Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

About Blu-ray, streaming and the proverbial 'wave of the future!'

by Nick Zegarac

In response to the most recent spate of debacles in transfer quality on several time honoured classic movies (West Side Story, My Fair Lady), I have decided to kick off a brand new series on NixPix entitled Why Aren't They On Blu-ray yet?!?
But before we get to that it must be said that the Blu-ray market is, frankly, a mess and the studios have, in no small way, been almost exclusively responsible for submarining this hi-def digital format. They have systematically lowering consumer expectations, releasing 'fly-by-night' substandard transfers or 'bumped up' 1080p discs instead of taking the time and money to remaster their catalogues and release true-HD transfers. Some studios have had better track records than others. But one way or another, they all have been guilty of cutting corners.
And now it appears as if the insult to the collective consumer intellect doesn't stop there. We're now being told that 'streaming' is the wave of the future - not Blu-ray. Yet there are inherent problems with 'streaming' that bear more fruitful discussion on message boards and certainly an honourable mention in this column.
For starters, 'streaming' a full movie 'clogs' up one's computer memory for long periods of time - slowing down productivity and accessibility to other functions until the full download is complete. I certainly hope the studios aren't suggesting we all invest in two computers per household - one for their nonsense and the other to get basic chores like book keeping and emails looked after!
Second, streaming cannot and does not equal the bit rate currently available on Blu-ray. So, although the studios are down playing this loss of quality as marginal at best, I assure you on larger monitors and HD displays it will be noticeable.
Third, 'streaming' requires an HDMI hook up between one's computer and HD projection monitors. As someone who's computer system is located in an entirely different part of the home than my home theatre this presents a definite problem.
Do I start drilling holes through walls and ceilings now to run my cable from my computer to my TV or do I relocate one or the other to a room in closer proximity, which also means relocating phone jacks?!? Personally, I'm not willing to do either. I designed my living space to suit my needs, not to cater to the whims of what is rapidly becoming a very fickle marketplace!
Fourth, as a collector whose private library of films and television currently houses more than 3,000 titles, I have a real problem with once again 'renting' my entertainment for a modest fee from the majors on a rotation of availability. 'Streaming' is essentially DIVX all over again. You 'rent' a title for a short window and for a nominal fee. The info is decoded by the studio and sent to your computer where it is briefly stored and then exported to your TV.
You can watch what you stream during this pre-determined time frame. But you can't burn what you've saved onto a disc to enjoy over and over again whenever you feel like it once your time is up. Since not even the majors can afford to keep an 'ever growing' roster of films and TV available at all times, titles will come and go on their websites and be available for home viewing only when the studios decide to make them available.
Now, let's be clear. Moratorium is a part of any format. No studio can afford the licensing fees for rights to everything in their catalogue all at once. But at least on DVD or Blu-ray the consumer is given the option to buy and own every title they put out for the life of the disc format - not merely for a 24 to 48hr. 'rental' duration. And you can always find used copies on Amazon or elsewhere to own.
Fifth - home entertainment formats have become as depressingly obsolete as computer technology. When we made the quantum leap from VHS/Betamax to Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray the conversion in formats was justified on the basis that the quality of the image and sound we were experiencing was always getting better. Streaming is a step backward from the advancements already made in the digital format on Blu-ray. Should it be considered an option? 
Arguably, yes - for those tech heads who relish and can afford more and more obtrusive gadgetry invading their lives. But should it be the ONLY way to experience movies and TV from now on? Decidedly and emphatically - NO!
Streaming is not the wave of the future but a quaint relic from the not so distant past! In an economy as soft as ours this isn't the time to convince, cajole or force the public to embrace yet another format over what's already being offered - especially when Blu-ray's true potential hasn't been fully mined for possibilities and likely never will be before the format becomes extinct.
Finally, I'm fairly computer savvy, but my concern herein is for those who are not and presumably will never be 'streaming' anything from the internet because they cannot figure it out or simply can't be bothered.
I know I'm not alone here. We all have family members and friends who don't own or perhaps cannot afford a computer and internet access to 'stream' their entertainment. But even these unfortunates find stuff to buy and watch from the $4.99 bins at Wal-mart or Best Buy.
My sincere hope for 'streaming' as a format is that it will miserably fail.
I'm tired of clever marketing from Hollywood that wants me to invest, re-invest, then invest some more in changing technologies that have proven not so much advancements in pristine picture and sound quality as they are marginal regurgitations of something I already own on another format. 
So, this collector is calling on all collectors all over the world to put a stop to their collecting for the time being and for a purpose. Send a clear message to the studios that what you want is quality over quantity. You can have it too without the introduction of a new format. Blu-ray exists and, when done properly, is the best way to see any movie - past, present or future.
We don't need more gadgets or formats. All we need is a commitment from Hollywood to give us their best. Support this cause. Boycott 'streaming' and voice your complaints about substandard transfers of time honoured movies on Blu-ray. We deserve better than what we're being offered. But it's our choice to either speak up or put up. I'm tired of putting up. How about you?
Voice your complaints accordingly:

