My sophomore year in college I started working for the university dinner theatre via the work study program. The previous semester I’d worked for the library and found it extraordinarily dull. I wasn’t all that interested in the theatre at that point, but I was happy to no longer be staring at book spines all day. Turns out, I absolutely adored the theatre work and stayed there the rest of my academic career.
It was a small school and an even smaller theatre so I was often called upon to help out with the various productions we put on. I ran the box office, found props, built sets, ran the lights, and whenever we produced big musicals, I often found myself on the stage performing in the chorus or just being another body to fill some space.
In the summers we always did one of the big Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. My first summer there we did The Sound of Music. Despite it being my mother's favorite movie of all time and a hugely popular musical, I’d never seen it. I don’t think I’d seen anything by Rodgers or Hammerstein at that point. I think I knew “Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” but that was only due to the Clairol commercial.
I had tons of fun working on the show, though. I built my very first staircase, did a lot of painting, stayed up for about 48 hours the nights before the opening, and played Franz, the Butler in it. If you’ve only seen the movie, Franz has a lot more lines in the stage production though he’s really just used to usher people on and off the stage. My lines mostly consisted of me letting someone know they had a telephone call or to announce dinner. I’d come out, say my line, and help bring folks off the stage to set the next scene.
Years later, I was able to visit Salzburg, Austria and see the land where the real von Trapps lived and where all of those iconic scenes from the movie were filmed. It is an absolutely beautiful city with many stunning vistas. We of course pretended to be the children and ran through the gardens, frolicked in the open spaces, and sang our hearts out like all the other tourists there.
I say all this to show just how large a part of my life The Sound of Music has been over the years. It is not my favorite film, or musical, or even Rodgers and Hammerstein show, but it is just lovely and so beautiful to look at. We went to my mother’s the other day and watched the movie together with my daughter. She was a bit too young to really understand most of it but she enjoyed dancing to the music and singing along with all of us. I suspect we’ll be doing that again and again over the years.
I’m not alone in my affection for the musical and the movie, of course. Millions all over the world are just as enchanted with it. The stage version first opened in 1959 but it is the movie that stays with us and it debuted 50 years ago. To celebrate they’ve got a big five-disk Blu-ray Edition. It's true though that they did a big Blu-ray edition five years ago for the 45th (and will likely do another for the 55th and so on). This one was apparently mastered by scanning the original print negatives in 8K then compressed the to 4K but I’m not sure how much better quality a 50-year-old movie can look. It's full of extras like sing-alongs, audio commentaries, and a documentary with Julie Andrews returning to Salzburg, but it's difficult to tell which of these are new and which ones are old.
After a while, the newer and newer editions become less interesting once you’ve got a copy. Sometimes, the new extras make it worth it, depending on how much you love a film, but eventually you just aren’t getting that much more for your buck. I don’t blame the movie companies for trying to squeeze out a few more pennies from their franchises though it is obnoxious they aren’t more up front with the the repackaging of older material. For me and my money, I’ll be adding this version to my wish list as it looks like the best one currently available and since I don’t actually own a copy (I’ve always relied on my mother's old DVD set) I think I can’t go wrong here.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb: I’ve not seen any of these films past the first one, but it was harmless enough and I suspect my daughter will enjoy it in a few years. Which means I’ll probably be grabbing them all in a bundle sometime soon.
The Red Tent: A story based upon Biblical characters but whose narrative is mostly new and made up. Normally, I stay away from that sort of thing but this one has Minnie Driver and Iain Glen so color me interested.
WolfCop: Bad, bad movie reviewed really well here.