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Image Entertainment presents
Rogers & Hammerstein: The Sound of Movies (1996)

"The corn is now as high as the eye of an elephant on top of another elephant."
- Oscar Hammerstein

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: March 27, 2002

Stars: Shirley Jones
Other Stars: Rita Moreno, Nancy Kwan, Charmain Carr, Julie Andrews
Director: Kevin Burns

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:36m:34s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 014381097122
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The impact that the partnership of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein had on the Broadway musical is immeasurable. Their influence goes beyond the accolades and the box office receipts; they brought new ideas and new life to an industry that had remained static for years. From their first truly successful collaboration, Oklahoma!, to their last finished film (a remake of an earlier hit, State Fair), the two created melodies and lyrics that will live forever, both on film and on stage.

The Sound of Movies is a 1996 documentary that chronicles all of the films that have been adapted from the duo's Broadway hits. Shirley Jones, star of Carousel and Oklahoma!, hosts this roughly 90-minute retrospective, providing trivia and anecdotes about the production of some of Hollywood's most successful musicals. Unfortunately, that's all there is to it. The program highlights the movies in the order in which they were released, spending about ten minutes with each (double that for major hit The Sound of Music). Jones provides a short introduction, and then clips of the film run while she occasionally breaks in to offer trivia the likes of which can be found on the Internet Movie Database. Aside from some brief comments from Julie Andrews during a segment on The Sound of Music, and from voice actress Marni Nixon on State Fair, no interviews are provided to break up the monotony of endless clips. I'd say easily 60% of the running time consists simply of the "best of" musical numbers from each film.

There are a few treats sprinkled in here and there, in the way of deleted songs for State Fair and a rare audio outtake of Frank Sinatra singing in Carousel (he was later replaced by Gordon McRae). I found the comparison between the 35mm and Todd-AO versions of Oklahoma! fascinating (each scene had to be shot twice to accommodate the different formats). Also appreciated are the brief intros from other female leads, from Rita Moreno on The King and I to Nancy Kwan on the relatively unknown Flower Drum Song.

For the most part, this is a glossy, but very surface, introduction to a couple of Broadway legends. I would have appreciated more in-depth information on the artists themselves, and more on the development and production of each film, as the recycled footage as is provides little new information for fans of the musical to absorb.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Though the segments with the hosts are presented in full frame, all the film clips in Sound of Movies are presented in their original aspect ratios (it's nice that the filmmakers were so forward thinking, even in 1996). The main segments appear to have been shot on video, and they look fine, with strong colors (though they do tend to smear a bit), and an acceptable level of detail. Sadly, as the film was produced before the subjects themselves were restored in 1999, many of the clips show quite a bit of grain and faded colors. Like all documentaries, this one is tough to grade due to the varying source materials, but I can't really complain about how it looks.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are well known for their impressive six-track stereo sound mixes, and this DVD has been encoded in both DD 5.1 and DTS, to allows those original mixes to shine. And they do, as the film clip presentations take full advantage of the main and surround speakers. The traditional documentary segments are more basic, with strong emphasis on the front soundstage, but they sound good as well, with consistently clear dialogue and a good balance between music and narration.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring State Fair (1945), Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, State Fair (1962), The Sound of Music
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. 3 MovieTone News Segments
  2. Screen Tests
Extras Review: The extras package here includes a nice archive of promotional material from the Rodgers and Hammerstein films. Trailers are included for State Fair (1945), Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, State Fair (1962), and The Sound of Music.

Brief MovieTone Newsreels are provided for Carousel's opening in Cinemascope 55, the charity premiere of The King and I, and for South Pacific's debut.

Finally, there's an extensive screen test gallery, with a clip of actor auditions for State Fair, The Sound of Music, and South Pacific. I suspect that much of this material appeared on the official Fox DVD releases of these films, but it's still nice to see. Treats include Mia Farrow's screen test for the role of Leisl in Sound of Music, foreign language dubs for the same film, and clips of Ann Margaret and Andy Williams trying out for State Fair.

All told, this gallery runs nearly as long as the feature, an impressive 90 minutes.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The Sound of Movies is a good summary of Rogers and Hammerstein's body of work, but musical fans already familiar with the King of Siam and Maria Von Trapp are probably better off just watching the films again.


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