This elegant box set presents new Special Editions of 6 beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein films: "Oklahoma," "State Fair," "The Sound Of Music", "Carousel," "The King And I," and "South Pacific". Given that fans of the beloved films are likely already aware of the details of the films themselves, this review will concentrate on what the set offers.
Disc 1: Carousel Special Edition Disc 2: Carousel Special Edition-Bonus Disc Disc 3: King and I Special Edition Disc 4: King and I Special Edition-Bonus Disc Disc 5: South Pacific Special Edition Disc 6: South Pacific Special Edition-Bonus Disc Disc 7: Sound of Music Special Edition Disc 8: Sound of Music Special Edition-Bonus Disc Disc 9: State Fair Special Edition Disc 10: State Fair Special Edition-Bonus Disc Disc 11: Oklahoma Special Edition Disc 12: Oklahoma Special Edition-Bonus Disc
VIDEO: "State Fair" offers both the 1945 (full-frame, disc 1) and 1962 (2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, disc 2) versions of the film. As for the 1945 version of the film, the presentation is - understandably - not flawless, but it still absolutely sparkles, despite some minor concerns. Sharpness and detail are just phenomenal for a film from this era, as the picture appeared surprisingly crisp and detailed. While some minor specks and marks were seen (and colors fluttered on occasion), this remained a rich and lovely presentation of this film. The 1962 edition is given similarly superb treatment, presented with a marvelous 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Sharpness and detail were quite good and colors were well-saturated and warm. The presentation did show some slight edge enhancement in a couple of scenes, as well as infrequent and minor specks and marks on the elements used. Despite these issues, this was still an effort that fans will enjoy.
"South Pacific" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen for both the original theatrical version (disc 1) and the extended roadshow edition (disc 2.) "South Pacific" shines here, looking crisp and well-defined throughout much of the film, save for a few softer moments here-and-there. The elements looked in fresh, clean condition, with very little in the way of specks, marks or other wear to be found. I noticed a couple of slight instances of edge enhancement, but they were barely visible. Colors remained bright, bold and well-saturated throughout the show.
"Oklahoma" is presented with both the Todd-AO version (2.20:1 anamorphic widescreen, disc 2) and cinemascope version (2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen, disc 1). The "Todd-AO" version doesn't dazzle, unfortunately, looksing noticably soft (although some scenes look a tad better than others) and worn (specks and marks are clearly visible during some scenes.) Colors also look a tad tired and flutter rather frequently. The cinemascope edition fares better, with consistently fine sharpness and detail, as well as richer, brighter colors. The cinemascope presentation still has a few minor instances of specks and marks, but looks cleaner than the Todd-AO version.
"King and I" is offered in a beautiful 2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Sharpness and detail are generally marvelous, as every detail of the film's gorgeous sets and costumes are clearly on display. The presentation did suffer from a few minor instances of shimmering and occasional visible instances of wear (a few light, brief instances of visible dirt and specks), but this really did not get in the way of what was otherwise a very fine effort. Colors also remained vibrant and bold, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
"Sound of Music" is presented in 2.20:1 anamorphic widescreen on this edition, and the film looked terrific. Sharpness and detail were not outstanding, but the picture still appeared consistently crisp and detailed. The picture did show some very slight wear at times, as well as some minor edge enhancement. However, the flaws were not of much distraction and the majority of the film remained clean. The same was true for "Carousel"'s 2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, which delivered fine sharpness and detail, along with bright, lively colors. The picture did show some wear and grain at times, but most of the presentation looked reasonably clean and clear.
SOUND: "State Fair" is presented in crisp, clear mono (1945 version) and Dolby 4.0 surround (1962 edition.) The surround presentation for the 1965 version is a lot of fun, giving the music a nice spread across the front speakers. Audio quality on both presentations is, of course, limited by the recording quality of the era, but no distortion or other issues are heard. "South Pacific", "King and I" and "Oklahoma"'s Dolby 5.0 soundtracks delivered well, offering crisp, clear songs and clean, undistorted dialogue and effects.
Audio listing: Carousel (English stereo, Spanish mono/English & Spanish subtitles), South Pacific (theatrical - Dolby Digital 5.0, English Stereo, Spanish Mono, French Mono/subtitled in English and Spanish), South Pacific (roadshow version - Dolby Digital 5.0, English stereo/subtitled in English and Spanish), Sound of Music (Dolby Digital 5.0, English Stereo, Spanish Mono, French 2.0 surround/subtitled in English and Spanish), King and I (English Dolby Digital 5.0, English stereo, Spanish mono, French mono/subtitled in English and Spanish), State Fair (1945 - English stereo, English mono/subtitled in English and Spanish), State Fair (1962 - English Dolby 4.0 surround/subtitled in English and Spanish), Oklahoma! (both versions - English Dolby Digital 5.0, English 2.0/subtitled in English and Spanish.)
