We’ve come to the end of my individual reviews from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection on Blu-ray, now it’s time to bring it on home. In this wrap-up, I’ll finalize my thoughts on the individual movies, their bonus content, and the value of the set as a whole.
My individual reviews are all below, excluding The Sound of Music since I reposted my Blu-ray review from a previous box set:
The five listed were all first-time viewings and none soared the highest, for me, like Oklahoma! The movie was near-perfect, and I continue to hum songs throughout my day. After that, I found The King and I and State Fair to be passable, and I’ll probably never watch Carousel or South Pacific again.
I’ll blend the actual picture quality with the bonus content as it’s considered a bonus in some regards. As evidenced above, Oklahoma! has the exquisite Todd-AO transfer, turning your TV into a 3D HD experience. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I doubt another Blu-ray release will top it over the next year. The movie is a 2-disc with both the Todd-AO and Cinemascope versions. Considering how muted and flat the CinemaScope transfers of the other movies look, I recommend sticking to the Todd-AO version if you purchase this. There are two neat featurettes exploring the wonders of the Todd-AO process if you’re interested, as well as a comparison feature showing the differences between Todd-AO and Cinemascope. There’s also a sing-along feature, similar to what’s presented on The Sound of Music. For all you musical lovers, there are two musical excerpts from the stage play that are fascinating to watch: Gordon MacRae performing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” and “People Will Say We’re in Love” with
Mrs. Brady Florence Henderson. There’s also feature commentary with Shirley Jones, stills, and trailers.
After that, The King and I holds the distinction of having the second-most bonus content. It’s similar to Oklahoma’s! presentation in many ways. There’s a full-length feature commentary with Richard Barrios and Michael Portantiere exploring the racism and changes from stage to screen; an isolated score and sing-along feature; a “music machine” feature (as with Oklahoma! and Sound of Music) where you can watch the musical sequences exclusively; “Something Wonderful” is a short, ten-minute, exploration of the production’s background, while two additional shorts explore Rodgers and Hammerstein themselves, and Fox’s attempts to lure the impresarios to their studio. Sadly, these should have been far longer than they are. Ten minutes isn’t nearly enough time to discuss two people who’ve created such breathtaking work. Those aside, there are two featurettes exploring casting of the movie and the source material, the latter warrants a two-minute discussion; a fun Anna and the King TV Pilot with commentary by star Samantha Eggar. This was a very fun piece of nostalgia I almost thought was a gag. I mean, this movie wouldn’t really warrant itself to a politically correct TV show. Like with Oklahoma! we get two excerpts from the stage play, performances of “Getting to Know You” and “A Puzzlement” performed by Yul Brynner and original Anna, Patricia Morison. There’s also a deleted song performed by Deborah Kerr’s voice double, Marni Nixon. There’s also a brief CinemaScope featurette comparing the original with CinemaScope 55, and the requisite Fox features of Movietone News, galleries, and trailers.
Carousel is the movie that left me scratching my head, so it would make sense it boasts the weirdest cast of bonus content, including an entirely separate film! Fritz Lang’s Liliom is a 1934 film version of the play Carousel is based on. It’s almost two-hours and is interesting watching a dramatic take on the material. Several features from the other two movies carry over: An isolated score, sing-along version, music machine, Fox Movietone news, gallery, stills, and trailers. Shirley Jones lends her voice to a feature commentary (she also comments on Oklahoma’s! Blu-ray commentary) with Nick Redman. There’s a 22-minute featurette on the history of the movie, oddly longer than the featurettes for The King and I. There are two vintage excerpts from the original stage play featuring original stars Jan Clayton and John Raitt; keep your eyes peeled for Mary Martin! There are also two deleted songs, albeit audio-only.
I was sad to hear the 1960 version of State Fair, originally on the 60th Anniversary DVD, was omitted from this disc. Either way, there’s an audio commentary by Richard Barrios and Tom Briggs, sing-along, music machine, trailer and stills, with an almost half-hour featurette charting the movie’s progress from stage to screen. Again, half-hour feature for this, and almost 15-minutes for The King and I. Almost all the bonus content in these discs transferred from previous releases, but State Fair felt very light with incidental features.
South Pacific’s big selling point is offering both the original cut, as well as the extended “road show” version clocking in at almost three-hours. I recommend watching the theatrical cut, seeing how you like that, and if you enjoy that version give the road show version a try. I didn’t care for this movie, at all, so almost three-hours was torture. Note that the road show version inserts fourteen-minutes of additional content, unrestored and culled from past prints, so the drop in quality is HIGHLY noticeable. One minute you’re in a lush jungle only to cut to a washed-out, nitrate looking screen. This does boast the best commentary with Barrios. It’s probably the most apologetic commentary I’ve listened to where Barrios explains the unnecessary scenes, the general failure of the movie, and the like. Several times he mentions “there’s really no need for this scene to be here.” It’s fun to hear him talk, he’s a fount of information on Rodgers and Hammerstein, especially when he’s apologizing for their failures. The original cut includes an audio commentary with Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization members, Ted Chapin and Gerard Alessandrini.
Whoever assembled the Blu-ray features realized South Pacific is the worst of the bunch, and thus made up for it in the content. On top of Barrios’ great commentary, there’s a 94-minutes documentary entitled Passion, Prejudice, and South Pacific: Creating an American Masterpiece, charting everything from the movie’s historical context to the songs and casting. This is a must, if only to see how the finished product ended up disappointing like it did. The other making-of featurettes, including a 60-Minutes episode, are okay but don’t offer the comprehensive overview of the other. As with the other discs there’s a sing-along, music machine, stage-clips (including Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, Mitzi Gaynor’s screen test, stills, and trailers.
The value really comes down to your enjoyment of the movies themselves. Since all of them were released on Blu-ray individually, you have the option of purchasing the ones you want. Seeing as how I already owned The Sound of Music, the only one I truly love in the set is Oklahoma! However, if I didn’t have all these included, I would have never seen them. The bonus content for Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific, and Carousel are all fantastic and worth spending a few days poring over, whether you like the movie or not. The gorgeous Oklahoma! is worth purchasing however you have to, so long as it’s the Todd-AO version. Overall, I’m glad I own this, and even though I probably won’t watch the others, Oklahoma! is a fantastic choice. If you don’t own any of these already, want to purchase one or two while maintaining a passing interest in the rest, it’s worth plunkering down the money for.
Ronnie Rating (Overall):
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.