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Oklahoma!Fox Reissues Five Star Classic Musicals


"The Sound of Music"

"State Fair"

Fox has reissued some of its classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals in "anniversary" collections, and they're fine DVD's well worth your time if you're a fan of this genre.

Each of the three titles we got (The Sound of Music, Oklahoma! and State Fair) are two disc sets with supposedly digitally remastered material as well as plenty of extras.

The one we were the most pleased to see was Oklahoma! This had been available before, but not in true anamorphic widescreen, so owners of 16x9 TV's had to zoom the letterboxed picture out to fill the screen, with a resultant loss of resolution that was a damn shame.

All is better now, though we'd like to see an even better restoration before a new reissue. But this version not only comes in true anamorphic, you get two separate versions: the original Todd AO presentation (aspect ratio of 2.20:1) and the Cinemascope on (2.35:1).

They're different, and not only in screen size. The travelling Todd AO road show version has different opening titles, a full overture, and more. Alas, while we hoped to prefer the "original" version (both were shot separately, apparently, but at the same time - according to a featurette on the disc) we thought the picture quality was superior on the Cinemascope disc.

Now, neither version is unwatchable and in fact they're both big improvements over the non-anamorphic one Fox released earlier.

Plus you get all kinds of extras, from the aforementioned Todd AO retrospective to audio commentaries, singalong karaoke subtitles and a buch of other stuff.

We love Oklahoma! and are pleased as punch to see it given a better treatment on DVD than it had received originally.

The Sound of Music is a wonderful movie as well, a five Oscar-winner (including "Best Picture") that has also been given a new, Todd AO aspect ratio release on DVD.

Also available as part of 20th Century Fox's "Five Star Classic" series, this new 40th anniversary edition is a two disc extravaganza that not only includes a good anamorphic widescreen version of the film, but enough extras to keep "Music" lovers happy.

The film itself is well known. Directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, it tells the song-filled tale of would-be nun Maria (Andrews) who's sent to be governess for Captain von Trapp's (Plummer) seven children.

Like Mary Poppins, Maria's just the latest in a long line of governesses for the kids, but (like Mary Poppins) it turns out she's just what the doctor ordered. Her sunny disposition, love of music, and strength of character quickly breaks down the barriers between herself and the kids - and the barriers between the unhappy Captain von Trapp and life in general.

The Captain falls in love with Maria and they marry, only to have their new family life threatened by the rise of Nazi Germany and its takeover of von Trapp's beloved Austria.

Speaking of "beloved Austria," this movie was filmed on location, and that was a wonderful decision by the producers. Austria is gorgeous and the locations enhance the beauty of the overall film, as well as lending a feeling of authenticity.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is a masterpiece, with wonderful songs performed wonderfully. Andrews' singing is effortless and she plays the part of Maria with guts, vulnerability, and bravado (perhaps a strange combination, but she pulls it off). Plummer is also good as the crusty Captain, a shattered man who, thanks to Maria, finds reason to sing and to love again.

The widescreen picture is very good, as is the Dolby Digital 5.0 audio - with one exception. We'd have liked to seen some of the dialogue remixed to the center front channel, because sometimes some onscreen characters' voices were coming from the left or right speaker, which made it sound like their voices were disembodied. But on the whole that's a pretty minor criticism for a marvelous video adaptation that undoubtedly chose to remain true to the original audio soundtrack.

Disc one also includes a full length running commentary from director Robert Wise as well as a second one with the wonderful Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Disc two features a series of documentaries, including a 1965 look at the film and at Salzburg and some all new presentations including "My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers." We have a lot of time for Julie Andrews, and recommend pretty well anything she's in. Well, Star isn't a great film, but even there, she far outshines the material.

It's a complete package that for the first time does "video justice" to this timeless classic.



State Fair is the weakest of the three musicals, but even it has received a special treatment here. This 60th Anniversary edition features not one, but two versions of the musical: the 1945 Walter Lang production starring Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews and the 1962 Jose Ferrer-helmed one starring Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and Ann-Margret.

Disc one is the "oldie," released in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital stereo audio. It also features an audio commentary by film historian Richard Barrios and author Tom Briggs. There's also a featurette "From Page to Screen to Stage", a singalong Karaoke feature, the trailer and a series of stills.

Disc two is the "modern" version, presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) with Dolby Digital 4.0 surround. It's accompanied by a commentary courtesy of much-maligned star Pat Boone, a vintage stage excerpt from a 1954 TV tribute, a rare "State Fair" TV pilot, and the trailer.

Rodgers and Hammerstein changed the musical and though State Fair isn't up to the quality of Oklahoma! and the Sound of Music, these titles are all well worth seeing.

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Updated May 5, 2010