According to the studio, West Side Story has undergone hundreds of hours of restoration for this Blu-ray release - a fact that shines through in the Blu-ray's sumptuous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 2.20:1 encode. This new restoration excels with the film's combination of thick grain, waxy colours and ultra-deep blacks. Most telling of all is the gym dance (Chapter 7), a particularly troublesome sequence with heavily-saturated reds, which are rendered perfectly stable in this Blu-ray encode, with even Maria's virginal white dress unaffected by bleed. But there are fade issues with Saul Bass' credit sequence that the studio has prompted to release corrected discs in the future (no specific date yet). No doubt, this version is much better than the previous DVD edition, but somehow lacks the slam-dunk transfer it should be. (4.5/5)
The audio comes with DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless mix. Unsurprisingly, it's the musical numbers get the best out of the enhanced frequency range and tonal precision offered by this lossless presentation. And while the track is clearly more expansive that the original sound design, it never feels artificial or forced. Use of the rears is actually pretty subtle and atmospheric rather than overtly aggressive. A fine example is the opening of the song Maria (Chapter 10), where the echoes carry into the rears before the rest of the music opens up across the entire soundfield. You can all sing along with most of the songs, like Maria, Tonight, America, I Feel Pretty and Somewhere. The total score (music, Leonard Bernstein and lyrics, Stephen Sondheim) also sounded perfect.
It should be noted that the original six-track mix of West Side Story was found early last year (it has been lost for decades). Good news, right? Well, not really. Fox didn't think it was worth the investment to utilize this newly-discovered mix, instead sticking with a lossless incarnation of the mix that was used for the film's DVD release. So, does West Side Story sound great here? Of course. Is it a definitive mix for the film? Absolutely not. (4.5/5)
In 1962, West Side Story won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture (Robert Wise), Best Director (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins: this was the first time the Best Director's award was being shared. This would not happen again until 46 years later, when Joel Coen and Ethan Coen shared the award for No Country for Old Men.), Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), Best Costume Design (Irene Sharaff, who also won Oscars in The King And I, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, An American In Paris, and Cleopatra), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Music Score. Of course, the soul of the movie was the very young Natalie Wood. (5/5)
The West Side Story Original Soundtrack album is the All-Time Number 1 album as far as longevity at Number 1 position is concerned...a unbelievable 54 weeks at Number 1. The all-time sale champion Thriller by Michael Jackson only racked up 37 weeks at Number 1. Natalie Wood's singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon. Richard Beymer's singing voice was dubbed by Jimmy Bryant.
Opening dance sequences were shot on the upper west side of Manhattan where Lincoln Center stands today. This area was condemned and the buildings were in the process of being demolished to make way for Lincoln Center. The demolition of these buildings was delayed so that the filming of these sequences could be completed.
Did you know that Robert Wise's original choice to play Tony was none other than Elvis Presley himself?
Audrey Hepburn was offered the role of Maria, but she turned it down, because she was pregnant with Sean H. Ferrer at the time.
Throughout the movie, Natalie Wood wears a bracelet on her left wrist, not for any aesthetic reason, but because she had injured her wrist on in the scene of The Green Promise when she fell on the bridge that collapsed during the severe rainstorm, causing an unsightly bone protrusion on her wrist. She wore the bracelet to hide the injury. It became her trademark in all of her movies.
This 50th anniversary boxed set is about the same size as that of Star Wars The Complete Saga, and The Lord Of The Rings Extended Cut. I display them together with the larger size ones (Wizard Of Oz, Ben Hur, Ten Commandments, Gone With The Wind and The Sound Of Music). Included in this 4 disc set are a hardcover book with rare beautiful photos and forward by producer Walter Mirisch, theatrical posters from around the world in 10 collectible postcards (wow!), exclusive tribute CD with covers from Julie Andrews (I Feel Pretty), Gloria Estefan with Dave Grusin (Tonight), the Original Broadway Cast (Gee, Officer Krupke), Charlotte Church (Somewhere), Mandy Patinkin (Something's Coming), Jonathan Butler & Dave Gruson (Maria), Tuck & Patti (One Hand, One Heart), and Maynard Ferguson (Maria). This box set is a truly collector's item and all the above will be treasured. This box set is highly recommended.
