The Music Man (1961) (NTSC)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Right Here In River City
Trailer-The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Notes-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||1961|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (68:51)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,4||Directed By||Morton DaCosta|
Warner Home Video
The Buffalo Bills
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
76 trombones led the big parade,
110 cornets close behind...
The Music Man is an old-fashioned musical extravaganza. It has a large cast of singers and dancers, lots of songs, plenty of energetic dancing, it runs well over two hours (two and a half, in fact), and its big feature song is still well-known, even today. What more could you want? Plot? Does the plot really matter in a musical?
The Music Man is Harold Hill (or at least, that's the name he's using this trip...). Professor Harold Hill, to be precise. He's a flim-flam man, almost a con-artist, who rolls into town, convinces everyone in town that they need a boys band (to keep the boys out of mischief), sells them the instruments, the uniforms, the instruction books, then vanishes with the money. I say almost a con-artist, because the instruments and uniforms are real enough — a real con-man would leave them with nothing. He's a very slick salesman, with an angle to convince everyone, and very few scruples.
This film is set in the golden age of travelling salesmen, when America was a network of small towns connected by railways, and travelling salesmen roamed the network selling their company's product to each town in turn. Some towns were less keen to see the salesmen; the show opens with a salesman being chased out of a small town in Illinois called Brighton. He barely makes it to the train ahead of the mob. Aboard the train the entire carriage is full of travelling salesmen. One of them, a fellow who sells anvils, complains bitterly to the rest about how Harold Hill is giving the whole of the travelling salesman community a bad reputation, selling boys bands, even though "he don't know one note from another!".
Harold Hill (Robert Preston, recreating the role he played on the Broadway stage) comes to the town of River City in Iowa, and learns that the people in this town aren't likely to be easy marks. He persists, stirring up anxiety over the introduction of a pool table into the local billiard parlour. Billiards may be a game for gentleman, but pool starts with P and that rhymes with T, and that stands for Trouble, right here in River City... (sorry, got a bit carried away for a moment...).
Harold Hill's biggest threat is the local librarian, Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones), who teaches piano, and therefore might spot him as a fraud. His answer is to romance her, a plan which has worked in the past with other piano teachers. She's hard to woo, even though, or possibly because, her mother is pushing her to find a nice man and marry. Her much younger brother — she's in her late twenties, her brother is less than ten — is Winthrop (played by a young Ron Howard — he's billed as Ronny Howard); Winthrop has a strong lisp, and is very shy because of it.
Meanwhile, Harold Hill is wreaking havoc in many directions. The four-man school board is charged with finding out his credentials — he distracts them into singing barber-shop (very, very well — they are played by The Buffalo Bills, an outstanding barber-shop quartet). The mayor's wife is distracted into eurhythmic dance. The local bad-boy is distracted into chasing the mayor's daughter (who rather likes being chased — ye gods!).
Like most good musicals there's a love story, there's a bit of drama, there's plenty of comedy — this is a pleasant piece of entertainment. And it's rated G, so everyone can enjoy it. I enjoyed it as a child, and still enjoy it now (despite my advanced years...). Thoroughly recommended!
This movie is provided in NTSC. If your system doesn't support NTSC, then you won't be able to play this disc.
This movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the intended ratio, and that's the way this musical must be seen, because of its panoramic composition; the credit on the film is for the Technirama process, an anamorphic system promoted by the same people as Technicolor. If you watch the making of you'll see clips from the movie in pan'n'scan, and you can see how cramped and ugly they come out. (You may see a reference to this film being in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1 — that's the negative ratio.)
The image is fairly good, especially on close-ups, but there is an odd effect, a form of haloing, rather like Gibbs Effect, but on people in the foreground, rather than text — it might be a form of edge enhancement, but I don't think it is. I've seen the same effect on other films in Technicolor, but not to as great an extent as this — I don't like it, because it makes the picture look over-sharpened, giving it a harsh, constrasty look. Funnily, it's most noticeable on mid-range and long-range shots — many close-ups are essentially free from it. The big exception is the shots using rear-projection (like the opening railway carriage) — they are rife with it. Shadow detail is pretty decent. Film grain isn't troubling, and there's no low-level noise.