Buena Vista Home Entertainment(distributes Disney, Pixar, Miramax, Hollywood, Dimension & Touchstone)
350 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
818-295-5200

CBS Home Entertainment(distributed by Paramount)
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038
323-956-5000

The Criterion Collection
578 Broadway, Suite 1106
New York, NY 10012
(212) 431-5199

DreamWorks Home Entertainment(distributed by Paramount)
1000 Flower Street
Glendale, CA 91201
818-695-5000

HBO Home Video (distributed by Warner)
1100 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
212-512-1000

Lionsgate Entertainment (formerly Artisan)
2700 Colorado Ave., Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA 90404
310-449-9200


MGM Home Entertainment(distributed by Twentieth Century Fox)
10250 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067-6241

Miramax (distributed by Buena Vista)

7920 Sunset Blvd., Suite 230
Los Angeles, CA 90046-3353
213-969-2000

New Line Home Entertainment

116 North Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
310-854-5811


Paramount Home Entertainment(distributes DreamWorks, CBS MTV, Comedy Central)
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038
323-956-5000

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
310-244-4000


Starz Home Entertainment (formerly Anchor Bay Entertainment)(distributes Anchor Bay, Manga Entertainment, Film Romain)

2950 N. Hollywood Way, 3rd Floor
Burbank, CA 91505
818-748-4000


Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment(distributes MGM)

2121 Avenue of the Stars, 25th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310-369-3900

Universal Studios Home Entertainment

100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
818-777-1000

Warner Home Video

4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
818-954-6000


The Weinstein Company(distributed by Genius Products)
345 Hudson St. 13th Floor
New York, NY 10014
646-862-3400

Friday, November 18, 2011

THE GREAT WALTZ (MGM 1938) Warner Archive Collection


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer used to be the studio with 'more stars than there are in heaven' - a magnificent assembly line for creating celluloid magic of the most incomprehensible scope and with blistering regularity throughout the golden age of Hollywood. The Cartier of movie making MGM remained an empire to be reckoned with for nearly three decades, so mythical and sublime that today it seems quite impossible it should ever have existed at all. The proof, alas, remains in MGM's myriad of celluloid treasures - the only tangible assets that survived the brutal strip down and wrecking ball mentality of the 1970s that effectively reduced MGM to the figurehead of a roaring lion. These films are the heirs and testament to MGM's greatness: so many and so beloved as they continue to resonate their untarnished magnificence long after the legends that created them are no more.


I may be gushing here. In point of fact, I am - unabashedly and sentimentally as some of MGM's best loved movies. Julien Duvivier's The Great Waltz (1938) doesn't quite fall into this latter category but that certainly does not stop the film from trying to win our hearts. Given MGM's penchant for star power, this film's one saleable asset is Luise Rainer, hot off her back to back Best Actress Oscar wins for The Good Earth (1935) and The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Flanking the great lady are two new finds; Fernand Gravey and Miliza Korjus. Both ought to have become big stars in their own right after this movie. Neither did. In fact, The Great Waltz marked Ms. Korjus' debut and swan song in American movies.


The screenplay by Gottfried Reinhardt, Samuel Hoffenstein and Walter Reisch is a very loose fitting biography of Vienna's waltz king, Johann Strauss II. In reconstituting Strauss' life and times as a pseudo-musical, the writers are blessed with a back catalogue of the great man's music. Whenever they paint themselves into a narrative corner the lilting strains of that immortal music interrupt in a memorable, swirling vignette breathtakingly realized by cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg.