I pre-ordered this box set as soon as it was posted and the price then was $47.99. The price has since gone up to $62.99, now lowered to $49.99. The key here is to pre-order as early as possible. If you want to know other tips that I have learned along the way to get the cheapest price while shopping at Amazon.ca, please read my humble advice posted at the end of the Cars 2 (5-disc combo edition) blu ray review. Happy shopping.
As I noted in my review that in the opening sequence, the colour faded to black. This was done in error. The correct version should have no black frame at all. Now Fox has agreed to exchange the defective disc for free. Please follow the following instruction if you have the defective disc (both Blu ray and DVD):
Call Fox Customer care: 1-888-223-4369. The email address for foxcustomercare only applies to US residents. The receptionist will take down your name and address, plus email address, plus the UPC code at the back of the box set. (So have the disc or box set ready when you call). I was told that a return label will be included in the email. Then, return the entire box with the return label on the outside. Then simply give it to the local UPS office. Hopefully, a new set with the correct discs will arrive in the mail.
If you are buying this set in the store, read the UPC. The UPC with the corrected disc is as follows:
Single disc: correct UPC - 88390424523082
Box set: correct UPC - 88390424521681
I shall update you if there is further development. Good luck.
MORE UPDATE (March 19, 2012):
For those people awaiting the exchange program in Canada, I was reassured by Fox Customer Service that at this time, arrangement for exchange from Canada is still not ready, and that I would receive their stamp-free label in the email to mail back the defective box (all discs) and Fox will return the corrected box to us. For those of you that has not bought the box at the beginning, check the UPC at the time of purchase. I am sure that the items available now are all corrected version. I hope this update is helpful to you.
MORE UPDATE ABOUT REPLACEMENT PROGRAM: (May 10, 2012)
Fox Customer Service has finalized the replacement program in Canada. Through email, I was notified by Fox Customer Service that a specified courier company would notify me to pick up my defective set. Within a day or two, my defective box set was picked by that courier company. On May 8, 2012, I was notifed via email that a brand new replacement box set has been sent out. I am looking forward to receiving this new box set. I did not have to pay a single cent to have my defective box set replaced. Hopefully, I shall receive this new replacement box set soon. Many many thanks, Fox, for job well done.
Update (May 14, 2012)
Shorting after the above update, the brand new box set was delivered by courier to my home. Again, I did not spend a single cent in this exchange. Fox is indeed very classy. Thanks again, Fox.
The replacement box set was for those who bought it when it was first released. There is no such defect problem in the current box set being sold on Amazon.ca. Good luck!
on May 15, 2002
This overrated classic musical lifts Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" storyline, and muddles it with a cold romance and gangs that were dated even at the film's world premiere.
Riff (Russ Tamblyn) is the leader of the Jets, who are constantly having run-ins with Bernardo's (George Chakiris) Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Planes and fish don't mix, and things come to a head when the gangs are at a dance when Bernardo's sister Maria (Natalie Wood) meets the Jets' cofounder and Riff's best friend, Tony (Richard Beymer).
Tony is trying to clean up his act, backing away from all the street dancing, but he is immediately smitten with Maria. A jet and a shark cannot be lovers, and since no one in the film has read "Romeo and Juliet," no one knows what will happen...P>Eventually, the film does ape Shakespeare, partially. ...
The positives are what made the film a classic. The songs are excellent, using Stephen Sondheim's lyrics to carry the emotions of the characters. The dancing and ballet choreography are superb. It may seem silly to have street gangs dance-fighting, but the pure athleticism on the part of the dancers is fantastic. Rarely have dance numbers been so physical, and so grand.
On the downside, the main romance takes place waay too quickly. This is quicker than a whirlwind romance, this is a tornado wrapped in a cyclone being blown by a wind machine. The mere speed of the relationship (a day) takes any sympathy for Tony and Maria away from the viewer...P>Leonard Bernstein's music is good in the songs, but not as incidental background noise. He thinks he is scoring a bombastic Broadway song even in quiet moments... The pacing is a little slow, as this marked the beginning of the two and a half hour widescreen musical genre that spawned such bloated cinematic drivel as "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Doctor Doolittle."
