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The Sound of Music: 40th Anniversary Edition

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection

Frankly, the safest course for a reviewer to take when it comes to The Sound of Music (1965) is to note that it's one of the most beloved musicals in the history of cinema and leave it at that. The fact is, there are folks who are just plain bug-wacky for this movie and will abide nothing but unadulterated praise for it. Not that it doesn't have its flaws — it runs a bit long, it throws historical accuracy to the winds, and it doesn't always make sense. For those readers who have just popped full-grown from a giant clamshell, the plot is thus: Maria (Julie Andrews) is a headstrong young novitiate at an abbey in Salzburg. The nuns are so perplexed with how to handle her un-nunlike behavior that they send her off to serve as a governess for a local widower's seven children. The widower, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), is bitter and withdrawn since the death of his wife. He runs the house in a militarized fashion, is emotionally unavailable to his children, and generally acts like a bastard. The Captain is considering marrying a sophisticated and sultry Baroness (Eleanor Parker), but through the good-natured musical influence of Maria he softens, becomes a good father, and discovers that he prefers the governess to the Baroness. Among The Sound of Music's finer points is the cinematography in Salzburg — the locations are breathtaking, and the way they are used to open up the story is brilliantly executed, especially the montage of city scenes during "Do-Re-Mi." And, of course, the opening sequence — the camera sweeping up into the hills and then zooming in on Julie Andrews, arms outstretched, as she belts out the title tune. Andrews really is unbelievably good as Maria, while the songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein include "Do-Re-Mi," "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things," and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." But the film, and music, can stumble, particularly with such numbers as "The Lonely Goatherd," and the fact, three hours after it started, Maria becomes little more than a supporting player in the movie of her own life. Fox's two-disc DVD release of The Sound of Music: 40th Anniversary Edition updates their previous "Five-Star Collection" set with several new items, not least of which is a new transfer from restored materials. The most recent video source for The Sound of Music looked very good, and doubtless clean enough to please early DVD collectors. However, this new anamorphic transfer (2.20:1) — from a 2005 print restoration — is markedly better, with deeper color saturation, photo-realistic tones, and virtually no collateral wear. Audio also sounds excellent with a Dolby Digital 5.0 track, as well as a Dolby 2.0 stereo option. Disc One of the set includes a new introduction from Julie Andrews (2 min.), while a commentary from director Robert Wise returns from the first edition, and Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, Dee Dee Wood, and Johannes Von Trapp contribute a new track. Also found here is a "Singalong" feature with karaoke-style subtitles, as well as separate chapter selection by song titles. Disc Two also includes a new introduction from Julie Andrews (2 min.), while new titles on board include the documentary My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers (93 min.), the featurettes "Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence" (19 min.), "On Location with The Sound of Music" (22 min.), "From Liesl to Gretl: A 40th Anniversary Reunion" (33 min.), and "When You Know the Notes To Sing: A Singalong Phenomenon" (12 min.). Also here is the A&E Biography episode "The Von Trapp Family: Harmony and Discord" (46 min.), a restoration comparison, trailers, and stills galleries. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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