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The Rodgers & Hammerstein Blu-ray Collection

by Ed Tapper
Contributor
Friday May 23, 2014
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With a virtually unbroken stream of smash musicals to their credit, Rodgers and Hammerstein qualify as Broadway’s most beloved songwriting team. All of their hit plays were adapted for the silver screen; and 20th Century Fox has just transferred six R&H classics to the high-definition Blu-ray format for a magnificent new "Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection."

The set opens with the 1945 Technicolor "State Fair," conceived by the duo as a Hollywood film. The heaping dose of Americana was based on a 1933 non-musical film of the same name, and followed by a 1962, updated remake. The vibrant color and fine picture quality belie the film’s age. Like its box-mates, "State Fair" is supplemented by a "Sing-Along" and other music-related extras, as well as commentary, theatrical trailer and still galleries. There is also a featurette comparing the three, screen incarnations.

The 1955 "Oklahoma" was shot simultaneously in Cinemascope, and the Todd-AO process, and Fox provides a separate Blu-ray for each of the versions. By comparison, the Todd-AO disc offers breathtaking visuals, and is the true gem of the collection. There is also more visual information at the top and bottom margins. The Cinemascope print is duller in contrast, but has those memorable opening credits, more detail at the sides, and a noticeably superior soundtrack. The Todd-AO disc contains an interesting documentary comparing the two photographic processes.

Not everyone’s favorite R&H, the 1956 film of "Carousel" nonetheless looks sensational on the new Blu-ray, which has unusually crisp, picture quality. And "Carousel" contains the most interesting extras, including the complete 1934 Fritz Lang "Liliom," based on the same source as "Carousel."

"...a splendid achievement."

The set also provides two Blu-ray versions of the groundbreaking, 1958 "South Pacific," one of R&H’s greatest triumphs. The extended "Road Show" version includes 15 minutes of footage not in the theatrical release. Both discs feature razor-sharp transfers. Though the tinted sequences prove tiresome, the spectacular location photography compensates. The main extra is a comprehensive documentary on the making of the stage and film productions.

The "The King and I" pales somewhat beside the other Blu-ray editions. The overall picture quality is respectable, and the film looks terrific in the Cinemascope 55 aspect ratio. Yet the color and clarity are variable, and dulled out in spots. Extras include documentaries on the production and the widescreen process.

R&H’s crowning achievement, "Sound of Music," closes the collection. Released on Blu-ray a few years back, the film is a true eyeful in the glowing, high-def print. It is accompanied by two invaluable commentaries by the film’s director and stars. Unfortunately, Fox withheld the Blu-ray included in the prior release which contains invaluable, special features. Considering the enormous popularity of this film, and the set’s $200. price tag, the studio could easily have included the bonus Blu-ray.

Nonetheless, as all the enduring R&H favorites are presented in optimal quality, the new collection is a splendid achievement, and a suitable tribute to two of Broadway’s immortal titans.

"The Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection"
Blu-ray
$199.98
www.foxconnect.com

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