20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 134 mins .
G . PAL
Oklahoma! is a standout classic in the musical genre and is a welcome addition to the DVD format. Containing memorable songs such as Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, Surrey With a Fringe on Top, Just a Girl That Canít Say No and the title song Oklahoma!, this musical rates up there with classics such as The Sound of Music, The King and I, Carousel and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Taking this into account, one would expect this terrific film to get a wonderful treatment for its DVD release Ė sadly, however, it doesnít. More about that in the video and audio sections, but first more about the film for those that havenít experienced it as yet.
Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain.
Written by musical supremos Rodgers and Hammerstein, the story for this musical is quite simple. Not surprisingly it is based in Oklahoma and tells the story of the relationship between cowboy Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae) and Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones). They are both obviously smitten with each other, but struggle to get together through each others' pride getting in the way. There is also another problem in their relationship, that of farmhand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger) who is desperately in love with Laurey and tries to win her affection. The fighting between Jud and Curly for Laureyís affection is the driving force of this story.
The story may be simple, but it is the songs that make this musical work. Add to these classic songs some wonderfully choreographed dance sequences and lovers of this genre will attest to the drawing power of this film. The characters are lovable including the wonderful Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood) and Ado Annie (Gloria Grahame), adding to the main three characters.
"I wanted to marry her when I saw the moonlight shining on the barrel of her father's shotgun!"
This is a wonderful film and the few lovers of this genre that are yet to see it are truly missing out. It doesnít quite reach the heights of Carousel or The Sound of Music in this reviewer's opinion, but it is definitely up there. The big disappointment though is the pitiful transfer that this classic film has been given. One could normally argue that the source material available may have been the cause, but when the Region 1 equivalent has been given a decent transfer, the thought of recommending this release for purchase quickly changes to rental only at best.
A classic film such as this would, of course, be in a glorious widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 wouldnít it? Well not here it isnít! This pitiful presentation is in good old pan and scan with a quality no better than an old VHS copy. The film actually begins in a letterbox style through the opening titles but quickly jumps to a full frame pan and scan visual tragedy. Watching a film such as this in pan and scan proves what a disaster this type of transfer can be. Many scenes warrant a widescreen view to simply show everything that is going on, the viewer is left feeling deprived of so much. Perhaps there is a perception that R4 viewers will buy anything? Think again!
Why I do declare you have the shadow of a prop guy on your dress!
Now onto the other faults, of which there are many. Film artefacts are aplenty in the form of white flecks and the like and although this can be expected for a film made in 1955, you will struggle to find a scene without fault. Sharpness is also a problem, varying throughout. Colours are generally acceptable, but do vary with some scenes looking decidedly washed out with black levels also being poor. There is one positive with this transfer though, aliasing is non-existent. Subtitles are supplied in English and were very accurate to the dialogue and lyrics on screen.
The audio is better than the video transfer, but is still disappointing. It comes in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix which does an OK job but, again, the R1 release featured a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, something this film deserves. Dialogue is reasonably clear throughout, as are lyrics. The only problem with these is the strong accents used and abbreviations of words but these are not a fault of the transfer so can be excused. Overall this mix does an average job, which is a disappointment for a film based around music and song, something that should be given a solid audio mix.
Extras for this release consist of a theatrical trailer of equal quality to the main feature but is at least in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and 16:9 enhanced. There is also a biographies section consisting of text pages on the cast and crew. Lastly we have some production notes made up of several text pages that offer a little interesting information.
It really is a travesty to see a film of this quality given such a poor transfer. The film is wonderful and truly worth seeing, but with this sort of transfer, viewers will be so distracted by the faults on screen and the vision they are missing out on from the poor pan and scan that the enjoyment will be lost. If you are desperate to see this film again and can cope with an old VHS quality presentation then by all means rent this, but please donít assume because it is on DVD format that it will be worth purchasing because it really isnít. My suggestion would be to import the R1 version and get your money's worth.