THE RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN COLLECTION
Rodgers and Hammerstein are two of America's favorite songwriters. The 40's and 50's are inundated with their work. The collection is comprised of six of their most popular titles:State Fair, Carousel, The King and I, Oklahoma, South Pacific and the Sound of Music.
The Synopsis for these films is as follows:
The State fair of Iowa is the central theme of this beautiful funny love story. A farmer is raising his prize pig "Blue Boy" to win the biggest, most beautiful Boar competition, and his wife, is entering her sweet/sour pickles as well as her husband's mother's prized mincemeat pie. In the midst of all of this their daughter, Jeanne Crain is longing for a love like no other. Especially, since her current boyfriend's idea of perfection is linoleum floors! Her brother Dick Haymes is looking forward to repaying a debt to a scurrilous vendor who stole eight dollars from him at the last State Fair. However, both of them are in for a surprise for the State Fair will hold far more than revenge and competition. It may actually hold a great deal of promise for dreams fulfilled for all involved!
In the moments before full scale war was waged against Japan during WWII, Bands of Americans were stationed all over the Pacific as something of a first response team should war be declared. As Such an American Lieutenant is dispatched to the region to set up a recon-base on one of the further most Islands closest to the Japanese held Islands in the area. But, before he can get there he has to procure the help of a French citizen who knows all of the Islands in the area better than anyone. Here the issues of love, duty, racial bigotry and the need to abolish it are addressed and some of the most memorable songs in musical history are found in the South Pacific. "Bali-Hi", "Some enchanted evening", "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair" and others. South Pacific is a wonderful, beautiful tale of life and love.
Ranchers and farmers and the differences between the two fuel the tensions that make up the story, Oklahoma. Shirley Jones plays Laurey Williams and Gordon Mcrae is Curly, the ranch hand who's madly in love with her. Jud, as played by Rod Steiger, is the ranch hand who is in lust with Laurey and will do anything to make her his, whether she wants him or not. Beautiful musical numbers and songs create the wondrous celebrations of frontier life; tender romance and dangerous passions are all the point of this beautiful and at times scary love story.
The weakest entry in the series is a film about a Carousel Barker (Gordon Mcrae) and a young girl (Shirley Jones) who fall in love. He loses his job at the carnival and essentially lives off of his girlfriend's/wife's' family. Unwilling to find suitable work, he falls in with an awful crowd, beats his wife and eventually dies in the commission of a crime. The film actually begins with him in heaven or at least in a corner of heaven being told that his family on Earth is in need of his help. So the whole of the film is done from first a re-telling of his life and then secondly, redemption in the way of his helping his family make a better life after his death.
The King and I-1956
The King of Siam, masterfully played by Yul Brynner, is the subject of one of the most famous R&H films. Deborah Kerr is the English schoolteacher sent to teach the King's children English and to also teach them about everything and anything. Keeping in mind that Siam must always be the largest country on the map and her king, the greatest man that has ever lived. Additionally, she must contend with an unfamiliar government, a tyrant/sweetheart of a king and a looming war on the horizon. This is classic cinema and one of the best movies/musicals I have ever seen. Yul Brynner is amazing!
The Sound of Music-1965
Of the six in the collection, this and the King & I are my favorites. Maria (Julie Andrews) is a governess for the Van Trapp children. Six in all, they are ruled by the iron hand of their father Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Throughout the whole of the music, Maria, teaches the children how to be children and how to enjoy life. In so doing, Captain Von Trapp learns a great deal about loving and not commanding his children. Enter the Nazi's. World War Two is about to begin and the Nazi party grows in influence until it muscles itself into the political scene of the country. Time is surely of the essence and the Van Trapp family must make a leap for freedom as the Nazi party has their eyes on Captain Von Trapp and his services in their Navy. This is easily one of the greatest movies ever made.
All but State fair are presented in widescreen. The colors for all of the films are incredible and the sharpness and clarity are all first rate. The flesh tones are beautifully represented and the transfer errors are minimal at best. There are a few scratches and flecks of white/black in all of the films but none of them are marred in a way that detracts from the film's overall effect.
The audio for the films is primarily an English Stereo 2-channel platform. South Pacific does boast a 5.1 platform and The Sound Of Music carries a 4.1 surround platform. The balance of the film's scores can be a little airy but they are wholly enjoyable and beautifully presented.
Movie tone News trailers and premiere shots are the primary extra on five of the six films. Three of them (State Fair, The King and I, and Oklahoma) also have the original trailer for the film included. For The King and I, a sing along for the more familiar of the tunes is also included. The real gem as far as extras is The Sound of Music. It's a two-disc set that boasts an incredible commentary by the incomparable Robert Wise, Interviews both past and present, a documentary that's 90 minutes in length and even interviews with Julie Andrews and Director, Robert Wise!
While I did thoroughly enjoy these films on disc, there are some things that just don't sit well with me. Given the time period, Open racism was the order of the day. As such, there are only a handful of people of any color other than white in these films. When they are seen or referenced, it's done in a very condescending and repugnant way. This is most evident in the treatment of the Tonktinese people in South Pacific and in the use of the term "Niggardly" in State Fair. Does it ruin the picture? No. But it does give me pause in films that should be wholesome in their viewing and enjoyment.
Having said that, I have to recommend this as nothing less than a Collector's edition. If you are a fan of musicals, this collection is for you.