Colour is classic Technicolor — there are plenty of good strong colours on display, but they may not be completely accurate to the originals. There are no colour-related artefacts.
There are quite a few film artefacts, but few of any size (witness the fine white hair at 78:57). They aren't bothersome.
There's aliasing on most horizontal lines, but it's never really annoying. There's moire, particularly on the houndstooth suit starting around 73:58. There are no MPEG artefacts.
There are subtitles in English and French. I watched the English subtitles. I'm pleased to see that the songs are subtitled as well as the dialogue — you couldn't understand the film without it. The subtitles are easy to read, well-timed, and accurate (a bit of abbreviation on the dialogue, but not on the songs).
The disc is single-sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 68:51. It's an excellent layer change, pretty much invisible, placed between scenes.
This disc has a single audio track, English, in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 kbps. Interestingly, the blurb on the back claims that this is a Dolby Digital Surround Stereo soundtrack — unusual to have it claim something less than what is present (the same error appears on the Region 1 cover, too).
The dialogue is quite clear and easy to understand. So are the songs. There are no obvious audio sync errors, even though all of the songs are lip-synced.
This is Meredith Willson's The Music Man, using his words and music. The orchestrations, by Ray Heindorf, won the only Oscar the movie received. There are 17 musical numbers in this movie, including some famous ones, such as Marion the Librarian, 76 Trombones, and You Got Trouble (Right Here in River City). There are some beautiful songs for Shirley Jones' extraordinary voice: Goodnight My Someone and Til There Was You. Not every song is sung by a good singer — I cringe every time I hear Wells Fargo Wagon — but the songs from The Buffalo Bills (for example) are brilliant. Ron Howard has to sing with a heavy lisp — I'm sure that's the reason he sounds so dreadful.
The surrounds are used briefly, but don't get heavy use. The subwoofer, on the other hand, gets plenty of opportunity to provide support for the low register.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is animated with music (a bit too loud). The menu doesn't come up at the start of the disc — it proceeds into the introduction, and then directly into the movie
Some biographical notes and filmographies for:
A lengthy retrospective making of shot in 1998. It's hosted by Shirley Jones, and has interviews with Onna White (choreographer), Susan Luckey (who played the mayor's daughter), and Buddy Hackett (he has since died). There are some interesting things brought to light, including the fact that the studio wanted a big name to play Harold Hill — their first choice was Frank Sinatra — but Meredith Willson told them that Robert Preston got the job or they could give up the idea of making the movie...
This is an interesting introduction by Shirley Jones, but it's unfortunate that it is not 16x9 enhanced — at the start of the disc we get a 16x9 enhanced Warner's logo, then this intro, then the 16x9 enhanced movie. If your display adjusts automatically, it will have a fit.
This is a delightful trailer, but rife with film artefacts — it makes the movie look really good.
A long trailer for another musical, this time starring Debbie Reynolds and Harve Presnell.
Ten pages of notes about the film.
Seven pages about the actor who played Winthrop — apparently he's better known as a director today...
A single page listing two of the awards the movie received. Although nominated for six Oscars, it only won one.
There are front cover shots of fourteen other films that they think might appeal.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
I was quite keen to get this movie on DVD, so I ordered the Region 1 disc when it was released in 1999. How does it compare with the Region 4 disc? Well, the disc is identical, except for the printed label — what a surprise! The only difference between them is that the Region 1 is in a snapper case, while the Region 4 is in a transparent Amaray, so the (small) advantage lies with the R4.
The Music Man is one of the great musicals of the 1960s.
The video quality is good, except for the nasty edge effect discussed above.
The audio quality is very good.
The extras are interesting.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|