Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Musical Theatrical Trailer (2.56:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 1.0)
Featurette - Sobbin' Women: The Making Of... (34:48)
Rating g.gif (1187 bytes)
Year Released 1954
Running Time 97:50 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (54:44)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Stanley Donen
mgm.gif (3743 bytes)
Warner Home Video
Starring Jane Powell
Howard Keel
Jeff Richards
Russ Tamblyn
Tommy Rall
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Gene dePaul
Johnny Mercer

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.56:1 (Measured) Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9No.jpg (4709 bytes)
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
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is one of the first films I ever saw, and would have been the very first if not for a certain little drama set in outer space by the name of Star Wars. In the days when the Very Hazy System was the only option for those of us who wished to view films in the convenience and privacy of our own homes, a copy of this film saw so much use in the McIntosh household that the tape literally wore through. The film is based upon a story called The Sobbin' Women, written by Steven Vincent Benet, and is largely an excuse for a string of musical numbers and dances.

    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.

Transfer Quality


    It is worth noting that this particular film has quite an interesting history where photography is concerned, with every scene in the film having been shot twice in order to accommodate some theatres that were not capable of showing the film in its full widescreen aspect ratio. Three versions of this film exist on celluloid: the original 2.55:1 print, the 1.85:1 print that was issued to the aforementioned theatres which were unable to show the film in its proper ratio, and a re-issue in the ratio of 2.20:1, from a 70mm blow-up (the original negative was 35mm).

    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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Shadow Detail sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Colour sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Grain sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Film-To-Video Artefacts sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Film Artefacts sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)
Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)


    Accompanying an excellent restoration of a less-than-ideal video source is one of the best remixes to Dolby Digital 5.1 I have ever heard, especially given the age of the source material. The transfer is presented with three soundtracks: the original English dialogue, which has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1, and dubbings in French and Italian, both of which are in Dolby Digital 1.0, and sound very dull and lifeless by comparison. I listened to the English soundtrack, which also happens to be the default, and sampled the dubbings very briefly to see the difference the remixing had made.

    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Audio Sync sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Surround Channel Use sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Subwoofer sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)


    The quantity may be lacking, but the quality certainly isn't, although, given that Howard Keel is still alive today, it would have been nice if MGM had got him to sit down and recorded a commentary track.


    The menu is static, and lacking any enhancement. Adding insult to injury on the 4x3 transfer of the film is the fact that the menu screens are 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20)

    This trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced, and it contains a moderate amount of film artefacts.

Featurette - Sobbin' Women: The Making Of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (34:48)

    Presented in Full Frame, with some footage presented in 1.66:1, 2.35:1 and 2.55:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this featurette is also not 16x9 Enhanced. It does, however, provide an excellent demonstration of how much the Pan & Scan process destroys the beauty of a well-photographed film. The picture is somewhat soft, and the sound is somewhat lacking in fidelity, but the end result is more than watchable, especially considering how many insights it offers into the production.

R4 vs R1

    This title was released by MGM in Region 1 mid-last year, but has since been discontinued and re-released by Warner Home Video, with no reviews available on-line. Nonetheless, there appear to be a few minor differences between the Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this disc.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
  • RSDL Formatting
  • Summary

        Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is quite rightly considered by many to be one of the best musicals of all time. It is presented on an excellent DVD, but I still recommend giving it a miss until Warner Brothers get their head out of the sand and reissue it with a 16x9 transfer.

        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.

    Ratings (out of 5)

    Video sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
    Audio sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
    Extras sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)
    Plot sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
    Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)

    © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
    September 15, 2000

    Review Equipment
    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)
    Amplification Sony STR-DE835
    Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer