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"West Side Story" (50th) - {Blu-ray}- (Ed)
Edward McNulty
Studio: MGM
Release Date:
November 15, 2011
Special Features:

See Below


Few hit Broadway plays have made the transition from stage to screen as successfully as this superb film. Hollywood agreed, giving out 10 Oscars in 1961 to the musical. The collaboration of director Robert Wise and musical choreographer Jerome Robbins is the epitome of perfection. (Even though Robbins was dropped by the studio from the production well before the film was finished, Wise agreed that his colleague be given credit as “Co-director.”) The choice of the non-singing Natalie Wood as Maria is still debatable, but nonetheless she is still lovely as the Puerto Rican teenager who gives her heart to Richard Beymer’s Tony. However, there is unanimous agreement that Rita Moreno was the perfect choice for the role of Anita, the fiery girlfriend of Maria’s brother Bernardo. As excellent a dancer as a singer, she lights up the screen during her scenes.***

This modern version of Romeo and Juliet (at least in plot) updates the war between two Italian Renaissance families to that between the established Italian immigrants living on Manhattan’s west side and the newly arrived Puerto Ricans. The plight of the latter, struggling against entrenched prejudice, is well described by lyricist Stephen Sondheim in his ironically named "America.” Tony helped found the Italian “Jets” but dropped out, and Bernardo heads up the Puerto Rican “The Sharks.” In the brilliant and witty number “Jet Song” the gang members relate that they belong to a gang because of the status and protection it affords them in a hostile world. This hostility is incarnated in the character of local cop Sergeant Krupke.***

Each song and dance is integral to the plot, explaining the prejudice and hostility as well as the hopes and dreams and the feelings of the characters, especially of the star-crossed lovers reaching out to each other across the chasm of prejudice and hatred standing in the way of their union. The duet “Somewhere” is not only a beautiful song but embodies the doomed pair’s hope that there is more to life than the present nightmare that society affords, that “we’ll find a new way of living, we’ll find a way of forgiving.” The song becomes especially poignant when the lovers sing it for the second time as Tony lies dying in Maria’s arms.***


Image and Sound -

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video resolution: 1080p Aspect ratio: 2.19:1 Original aspect ratio: 2.20:1

Overall this Blu-ray version looks pretty decent,although the surround sound mix could have been a little more define overall.

Special Features:

What a fest the additional disks provide this time!*** Two new futurities are:***

"Pow! The Dances of West Side Story" Cast members, other filmmakers, dancers and choreographers talk about the dance sequences.***

"A Place for Us: West Side Story's Legacy" – An interesting look at the influence the film has had around the world.***

Plus Lyricist Stephen Sondheim comments on the songs.***

West Side Memories: A 60 minute documentary*** Music Machine: Viewers can go to a specific song.***

Storyboard to Film Comparison Montage***


Final Words:

With outstanding music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim the film has a social relevance that not even 50 years have lessened. The take on juvenile delinquency and ghetto gangs may be dated, automatic weapons having long displaced knives, but this need not detract viewers if they are willing to transport their minds back to the time in which the story is set. Lovers of drama and romance, music, and choreography will cherish this set, especially with all of its many special features.***

Get this excellent Blu-ray set.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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