The Sound of Music (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 15 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

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 does it look?

Ok, I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve never seen “The Sound of Music” all the way through. My limited experience with the movie is that of Julie Andrews singing atop the hills belting out the title song. There. I said it. So with that safely behind us, I’ll say that “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 initiative myself into this club.

Audio: How does it sound?

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?

As previously mentioned, Fox treats some of their titles with the utmost care and thankfully “The Sound of Music” is one of them. Five years ago, we were treated to a 40th edition of the film and I’m guessing five years from now we’ll get a 50th anniversary edition of the movie. But that’s the past and the future respectively. This is the first foray into the HD market for the movie and let’s just say that Fox hasn’t been stingy when it comes to the supplements. This three disc set has two discs full of supplements, so let’s get right to it shall we?

Disc One
Fox has made “The Sound of Music” pretty interactive and we start off with “Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration” in which you can choose which kind of content you’d like to see in the movie. Depending on which of the four color keys on your remote (yellow, blue, green or red) you can toggle them 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. We then move along to “Music Machine” in which you can jump directly to a place in the movie where the song took place. “Sing Along” allows you to select a song and literally sing along with it. 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 and we start out with “The Songs” and we’re treated to some new interviews with Theo Chapin and Laurence Maslon (President of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization and author of ‘The Sound of Music’ Companion respectively). All of the major songs are covered here like “The Sound of Music”, “Do-Re-Mi” and “Favorite Things” to name just a few. “The Show” is a section that houses a number of featurettes and showcases some of the different productions of the film as well as the differences between the stage version and the film. “The Family” focuses on the Von Trapp children as well as the other members of the family. We learn of their escape and some of the history of the family. Most interesting to me is “The Restoration” in which we learn of how the movie was converted to Blu-ray, how it was scanned at 8K and mastered at 4K for this release. It really is amazing to see how much effort goes into a restoration, but with results like these it’s well worth it. We then have “A City of Song” which is basically a collection of locations used in the film. These range from “Maria’s Mountain” to “St. Peter’s Cemetary.” Moving right along, we now get to some previously-released material and some that was found on the standard DVD from 2005. “The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon” which clocks in around 90 minutes, “My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers”, “Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: Reminiscence”, “From Liesl to Gretl”, “Salzburg Sight and Sound”, “On Location with ‘The Sound of Music'” and “When You Know the Notes to Sing: A Sing-Along Phenomenon.” Of the aforementioned featurettes, all are in standard definition except for “Salzburg Sight and Sound” which is randomly in HD. We also get a look at some other “Rodgers and Hammerstein” productions with “Oklahoma”, “Carousel”, “South Pacific”, “Flower Drum Song”, “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music.” Moving right along we get another 90 minute featurette entitled “The Sound of Movies” in which we see why some of these movies were made (to preserve the musicals on film). We get some audio interviews as well as some re-issue footage from 1973, some screen tests and an introduction to the 2005 DVD by Julie Andrews. Some teasers and trailers are also included as are some photo galleries. Essentially everything you need or wanted to know about “The Sound of Music” is in this three disc set.

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