West Side Story is
without question one of the most iconic, undeniably powerful, and
films ever released. The idea behind the production was an act of
genius in and
of itself: taking the tried and true formula of William Shakespeare's
prodigious work known as Romeo & Juliet and adapting it into a
setting. Jerome Robbins monumental musical brought forth enough flair
and heart of wonder to capture the imaginations of even the most
moviegoers and film critics upon the theatrical release in 1961 - now
ago. There are few films that manage to be so awe-inspiring in scope. West Side Story has the distinction of
winning 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) which is the most
ever for a
The film lays out some ground rules for the story
beginning as two rivaling gangs in New York known as the Jets and the
begin to demonstrate their immense displeasure with each other by
negative sentiments with a perfectly choreographed
song and dance number. The gang form replicates the original rivalry of
& Juliet found between the Montagues and the Capulets.
This is a love story, of course, between two young
star-crossed lovers from different backgrounds and who must struggle
lack of acceptance from those who surround them. Tony (Richard Beymer)
former leader of the Jets gang, and now he's looking for a brighter
without gang life interfering with a newfound spirit for renewal and
Maria (Natalie Wood) is the beautiful young woman who captures Tony's
Maria has inner-beauty that matches her outwardly gorgeous looks and
in love with Tony with an equal level of intensity and immediacy.
inevitably arrives when Bernardo (George Chakiris) learns that his
sister is involved with former Jet leader Tony. Bernardo is the gang
The performances in West
Side Story are brilliant and uncannily captivating across the
lead performances by Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer are remarkable
achievements. Beymer was cast in one of his most memorable roles of his
and Wood added another excellent performance to her already long list
achievements (including her child performance in the original Miracle on 34th Street and a
performance against James Dean in Rebel
Without a Cause). The supporting cast of actors helps the
foundation of the
film dramatically with great performances by Russ Tamblyn as the new
Riff (who is close friends with Tony), George Chakiris as Bernardo, and
Moreno as Bernardo's feisty and intelligent girlfriend Anita. George
and Rita Morena both received well deserved Academy Awards for their
There are two essential double-bill aspects to West Side Story that have continued to
be so impressive after all of these years following the debut: the
collaborations in music that combined the efforts of an undeniably
Leonard Bernstein and the up and coming brilliant lyricist Stephen
and the directing efforts from both Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who
the film). Robbins deserves the most recognition though, as he
conceived of the
original play and lent the best of his choreography on a level that had
been captured before and hasn't been since. Either double bill aspect
concerning this massive and unrelentingly complicated production is
and worthy of acclaim. The music sweeps viewers off their feet and
essence of romance and love while the energetic, stylish direction (the
majority of which was done by Wise) and choreography (entirely by
brings some of the most captivating cinematic visuals around.
Who can forget the opening dance number by the
Jets, the spinning
visual-effects of Maria to a new dance
number with countless energetic dancers, the silly rooftop dance that
celebrates and critically dissects both the promise and disappointments
by minorities living in America? Attempting to even pick a favorite
scene or sequence
can lead to some problems: every scene is so beautifully and expertly
that it almost seems more appropriate to simply select a personal
the bunch. The mid-way rushing of frantically scattering gang members,
silence, and the slanted camera-work might be one persons pick, but how
the simple but elegant dance between Tony and Maria? There are so many
moments. The execution of this production is almost flawless.
There are some minor detractors as it is hard to
audiences of West Side Story not
having at least some difficulty accepting the fact that Natalie Wood is
a Puerto Rican. The racial issues are actually inherently important to
story of West Side Story itself so
the unmistakable fact that there is a racial issue in the film is sadly
nonetheless, but for those who can overlook this aspect it should still
worth recognizing that Natalie Wood delivered a fantastic performance
continues to be enchanting. It is important to remember the historical
of when the film was produced within the Hollywood studio system and to
appreciate positive elements without overlooking negative drawbacks.
