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The Sound of Music: 40th Anniversary Edition

Fox Home Video

Starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer

Written by Ernest Lehman
Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Directed by Robert Wise

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Review by Dawn Taylor                    

The Sound of Music is one of the most beloved musicals is the history of film.

Frankly, the safest course for a reviewer would be to leave the statement at that. Like Gone with the Wind, there are folks who are just plain bug-wacky for The Sound of Music and will abide nothing but unadulterated praise for the film — as well as scores of "reg'lar folk" who look upon it with a sort of awed respect. Example: I have this friend, a writer/editor, the sort of semi-jaded, pop culture-savvy 30ish wiseass that you'd think would absolutely despise The Sound of Music. Yet, when I mentioned that I had acquired the two-disc DVD release and was going to be writing a review he said, "I'm so jealous! The Sound of Music is the best musical ever made!" There ya go. (He also proceeded to explain that The Sound of Music is all about sex. He's right — but I'll get to that later.)

For those readers who have just popped full-grown from a giant clamshell, the plot is thus: Maria (Julie Andrews) is a headstrong, willful young novitiate at an abbey in Salzburg. The nuns are so perplexed with how to handle her un-nunlike behavior that they sing a song about it, then the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) sends 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 The widower, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), is bitter and withdrawn since the death of his wife.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. The Captain and Maria marry, the Nazis invade, and the Von Trapps flee over a mountain. The end.


What's Good About The Sound of Music.

What's Bad About The Sound of Music.

What's Weird About The Sound of Music.

A lot, actually.

*          *          *

Fox's two-disc DVD release of The Sound of Music: 40th Anniversary Edition updates their previous "Five-Star Collection" set (released in 2000) 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, a 1993 transfer, looked very good, and doubtless clean enough to please Laserdisc and 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. Those who have Fox's previous DVD in their collection may choose to keep it for now, but serious Sound of Music fans will want to consider the upgrade. Audio also sounds excellent with a Dolby Digital 5.0 track reconstructed from the 70mm audio source, 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 (with a handy "play all" option).

Disc Two also includes a new introduction from Julie Andrews (2 min.), while new titles on board include the feature-length 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" hosted by Charmian Carr (22 min.), "From Liesl to Gretl: A 40th Anniversary Reunion" with all seven actors who played the Von Trapp children (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, seven trailers, teasers and TV spots, and three stills galleries featuring storyboards, on-set photos, and promotional materials.

Fans will also want to note that some items from the "Five-Star" set have not returned, making it a potential collector's item. Among these are the 87-min. documentary The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon, audio supplements by screenwriter Ernest Lehman and actor Daniel Truhitte, and the 1965 documentary "Salzburg Sight and Sound" with Charmian Carr.

— Dawn Taylor

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