|Category||Musical||Theatrical Trailer (2.56:1, non-16x9,
Dolby Digital 1.0)
Featurette - Sobbin' Women: The Making Of... (34:48)
|Running Time||97:50 Minutes|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.56:1 (Measured)||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||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)
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.55:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The film begins with Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) riding into town in order to do business, as well as find a wife, which gives rise to some of the most hilarious dialogue about marriage and courtship I've heard in a long, long time. As the title suggests, Adam has six younger brothers, all of whom are unwed and live with him on a farm a dozen miles out of town where they grow grain and behave in a manner totally inconsistent with how six grown men living together would behave, as only a film from the mid-1950s would depict. Adam manages to convince a young woman named Milly (Jane Powell) to marry him, which she does in a private ceremony at her family's house. When she goes with Adam back to his farm, however, she only then discovers that he has six brothers, and that they are quite an uncouth mob of young men at that. In no particular order, Adam's brothers are Benjamin (Jeff Richards), Gideon (Russ Tamblyn), Frankinsence (Tommy Rall), Daniel (Marc Platt), Caleb (Matt Mattox), and Ephraim (Jacques d'Amboise).
Milly, horrified at the uncouth behaviour of Adam's siblings, sets out to reform them, and they become anxious to find wives of their own. After reading about the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam develops an inspired, or insane, depending on how you see it, solution: to kidnap the women they want. I'm pretty sure that, given the genre and era of the film, you can work out the rest of the plot without too much trouble. It's a fairytale-like story, but one that works surprisingly well in spite of the creeping sense of unreality one gets from the music and acting. It is worth noting that lyricist Johnny Mercer and composer Gene dePaul won an Oscar for their efforts on this film's score, which is really the whole point of the film, anyway. Michael Kidd's choreography is also done quite well, although the barn-raising and the big fight scene that ends this sequence sees the brothers changing locations at an impossibly rapid rate. It is also worth noting that Matt Mattox's singing was dubbed by Bill Lee, for reasons that I could really only speculate about, although it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Mattox was unable to sing.
Obviously, this film relies a lot more on the strength of its music and choreography than its acting or effects, which certainly adds to the short-term charm of the film. Indeed, what passes for effects here can be considered quite laughable by today's standards, with the background in the sequence at 12:51 quite clearly being hand-painted. The acting is functional, but hardly what I would call inspired, which makes the dubbing of Matt Mattox's singing all the more mysterious. Surely if the intention was to rely on singing and dancing rather than acting in the traditional sense, it would have made more sense to hire a trained vocalist for the part rather than an actor who cannot sing? Still, if you're into film nostalgia, or enjoy musicals, then this film comes highly recommended, as it is one of the best, with a long history attached to it in the bargain.
This DVD version is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.55:1 and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Normally, I would not declare a transfer to be unforgivably flawed on the basis of this one omission, but the resultant loss in resolution is great indeed. Having said that much, however, the only other format I have seen this film in was VHS, and the loss of picture content that resulted from the Pan & Scan process (roughly 65%) is far more appalling than the loss in resolution. Still, this picture would look a lot better if it were 16x9 Enhanced. It is also worth noting that this film has clearly been taken from a print source, but unlike the other film I've reviewed that has been sourced from such material (Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex...), this is forgivable because it is clear that some work has gone into restoring the print. It is also quite reasonable to believe that no earlier-generation source material exists.
The transfer is quite crisp and sharp except for one small detail, namely the backgrounds. As I indicated in the plot summary, much of the film consists of shots in which the background is actually a hand-painted piece of canvas. This is probably because the film was shot on a soundstage rather than on location, which would probably have been the best solution to the problem of simulating the setting as it was in 1850. The shadow detail is poor, but this is more a problem with the film stock used in the mid 1950s than any fault of the transfer. Given that nearly all of the film takes place in well-lit conditions, this is a minor problem at the worst of times. Low-level noise was not found at any point in the transfer, a fact that I especially noticed, given how noise-ridden the VHS version I watched frequently as a child was.
The colour saturation can be described as overly rich, but this is more of a problem with the film stock, and a common one in films of this age. The transfer is simply reflective of the source material in this regard, with no bleeding, misregistration, or fading apparent.
MPEG artefacts were completely absent from the film, reflecting the high bitrate that has been afforded to the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were similarly non-existent, although this may have more to do with the fact that there are very little opportunities for aliasing. No actual wobble is discernible in the picture at any time, but there is the occasional mis-aligned frame. Film artefacts were abundant, but mostly nonintrusive, except for the occasional whopper like the nasty-looking green scratch across the bottom-right corner of the frame at 10:05. A reel change marking is present at 16:58, and two others were noted during the forty-seventh minute of the film.
This disc is presented in the RSDL
format, with the layer change taking place at 54:44.
This is during a natural fade-to-black, so it is completely nonintrusive
in spite of the fact that it is rather noticeable.
The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, in direct contrast to the VHS tape of the film that I last viewed about fifteen years ago, where the frequency limited monaural soundtrack became progressively harder to make out with each viewing. There is a mild low-frequency hiss apparent in the soundtrack at all times, but when the music and sound effects are in full swing, it is easily drowned out. Exactly why this hiss is in the soundtrack, I am not entirely sure, but it is not present in the dubbed soundtracks. Before you get the impression I am complaining about that, however, I must point out that distortion picked up the slack for the hiss in the dubbed soundtracks, especially in the Italian dub. This is probably due to the fact that several sounds are being played through a single channel at any one time, rather than any fault of the transfer.
The audio sync was spot-on, at least as far as the dialogue was concerned, with some of the sound effects being out of sync with the onscreen action by about a quarter of a second. Like pretty much all of the other problems with the video and audio transfer, this is more a reflection of the way the film was made than any fault of the transfer.
The score music was composed by Gene dePaul, with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer, and it is pretty much the whole point of the film. The score music really benefits from the 5.1 remix, with the music sounding as clear and natural from each channel as if the orchestra was playing right there in my home theatre. The only real criticism I have of the score is that it is very difficult to discern the difference between the music from one scene and the music from another. This doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment value of the score, but it does hinder the score in terms of standing on its own.
The surround channels were constantly active in order
to support the music, which really helped the film in a big way. While
the music was the only part of the soundtrack that received any redirection
to the surround channels, the usage of these channels gave the music more
room to breathe, and thus gave the film a whole new life. This is quite
simply a reference example of how to take a film that was originally presented
in stereo, or even mono in some theatres, and remix the sound into six
channels. The subwoofer was present for a surprisingly large portion of
the film, adding a nice, rich bottom end to the music and the occasional
sound effect. It really came to life during the avalanche at 69:12,
making a sound that gave the scene a whole new level of believability.
|Surround Channel Use|
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The video quality is excellent for a film of this age, let down only by a few too many film artefacts and the limitations of a 4x3 transfer.
The audio quality is a stunning example of how a 5.1 remix should be done.
The extras are limited, but of great quality.
© Dean McIntosh (my
sucks... read it anyway)
September 15, 2000
|DVD||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|