The American Society of Cinematographers

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Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
All the Presidents
Sound of Music
Tall Dark Stranger
ASC Close-Up
The Sound of Music (1965)
Blu-ray Edition
2.20:1 (High Definition 1080p)
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $34.99

Upon the rolling hills and lush valleys north of the snow-capped Alps lies the city of Salzburg, Austria. Through the mist of a morning in the 1930s, Maria (Julie Andrews) sings, contemplating her love of the countryside and the music she feels in her heart. A novice nun, Maria is having trouble with her new life. Her mother abbess (Peggy Wood) is aware of Maria's frustration and asks her to leave the confines of the abbey to act as governess to the children of a local widower, Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).   

Reluctantly, Maria, with a guitar and satchel her only possessions, reports to the von Trapp villa. Upon meeting the brusque captain and his seven children, Maria worries she has made a grave mistake. She finds she is the latest in a line of women who have attempted to act as the children's governess, only to be driven away by their monstrous behavior.  

As luck would have it, a thunderstorm strikes, forcing the frightened children into Maria's room. Maria quickly wins the children over by helping them overcome their fear with song and finds the children enjoy singing as much as she does. Soon most of their daily routines involve singing, and the children quickly grow to adore Maria. As the summer progresses, Maria teaches them all she can about music before the dark clouds of war move closer to Salzburg.  

When producer Saul Chaplin looked for a director to helm the film of Rodgers and Hammerstein's stage musical The Sound of Music, based on the actual story of The von Trapp Family Singers, he encountered negative sentiment. Potential directors agreed the material was strong musically but found the story of a nun and her adorable charges “saccharine” and “schmaltzy.” Although Robert Wise was among them, he agreed to direct based on his faith in Ernest Lehman's strong script. Wise still worried about the tone and was very concerned about the casting of Maria. When Walt Disney offered to show the nervous director a preview of the upcoming Mary Poppins, the first film to star Broadway sensation Andrews, Wise was instantly taken with her and would have no one else as Maria.    

Andrews, worried about having just played a “practically perfect” nanny, confronted Wise, asking him what he had in mind to “control the schmaltz.” Wise, who speaks candidly in the supplemental section of the new Blu-ray edition of The Sound of Music, asked her to “hold his hand” and knew they would “get along just fine.” Simplicity, Wise believed, was the key to creative choices, saving the piece from its inherent sweetness.  

Filming on location in Salzburg and then on stages in Los Angeles, everything would be kept simple, letting the backdrop of Salzburg dictate the tone of the film. Wise brought director of photography Ted McCord, ASC (East of Eden), to the project as he had recently worked with him. Wise notes, “I loved his color work for Warner Brothers, and I felt he could bring just the right touch of romanticism the film would need for its overall look. I wanted a fairly soft-focused, romantic feeling that would be appropriate without being too much.”

McCord wisely opted to capture The Sound of Music on the non-anamorphic Todd-AO wide-screen process in 65 mm that allowed for rich saturation and detail. He worked closely with photographer and second unit director Maurice Zuberano, who used the Superpanorama 70 process, which seamlessly integrated with Todd-AO in post.  McCord's memorable work on the picture earned him an Academy Award nomination.    

While The Sound of Music has had a long history on home video, the image transfers
have varied greatly. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has debuted the popular musical on the Blu-ray format, with a sparkling new image transfer for its 45th anniversary. Digitally scanned at 8K, the image has been restored, giving the vivid Todd-AO images a shine never seen on home screens. In addition to removal of print debris, the shot-to-shot color fluctuation that plagued sequences on more than one previous transfer has been beautifully corrected. Colors are always rich, and blacks, sharp and well shadowed. There is an appropriately visible level of film grain, but nothing seems artificially enhanced or tampered with while remaining incredibly sharp and full of breathtaking detail. The DTS-HD 7.1 audio mix makes use of, a first for home presentation, the original six-track mix, which has been digitally upgraded with excellent surround results.    

The three-disc package includes a standard definition DVD of the film, and fans will want to explore the staggering array of special features here, including sing-a-longs, extensive “making of” documentaries, audio programs, interviews with the real von Trapp family, press material and exhaustive archives from previous releases. New HD extras, including segments on the restoration, also are part of the whole. For casual viewers or devoted fans, this truly impressive and eye-popping Blu-ray is the definitive home experience of The Sound of Music, one of the most popular film musicals of all time. Although undeniably sweet and indefatigably upbeat, its fans are legion, and it remains a beloved part of American popular culture.  

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