The DVD players are alive with ...
"The Sound of Music"
A great screen musical comes home
with a treasure chest full of extra features
Reviewed by John Orr
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
Watching the DVD of "The Sound of Music" wasn't exactly a revelation after all, I was a teenager when the film came out, and saw it in a theater, lo those many years ago but it was a delight.
I hadn't seen it for many years, and it was a great treat to see it again via the excellent production values of the THX digitally mastered DVD.
That long tracking shot over the Alps to Julie Andrews' wonderful, crystal-ringing voice set the pace for a delightful movie.
There are people who turn a cynical eye and ear to this film, which is too bad for them. Musicals have a limited audience in this age, I suppose, but for those who love music in any form, and who can stand some sweetness from time to time, this film is deeply enjoyable.
The music is almost completely great (there is one tune I just can't warm up to), the performances are charming, the Austrian locales are beautiful and the story is touching, involving love, personal drama and world drama. What else do you want?
"The Sound of Music" is a mostly true story, of the Von Trapp Family Singers. Austrian Captain von Trapp, wife Maria and his children had sung in the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936, then scooted out of Europe in 1938 to get away from Hitler and his evil ways. Eventually they opened a music school, then an inn, in Vermont.
Maria wrote a book, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers," which became a German film, "Die Trapp Familie," in 1956. By 1959, the story of the von Trapps had become a successful Broadway musical, with a little help from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The movie version directed by Robert Wise and somewhat improved from the stage version, most agree was released in 1965.
It is the story of the lively novitiate nun, Maria (Andrews), who too flighty to concentrate on religious duties is sent to be governess to the von Trapp children. She soon thaws out the icy Captain von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer) and he sings "Edelweiss" with his children, and before too long he's in love with the noviate and eventually they are wed.
There are a number of little plots along the way Liesl (Charmian Carr) has a flirtation with Hitler youth Rolf and sings "Sixteen, Going on Seventeen," the captain almost marries the Baroness Schraeder (Eleanor Parker), and Max Detweiler (Richard Haydn) is amusing as the impresario of the music festival, who gets the kids ready to perform against the captain's wishes.
The film has a ton of delightful songs the title tune, "Maria," "Something Good," "Edelweiss," "Climb Every Mountain," "So Long, Farewell," "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," and others.
Watching the DVD again, many years after the last time I'd seen the film I was continually thrilled by Andrew's great charm and beautiful voice, which rings as pure as the finest crystal. She is so delightful in the role that it is no wonder she has been the star she is for so long.
The 20th Century Fox Five Star Collection DVD actually includes two discs, and an ocean of material in addition to the actual film. You can watch the film by itself, or you can watch it with running commentary by Wise. You can watch a 1965 documentary about Salzburg, another old documentary about the making of the film, hear audio commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman, see interviews with Andrews and Wise, see storyboards and other production materials, play DVD games, and watch trailers and TV spots related to the film. It also has links to web sites.
One of my favorite parts of that huge collection of material involved Marni Nixon. In 1956, Andrews had been a huge success on Broadway in "My Fair Lady" as Eliza Doolittle. When Hollywood made the movie, though, they picked established screen star Audrey Hepburn to play the Cockney princess. Hepburn wasn't a good enough singer to carry the role, so the singing parts were dubbed by Marni Nixon.
Nixon played one of the nuns who sings "Maria" in the movie. In the supplemental material on the DVDs, she talks about how everyone thought Andrews would want to scratch her eyes out on the set, but that Andrews was of course completely charming.
(And why not?? While Hepburn made "My Fair Lady" and was ignored by the Academy Awards, Andrews made "Mary Poppins" and won an Oscar.)
Another of my favorite parts was Andrews describing the process of filming that famous opening shot, of her singing the title tune in the Alps. She had to be at a certain place at a certain time for the helicopter to swoop over her and every time it did, the rotor wash would knock her down. Get up, dust herself off, and get ready for the next take.
"The Sound of Music" was the most popular movie ever made to that date, and held the box-office record for a long time. For good reason. It is a complete delight, and still highly recommended.
Theater or Video?
See cast, credit and other details about "The Sound of Music" at Internet Movie Data Base.