Plot wise: it's 1845 and Johann Strauss II (Fernand Gravey) - 'Schani' to his friends - is a discharged bank teller who forms his own orchestra from a pack of unemployed and otherwise cast off musicians who are hungry for their chance to make good. Otto Dommeyer (Herman Bing) gives Johann and his boys a venue to play their music, but the debut is a bust. That is, until Dommeyer opens the windows to his establishment, allowing the rest of Vienna to hear Strauss' orchestra perform. The concert draws the whole of Vienna to Dommeyer's restaurant, including operatic prima donna, Carla Donner (Miliza Korjus).


She unabashedly flirts with the young maestro, encouraging him to perform that very evening at the home of Count Anton Hohenfried (Lionel Atwill). Strauss' fiancée, Poldi Vogelhuber (Luise Rainer) is encouraging, but at the same time harbours a deep seeded insecurity that all of Strauss's new found success will go to his head. She has good cause for concern. Carla exposes Strauss's music to the upwardly mobile masses, then pursues him romantically, even though she makes no apologies for also pursuing a lustful dalliance with Anton.


Johann is at first put off by Carla's divided affections. He returns to Poldi and proposes marriage. For some time afterward the two are content. But Carla has fallen under the spell of Johann's music. She will not give him or it up for anything. When Johann is commissioned to write an opera for Carla his wildest dreams are realized. But Poldi has found them out. She sacrifices her great love for her husband and Carla and Johann make plans to run away together to Budapest. Too late Johann realizes he has made a fateful mistake. The fire and music he shares with Carla is not equal to the enduring romantic love of his ever faithful wife. Johann sends Carla to Budapest alone and returns to Poldi.


The last few moments in the film are dedicated to Strauss's legacy. In their waning years the Strausses are summoned to the palace by Emperor Franz Josef (Henry Hull) and Johann is celebrated as a much beloved and iconic figure in the Viennese tradition. Curiously enough, although Strauss is touched by this epic assemblage of well wishers, at one point in the concluding medley of his works he thinks he hears and sees Carla Donner singing above the crowd - proof that his memories of her have not faded with the passing years.


The Great Waltz is extravagant escapism, supremely entertaining if totally untrue. Dimitri Tiomkin's re-orchestrations of Strauss's immortal music are particularly adept at 'contemporizing' the schmaltz out of the many waltzes and marches that fill our ear throughout the film. Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics manage to yield a few pop tunes, including They'll Come A Time - trilled to artistic perfection by Miliza Korjus.


The curiosity and even greater disappointment is that Korjus - who radiates brilliance in song as well as acting style - never made it in films afterward. But what a one hit wonder she is - superb, enchanting and in perfect pitch. Fernand Gravey had a lucrative film career in France afterward, but faded from memory too quickly with American audiences to be fully appreciated. It is a credit to MGM that they had the foresight to recognize both of these talents for this gargantuan and sumptuously mounted screen spectacle. Whenever anyone says "boy, they sure don't make movies like they used to" The Great Waltz is likely just the sort of film they are referring to.


Warner Home Video makes The Great Waltz available as part of their MOD 'Archive Collection' in a fairly impressive transfer. No attempt has been made to clean up age related artifacts from the image. It is speckled and scratched (sometimes severely) throughout. But Warner has remastered the elements. The gray scale is very nicely balanced. The image is crisp without becoming digitally enhanced, allowing for an impressive amount of fine detail to shine through. Contrast levels are very nicely balanced with pristine whites and very solid blacks. The audio is mono as originally recorded and infrequently suffers from hiss and pop. The only extra is a badly worn theatrical trailer. Recommended.


FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)


3.5


VIDEO/AUDIO


3


EXTRAS


0

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LOONEY TUNES: PLATINUM COLLECTION VOL 1 - Blu-ray (WB 1930-1969) Warner Home Video

Throughout the golden age of Hollywood there were many cartoon studios that attempted to revolutionize animation. Most fell under the umbrella of a studio major. Paramount had Popeye. MGM developed Tom & Jerry under Hanna/Barbera. UA owned The Pink Panther. Arguably, only one studio could lay claim to 'revolutionizing' the cartoon as an art form - Disney. But that did not stop the other studios from making their own valiant attempts at sibling rivalry.