"West Side Story" is not a perfect classic, and not a dud. It is squarely in the middle of the spectrum. If anything troubles the viewer, it is wondering how this film beat out "Judgement at Nuremburg" for the Best Picture Oscar.
This is unrated, and contains physical violence, mild gun violence, very mild profanity, some drug references, and mild adult situations.
WEST SIDE STORY [1961/2011] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray + DVD] [French Release] The Screen Achieves One of the Greatest Entertainments in the History of Motion Pictures!
The greatest love story ever told... in the most acclaimed musical of all time... is now on Blu-ray! Experience every sensational song, dazzling dance number and magical movie moment of West Side Story in sparkling high definition with pure 7.1 digital sound – along with fascinating special features created exclusively for this 50th Anniversary Edition!
Winner of ten Academy Awards® including Best Picture, this electrifying musical sets the ageless tragedy of Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of gang warfare in 1950's New York. Featuring an unforgettable score, exuberant choreography and powerful performances by Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, ‘West Side Story’ will forever resonate as a true cinematic masterpiece.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Win: Best Picture for Robert Wise [Producer]. Win: Best Director for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. Win: Best Supporting Actor for George Chakiris. Win: Best Supporting Actress for Rita Moreno. Win: Best Art Direction for Set Decoration (Color) for Victor A. Gangelin and Boris Leven. Win: Best Cinematography (Color) for Daniel L. Fapp. Win: Best Costume Design (Color) for Irene Sharaff. Win: Best Film Editing for Thomas Stanford. Win: Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture for Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal, and Sid Ramin. Win: Best Sound for Fred Hynes (Todd-AO SSD), and Gordon E. Sawyer (Samuel Goldwyn SSD). Nominated: Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for Ernest Lehman. Academy AwardS®: Brilliant Achievements in the Art of Choreography on Film for Jerome Robbins.
Cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Simon Oakland, Ned Glass, William Bramley, Tucker Smith, Tony Mordente, David Winters, Eliot Feld, Bert Michaels, David Bean, Robert Banas, Anthony 'Scooter' Teague, Harvey Evans, Tommy Abbott, Susan Oakes, Gina Trikonis, Carole D'Andrea, Jose De Vega, Jay Norman, Gus Trikonis, Eddie Verso, Jaime Rogers, Larry Roquemore, Robert E. Thompson, Nick Navarro, Rudy Del Campo, Andre Tayir, Yvonne Wilder, Suzie Kaye, Joanne Miya, John Astin (uncredited), Priscilla Lopez (uncredited), Lou Ruggiero (uncredited), Penny Santon (uncredited), Jimmy Bryant (Tony singing voice) (uncredited), Marni Nixon (Maria singing voice) (uncredited) and Betty Wand (Anita singing voice) (uncredited)
Director: Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
Producers: Saul Chaplin, Walter Mirisch (uncredited) and Robert Wise (uncredited)
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman and Arthur Laurents (book)
Composers: Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Irwin Kostal (uncredited)
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp, A.S.C.
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 [Super Panavision 70]
Audio: English: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 4.0 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 DTS-HD, German: 5.1 DTS-HD and Spanish: 5.1 DTS-HD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Flemish, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 2 hour 32 minutes
Region: Blu-ray: All Regions and DVD: PAL
Number of discs: 2
Studio: 20th Century Fox Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ is without question one of the most iconic, undeniably powerful, and memorable films ever released. The idea behind the production was an act of genius in and of itself: taking the tried and true formula of William Shakespeare's prodigious work known as Romeo & Juliet and adapting it into a modern day setting. Jerome Robbins monumental musical brought forth enough flair in style and heart of wonder to capture the imaginations of even the most cynical of film goers and film critics upon the theatrical release in 1961 and now 50 years ago. There are few films that manage to be so awe-inspiring in scope. West Side Story has the distinction of winning 10 Academy Awards® and including Best Picture, which is the most ever for a film musical.
The film lays out some ground rules for the story from the beginning as two rivalling gangs in New York known as the Jets and the Sharks begin to demonstrate their immense displeasure with each other by evoking these negative sentiments with a perfectly choreographed song and dance number. The gang form replicates the original rivalry of Romeo & Juliet found between the Montagues and the Capulets.
