South Pacific (1958)

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Released 23-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Featurette-Movietone News Premiere
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Production Notes
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 151:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Joshua Logan
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Rossano Brazzi
Mitzi Gaynor
John Kerr
Ray Walston
Juanita Hall
France Nguyen
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $31.95 Music Oscar Hammerstein II
Richard Rogers

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.20:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.20:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     South Pacific was the only Rogers and Hammerstein movie musical that I had never seen, and so I was excited to review this disc. To be quite honest, I was rather disappointed with the movie itself, and in no way rank it as highly as The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, or The King and I. The story and music, in my opinion, were just not up the immensely high standards of the other musicals mentioned.

    The two love stories in this movie are set against the backdrop of World War II across the Pacific islands. The movie begins with the young Lt. Joseph Cable (John Kerr) being sent on a mission to an island occupied by the US Navy to investigate the movements of the Japanese forces in the neighbouring regions. However, his story is not the main story arc in the movie. The central arc lies with the love story between the Frenchman Emile de Becque (Rossano Brazzi) and the American nurse Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor).

    The US Navy are interested in Emile due to his intimate knowledge of the surrounding islands, and try to convince him to join Lt. Cable on a reconnaissance mission. However, he refuses due to his love for Nellie. While this occurs, Lt. Cable is able to take a trip to a neighbouring island where the mysterious Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall) introduces him to her beautiful daughter Liat (France Nguyen). They immediately fall in love, but Lt. Cable unwisely refuses to marry Liat. Meanwhile, Nellie discovers details of Emile's past that upset her, and she runs away from him. As a result, he agrees to follow Lt. Cable on the mission, whereby events will occur that shape the future of both couples.

    I found the love story between Lt. Cable and Liat to be quite unbelievable. There is not enough character development for the relationship, and it is hard to care about what happens to both of them during the story. In fact, I believe that most of their story could have been cut from the movie to its betterment. It certainly would have cut into the long running time of the movie, which is excessive. The love story between Emile and Nellie is more involved and believable. It also raises some interesting racial issues that were pleasantly surprising for a movie of this age.

    I was expecting the songs in this movie to be memorable in the same way that those in the other musicals are, but I was disappointed. The classic songs such as Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Hai, and I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair were not very catchy nor instantly likeable. The choreography was also sorely lacking in this movie. In fact, the finger clicking motion during the Happy Talk song was particularly cringe-worthy.

    Overall, I did not enjoy South Pacific as much as I have enjoyed other Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. The story was such that it was difficult for me to relate to and get involved with the characters, and for the most part I found the movie to be rather boring and ponderous. However, it is considered a classic by many, and as I will describe below, is given a satisfactory transfer to DVD.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality overall is satisfactory, but leaves one feeling that it could have been better.

    The movie is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.20:1, differing only marginally from the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.21:1. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced which is disappointing. Similarly to Oklahoma!, South Pacific was also filmed using the Todd-AO process which was the fashionable method of cinematography at the time.

    The sharpness level throughout the movie was generally very good, although in some cases the image did become a little soft. For a film of this age, it was pleasing to note only a small amount of grain that appeared now and then. Black levels and shadow detail did not fare so well with some scenes, such as the walk though the forest around 75:00 displaying various shades of grey instead of blacks and a lack of detail in the low light.

    The major issue I have with this transfer is the colour, but most of the issues may in fact be related to the source material and how the director intended the scenes to look. There are many occasions where the colours used in a scene seem very unnatural and oversaturated, but the preceding and following scenes are natural. One sequence that provides a good example begins at 21:42 and ends at 25:40, where the colour scheme transitions from quite natural to a distinct shade of purple, then yellow, then green, then blue, and finally back to normal. This I believe is an artistic choice made by the filmmakers, but I cannot see the need for it since it did not actually provide any extra visual impact to the scenes that would not have already been present if the whole sequence had been rendered in more normal colours. In any case, with such a variation in colour schemes during scenes, it was hard to judge the quality of the colour transfer. Artistic or not, I still believe the colours were too saturated and unnatural.

