|Category||Musical||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Year Released||1964||Commentary Tracks||Yes, 1 - Gene Allen (Art Director), Robert Harris and James Katz (Restoration Team) and Marni Nixon (singing voice of Audrey Hepburn)|
|Running Time||165:58 minutes||Other Extras||Featurette - The Fairest Fair Lady (9:34)
Featurette - Audrey Hepburn vocals
Main Menu Audio
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
|16x9 Enhancement||Yes||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.20:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Having said that, this is probably one of the best examples of the genre. This is the film adaptation of the musical stage hit formulated by the renowned Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, which itself was based upon the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the broad story is that of Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and his efforts to turn one Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) from a cockney flower girl into an English lady in time for the Embassy Ball six months hence. All for the sake of a bet with Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) that he could educate any girl sufficiently well enough to be able to pass her off as a respectable English lady to all of respected society - hence the Embassy Ball. Along the way he forgets that he is dealing with a real live person and that such people actually have feelings, including the capacity for love.
The story forms the basis of one of the great plays of the twentieth century, and the musical stage play was no less successful in that field either. Its transition to the big screen was personally handled by Mr Jack L. Warner himself, and it would appear that nothing was spared in order to ensure its success on the big screen. Rex Harrison reprised his stage role as Professor Henry Higgins, and in many ways it is now inconceivable the the role could be played by anyone else, so perfect in the role is he. Rather surprisingly for a musical, Audrey Hepburn was cast as Eliza Doolittle - surprising in that whilst she can certainly sing, she simply did not have the voice apparently to carry this role (and hence the reason for the singing dubs by Marni Nixon). Her acting however is beyond reproach and she is marvellous in the role (but I may be biased as I have always enjoyed watching her on film). The support cast was very effective throughout, and it is obvious that some care went into the selection of the cast. All of which would mean nothing unless the story was brought together by some great direction - which was obviously the case with the renowned George Cukor at the helm. Whilst I would not willingly sit down for over two and a half hours to watch a musical, I have to confess that this moves at a very nice pace and keeps the interest level up throughout. He must have done a damn fine job of directing! And thanks to the efforts of the restoration team, we can now sit back and enjoy the film in splendour possibly unexcelled since its premiere way back in 1964.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The packaging refers to the transfer as being widescreen 2.21:2 - would someone at Warners please explain what the heck that means? And whilst we are mentioning packaging errors, the Bulgarian and Romanian subtitles are not listed in the special features listing, Robert A. Harris is credited as being Roberta. Harris and Audrey Hepburn's song is shown as Would'nt It Be Loverly. Does anyone actually proof-read the cover slicks before they are printed?
Overall, the transfer is sharp and very well defined throughout - except for the one intentional sequence done with the old Vaseline on the lens trick. The shadow detail is quite exceptional for a film of this age, which matches the fine detail caught by the camera throughout. There were no problems at all with grain and this in general has come up marvellously clean in the restoration. Just be aware that, as pointed out in the audio commentary, some of the film, most notably the opening credits sequence, has been virtually recomposed as the original had significant degradation for various reasons.
The colours are beautifully rendered throughout, and consistently so, with some wonderful contrast between the vibrant colours of the society gowns and the muted colours of the flower markets at Covent Garden. Overall, this is a wonderfully vibrant transfer, generally of quite rich tones with no hint of oversaturation at all.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There was a consistent problem with minor film-to-video artefacts, mainly very slight aliasing throughout. Whilst not too noticeable in its own right, the consistent presence of it tended to attract attention. There was some slight jitter in the transfer at 79:24 and a glitch in the video at 132:28, but I suspect these to be inherent problems in the original film rather than DVD mastering problems. For a thirty six year old film, film artefacts were noticeably absent, again indicating some care having been taken in the restoration. Those that were present were never an intrusion.
This is a RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at the intermission at 97:44. This is an extremely logical place to incorporate the layer change, and did not detract from nor interrupt the film in any way. A nice repeat of the effort with Camelot.
There are four soundtracks on the DVD: the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the English soundtrack and the English Audio Commentary.
The dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout, as was the singing.
Audio sync does not appear to be a problem with the transfer.
The score comprises original compositions from Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) which is of course what the film is all about. Lerner and Loewe did this sort of stuff better than most, and this is probably one of their best efforts, with some wonderfully memorable tunes.
This is something of a problematic soundtrack, not for any reason other than the fact that apart from three short passages, it does not sound at all like a 5.1 soundtrack. Apart from those three passages (two at the horse races and the other the song Get Me To The Church On Time), there is no evidence of any action through the rear surround channels and the bass channel at all. Indeed, for much of the film, it does not seem as if there is too much action through any of the surround channels: this really sounds like a good stereo recording and not a 5.1 soundtrack. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong per se with what is on offer, it just does not sound like a 5.1 soundtrack. It is the lack of rear channel detail especially that is missed, especially during the scenes such as those at the ball room where background noise would be evident. Apart from this quibble, this is a very good, clean, crisp soundtrack.
The overall video quality is very good.
The overall audio quality is acceptable.
The extras package is nice.
One quibble though, that indicates why I hate the snapper cases used by Warners: this one arrived a little distorted, improperly glued so that the cardboard slick is askew and fits far too tight in the plastic snapper case. Also the glue is starting to loose effectiveness, so that the cover is starting to come apart. Warners - can you please change to something better than this?
© Ian Morris
3rd January 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|