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The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD Review

The Sound of Music (1965) movie poster The Sound of Music

Theatrical Release: March 2, 1965 / Running Time: 174 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Robert Wise / Writers: Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse (book); Ernest Lehman (screenplay)

Cast: Julie Andrews (Maria), Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp), Eleanor Parker (The Baroness), Richard Haydn (Max Detweiler), Peggy Wood (Mother Abbess), Charmian Carr (Liesl von Trapp), Heather Menzies (Louisa von Trapp), Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich von Trapp), Duane Chase (Kurt von Trapp), Angela Cartwright (Brigitta von Trapp), Debbie Turner (Marta von Trapp), Kym Karath (Gretl von Trapp), Anna Lee (Sister Margaretta), Portia Nelson (Sister Berthe), Ben Wright (Herr Zeller), Daniel Truhitte (Rolfe), Norma Varden (Frau Schmidt), Gil Stuart (Franz), Marni Nixon (Sister Sophia), Evadne Baker (Sister Bernice), Doris Lloyd (Baroness Ebberfeld)

Songs: "The Sound of Music", "Maria", "I Have Confidence", "Sixteen Going on Seventeen", "My Favorite Things", "Do-Re-Mi", "The Lonely Goatherd", "Edelweiss", "So Long, Farewell", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", "Something Good"

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The clips of "Musical Stages" are scattered throughout this computer-generated recreation of the von Trapp house which can be navigated to reveal more props and clips. "R&H: Partnership at its Peak" features photographs of Maestros Rodgers and Hammerstein hard at work.

BONUS FEATURES: BLU-RAY DISC 2 & DVD

The rest of the set's many supplements can be found on Disc Two. New to this release is Musical Stages, which is reminiscent of the "Hyperion Studios" feature on Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Blu-ray. You poke around a CG reconstruction of the von Trapp house. Throughout the house are various props that, when selected, lead to a making-of clip.
Thankfully, Fox offers a "Play All" feature that groups the clips into four categories, forming their own documentaries.

The first is "The Songs" (30:49, HD). This covers eleven of the musical numbers with comments from various participants with ties to either Rodgers and Hammerstein or the song itself in some form. We hear about the genesis of each composition, what story purposes they serve, and their impact today. There's also a clip about songs that appeared in the original Broadway production but didn't make it into the film.

"The Show" (28:50, HD) aptly focuses on the original Broadway production starring Mary Martin. Within it are six clips. "R&H: Partnership at Its Peak" tells of how songwriters Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein first joined forces. "Shaping the Story" touches on the difficulties of adapting real events into a traditional narrative. "Stories from Broadway" collects memoirs of incidents that occurred during, before, and after the show's creation. "Final Dream: Oscar Hammerstein Remembered" deals with Hammerstein's death, which made The Sound of Music was his last collaboration with Rodgers. "Stage vs. Screen" compares the play to its cinematic counterpart, making note of the alterations in the transition. Finally, "Maria in the 21st Century" shows how much the musical as has inspired modern-day audiences, spurning everything from interpretive dance to children's pop-up books.

"Stage vs. Screen" gives a look at the Broadway musical that inspired the film, featuring Mary Martin as Maria. A photo of the real Maria von Trapp and her grown-up children in "Maria and the Musical."

"The Family" (23:37, HD) holds four clips that deal with the real von Trapps. "After the Escape" tells what happened to the family after the events dramatized. In "Maria and the Musical", we hear of Maria's reactions to having her life dramatized and how involved she was in the show. The humanitarian efforts of another Maria von Trapp, stepdaughter of the famous Maria, are given the spotlight in "A Generous Heart." "The von Trapps Today" looks at the descendants of Maria and the Captain and their lodge that overlooks some of the sites seen in the movie.

Finally, there's "The Restoration", which does not have a "Play All" option but contains only two featurettes. For a look at the extensive picture restoration, there's "Restoring a Classic: Bloom and Grow Forever" (5:43, HD) while "Restoring a Classic: A Glorious Sound" (5:31, HD) focuses on the audio. Both pieces share some interesting information and comparisons, but come across self-congratulatory. All in all, though, the material found under Musical Stages is winning and satisfying, providing information not found elsewhere.

