Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Sound of Music

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, September 17, 2000

No, it didn’t really happen, but it happened in the movie.

Special features

Commentary Track4
Isolated Score2
Photo Gallery9

This was a marvelous musical, and I have never seen it in its entirety: three hours was too much for television. The DVD is one of Fox’s first attempts at making a good DVD. Except for a few missteps (some major) this was a great job!

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorRobert Wise
WritersErnest Lehman, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating6
  • Enhanced Widescreen
The Sound of Music (Hills): The Sound of Music scene (Hills)

The hills are alive…

This is the first “new” Fox DVD I’ve seen, and it certainly shows promise. Fox still doesn’t appear to “get it” as far as DVD is concerned, though. First, my major pet peeve, “last memo” is disabled: if you pop the disk out a third or a quarter or half the way through, you have to remember where you were on your own. You can’t just tell your player to remember for you. This is a three hour movie! Yeah, I watched it through the first time, but how often am I going to sit down for three hours? More importantly, how often am I going to sit down for three hours for the director’s commentary? It is so much easier to be able to press that “last memo” button and have the player pop right back to where I left off the last time I watched the movie.

The director’s commentary itself is very interesting, but they interspersed it with the isolated score! That’s right: while watching the director’s commentary, every time a song comes along (and sometimes when one doesn’t) the director stops talking and you get the music without any dialogue or lyrics! Is this missing the point or what? Both the commentary and the isolated score are great, but together they are a real pain in the ass. If I want to listen to the music on its own, I don’t want to hear the director. If I want to listen to the director talk about the movie, I don’t want to have to fast forward through the musical selections. This is especially difficult because at least once, when the music in one selection died down for a few seconds, the director’s commentary started up again and then dropped when the selection restarted. I only saw this once, but I would not be at all surprised if I just plain missed some of the commentary completely because I was trying to fast forward through the “blank” musical parts. They should have provided these two as separate tracks, but if they really didn’t want to do that, there should have been some easy way to fast forward ahead to the next director’s part, or to set the disk to only play the musical selections.

The Sound of Music (Little Girl): The Sound of Music scene (Little Girl)

A little girl in a big room.

This is too bad, because otherwise this is an incredibly beautiful product. I’m going to describe all the wonderful things on this disk but in the end you will only be able to see how wonderful it is by seeing it yourself. If you are a fan of “The Sound of Music”, there is no way you can miss owning this DVD. But I don’t think Fox understands computers. As I write this, their “Sound of Music” web site has off-black text on a black background. I wonder if they don’t realize people actually use their products?

The “Five Star Collection” comes with two disks. The first disk is the movie and the director’s commentary slash isolated score. What a movie! This is the full 175 minutes in the original 2.20:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen. It even includes the intermission and the music that went with it. This is a three hour movie! I’m sure I’ve never seen except horribly cut to make room for commercials. Even allotting a three hour time slot, something still has to give. One of these days I am going to have to see it in the movies.

The story is based on the Broadway musical, based on the German movie, based on Maria von Trapp’s book. The movie covers Maria’s life from her leaving the convent to become the governess for the von Trapp children, up to the German Anschluss, or “unification” of Austria and Germany. In Maria’s book, this took about ten years, from 1926 to 1937. The movie condenses this to a few months. I liked one of the interviews with Rosemarie, one of the von Trapp daughters. She talked about one of her favorite scenes in the movie, the ending with the nuns, and how that never really happened, but it was still a great scene. “No, it didn’t really happen, but it happened in the movie.” Absolutely. An incredible story turned into an incredible movie by refining the basic messages. We’ve recently seen a few movies (U-571?) where the history gets changed so drastically that there is no longer any point in basing the movie on a historical event; it might as well have been made up from scratch, and would have had a stronger impact if it were. “The Sound of Music” was nothing like that.

The Sound of Music (Young): The Sound of Music scene (Young)

This was one of Julie Andrews’ first movies. She’d already starred in “Mary Poppins” and “The Americanization of Emily”, but neither of these had come out when she started work on “The Sound of Music”. A beautiful voice, and wonderful acting. By all concerned, really. Even “The Captain” gets a facelift in the movie with Christopher Plummer, who reportedly worked hard with writer Ernest Lehman to breathe some life in the previously bland role.

The French language track is nicely done in that the songs have also been translated. The last time I checked the foreign language track on a musical, the songs remained in English.

The second disk contains the rest of the extras. There’s a nice little featurette with Charmian Carr travelling about Salzburg, probably created as a promo device for the movie. There’s also a long, 87 minute, documentary that ranges from the real von Trapp family up through the first German movie, the stage musical, the movie, and back to the von Trapp family today. (This documentary also enables “Last Memo”, so unlike with the movie, you can watch a bit, pop the disk out, and easily come back where you left off a day or so later.)

The Sound of Music (Raindrops): The Sound of Music scene (Raindrops)

There are a bunch of interviews, with Julie Andrews, Robert Wise, and Christopher Plummer, from the time of the movie, and a half-hour story by writer Ernest Lehman made recently. There is a screenful of previews, trailers, teasers, and radio spots. The “photo gallery” I haven’t even been able to get through yet, but it was wonderfully put together. The first set of photos is of the von Trapp family history along with a lot of text describing their history. Fascinating!

A lot of information ends up getting duplicated, especially between the director’s commentary and the documentary. But all of these extras give slightly different stories. For example, in Robert Wise’s commentary, he mentions that they were almost refused permission to hang a Nazi flag in Salzburg while recreating the German Anschluss. He then said that he told the Salzburg authorities that if he couldn’t use the Nazi flag, he’d have to use newsreels, and the Salzburg authorities relented. That struck me as odd. Why would they care if he used a newsreel? In the documentary, however, another facet to the story was given: the newsreel would have included Austrians who supported the Nazis. The scene as filmed only had Nazi troops.

I can’t imagine anyone who likes this movie not liking this DVD. If you aren’t sure you want to own it, well, find a rental place that lets you rent for a week at a time. You’ll need the extra time to watch all of the extras!

Note that I’m not sure if the “Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection” I’ve listed as an alternative includes both DVDs. However, it lists six movies and seven DVDs, so that seems likely.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorRobert Wise
WritersErnest Lehman, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse
ActorsJulie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
MusicsRichard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Documentary, Featurette, Interviews, Isolated Score, Photo Gallery, Trailer
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