Plot: What’s it about?
Maria (Julie Andrews) tries her best to be a good nun, but her works at the convent just don’t seem to be enough to keep her in the superior nuns’ good graces. So when the Mother Superior sends her to function as the governess to some children in the hills, she looks forward to the change of environment. Once she arrives at her new home, Maria discovers she is the newest governess in a long line to try to control the children and that their father, Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) runs the place with a military strictness. Despite all that, Maria tries to teach the children to sing and dance for fun as well as appreciate the beauty in even the smallest of things around them. As she bonds with the children and they begin to become more civilized and well behaved, Maria finds herself drawn to Captain von Trapp and he seems to feel the same way about her. Maria now realizes that being a nun isn’t for her and she agrees to be the wife of von Trapp, which of course pleases the children also. But this paradise will soon come to an end, when the German rulers issue a statement that demands von Trapp return to his military position whether he wants to or not.
You might not like this movie, but chances are you’ve heard of it and you realize how popular it has become. After winning five Academy Awards (including Best Picture), “The Sound of Music” has steamrolled through the years picking more and more fans as time passes. The film has been mentioned on many of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list, coming in at #55 in the 1998 list and moving up to #40 on the 2007. It’s also a great love story, musical and even has its share of drama to boot. While not “Citizen Kane” in terms of filmmaking, I think this film is required viewing for film buffs and musical nuts and I recommend a rental to skeptics, but if you have the slightest inkling of wanting this title I recommend that you purchase it as soon as possible. The days of the musical might be a bit behind us now, but in its heyday “The Sound of Music” delivered what it promised and certainly is worthy of a spot on your shelf.
This classic family musical was directed by Robert Wise, who has a resume loaded with terrific and memorable films. In this movie Wise captures the musical portions of the picture very well and really boosts the impact of the impressive choreography and dancers involved. The compositions are fantastic and allow the graceful movements to achieve full desired effect, which is of course crucial to those sequences and the film as a whole. This trend continues in the non musical scenes as well, with the landscape shots coming to mind right off the bat of course. The locations used are gorgeous and Wise manages to create incredible backdrops and such for the events with his camera, very impressive work all around. If you want to see more of Wise’s movies I recommend Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Andromeda Strain, The Sand Pebbles, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Helen Of Troy, and Run Silent Run Deep. The lead in this film is played by Julie Andrews, who gives the performance of a lifetime as Maria. Andrews doesn’t miss a step in this role and I think this is one of the finest performances in all of musical cinema. The terrific supporting cast includes Christopher Plumme, Peggy Wood, Richard Haydn, Eleanor Parker, and Daniel Truhitte.
Video: How’s it look?
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel here, this is the same disc that was found in the 45th Anniversary edition and The Sound of Music looks about as majestic as I’d envisioned. The 2.20:1 AVC HD transfer is right up there with some of the best live action transfers I’ve ever seen. As a point of reference I took Disc 3 (the standard DVD) out and watched a few scenes for comparison and let me tell you – there isn’t much of one. This is one of the jewels in Fox’s crown and they took their time with this one. There’s a bit of grain associated with the film and Fox didn’t touch it, rather they took out a few ticks and blips along the way and thankfully didn’t go down the DNR road. There’s such a smoothness and clarity to the film, I find it hard to believe that the movie is 45 years old. Colors are bright and vivid and let me say that the signature scene gave me such a rush that it’s what Blu-ray seemed to be made for. Detail is incredible, contrast is right on the money and black levels are on the mark as well. Folks, The Sound of Music has never looked better and now that I can say I’ve actually seen the film, I’m glad I waited until this release to initiate myself into this club.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Like the video, the audio is the exact same as it was five years from now (and most likely will be five years from now). Fox has again taken great strides to ensure that this DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack sounds just as good as it should. Again, I took out the standard DVD and listened to a few of the songs in Dolby Digital 5.1 and then popped in the Blu-ray for a little uncompressed mix. Wow. There’s such a depth to the soundtrack that it’s nearly beyond belief. All of the songs sound so rich and robust, again it’s hard to believe the age of this film. Dialogue is very clear and rich and every one of your speakers will earn their keep during this 174 minute film. The LFE get involved as well. Truly this mix is so engaging that I’d find it hard to watch the movie in any other sound format. Unlike some of the films of the era, this really doesn’t sound dated in the least. If there was a hiss or a creak in the mix, I didn’t hear it. While this isn’t something that will shake the room, it’s so crystal clear that you’ll swear you’re right there. An amazing effort with this 7.1 mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fox essentially pulled out all the stops with their first Blu-ray release of this film which celebrated its 45th Anniversary. Five years have passed and it’s time for a real celebration. Or is it? This new set is pretty much the same thing that we got five years ago (the first two discs are identical in A/V quality as well as supplemental material) and a new Blu-ray has been added with a new featurette and a DVD thrown in for good measure. Still, it’s a robust set of one of the all-time great films, so let’s dive in.
- Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration – Depending on which of the four color keys on your remote (yellow, blue, green or red) you can toggle these features on and off. “Making Music” is a collage of images (in picture-in-picture mode) as well as some that haven’t been seen before. “The Sing-Along Experience” allows you to do just that with some of the film’s songs. “Many a Thing to Know” gives us some tidbits about the film, how it was made and we get a bit of on insight into the real Maria. Lastly we have “Where Was it Filmed?” in which we get a little interactive quiz about the locales of the movie.
- Music Machine – This allows you to jump directly to a place in the movie where the song took place
- Sing-Along – This allows you to select a song and literally sing along with it. I’m no Julie Andrews (or Carrie Underwood).
- Audio Commentaries – There are two audio commentaries, the first with director Robert Wise as he gives us all the in-depth knowledge that went along with the production of the film. The second track is with actors Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, Dee Dee Wood and Johannes von Trapp. This is a much more lively track and given the length of the film, this one flows a bit better. Andrews and Plummer are the most active, as expected, but they’ve obviously a passion for the film and it shows. Rounding out the supplements on this first disc are some BD-Live features that include a “Live Lookup” in which you can look up an actor and, via the IMDB, can see their film career and so forth. A few other studios use this technology (Sony calls it “MovieIQ”) but it’s a lot better than the static cast bios that were associated with the standard DVD. Also a handy feature is a bookmark in which you can mark to a spot in the movie and come back to it at a later time.
Disc Two – The second disc contains the remainder of the supplements.
- Musical Stages – By clicking on one of many icons, the viewer is taken to a bevy of featureless. I won’t list which icons take you to which ones, but they’re all listed below. Each is a short segment presented in HD.
- Maria in the 21st Century
Restoring a Classic: Bloom and Grow Forever
I Have Confidence
My Favorite Things
Sixteen Going on Seventeen
After the Escape
R&H: Partnership at its Peak
Shaping the Story
The Von Trapps Today
Climb Ev’ry Mountain
Stage Vs. Screen
The Sound of Music
Maria and the Musical
Cutting Room Floor
The Lonely Goatherd
So Long, Farewell
A Generous Heart
Final Dream: Oscar Hammerstein Remembered
Stories from Broadway
Restoring a Classic: A Glorious Sound
- A City of Song – The city of Salzburg is presented in an interactive form and, when clicked, will give you more short features pertaining to the film.
- 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
The Sound of Music Tour: A Living Story
- Vintage Programs – Since Fox has released this on DVD several times, some of the previously-released features are showcased here.
- The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon
My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence
From Liesl to Gretl
Salzburg Sight and Sound
On Location with The Sound of Music
When You Know the Notes to Sing: A Sing-along Phenomenon
Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music, 1985
Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Movies, 1996
Reissue Interview with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise, 1973
A Telegram from Daniel Truhitte
Ernest Lehman: Master Storyteller
- Rare Treasures – A few more archived features are shown here.
- Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall: The Pratt Family Singers
The Julie Andrews Hour: Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp
40th Anniversary DVD Introduction by Julie Andrews
Pre-production, Production, and Publicity Galleries
- Publicity – Some archived Oscar footage as well as some TV spots and trailers.
- Fox Movietone News Academy Awards
Trailers and Teasers
- The Sound of a City: Julie Andrews Returns to Salzburg – The lone new supplement on this extravagant release features Julie Andrews as she returns “home.” In all fairness this 50 minute documentary is actually pretty good and shows the everlasting appeal of the film as well as its stars. Andrews returns to several of the locales shown in the film.
Disc Four (DVD)
- Music Machine Sing-Along
- The Sound of Music Tour – A Living Story
- The Sound of Music 50th Anniversary CD Soundtrack
- DVD/Digital HD Copy
The Bottom Line
Regardless where you stand on the film, it’s hard to deny its enduring appeal. Half a century later it’s still as popular as it was when it was released. The 2015 Academy Awards even did a segment as an homage to the film complete with Lady Gaga performing. This new 50th Anniversary edition pulls out all the stops, but comparing it with the 45th Anniversary Blu-ray, it’s a tough call to upgrade. If you need one new featurette (among the countless others) and a CD and don’t own it – this is the version to get.