Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A Man Can't Sleep When He Sleeps With Sheep

I promise not to let this turn into a DVD announcements blog, but with so many older movies coming out on DVD it's hard to find a time when there's not a notable DVD announcement. Anyway, the latest one is a new DVD of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; it's due out on October 12 and includes:

Disc One:
Audio Commentary by Stanley Donen
MGM Jubilee Overture (1954 MGM "30th Anniversary" Theatrical Short Subject shot
in CinemaScope and Technicolor, featuring the M-G-M Symphony Orchestra, led by
Johnny Green, playing a medley of eleven well-known songs used in some of the
studio's best-known musicals. Presented in a new 16x9 2.55 anamorphic transfer
with 5.1 digital audio)
Stanley Donen Trailer Gallery: On the Town 1949, Royal Wedding 1951, Singin' in
the Rain 1952, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954, It's Always Fair Weather
1955, The Pajama Game 1957, Damn Yankees! 1958

Disc Two:
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Rarely-seen 1.77:1 alternate Widescreen Version
Updated and revised cast and crew documentary Sobbin' Women: The Making of
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, hosted by Howard Keel and featuring new
interviews with Jane Powell and Jacques D'Amboise
Radio City Music Hall Premiere - July 22, 1954
MGM's 30th Anniversary (1954 MGM Newsreel)

Seven Brides was one of a number of early CinemaScope movies that was simultaneously shot in two versions: the widescreen CinemaScope version and the "flat"-screen version, made in case CinemaScope didn't catch on. The two versions involved separate takes for separate cameras, with the result that they are two separate, independently-existing versions of the film. The Robe was filmed this way too, as was Brigadoon. And Oklahoma! had two separate widescreen versions, one in the then-new Todd-AO process, the other in CinemaScope.

I haven't seen the "flat" version, but I'm looking forward to it, because I think the use of CinemaScope is a weakness of the usually-seen version of Seven Brides. While CinemaScope soon became standard for musicals, it's not really a congenial format; that wide, wide screen is too big for the standard musical-comedy number with one solo singer or two people in love. Directors and choreographers forced to shoot a musical in CinemaScope would often resort to putting extra furniture on opposite sides of the frame just to fill the space. Now, with Seven Brides you can argue that the 'Scope format is more appropriate because it allows all seven brides and/or seven brothers to be seen in the same shot, but personally I'd trade that for the opportunity to see Jane Powell sing without acres and acres of set on either side of her. So I have a feeling it's the "flat" version I'll be watching more often.

I guess I shouldn't let this go without mentioning the Monty Python sketch where a school performs its own version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. "Right, do you four boys take these two girls to be your seven brides?" "We do." "Right, go and do your prep."

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