Oklahoma! (1955)

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Released 23-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Production Notes
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 134:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Fred Zinneman
Studio
Distributor
Samuel Goldwyn
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Gordan MacRae
Shirley Jones
Rod Steiger
Gloria Grahame
Charlotte Greenwood
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Oscar Hammerstein II
Richard Rogers


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Oklahoma! would have to be one of my favourite musicals, and I was excited to hear that it would be released on DVD in Region 4. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have written some classic songs and some of the best musicals of all time (such as The Sound of Music, The King and I, Carousel), and I still think that Oklahoma! is one of their very best. The music is so catchy and the dance sequences are so energetic that one cannot help but get swept up in the vibe of the movie.

    The movie centres on the relationship between the energetic and confident Curly McLain (Gordan MacRae) and the beautiful Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones), and the problems they face with the decidedly evil farm hand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger). The story is set against the backdrop of the land rush days in Oklahoma, and begins with the classic song Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.

    The songs and dance sequences are what make this movie a classic. The story itself is rather simple, boiling down to two men fighting over the affections of a girl. But the movie has so many unique and interesting characters, such as the very funny Ado Annie (Gloria Graham) and the wise Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood).

    With other classic songs such as The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, I Cain't Say No, and People Will Say We're In Love, this DVD release should have been a must-have for all lovers of musicals. However, with a terrible video transfer and average audio quality that I will discuss below, the release of what should have been a fantastic DVD has turned into one of the biggest disappointments that I can remember. The treatment that has been given this movie in Region 4 is nothing short of a disgrace, and has completely ruined a classic movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I am so disappointed and angry with this transfer, and find it hard to believe that a distributor such as 20th Century Fox can have the audacity to release such a terrible transfer when a much better transfer has been available in Region 1 since 1999. Do they think that Region 4 consumers are idiots? To sum up right at the start, I have to say that this video transfer is of no better quality than VHS.

    The movie is presented in 1.33:1 Pan & Scan format, is not 16x9 enhanced, and absolutely butchers the original theatrical ratio of 2.55:1. The Pan & Scan used in this movie is so blatantly obvious and frequent that in some cases I almost got a headache watching all the fake and abrupt camera movements. What particularly annoys me is that the opening and closing credits are shown in the original aspect ratio (although not 16x9 enhanced), but the movie proper is shown using Pan & Scan. To rub salt into the wound, the phrase "Filmed in Cinemascope" is emblazoned across the screen during the opening credits. That phrase makes it clear that this version was derived from the 35mm version of the film, as opposed to the 70mm version, which was filmed in Todd-AO process.

    There are so many examples during the movie that demonstrate why watching a movie in its original aspect ratio is the only way to watch and appreciate a motion picture. The whole scene at the train station starting at 16:30 and concluding at 24:10 provides probably the worst example of Pan & Scan technique in the movie. There are many people participating in the dialogue and dance sequences, and it is clear that the cinematographer placed them perfectly in the frame. But this Pan & Scan transfer incorporates so many fake camera pans that it completely ruins the scene by first showing half of the frame, then abruptly panning across to the other side of the frame, and then back again!

    Now onto the other faults, of which there are many. The sharpness level varies throughout the movie, and ranges from really terrible to average. In fact, I have old VHS tapes that have a sharper picture than this. I know it's a very old movie, but this is a transfer problem and not an issue with the source material. Grain is present throughout, and in some instances is so apparent that it totally distracts the viewer (any scenes showing the blue sky highlights the level of grain in the transfer). Black levels are quite bad, with some scenes a distinct shade of grey. Many dark scenes also display a large amount of low level noise.

    Colour is yet another issue. In some cases it is not too bad, but there are many instances where the colour is washed-out and unnatural. I am not sure if this is inherent in the source material or an issue with the transfer. In any case, skin tones seem a little dull, while other colours, such as the costumes, are overly vibrant with some colour bleed evident.

    If you're looking for film artefacts, this is probably the DVD to view. I cannot remember one scene that did not contain black or white specks, or large vertical lines down the frame. There was one white speck that appeared near the centre of the screen at 3:45 and stayed until around 4:10; I found myself tracking it instead of watching the movie! Aliasing is not a problem since the transfer is so soft, but the text during the opening credits display a distinct and very annoying shimmering effect. Edge enhancement also pops up occasionally against buildings and hats.

    English subtitles are provided, and I found them quite useful to sing along to the songs. Actually, the subtitles are the only item that I am happy with.

    This is a RSDL-formatted disc, but I could not detect where the layer change occurred.

    In closing, the video transfer given to this classic movie is a disgrace. Considering that the 1999 Region 1 DVD release and the previous Laserdisc version were both given the THX remastering treatment and shown in widescreen format (although not 16x9 enhanced), there is no excuse why this particular transfer is being slapped in the face of Region 4 consumers. If someone told me that they just used an old VHS source for this DVD print, I would not be surprised at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     An English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) soundtrack is provided, and is also a disappointment.

    The dialogue is clear with no apparent audio synchronisation problems. However, it is obvious at times that the actors are lip-synching to a backing track when the songs begin, but this is not an issue with the transfer.

    Using Dolby Prologic II processing, the surround activity is a mixed bag. It is nice to hear the score emanating clearly from all speakers, but on-screen dialogue should only emanate from the front speakers. However, during the movie speech also emanates from all speakers creating an unnatural aural environment where the voice seems to be coming from all directions, not in front as it should.

    Subwoofer activity is non-existent throughout the movie.

    Again Region 4 consumers have been treated badly, with the Region 1 release providing a THX remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Why this track was not provided in the Region 4 release is also a disgrace.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer audio and video quality is quite bad, but at least that is consistent with the transfer of the main feature. Extraordinarily, the beginning of the trailer is actually presented with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced! But then for some reason the trailer reverts to 1.33:1 format and remains that way for the rest of the trailer.

Biographies - Cast & Crew

    This provides some textual information regarding the crew and the cast. The information given here is actually fairly interesting and provides a good background on the experience of the cast and crew.

Production Notes

    Just some textual information about the stage production and the film adaptation. Mildly interesting.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is an absolute no-brainer.

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    The fact that the Region 1 version was released 4 years ago, complete with new audio and video remastering, and the soon-to-be released Region 4 version does not, means that only the Region 1 version can be recommended. According to internet reviews, the audio and video quality of the Region 1 release is excellent. It is an absolute shame that 20th Century Fox has decided to release the movie in such a terrible manner in Region 4.

Summary

    Oklahoma! is a classic movie, and I certainly rank it as one of the best musicals of all time. The songs are unforgettable, and the dance sequences are sensational, particularly the step dancing routine during the train station scene. All in all, a fabulous film for the whole family completely ruined by a terrible transfer to DVD.

    The video quality is terrible, and does not do this movie justice.

    The audio quality is average, and could have been so much better.

    The extras are nothing particularly memorable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Chanh-Khai Ly (My biodegradable bio)
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP500, using Component output
DisplayRK-32HDP81. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD/DD-EX/DTS/DTS-ES matrix and discrete.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600
SpeakersKef KHT 2005 5.1 Home Theatre System

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Comments (Add)
Appalled. - Peter Morris (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
Rogers and Hammerstein releases: all of them! - REPLY POSTED
Re Oklahoma! - Terry (read my bio)
Everything's not up to date in Region 4 -
Everything's not up to date in Region 4 -