This is a love story, of course, between two young star-crossed lovers from different backgrounds and who must struggle with the lack of acceptance from those who surround them. Tony [Richard Beymer] was the former leader of the Jets gang, and now he's looking for a brighter tomorrow without gang life interfering with a newfound spirit for renewal and growth. Maria [Natalie Wood] is the beautiful young woman who captures Tony's heart. Maria has inner-beauty that matches her outwardly gorgeous looks and she falls in love with Tony with an equal level of intensity and immediacy. Conflict inevitably arrives when Bernardo [George Chakiris] learns that his younger sister is involved with former Jet leader Tony. Bernardo is the gang leader of the Sharks.
The performances in ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ are brilliant and uncannily captivating across the board. Both lead performances by Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer are remarkable achievements. Beymer was cast in one of his most memorable roles of his career and Natalie Wood added another excellent performance to her already long list of achievements (including her child performance in the original ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and a performance against James Dean in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’). The supporting cast of actors helps the foundation of the film dramatically with great performances by Russ Tamblyn as the new Jet leader Riff (who is close friends with Tony), George Chakiris as Bernardo, and Rita Moreno as Bernardo's feisty and intelligent girlfriend Anita. George Chakiris and Rita Morena both received well deserved Academy Awards for their sensational performances.
There are two essential double-bill aspects to ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ that have continued to be so impressive after all of these years following the debut: the collaborations in music that combined the efforts of an undeniably jazz-infused Leonard Bernstein and the up and coming brilliant lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and the directing efforts from both Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who also choreographed the film). Robbins deserves the most recognition though, as he conceived of the original play and lent the best of his choreography on a level that had never been captured before and hasn't been since. Either double bill aspect concerning this massive and unrelentingly complicated production is purely wonderful and worthy of acclaim. The music sweeps viewers off their feet and captures the essence of romance and love while the energetic, stylish direction and the majority of which was done by Robert Wise, and choreography done entirely by Jerome Robbins, and brings some of the most captivating cinematic visuals around.
Who cannot forget the opening dance number by the Jets, the spinning visual-effects of Maria to a new dance number with countless energetic dancers, the silly rooftop dance that celebrates and critically dissects both the promise and disappointments found by minorities living in America? Attempting to even pick a favourite scene or sequence can lead to some problems: every scene is so beautifully and expertly crafted that it almost seems more appropriate to simply select a personal favourite from the bunch. The mid-way rushing of frantically scattering gang members, the long silence, and the slanted camera-work might be one person’s pick, but how about the simple but elegant dance between Tony and Maria? There are so many perfect moments. The execution of this production is almost flawless.
There are some minor detractors as it is hard to imagine new audiences of ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ not having at least some difficulty accepting the fact that Natalie Wood is playing a Puerto Rican. The racial issues are actually inherently important to the story of ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ itself so the unmistakable fact that there is a racial issue in the film is sadly disappointing nonetheless, but for those who can overlook this aspect it should still be worth recognizing that Natalie Wood delivered a fantastic performance that continues to be enchanting. It is important to remember the historical context of when the film was produced within the Hollywood studio system and to appreciate positive elements without overlooking negative drawbacks.
The history of this film is so interesting. It was a huge undertaking for everyone involved, most notably Jerome Robbins, who was eventually fired from the film despite being the largest source of its creative energy. The film surprised audiences worldwide. It was such a tremendous hit, and no one expected it to take everything by storm the way it did. The film continues to amaze audiences after half a century. The play version is performed worldwide through schools and theatre production companies. Even for those who haven't seen the film, there is a clear distinction of the importance of ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ and of the music that brought it to life. There is not even a single film out there quite like it and that continues to make it even more special and enduring. ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ is all about love between two unlikely souls, the love for theatre, as represented through this stunning cinematic tour-de-force, and the recognition of the importance of overcoming racial issues and understanding the commonalities between people of different backgrounds.
