MSN Exclusive Clip: 'West Side Story' Turns 50 with a Blu-ray Debut
Everything's Blu in America!
Life is all right in America when you can celebrate the "West Side Story: 50th Anniversary Edition" (Fox) with a Blu-ray debut, though there is a production issue that make this edition just "mostly right." Details after the clip.
See below for an MSN Exclusive clip from the Blu-ray
Playwright Arthur Laurents, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and composer Leonard Bernstein collaborated to turn "Romeo and Juliet" into a modern story of rival gangs on the streets of 1950s inner city New York, where the whites and the Puerto Ricans battle for supremacy. Robert Wise co-directs the screen adaptation with stage choreographer Jerome Robbins, and he gives Robbins a free hand to let dance and movement dominate, while Leonard Bernstein’s score is, simply put, one of the greatest in musical history.
The Blu-ray comes in two editions. The three-disc Blu-ray+DVD features the extras of the previous DVD special editions (the hour-long documentary "West Side Memories," storyboard-to-film comparisons) plus new supplements: "A Place for Us: West Side Story’s Legacy," a half-hour featurette that looks back on the impact and influence of the original show and the film; "Pow! The Dances of West Side Story," a picture-in-picture track that engages for the dance numbers; song specific commentary by lyricist Stephen Sondheim; and a jukebox function to jump directly to the songs. The documentaries are presented in a separate disc.
Here's a clip from "A Place for Us: West Side Story’s Legacy" featured on the Blu-ray.
The Deluxe Edition doesn't offer much more than the regular Blu-ray, and certainly nothing essential. The standard plastic case is replaced by a foldout digibook with slipsleeve trays and includes a bonus CD tribute, but it's limited to a mere 8 songs. The set comes in a box that also features a 40-page hardcover booklet with notes and photos and an envelope with postcard reproductions of film posters from around the world. Fun for the "West Side" fanatic but of nominal interest to everyone else and, by my measure, not worth the hefty price increase.
The transfer is gorgeous and the image and sound is getting high marks from the critics I trust to measure and judge technical quality (see Robert Harris at Home Theater Forum and Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver), but there is a small but significant error in the presentation of the opening credits: The dissolve from the stylized skyline to the Main Title has been replaced by a fade-to-black and then a fade into the Main Titles.
Fox is not recalling the sets but has promised to provide what they call a "running fix" and replace the faulty discs at a later date, which means that if you purchase the set now, you will have to follow-up late and arrange for a replacement to get the correct edition. For more details on the problem (and the blame), check out the research by Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere.
Why does something so small matter? Because the job of a Blu-ray is to honor the film and bring you as accurate a representation of an ideal film screening experience as possible within the bounds of the format. Some issues are simply a matter of the materials available. This gaffe is a production error, however, and is correctable.