"A City of Song" gives us a bird's-eye view of Salzburg with clickable locations leading to more information. When the real von Trapp villa was considered too small for what they wanted, the filmmakers used this Salzburg house to play the location in the film.

Another feature new to this release is A City of Song. Similar to "Musical Stages", we survey the Salzburg cityscape and can select different buildings to learn more about them. Each locale features three elements: a clip about the area in question, five facts, and several photos. The facts total 90 text-based stills, and the photos, a mix of behind-the-scenes from the production and modern-day snapshots, total 71.

With the "Play All" option, all 18 clips can be strung together to form a documentary (34:48, HD). These clips are "Mellweg: Maria's Mountain", "Nonnberg: Maria's Abbey", "Residenzplatz: Scenes of Joy and Sorrow", "Siegmundplatz: The Horse Pond", "von Trapp Villa: A Place of Harmony", "Frohnburg: A Facade Fit for Hollywood", "Gazebo: A New Home at Hellbrunn", "Mozartsteg - A Bridge to the Past", "Werfen: Planning a Picnic", "Winkler Terrace: The Ultimate View", "Mirabell Gardens: Do-Re-Mi-rabell", "Leopoldskron: Story of a Lake", "Salzburg Marionette Theatre: Pulling Strings", "Mondsee Cathedral: A Marriage of Fact and Fiction", "Rock Riding School: Staging a Festival", "St. Peter's Cemetery: Safe Haven", "Rossfeld: A Dangerous Escape", and "The Sound of Music Tour: A Living Story". All the clips offer enlightening looks at areas from both Maria's life and the film itself.

Director Robert Wise recalls the unfavorable weather conditions in the documentary "The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon." "My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers" features the actress and at least a few of her favorite things, but she's not the only one here. In "Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence", the lead actors recall their concern that the film might be too sugary.

Vintage Programs is split into three sections: "The Sound of Music", "Rodgers and Hammerstein", and "Audio Interviews." Under the first is a documentary produced for the 30th anniversary laserdisc: "The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon" (1:27:22, SD). This piece features interviews from cast and crew members of both the stage and film versions. It begins with a brief look at the real Maria von Trapp and the experiences that inspired the musical.
More time is spent on the Broadway show, chronicling everything from Mary Martin's insistence at adapting Maria's memoirs to critical reactions. The greatest amount of time, however, is spent on the film, beginning with William Wyler's almost-involvement and progressing all the way through to the effect of the picture today. Despite The Sound of Music's stance as a classic, the program avoids being overly sentimental or gushy, never afraid to disclose problems that arose both on stage and on the screen. That makes for an excellent documentary all around.

A 40th Anniversary DVD feature, "My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers" (1:03:18, SD) is misleadingly named. What sounds like a lengthy Andrews interview is actually a new documentary with many participants. The different interviewees share stories about their experiences, which are edited somewhat haphazardly. Still, while the documentary lacks focus and overlaps the previous one a little, there's plenty to learn here, and many of the anecdotes entertain.

"Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence" (19:24, SD) is another 40th Anniversary extra, this one sitting the pair down for a discussion on the film. While most of the stories shared here have already been discussed in the commentary and previous two documentaries, that doesn't keep this featurette from entertaining. Andrews and Plummer have genuine chemistry with one another and as such, even when they're retelling a story already heard, their spark and cheeky asides make them worth hearing.

Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond, Heather Menzies, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, and Kym Karath jovially exchange anecdotes on the making of the film in "From Liesl to Gretl." "Salzburg Sight and Sound" shows that actress Charmian Carr enjoyed more than just the sights and sounds of the city. Charmian Carr returns to Salzburg to act as our tour guide "On Location with The Sound of Music."

