Blu-ray Review: The Sound of Music (45th Anniversary Edition)

The Sound of Music (20th Century Fox, 2010)

One of the most enduring musicals and family films of all time, The Sound of Music celebrates its 45th anniversary by making its Blu-ray debut — and not just any ol’ debut, either: Fox has pulled out all the stops with this transfer, adding a new 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack and tons of bonus material to go with the meticulously remastered footage. They might be middle-aged now, but the hills are still alive, and they’ve never looked or sounded better.

Synopsis: One of the most popular movie musicals of all time, The Sound of Music is based on the true story of the Trapp Family Singers. Julie Andrews stars as Maria, a young nun in an Austrian convent who regularly misses her morning prayers because she enjoys going to the hills to sing the title song. Deciding that Maria needs to learn something about the real world before she can take her vows, the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) sends her off to be governess for the children of the widowed Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).Video: Fox has been guilty of cutting corners with its archival Blu-rays in the past, but with The Sound of Music, they prove they know how to buckle down and do it right. The studio went all the way back to the original negatives for this set, rescanning it at 8,000 lines, and all that care and attention to detail shine through every moment of the film. If any digital noise reduction was used, you can’t see it; Music looks as bright, clean, and warm as the day it was released — if not better. Presented at its original aspect ratio and given plenty of space on a 50GB disc, this is a tribute to the folks manning the studio vaults — and the kind of movie that makes a persuasive case for owning a Blu-ray player.

Audio: In addition to the older Dolby 4.0 surround track, the 45th Anniversary Edition includes a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, mixed with as much care and precision as the video.

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In a lot of cases, putting this much time into an older movie’s soundtrack might seem like wasted effort, but The Sound of Music lives up to its name, with some of the most well-known songs in American cinema. They’ve really never sounded better than they do here, and the soundtrack doesn’t stop there — this is one of the finest mixing jobs I’ve heard, brilliantly balancing dialogue with ambient noise and the score, and making it all sound perfectly natural in the process.

Special Features: They spread out over two discs, starting with a pair of audio commentaries (one from director Robert Wise, one from Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer) and “Your Favorite Things” mode, which gives you the option to watch the movie with picture-in-picture trivia, storyboards, on-screen lyrics to the songs, and more. You also have the option of listening to the songs separate from the film, with or without “sing-along” mode, which displays lyrics.

Disc Two is all special features, and there are tons of them, divided into sections. Section One includes 24 featurettes, none more than seven minutes in length but all entertaining in their own right, looking at everything from on-set films to the making of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score. The second section offers a uniquely fascinating series of shorts that provide multiple views of 18 scenes from the movie, all between one and three minutes in length. Section Three offers hours (and I do mean hours) of films about the film — you get “From Fact to Phenomenon” (90 minutes), “My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers” (60 minutes), and a pair of 80-minute features about the music, as well as a smattering of brief audio interviews with the cast and crew.

Moving on, you also get various rare clips, including Maria von Trapp’s appearance on The Julie Andrews Hour, screen tests, photo galleries, and the introductory segment Andrews filmed for the last deluxe Sound of Music release (five years ago, but who’s counting?) Finally, the second disc is rounded out with assorted bits of publicity material surrounding the film’s original release, such as television and radio clips.

While a lot of this content will be familiar to fans who purchased the 40th anniversary edition or other versions, it’s hard to complain when you’re sorting through so much of it, and the 45th Anniversary Edition presents them with a nifty (albeit rather time-consuming) series of interactive menus. It’s hard to imagine what else anyone could ask for from a reissue of the film.

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Bottom Line: I’ve studiously avoided musicals for most of my life; in fact, this viewing of The Sound of Music was my first. Was it as hokey as I’d feared? Yes. And is that part of the movie’s tremendous charm? Absolutely. Filled with gorgeous cinematography and timeless songs, this is family entertainment at its finest — they just don’t make ’em like this anymore. Fortunately for us, they don’t really need to; buy the 45th Anniversary Edition, and you can immerse yourself in the film as often as you like.

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(My kids have already seen it three times, and they’re not done with it yet.)

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