The history of this film is so interesting. It was
a huge undertaking
for everyone involved, most notably Jerome Robbins, who was eventually
from the film despite being the largest source of its creative energy. The film surprised audiences worldwide. It was
such a tremendous hit, and no one expected it to take everything
by storm the way it did. The film continues to amaze audiences
after half a century. The play version is performed worldwide through
and theater production companies. Even for those who haven't seen the
there is a clear distinction of the importance of West
Side Story and of the music that brought it to life. There is
not even a single film out there quite like it and that continues to
even more special and enduring. West Side
Story is all about love between two unlikely souls, the love for
represented through this stunning cinematic tour-de-force), and the
of the importance of overcoming racial issues and understanding the
commonalities between people of different backgrounds.
Set to the lush cinematography of Daniel L.
Fapp, West Side Story is pretty much as
the early advertisements for the film claimed: "As other movies age ... West Side Story gets younger!" In other
words: it's a timeless classic.
featured in this review were taken from the DVD edition included in the
Blu-ray/DVD Combo release and do not reflect the Blu-ray picture
been reports that there is a problem with the overture/opening credits
film, and that a replacement option will be made available by MGM at a
released a Digibook version of West Side
Story. It is currently available exclusively to Target stores.
West Side Story arrives on Blu-ray
with an almost immaculate looking transfer - which is
great news as it was filmed with 70mm cameras. In one word: incredible.
the film will be hard-pressed to find an element of dissatisfaction.
are so vivid; the contrast so accurate, the cinematography brilliant,
overall feel of the high-quality production is almost perfectly
image clearly hasn't been tampered with by annoying "picture-quality
shortcuts. Make no mistake: this Blu-ray is the best presentation of West Side Story on home media. The film
is presented on a 50 GB disc with a 25 MBPS 1080p AVC encoding in the
aspect ratio of 2.20:1.
presentation doesn't skimp out on any trimmings either. The film is
with a glorious 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation that captures the
all its magnificent glory. The dialogue is also well reproduced on this
release and sound directionality is well used for both the score and
Audio options available include: Dolby Digital English 4.0, Spanish 5.1
Digital, French 5.1 DTS. Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the
and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.
The Dances of West Side Story (19:12) can
be viewed with In-Move Viewing
Mode or as a standalone featurette that features interviews with
directors, choreographers, and select individuals who worked on the
their thoughts on the impact of West Side
Story and its dances.
Machine isn't that different from how it
can choose a play all option or individually select music scenes in the
to watch standalone from the entire experience.
Commentary by Lyricist
Stephen Sondheim is somewhat
fascinating and somewhat depressing. Sondheim seems to offer a view on
lyrics that is negative, overly harsh, extremely unflattering, and
all at the same time. He apparently doesn't feel quite as confident in
lyrics as his fans do. Sondheim does share a great deal about how or
created some of the lyrics to his songs and he gives good information
Place For Us: West Side Story's
Legacy (29:28) features
interviews with some of the individuals involved in making West
Side Story and it covers some ground regarding how the film
has had an influence on other films and projects. This featurette is
down into two separate segments (Creation and Innovation and A
Timeless Classic). The parts are viewable individually or together.
Side Memories (55:55) is a featurette that
available on prior DVD editions. It contains additional interviews with
involved in the production and it goes more in depth for various
the film's creation and production issues that arose over the creative
Comparison (4:50) is a brief but interesting
of storyboarded drawings that were used to capture the essence of
or moments before being filmed.
Trailers used for the original release and post-awards release
of West Side Story are also included.
West Side Story is one of the great
landmarks of cinema. It is the perfect blend of
theatricality and cinematic wonder. The performances amaze, the
mesmerizes, and the musical songs are unforgettable. The Blu-ray
contains an excellent presentation and some worthwhile extras. Make
sure to add
this release to your film collection. DVD
Talk Collector Series.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.