More revealing is "From Liesl to Gretl" (33:33, SD). Another 40th Anniversary supplement, this sits all seven of the von Trapp child actors together for a loose conversation. As there's no interviewer or moderator, the actors just jump into various behind-the-scenes stories, and conversations spurn from those while raising other topics. Most of the participants weren't interviewed for either of the main documentaries, so most of what's disclosed here is new, and they even point out mistakes and oddities found in the finished film. They all clearly still get along as evidenced by their often hilarious and telling interactions. Oddly, this featurette is presented windowboxed.

A genuinely vintage piece, "Salzburg Sight and Sound" (13:03, HD) is a promotional featurette from the time of the film's release. Actress Charmian Carr tours Salzburg with a film crew following her exploits. Most interesting is behind-the-scenes footage of the "Do-Re-Mi" sequence as we see the actors mess up on different takes along with some of Wise's direction. It's an interesting short and Fox has given it a remarkable restoration effort specifically for this release.

Going back to more 40th Anniversary goodies, "On Location with the Sound of Music" (22:33, SD) brings Carr back to Salzburg. While her first documented visit simply followed her around as she enjoyed the sights, this one has her act more as a tour guide. She visits several locations used in the film along with areas that were a part of the real Maria's life. Along the way, she gives context to the locales and even points out some movie trickery in making two separate areas appear as one. The piece concludes with her making a surprise visit aboard a Sound of Music tour bus. Since not all of the areas and facts brought up here were covered in "A City of Song", this remains useful and brisk.

"When You Know the Notes to Sing: A Sing-Along Phenomenon" shows off some of the more unusual costumes to worn to these events, including the unsung carburetor. Original Broadway cast members Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel perform "Edelweiss" together in PBS's "Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music." Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are briefly shown in talks how footage at the start of "Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Movies."

"When You Know the Notes to Sing: A Sing-Along Phenomenon" (12:49, SD) is the last featurette created for the 40th Anniversary DVD and also the last feature of its section. This gives us a look at a special sing-along event held at the Hollywood Bowl in 2005.
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We hear from fans as to why they love the film so much and get to see some of the outlandish costumes worn to the event. As one interviewee said, it's like a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Prozac, which makes this fun. Like the "On Location" piece, this one's also windowboxed for some reason.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein area holds two lengthy programs. Never before on DVD or Blu-ray, "Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music" (1:23:25) is a 1985 PBS documentary hosted by Mary Martin. The program examines seven Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals: Oklahoma!, State Fair, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. Cast members from the screen and stage versions of these shows are interviewed throughout along with other notable crew members. The comments and stories presented throughout are very informative, but they're broken up by long stretches of film clips. The focus here really is on the shows themselves, so we learn nothing about the duo as people. Despite all that, this remains an engaging documentary.

"Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Movies" (1:36:35) is a 1996 Fox special, whose format is both similar to and different from the previous one's. Like that, this keeps the focus squarely on seven musicals. Unlike it, this is more about the films than the plays and there are no interviewees save for Julie Andrews' "From Fact to Phenomenon" sound bites. Instead, several hosts guide us and narrate, including Shirley Jones, Rita Moreno, Nancy Kwan, and Charmian Carr. This documentary is even more clip-heavy than the previous one, but here it's not as much of a concern since the intentions are different. This is more along the lines of That's Entertainment!, designed to showcase memorable musical moments. To spice things up, outtakes and other behind-the-scenes clips are peppered throughout, things not even found on the respective DVD releases of those films. Those add value to what's overall an entertaining special.

The final section of Vintage Programs, "Audio Interviews" holds exactly what it sounds like, spanning different eras and all found on the 30th Anniversary laserdisc. "Location Interviews" holds chats with Julie Andrews (11:50), Christopher Plummer (5:15), and Peggy Wood (6:34) during the film's production. Since these were made for promotional purposes, the three aren't as forward as they are in retrospect, but they still manage to throw out a few nice comments about their work.

