Okay, confession time: I really enjoy a good musical. Yes,
I watch a lot of SF, anime, and foreign films and I listen to rock music,
the louder the better, but I also appreciate the big Hollywood production
numbers. Some of the best musicals around have been based on Rogers
and Hammerstein Broadway plays and a very nice boxed set of films based
on their productions was released a few years ago. I snatched it
up and was very pleased. Now Fox has revisited a few of these films,
restored them, and added copious bonus items. The cream of the crop
of these new releases, in my opinion at least, is The King and I.
Presented for the first time with an anamorphic transfer and a wonderful
looking image, this is sure to please all of this film's many fans.
film is based on the stage play of the same name, which in turn was based
on a 1944 book by Margaret Landon, which was inspired by Anna Leonowens
own memoirs, is the story of a young widow Anna (Deborah Kerr) and her
son Louis (Rex Thompson) who move from London to the kingdom of Siam (present
day Thailand) in 1862. Without any means of supporting herself in
her native country, Anna has agreed to move halfway across the world and
instruct the children of the King of Siam (Yul Brynner).
The king wants to make his country more western and "scientific" and
has decreed that his children and wives be educated in the manner of the
British, something that was very radical at the time. The king wasn't
expecting a woman of Anna's caliber however. Headstrong and not afraid
of conflict, she is willing to confront the king, something no one else
in the country is willing to do.
The pair get off to a rocky start. The king has promised Anna
a house of her own, but when she arrives she discovers that the King wants
her to live with his wives, and she's very vocal in her displeasure.
The king in turn finds Anna to be very aggravating and in a lot of ways
unfathomable. Over time however, the two people develop a strong
respect for each other.
is both a great story (so what if a lot of it isn't true?) and an enjoyable
musical. The song numbers fit into the plot very well and are also
very catchy. Even people who haven't seen the movie before will recognize
such songs as "Getting to Know You" and "I Whistle a Happy Tune".
The production numbers are wonderful and work well, often because of their
simplicity. The section where Anna and the King dance at the end
doesn't entail elaborate costumes or fancy sets, but it is the emotional
high point of the film.
The acting is very good, with Deborah Kerr doing a great job.
Yul Brynner really steals the film though with his Academy Award winning
performance. He's masterful in the role, projecting a regal and aloof
quality while also being vulnerable and unsure of himself. He has
such a large presence when he's on screen, it's hard to think of him as
anything but a king.
Viewers who are familiar with the previous release of this movie on
DVD may be surprised to discover that this version is different.
The 4 minute overture, as well as the intermission and the exit music are
not present on this disc. That is because this disc presents the
film as it was originally shown theatrically. The extra musical sections
were added for the 1961 reissue, and they were pieced together from the
background music and reprises of the songs. No new music was recorded
for these and since they were not part of the original release, their omission
shouldn't be a point of concern.
This disc offer viewers the choice of Dolby Digital 5.0 and stereo tracks
in English as well as Spanish and French tracks in mono. The audio
sounds good for a film of this age. On the positive side, there is
no hiss, hum or tape noise on the track and the dialog is strong and clear.
On the down size the range is rather limited, which is understandable for
a movie that was filmed in 1956. The bass is rather lacking, with
the drums during the play that the King's wives perform during the dinner
banquet sounding rather anemic. The highs are clipped a bit also.
This isn't a horrible defect, but is worth noting.
This film is presented with a beautiful 2.55:1 anamorphic (at last!)
image. The film has been restored from the Cinemascope 55mm negative,
and looks even better than the earlier release (which looked very good
itself.) The colors were softer and less vibrant than the earlier
restoration, but they also looked more realistic and natural. The
blues, a color that is hard to reproduce, are nice and warm. The
level of detail is very good, the contrast is excellent, and the blacks
are strong. On the digital side, there is some aliasing, and fine
lines in the background tend to shimmer a bit. The scene near the
end where Anna and the King dance around the large palace audience chamber
is a good example of this. The horizontal lines on the columns in
the background jump around a bit as the camera pans across them.
This wasn't a large defect however.
Comparing the new with
the old. The image on the left is the original release of The King
and I, while the image on the right is the new 50th Anniversary edition.
Note the more accurate flesh tones and realistic looking colors.
There is a bit more detail too, though that is not evident in these screen
This two disc set includes all of the extras included on the earlier
version along with many new bonus items. On the first disc there
is a commentary by film scholar Richard Barrios and musical theater historian
Michael Portantiere as well as an isolated music score and a sing-a-long
option. The latter bonus plays the songs with subtitles.
The second disc is where the meat of the extras reside. There
are six (!) featurettes that cover much of the production and history of
the film. They are: Something Wonderful: The Story of The
King And I, The Kings of Broadway, The King and I Stage Version, The King
of the Big Screen, The King And I The Royal Archives, and Restoring
Cinemascope 55. Some of these were better than others, but they
are all worth watching.
Some vintage newsreel clips are included that cover the premier of the
film and Yul Brynner winning the Best Actor Oscar, and there is a reconstruction
of a song that was recorded but ultimately deleted from the final film.
This song, "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" utilizes the audio track
recorded for the movie and production stills to show what the scene might
have looked like.
A TV series based on the play never got past the pilot stage, but that
filmed premier episode is included along with a commentary by actress Samantha
Eggar. Overall this is an excellent set of bonus features.
This is one of the best film adaptations of a Rogers and Hammerstein
play. Not only is the production lavish and impressive, but the story
and music are outstanding as well. 20th Century Fox has produced
an excellent DVD with plentiful extras and a beautifully restored print.
This is a truly enjoyable disc that is highly recommended.