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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 77.36)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Cast/crew biographies - Julie Andrews bio
  • Production notes - Brief production notes

Victor/Victoria

Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 145 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Based on a 1930s German film – at the time little-known – writer/director Blake Edwards’ "Victor/Victoria" became a huge hit upon its release in 1982, the musical comedy earning composers Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse Academy Awards for their songs and musical score. Starring Edwards’ wife, Julie Andrews, in the title role, the film told the comedic story of frustrated British singer Victoria Grant arriving in 1930s Paris hoping to find singing work. She runs into Toddy, an over-the-top gay man with a penchant for cabaret lounges and the men that frequent them. Soon Toddy hits on an idea – if Victoria was to pretend to be a man, she could get work on the cabaret circuit – as a female impersonator!

Stylistically, the film was typical of Edwards’ ‘80s output – plenty of innuendo and double entendre against a constant backdrop of sexual politics. While that’s brought many of the director’s more recent films undone – particularly the awful Skin Deep – in Victor/Victoria the Edwards innuendo machine was right at home amongst the kinkiness and glitz of cabaret nightlife.

Edwards set about transforming his film into a Broadway stage show in the early ‘90s, composer Henry Mancini completing the score shortly before his death in June 1994 (this is his final work). Opening in October 1995 at the Marquis Theatre, the stage version of "Victor/Victoria" ran for nearly two years, with Julie Andrews in the lead role for over half that time (voice problems eventually forced her to hand over the role to Liza Minnelli). This video appears to have been shot on the opening night of the show.

In two acts and running just over two hours, the show encompasses all the Broadway hallmarks – singing, dancing, broad comedy and big production numbers – with flamboyance and precision. Everything about this show is slick, from the acting, singing and orchestral playing to the lighting and set design.

This reviewer is no big fan of Broadway musicals, and it was with trepidation that I sat down to watch this one. And while the characters’ habit of constantly bursting into song will annoy those not partial to this particular brand of entertainment, there’s enough here to entertain even the sceptical. Edwards’ talent for sight gags is used extensively here – as is his fondness for “sex comedy” with less successful results. The 60 year-old Andrews is obviously having a great time, but seems a little reserved in the role; supporting actress Rachel York is superb, though, as the hyperactive, high-pitched and definitively ditzy Norma Cassidy, and the best lines (and songs) are all hers.

If Broadway’s not your bag, this won’t change your mind – but if your heart beats faster at the slightest hint of a show tune, this is most certainly a disc to search out.

  Video
Contract

This video version of "Victor/Victoria" was produced for Japanese High Definition TV by that country’s leading broadcaster NHK. And with a hi-def video master as source material, the DVD version (letterboxed at 1.78:1 and enhanced for 16:9 displays) looks stunning. The images here are crystal-clear, the production’s sets and lighting gorgeously rendered in warm, saturated colours. There’s the occasional out-of-focus moment or strange camera movement, but these are minor – the overall effect here is very much like having a front-row seat in the theatre itself. The video is compressed well for DVD, with no artifacts visible at all throughout the production. The layer change – just before the second act – is well placed and not at all disruptive.

  Audio
Contract

Two audio mixes are provided here – a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (the default), and a two-channel Dolby Surround mix. The latter appears to be the original audio from the broadcast, with the 5.1 version credited as having been remixed in Miami by noted engineer David Frangioni. And even when listening through a Dolby Surround Pro-Logic system, the DD 5.1 track is the one to go for. It’s cleaner, warmer and more “present” than the 2-channel mix, with a far more natural sound stage. The 5.1 track downmixes extremely well to Dolby Surround.

  Extras
Contract

The minimal set of extras is restricted to text screens of a Julie Andrews bio and filmography and a brief overview of the production. These are listed on the menu screen as “special features”. This is optimism at its finest. Aside from these, the only other extra materials here are subtitles in every language except English, and a very annoying, non-skippable intro for a company named Aviva Entertainment, running 50 seconds and looking like it was created on an Amiga 500 (pressing “stop” and then “play” during this intro will take you straight to the main feature). Note that this disc is encoded at an extremely high bitrate and uses almost the entire dual-layer disc capacity; the resulting video quality makes the lack of extras completely forgivable.

  Overall  
Contract

If you’re a fan of Broadway shows in general and Julie Andrews in particular, you’ll be very happy with this disc – the image and sound quality is truly excellent, and it’s a shining example of how to successfully capture a stage show on video. Fans will want this one to watch repeatedly (the individual Mancini songs are chaptered for easy access), but for everyone else, renting the disc for the night will give you the cheapest front-row Broadway seats you’ve ever bought.


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