"Reissue Interview with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise" (7:46) catches up with the director and actress during a 1973 re-issue. It's mostly the two of them reflecting on the success of the picture, but it's good to have for archival purposes.

Actor Daniel Truhitte gives us a swell pose as Rolfe to go with his unidentified telegram. Carol Burnett sneers at the goody goody goodness that is Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews and the real Maria von Trapp engage in a yodeling session for Andrews' 1970s variety show.

Though its origins are unclear, "A Telegram from Daniel Truhitte" (13:03) lets a significantly older-sounding Truhitte recall everything from the casting process to the actual shoot.

The section and subsection's final item is "Ernest Lehman: Master Storyteller" (34:56), which is certainly sourced from the 30th anniversary documentary. Some of the writer's comments can be found there, but most are exclusive to this. Lehman analyzes the scripting process and compares the film's screenplay to the stage musical and the real-life events that inspired it. He also shares stories about working with Robert Wise and William Wyler (before Wyler dropped out). While it would've been nice if these snippets had been left in the documentary, it's a treat to get them here.

The next section, Rare Treasures holds various vintage materials, all but one from the 30th Anniversary laserdisc. The first, "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall: The Pratt Family Singers" (6:40, SD) is a skit performed by Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. In it, they openly spoof The Sound of Music not knowing that Andrews would be cast in the role two years later. It's a lot of fun to see, especially Burnett's trademark deadpan deliveries.

"The Julie Andrews Hour: Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp" (16:33, SD) is an excerpt from a 1973 episode of Andrews' ABC variety series. Here, Andrews interviews Maria von Trapp about what happened after the events of the film. The two perform "Edelweiss" together, and Maria even teaches Julie how to yodel. It's almost a relief to see that the real Maria had every bit a sense of humor as the stories told of her elsewhere on this set have suggested. The clip is charming and worth the inclusion.

Mia Farrow painfully attempts a verse of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" in this screen test. Julie Andrews introduces you to the 40th Anniversary Edition DVD from five years ago. (Sadly, "Forty-fifth" hasn't been poorly dubbed over it.) Storyboards for the opening sequence are remarkably close to their final film counterparts.

"Screen Tests" (26:13, SD) is made up of three different pieces. "Hollywood Screen Tests" shows various child actors auditioning for roles as the von Trapp children. Some of them actually did make it into the finished film - in roles different than the ones they auditioned for. "Mia Farrow" is a brief test of the actress awkwardly singing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and performing a bit of a dance. "Marni Nixon Foreign Dubbing Test" is a reel of the singer performing several of the film's songs. Apparently this was intended to help other nations in dubbing their own language tracks. All of these are fascinating.

The only supplement in this domain that did not appear on the 30th anniversary laserdisc is the "40th Anniversary DVD Introduction by Julie Andrews" (2:10). It's what it sounds like, as Andrews praises the film and its success, readying the viewer for the film. It's impressive that Fox would even think to include something like this for completeness' sake.

"Galleries" holds three categories. "What Will My Future Be?" (70 stills) contains pre-production photos and artwork. "Facing Adventure" (123 stills) is all about the production itself. "A Grand and Glorious Party" (92 stills) features photos and publicity materials from not only the original release, but subsequent reissues. While this can't compare to the galleries found on previous releases, it's still satisfying.

Composer Irwin Kostal and Julie Andrews hold up one of the film's many Oscars for the camera people at Fox Movietone News. This '90s mom and her '90s daughter watch a '90s VHS release of The Sound of Music in this '90s home video ad. The Blu-ray and DVD's main menus feature grids adding one section at a time of film clips.

The supplements at long last come to an end with Publicity. The first item in here is "Fox Movietone News Academy Awards" (2:46), which presents silent footage of Julie Andrews and composer Irwin Kostal showing off the film's awards to the press while the film's overture plays. The section wraps up with a whopping seven teasers and trailers (21:11), two TV spots (1:23), and four radio spots (3:00). In a rare and nice move, one of the trailers is actually for a 1990s VHS release, the type of ad virtually never presented in trailer collections.