Set to the lush cinematography of Daniel L. Fapp, West Side Story is pretty much as the early advertisements for the film claimed: "As other movies age ... ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ gets younger!" In other words: it's a timeless classic.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ arrives on Blu-ray with an almost immaculate looking transfer – which is great news as it was filmed with 70mm cameras. In one word: incredible. Fans of the film will be hard-pressed to find an element of dissatisfaction. The colours are so vivid; the contrast so accurate, the cinematography brilliant, and the overall feel of the high-quality production is almost perfectly captured. The image clearly hasn't been tampered with by annoying "picture-quality enhancing" shortcuts. Make no mistake: this Blu-ray is the best presentation of ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ on home media. The film is presented in an awesome 1080p encoded image in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.20:1.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The audio presentation doesn't skimp out on any trimmings either. The film is presented with a glorious 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation that captures the music in all its magnificent glory. The dialogue is also well reproduced on this Blu-ray release and sound directionality is well used for both the score and songs. Other Audio options available as stated above.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Blu-ray Film [1080p] and DVD Bonus [PAL]
DISC 1 [Blu-ray]:
Special Feature: Comment on the songs by Lyricist Stephen Sondheim: This is somewhat fascinating and somewhat depressing. Steven Sondheim seems to offer a view on his lyrics that is negative, overly harsh, extremely unflattering, and thoroughly interesting all at the same time. He apparently doesn't feel quite as confident in his own lyrics as his fans do. Sondheim does share a great deal about how or why he created some of the lyrics to his songs and he gives good information about the overall process.
Special Feature: Karaoke (Voice Original) Music Machine [1080p] [1:25:07] This is a video jukebox of all the film's musical sequences. Each song/sequence can also be accessed individually.
Special Feature: POW! Dances from West Side Story [1080p] [19:00] All new feature in which cast members, contemporary filmmakers, dancers and choreographers analyse and illuminate the film's famous dance sequences. With a fantastic 19 minutes’ worth of footage for 6 specific scenes in the film including Prologue; Dance At The Gym; Tony And Maria's Cha Cha; America; The Rumble and Maria's Roof Dance, and they can also be viewed separately.
DISC 2 [DVD]:
Special Feature Documentary: Memories of West Side Story  [60:00] This is an original recordings of Natalie Wood, interviews with team members including Robert Wise and Stephen Sondheim. It gives us a broad look at the making of the film and the troubles it went through, including the firing of Jerome Robbins and the replacement of Natalie Wood's vocals with those of Marni Nixon.
Special Feature: Storyboard to Film Comparison Montage [4:50] This is a brief but interesting video collection of storyboarded drawings that were used to capture the essence of select scenes or moments before being filmed.
Special Feature: Photo Shooting [480i] [4:50] This is a Storyboard to Film Comparison Montage.
Theatrical Trailers: Original Theatrical Trailer; Original Issue Trailer; Reissue Trailer and Animated Trailer.
BONUS: A Beautiful Designed Exclusive Deluxe Limitied Edition DigiBook. Here you get lots of brilliant stunning Colour and Black-and –White photos and an Introduction by Producer Walter Mirisch. You also get different sections entitled: “LA PETITE HISTOIRE DE WEST SIDE STORY;” “UN FAUTEUIL POUR DEUX;” “BERNADO, TONY ET RIFF;” “MARIA ET ANITA” and “NEW YORK NEW YORK.” [French wording].
Finally, ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ is one of the great landmarks of cinema. It is the perfect blend of theatricality and cinematic wonder. The performances amaze, the direction mesmerizes, and the musical songs are totally beautiful and have become classic songs that live forever. ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ is a landmark film which pushed the boundaries of the American musical art form. Five decades later it doesn't just hold up, it stands tall as one of the best movies ever made. This Blu-ray presentation doesn't quite reach those comparatively giddy heights, however. The transfer looks great at times but it's slightly hamstrung by the original printing artefacts, and some modern anomalies have also left their mark. The sound is quite lovely in terms of quality and retains the directional dialogue, but sadly the 7.1 surround field is utterly wasted. The extra features aren't as wide-ranging as one might hope, yet there's just enough here to satisfy. Here be warned about the strange fade to black during the Overture, which maybe was a small mistake that will surely be remedied at some point with another Special Edition. But despite this, with this Blu-ray release, it has made the film look totally fresh, in thinking it was made in the 21st Century, as the filming was so dramatic and with the fantastic cinematography, bring musical score and amazing tuneful songs, this film was worthy of all its plaudits and has now gone pride of place in my Blu-ray Collection. Of course sadly the wording in this DigiBook is all in French, but the colour and black-and-white images make up for it, as well as the brilliant DigiBook luxurious presentation. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom