say that part of the story isn't good, but it's such a drastic change in pacing and storyline that it almost feels like a different film. Nonetheless, the film remains a landmark in cinema, and it's easy to understand why the film was such a box-office phenomenon. It has remained, over 35 years, a very pleasing film that can indeed be appreciated by people of all ages.

Fox issued The Sound of Music as a THX-certified disc. And although the digital quality of the picture is mostly good, it isn't without its faults. In fact, I'm a bit baffled as to why THX even put their stamp of approval on this picture. There are a few really notable problems with this image. For starters, the picture is sometimes hazy and unclear, and distracting grain rears its head every now and then (take a look at the trees in the opening moments of the film). Colors are overall pretty accurate but tend to look muted and are very inconsistent. The other big dilemma with the image is the use of way too much edge enhancement. I suspect that whoever transferred the film for video probably had laserdisc on their mind instead of DVD, so they applied too much edge enhancement to the picture. On the plus side, it looks like a new (but unrestored) print was used for the transfer. So you're not going to see a lot of blemishes on this picture. Scratches, hair, dust and other print defects are seldom to be found on the picture. But because the rest of the picture just doesn't look that great, I have to wonder what the hell Fox was thinking releasing the film like this. These problems could have been remedied had Fox taken a little more time to tidy up the picture and properly restore a better print for the digital conversion.

The same can be said for the audio track. It's good, but not great. The 4.1 mix is better than average, but why not go the extra mile and do a full 5.1 remix? Oddly enough, the strength in this sound mix is its bass and use of the rear speakers for the film's score. A 5.1 mix would have only served to make it even stronger. Parts of the score sound gorgeous and strong, yet others sound flat and dull. Movement on the front end of the sound system seems to be a bit off. The sound (dialogue in particular) occasionally moves unnaturally between the center and the left and right speakers. A film that is so celebrated for its music and lyrics should have a better home video delivery than The Sound of Music received.

There is a wide range of extra features on the DVD's (most are on the second disc). Some of it is good, and some of it is not so good. Director Robert Wise's commentary is a great addition to the disc. After a shaky and obviously scripted start, his track becomes very informative. Many times, he lets the film speak for itself, but he's not afraid to jump in and talk about specific scenes and the difficulties of unpredictable location filming. The documentary From Fact to Phenomenon is a thorough, in-depth look at the making of The Sound of Music. It starts by briefly detailing the real-life relationship between Maria and the Von Trapp family, then goes into the on-screen history of her story (including a popular German film called Die Trapp Familie). There's also a condensed primer on Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals, and how they came to be involved with the Von Trapp story. Much of the information comes straight from the mouths of those involved in the film, including members of the Von Trapp family, Julie Andrews, screenwriter Lehman, the choreographer and many others. Most of the documentary focuses on the film itself, but the remainder discusses the huge impact the film made at box office around the world. It's a very good documentary, and is tons more entertaining than the fluffy Salzburg Sight and Sound. Granted, Salzburg is a staged promotional piece for the film, but even the cheese value doesn't make it very engaging.

The audio interview with scriptwriter Ernest Lehman is satisfactory and has some good nuggets of information, but is a difficult listen for more than a few minutes at a time. Daniel Truhitte's 13-minute interview is pretty forgettable, and doesn't add a whole lot to the disc. The Sound of Music was reissued in 1973, and the interview with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise is a promotional radio spot for the film. It's a nice listen, but there's already a ton of promo-related material here. In addition to the already mentioned advertisements, there are also theatrical trailers, TV commercials, radio spots, and a very lengthy gallery of sketches and stills. On the DVD-ROM side, most of what's included is lackluster filler material. The majority of it is intended for the younger audience, but I doubt it would hold their interest either. There's a short sing-a-long, a "make your own song" segment, a short music trivia piece, wallpaper for your computer and numerous of Internet links. It's obvious that a great deal of effort was put into these extras... I just wish that a bit more attention was paid to behind-the-scenes material.

Despite its disappointing presentation on this DVD, there's a lot of good stuff on this 2-disc set that will surely grab your attention. There's not a whole lot you can say about this film that hasn't already been said. It's one of those rare family films that truly does have something for everyone. It hasn't lost anything in the thirty-five years since it was initially released, and Fox's DVD, while not the best in terms of video and sound quality) is still the best way to experience it at home. Bet you'll be singing some of these songs for days after spinning this disc...

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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