This set's third and final disc is the newly-remastered DVD of the film, which oddly drops the two audio commentaries. Its only bonus features are the sing-along option, the "Music Machine" method of playing all the songs consecutively, and "The Sound of Music Tour" featurette from "A City of Song." While those buying this set should be doing so for the loaded Blu-ray discs, it must be noted that in conjunction this release, Fox has discontinued all previous Sound of Music DVDs, with the exception of the two 40th Anniversary discs included in the big pricey, 12-disc Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection.
Those who have let ten years pass without buying the movie on DVD will now have to either venture into the secondhand market or settle for the anemic DVD offered here, at least for the time being.

WHAT'S MISSING?

As you can see, this exhausting release includes nearly everything from the movie's three previous anniversary releases. I say "nearly" because, unbelievably, there are a few things left off. The most major thing is the A&E documentary "The Von Trapp Family: Harmony and Discord." Why that's been dropped is unclear as it appeared just five years ago on the 40th Anniversary DVD.

Also of note is that while this 2010 set's gallery features a solid 285 stills, the 35th Anniversary laserdisc (and the Five-Star DVD release that essentially replicated that package) held a staggering 2,400 images. Now, the numerical difference is perhaps not as dramatic as it seems at first. The majority of the missing images can be seen in the "Making Music: A Journey in Images" aspect of "Your Favorite Things" viewing mode. Several more stills can be found scattered throughout "A City of Song" and are also presented during the audio interviews. So while most of the images do appear on this release, not all of them can be conveniently viewed in the "Galleries" area.

The last thing to be left off is understandable: a restoration comparison which is now outdated and thus replaced by two new featurettes.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The main menus of both the Blu-ray and DVD play a montage of clips in a grid format, each square in the grid appearing to the rhythm of the overture. The pop-up menu for both BDs are placed on a simple blue bar and, like other Fox DVDs, annoyingly show subselections one item at a time within a confined box. The DVD's submenus feature additional score selections joined by static promotional images.

There are several ways you can purchase this 45th Anniversary edition of The Sound of Music. The most common version is the Blu-ray + DVD combo pack in a standard blue keepcase; the same three discs can also be obtained in a black DVD keepcase. Tucked inside an embossed cardboard slipcover, the Blu-ray case includes a $3 coupon off of other Fox family titles and a Dove Intensive Repair ad (because everyone knows those dreadful habits are terrible for your hair).

For those with more love for the movie (and more money at their disposal), the combo is also available in a Limited Edition Collector's Set. Comparable to Warner's Ultimate Collector's Edition, this premium box includes a coffee table book, a reproduction of the original souvenir program, the 45th Anniversary soundtrack CD, six lithographs, and a collectible music box.

In addition, Target is selling the combo in an exclusive Digibook edition. Whether that book is similar to the one in the Collector's Set is unclear.

Maria (Julie Andrews) and six von Trapp children try to distract themselves from the storm by naming their favorite things. Thunder's not one of them.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

However you get it, the new 45th Anniversary Edition of The Sound of Music comes highly recommended. The film is admittedly not perfect, but it does much more right than wrong. Among its highlights are a spirited lead performance from Julie Andrews, winning Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, and breathtaking cinematography of Salzburg.

This is easily the film's definitive release. The video and audio are stunning and may just be the best ever offered on a classic live-action film. The extras are staggering, gathering practically everything from the movie's every video release and with new inclusions making up for the few minor things not retained. This is perhaps the best release a single film has received on Blu-ray, with only Warner's The Wizard of Oz coming close in terms of comprehensiveness.

With a classic motion picture beautifully restored and joined by a myriad of bonus material, there's little reason for anyone to avoid this release. Established fans will want this for the improved image and sound, the convenience of having all the supplements (save for the A&E special and images) in one place, and for the informative new features. Those who've never owned The Sound of Music are encouraged to pick up this astounding release against which all future Blu-ray catalogue titles will be measured.

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Reviewed November 17, 2010.



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