Although no other studio from this period ventured into feature length animation, Warner Bros. quickly established itself throughout the 1940s and early 50s as the undisputed monarch of the celebrated cartoon short. The Looney Tunes brought together some of the most prominent directors ever to work in the medium: Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Robert McKimson, et al. and it yielded an iconic cavalcade of lovably obtuse slapstick characters that have lived in our hearts and minds ever since.


Who in the world today does not instantly recognize Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, or Sylvester and Tweety, or the Road Runner and Wiley Coyote for that matter. My personal favorite has always been Pepe Le Pew. My dad is partial to Foghorn Leghorn...and this list of WB alumni is hardly exhaustive. Virtually no other studio in the history of animation can claim to have created so many fondly appreciated and enduring cartoon whack jobs as Warner Brothers did in their prime.


Part of the Looney Tunes lasting legacy and success rests with the understanding that these cartoons were never meant to indulge children. Rather, they were forerunners in the theatre to the feature film (1930-1969) and presented primarily to an adult audience for pure slapstick comedy entertainment. As such we tended to see ourselves in the Looney Tunes - both the best and the worst embodied in the human condition.


It is perhaps just one of those Hollywood ironies that Bugs and his buddies became even more iconic when television snapped them up in the 1950s for perennial Saturday morning kiddy cartoon fodder. Because of their relatively short run times, the Looney Tunes were an ideal fit for the small screen, endlessly repackaged by Warner Brothers over the decades with special 'tags' created expressly to introduce them for TV.


As I write this review I find myself singing the first few bars of "Overture...candle lights. This is it. The night of nights...no more rehearsing, or nursing of parts...we know every part by heart..." Well, enough of that.


Warner Home Video releases Looney Tunes: Platinum Collection Vol. One on Blu-ray - a veritable potpourri of some of the best loved shorts from the WB vaults, most remastered to perfection for this hi-def debut. Fifty shorts in all comprise this collection.


Disc one contains the following: Hare Tonic, Baseball Bugs, Buccaneer Bunny, The Old Grey Hare, Rabbit Hood, 8 Ball Bunny, Rabbit of Seville, What's Opera Doc?, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, A Pest In the House, The Scarlet Pumpernickel, Duck Amuck, Robin Hood Daffy, Baby Bottleneck, Kitty Kornered, Scaredy Cat, Porky Chops, Old Glory, A Tale of Two Kitties, Tweetie Pie, Fast and Furry-ous, Beep-Beep, Lovelorn Leghorn, For Scent-imental Reasons and Speedy Gonzales.


Disc Two includes: One Froggy Evening, The Three Little Bops, I Love To Singa, Katnip Kollege, The Dover Boys At Pimento University, Chow Hound, Haredevil Hare, The Hasty Hare, Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century, Hare-Way to the Stars, Mad As A Mars Hare, Devil May Hare, Bedevilled Rabbit, Ducking the Devil, Bill of Hare, Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare, Bewitched Bunny, Broomstick Bunny, A Witches Tangled Hare, A-Haunting We Will Go, Feed The Kitty, Kiss Me Kat, Feline Frame Up, From A to Z-Z-Z-Z, Boyhood Daze.


These shorts are presented in remastered hi-def 1080p and with very few exceptions are as close to perfect as the Looney Tunes have ever looked on home video. Colours are exceptionally vibrant. The image is razor sharp. Occasionally there is a hint of edge enhancement, but nothing that will distract from your viewing pleasure. Age related artifacts are still present, and, on a few cartoons, are quite obvious and briefly distracting.


This reviewer owns all of the aforementioned 'Golden Collection' DVDs and can attest to the overall improvement in the visual quality made for this Blu-ray reissue. Colours are markedly brighter. The image is definitely cleaner, though not always pristine.


The audio is another matter.


Doing side by side comparisons I could not detect any noticeable differences between the audio on the aforementioned DVDs and these Blu-rays. I'm assuming some audiophile will prove me wrong, but on my system the audio sounded virtually identical. Let's be frank - there's just so much you can do with 50 plus year old monaural tracks. Having said that, I always thought these shorts sounded great on home video. So, no harm no foul. There's really nothing to complain about. "On with the show, this is it!"