EXTRAS: "State Fair" starts off the first disc with an audio commentary from film historian Richard Barros and "State Fair" Broadway musical co-author Tom Briggs. The first disc also offers an informative, "From Page to Screen to Stage" featurette, an optional "karaoke" subtitle feature, the trailer and a wealth of still galleries. The second disc boasts a commentary from Pat Boone, a classic stage excerpt ("It Might As Well Be Spring, Mary Martin) from a 1954 TV tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein and the trailer. Of great interest to fans is the rare pilot episode of "Stage Fair", the television series, which was apparently produced in 1976.
"South Pacific"'s first disc offers an audio commentary from Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization Co-President Ted Chaplin and musical theatre writer Gerard Alessandrini. The disc also offers a songs-only option and optional subtitle karaoke track. The second disc offers more in the way of extras, starting with a commentary from film historian Richard Barrios. Next is the original "making of" documentary, running 14 minutes and still in rather good shape after all these years. "Tales of the South Pacific" is a 22-minute "60 Minutes" piece that has Diane Sawyer accompanying writer James Michener back to the islands where the book was born. Next are vintage stage excerpts: "Some Enchanted Evening" and "A Wonderful Guy", performed by Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. "Movietone News" offers a couple of vintage news clips. Finally, we get Mitzi Gaynor's screen test, the film's trailer and image galleries.
"Oklahoma"'s first disc offers a commentary from Rodgers and Hammerstin Organization President Ted Chaplin and author and film historian Ted Chaplin. The first disc also offers a singalong karaoke subtitle feature and the film's theatrical teaser. The second disc offers an audio commentary from Shirley Jones and film and music historian Nick Redman. "Cinemascope Vs. Todd-AO", "The Miracle of Todd-AO" and "The March of Todd-AO" provide an informative overview of the history and technical details of the "Todd-AO" format. "Vintage Stage Excerpts" offers performances of "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" (Gordon MacRae) and "People Will Say We're in Love!" (MacRae and Florence Henderson.) We also get the film's teaser and trailer, still galleries and a karaoke option.
"The King and I"'s first platter offers a commentary from film scholar Richard Barrios and musical theatre historian Michael Portanitere, as well as an exlusive isolated musical score, a songs-only option and subtitle karaoke track.
The second disc offers the "Anna and the King" TV pilot, with optional commentary from actress Samantha Eggar, "Something Wonderful: Story of King and I" featurette, "Kings of Broadway" featurette, "King of the Big Screen" featurette, "King and I Stage Version" featurette, "King and I Royal Archives" featurette and the "Restoring Cinemascope 55" featurette". There are also vintage stage excerpts ("Getting to Know You" and "A Puzzlement", both performed by stars Patricia Morison and Yul Brynner. Finally, we get still galleries, vintage Movietone news clips and a deleted audio number, "Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You?"
"Sound of Music" offers, on disc 1, a special introduction from Julie Andrews, a commentary from director Robert Wise, a commentary from Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and others and a singalong subtitle option. The second disc opens with a special anniversary intro from Andrews and the retrospective documentary, "Julie Andrews Remembers". Featurettes created exclusively for this release: "Julie Andrews: A Reminiscence", "On Location With the Sound of Music", "From Liesl to Gretl: A 40th Anniversary Reunion" and "When You Know the Notes to Sing: A Singalong Phenomenon".
Finally, we get "The Von Trapp Family: Harmony and Discord" (A & E), Mia Farrow screen test, restoration comparison, photo galleries, trailers and television spots.
"Carousel"'s first disc offers an audio commentary from Shirley Jones and documentary filmmaker Nick Redman, an exclusive isolated musical score, a songs-only option and a karaoke subtitle option. The second disc offers the bonus film, "Lilliom" (full-frame, French mono audio); stills and audio from deleted songs ("You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan", performed by Barbara Ruick and Shirley Jones and "Blow High, Blow Low", performed by Cameron Mitchell and chorus), two Movietone News vintage clips regarding the film's release, the film's trailer, photo gallery and vintage stage excerpt ("If I Loved You", featuring Jan Clayton and John Raitt.)
Final Thoughts: "The Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection" offers fans an exceptional array of features (multiple versions, commentaries and lots of archival material) and largely stellar presentations of six classics. An absolute must for fans and a great gift for the holidays for any fans of classic musicals on your list.