    Skin tones for the most part are OK, but on some occasions are definitely oversaturated with some of the sailors looking like beetroots. There were a number of occasions where the video seemed to skip for a frame or two (eg. the instance at 78:35 was quite abrupt), but this did not affect the audio in any way. With some of these video skips however, such as the instance at 22:36, a change in the colour was noticeable when resuming after the skip.

    There were occasions when there appeared to be problems with the brightness level. Beginning at 15:30 and continuing for about 30 seconds, the image appeared to flicker in brightness in much the same way as would occur due to Macrovision protection. Fortunately, this was the worst example and others occurred only briefly.

    A number of film artefacts mar the transfer, with white and black flecks popping up intermittently throughout the film. They are not too distracting, but occur enough to note. White vertical lines can also be seen on a number of occasions, with the worst example at 23:20 remaining on screen for about 20 seconds. Aliasing appears rarely, and is mainly confined to wooden blinds. Edge enhancement also rears its ugly head on a number of occasions, but is not too annoying.

    English subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired, but do not follow the on screen dialogue at all times. It appears that the writers of the subtitles did not agree with the incorrect grammar of some of the Polynesians, and saw fit to correct them.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, but I could not detect the layer change. It may be that the layer change occurred during the intermission at 92:42, but this time is later than most layer changes these days. In any case, there is no disruptive interruption wherever the layer change occurs.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is provided at a bit rate of 384 Kb/s, but the format is definitely not used to full advantage.

    Dialogue is usually clear and no audio synchronisation problems are detectable. Stereo separation across the front speakers is generally well done, but in some cases seems a little excessive. There are times when characters are only slightly to the left or right of the frame, but the voice emanates directly from the left or right speaker. However, I believe this faithfully replicates the soundtrack as heard during the theatrical release and so is acceptable.

    The voices during the singing sequences are also generally good, but in some cases sound a little muffled. One example occurred at 34:50 where the voices are more difficult to hear and there is a noticeable drop in volume. This scene involved the thoughts of the characters being sung, and not the actors actually singing out loud, and so this muffled sound may be yet another artistic decision.

    For a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the surrounds are very quiet indeed, and are not called into action for the majority of the movie. They are at times active in supporting the music, but the only real noteworthy scene would be the fighter plane fly-by at 130:00.

    Similarly, the subwoofer is also inactive for all but a few scenes in the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Movietone News Premiere - 1:13

    This short clip shows the original TV spot introducing the cast, crew, and studio executives that walked down the red carpet at the premiere of South Pacific. It is in black and white and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Cast and Crew

    This provides various notes about the background of the cast and crew. Mildly interesting, with nice clear text.

Production Notes

     This provides some information about the development of the script, Broadway musical, and of course the motion picture. It was interesting to note that the story was first intended to be a non-musical drama. As it was developed, those involved realised that it would make a good musical and brought in Rogers and Hammerstein to provide the music.

R4 vs R1

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

    The only difference between the Region 4 and Region 1 releases would appear to be that the Region 1 version has been given the THX digital remastering treatment. Both do not provide 16x9 enhancement which is very disappointing for a movie classic. I am not sure that the remastering would provide that much of an improvement to the Region 4 release, and so would still recommend the Region 4 version.


    South Pacific is considered to be a classic musical by many, but honestly I found the story to be quite boring. Some of the story elements just didn't work for me and in my opinion could have been removed completely to make a less ponderous film. The music and songs are definitely not up to the standard of other Rogers and Hammerstein musicals such as The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, or The King and I. However, this DVD is probably the best the movie has ever looked and sounded, so it is recommended for fans.

    The video quality is satisfactory, but could have been better. The lack of 16x9 enhancement is disappointing.

    The audio quality is satisfactory, and replicates the theatrical soundtrack well enough.

    The extras are nothing particularly memorable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Chanh-Khai Ly (My biodegradable bio)
Saturday, May 10, 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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