Warner Home Video has also been particularly adept at amassing nearly 5 hours of extra features. Most are direct imports from their previously issued 'Golden Collection' DVDs and range from many featurettes, isolated scores and commentary tracks specifically dedicated to some of the cartoon shorts listed above.


But herein we also get the feature length movie 'Chuck Amuck', several glowing tributes to veteran animator Chuck Jones, nine vintage Chuck Jones rarities that (at least to my knowledge) have never been seen before, pencil tests for How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and these bonus cartoons (Fright Before Christmas, Spaced Out Bunny, Duck Dodgers and the Return to the 24th 1/2 Century, Another Froggy Evening, Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension, Superior Duck, From Hare to Eternity, Father of the Bird, Museum Scream).


Warner Home Video has made this set available in two competing editions. One simply offers all of the aforementioned content in a slim case packaging. But there's also a limited edition 'box' that contains a letter of authenticity, a commemorative lithograph cel, a Looney Tunes magnet and a Bugs Bunny shot glass (I'm not exactly sure I understand the significance of this last trinket).


Bottom line: break out the mallets and stun guns for a hilarious trek through the studio's animated heritage. It's quite a journey, sure to illicit outrageous laughs along the way. Box or no box, this one comes very highly recommended!


FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)


5+


VIDEO/AUDIO


4.5


EXTRAS


4.5

WEST SIDE STORY: 50th ANNIVERSARY Blu-ray (Mirisch 1961) MGM/Fox Home Video


Racial prejudice, gang violence and even murder may have seemed like strange bedfellows for the musical genre before West Side Story (1961) hit Broadway. Afterwards audiences would never look at either in quite the same way. This contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in the ghetto was fleshed out on stage by scenarist Arthur Laurents. Coupled with an electric Leonard Bernstein/Jerome Robbins’ score and scintillating choreography, West Side Story became an exuberant showcase for social commentary. Regrettably, the stage show did not garner the respect it deserved. In fact, reviews were mixed. West Side Story was not even nominated for a Tony Award! But in the four years between its Broadway debut and the cinematic experience a strange thing happened. A few of the show's songs were picked up by pop singers and turned into hummable hits on the jukebox. The net result was that by the time West Side Story made its way to the screen it was already an instantly recognizable commodity.
After purchasing the rights to produce West Side Story as a film for a then staggering $375,000, the Mirisch Company was taking no chances. In translating from stage to screen co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and screenwriter Ernest Lehman resisted the urge to ‘open up’ the story. Save the mesmerizing opening overhead shots of New York City and the prologue dance sequence (both shot on the location now occupied by Lincoln Center) the rest of the film was made entirely on back lot sets and sound stages. Ernest Lehman restructured the narrative and order of the songs considerably while producer Saul Chaplin made the executive decision to over dub the vocals of virtually everyone in the cast. The producers fired Jerome Robbins mid-way through filming because they felt he had been neglectful in allowing the production to go over budget and over schedule. Hence, Robert Wise completed the last third of the shoot alone.
The story opens with a conflict between rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets on New York’s west side. The Jet’s leader, Riff (Russ Tamblyn) wants a 'war council' to settle a conflict over turf rights once and for all, a request that Shark’s leader, Bernardo (George Chakaris) is only too happy to oblige. To garner support for his rumble Riff decides to look up Tony (Richard Beymer) who has left the gang to work in Doc’s (Ned Glass) Drug Store. Although Tony refuses to re-enter ‘the life’ as a retired gang member in good standing he does agree to attend the local high school dance in order to express his solidarity with the Jets. At the high school gym he meets, and inadvertently falls in love with Bernardo’s sister, Maria (Natalie Wood). Their brief introduction is interrupted by Bernardo’s threats. But Tony can’t help himself. Neither can Maria. They secretly meet under Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita’s (Rita Moreno) watchful eye. But their union is doomed when Tony, in an attempt to stop the rumble, murders Bernardo after he has already killed Riff.
Tony returns to Maria and confesses his crime. However, her bitterness does not outweigh her love for him. Sympathetic to Maria, Anita's heart is turned to stone after the Jets taunt and nearly rape her inside Doc's Drug Store. As retaliation Anita tells the Jets to inform Tony that Maria has been murdered by her jealous boyfriend, Gino. The message brings Tony out of hiding. He and Maria are briefly reunited in the playground before Tony is shot and killed by an avenging Sharks' gang member. The blood feud at an end, Maria challenges both sides with her hatred to find a new common ground where harmony rather than bloodshed will prevail.
West Side Story is an iconic bit of stagecraft rivetingly transferred to the expansive Panavision screen. It's Leonard Bernstein score soars, yielding a rich mélange of almost operatic social commentary. This stings as much as it inspires. Robert Wise's direction is brilliantly on point - effortlessly blending together the light fantastic with hard-hitting melodrama and coming up a winner on both fronts. Even today, West Side Story's curious melding of street violence and musical ballet never seems strained or out of place. Wise, who began his career as an editor for Orson Welles and later, a director of low budget Val Lewton horror movies, is one of a handful of truly iconic directors from the 20th century. His list of accomplishments, including The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music and The Sand Pebbles will likely remain unequalled. Although hardly Puerto Rican Natalie Wood makes the most of her innocent portrayal of Maria. If somewhat stilted, the film is not particularly hindered by Richard Beymer’s wooden interpretation of Tony either. But in retrospect the most exciting bits of casting remain George Chakaris and Rita Moreno. When these two take to the roof tops to stamp out the defiant and controversial ‘America’ their taut atmospheric sexuality is palpable and electric.
Were it only the case with MGM/Fox Home Video's new Blu-ray we would truly have a reason to stand up and cheer. Sadly, a few faux pas prevent West Side Story from attaining brilliance on home video in this latest 50th Anniversary incarnation. For starters, the opening Saul Bass credits inexplicably fade to black just before we get the title credit that dissolves from Bass' impressionistic lines to the helicopter shot of Manhattan. This is an unforgivable screw up and one that further suggests the team responsible for mastering Fox/MGM's classic library don't know what they're doing or, for that matter, simply don't care. It would have been so easy for them to pull a reference print off the shelves to see that NO fade out/fade in is present in the original camera negative.
The next glaring mistake involves the overhead shots of New York City. These are plagued by severe edge enhancement and moire patterns, rendering their once breathtaking vantage utterly moot. This sort of sloppy mastering is incomprehensible and frankly, inexcusable. The studios have had a long enough gestation period in the art of digital mastering for the home video market place to eliminate ALL edge enhancement issues - PERIOD! Throughout West Side Story there are many 'optical' SFX shots - artistic dissolves and scene changes that continue to look grainier than the rest of the film stock. These have been ever so slightly tweaked but still appear slightly problematic compared to the rest of the transfer.
Now for the good news. Apart from the aforementioned errors, West Side Story has never looked more vibrant on home video. The 1080p scan exhibits a vibrancy and faithfulness to its 70mm color film stock that is breathtaking. Details in flesh, clothing and background information have a dimensional quality. Occasionally, contrast levels appear slightly bumped up, but if you can wrestle your way through the other problematic issues described herein, there is much to appreciate.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack presents yet another short sightedness on the part of MGM/Fox. The original six track stereo masters were discovered last year and completely restored. But these elements were not used for the mastering of this Blu-ray release. Instead, the studio reverts to a repurposed DTS-HD audio using the same four track elements employed on their previously issued DVDs. What?!? Yes, sad but true. Are the results of this repurposing better than on the DVD? Absolutely and without question. Are they the absolute best that they can sound on home video? Arguably, and emphatically, NO! For a 50th Anniversary I expected more.
MGM/Fox have taken the time to produce two brief featurettes on the cultural impact of West Side Story - cumulatively clocking in at around 40 min. For the rest, extras are all direct imports from the DVD release of a few years back and include 'Memories of West Side Story'. There's also theatrical trailers and a rather ineffectual commentary to wade through. MGM pads out this box set with a CD 'tribute soundtrack' featuring various artists singing some of the songs from the film. Aside: it would have been so much more meaningful if MGM/Fox had given us a remastered CD of the film soundtrack instead! There's also a hard cover booklet that is short on 'making of' info, and glossy reproductions of poster art. Ho-hum!
My advice - wait! MGM/Fox has recently announced that they intend to address at least some of the issues in their Blu-ray mastering and re-release West Side Story at a later - as yet undisclosed - date. I should point out that the wait might be interminable. Yours truly was promised a replacement disc 2 years ago. I’m still waiting!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)
5+
VIDEO/AUDIO
3
EXTRAS
3