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Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN ($29) is unquestionably one of the greatest pieces of homespun musical Americana to ever transition from the Broadway stage to movie screens. Sitting down once again to watch THE MUSIC MAN, I can attest that the film has lost none of its power to charm audiences… even though it is rapidly approaching its fiftieth anniversary. Perhaps the reason for the film’s undeniable charm and success is the fact that the Broadway show’s leading man, Robert Preston, also made the transition from stage to screen. Robert Preston will always be remembered as the definitive Professor Harold Hill, the man who discovered Trouble (with a capital T...) right there in River City, Iowa. Preston's performance remains an utter delight because of the way that his exuberance in performing the role literally leaps off the screen.

The premise of THE MUSIC MAN is concerned with said Professor Harold Hill, who is really a rascal of a traveling salesman/con man. Hill goes from town to town, masquerading as a traveling band instructor, selling the good people of each burg on the notion that by creating a boy's marching band, they will prevent juvenile delinquency. Once the denizens have taken the bait, Hill then sells them all the instruments, uniforms, not to mention his services as a musical instructor. However, once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, Hill does a quick disappearing act, before the townspeople discover that the "Professor" can’t read or play a note of music. Hill’s latest stop is River City, Iowa; a town that starts out as a hard sell, until our good professor discovers the town has a newly acquired pool table. Condemning the pool table as a path to sin and vice, Hill soon has the populace eating out of his hands. Of course, Hill does still face a few obstacles, none the least of which is the town’s lovely, yet suspicious, librarian and piano instructor, Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones)… whom Hill attempts to woo into submission. The delightful cast of THE MUSIC MAN also features Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford, Pert Kelton, Timmy Everett, Susan Luckey, Ron Howard, Harry Hickox, Charles Lane and Mary Wickes.

Warner Home Video has made THE MUSIC MAN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation of THE MUSIC MAN is worthy of numerous superlatives, as this is one truly gorgeous Blu-ray. THE MUSIC MAN was produced in Technirama, which for my money, was truly the best of all the anamorphic photographic processes. Because Technirama utilized a larger photographic negative like VistaVision, it was capable of producing a much sharper and more detailed image. Also, because of the larger negative, Technirama required a less severe anamorphic squeeze than a process like CinemaScope, and thusly, recorded a better depth of field. Thanks to this superb Blu-ray presentation, the virtues of Technirama are on full display for one to appreciate. In high definition, THE MUSIC MAN delivers a wonderfully crisp image that also appears highly dimensional, not to mention providing fairly impressive levels of fine detail and texturing. The Blu-ray release of THE MUSIC MAN also comes quite close to recreating the vibrant hues of an IB Technicolor print, with the dazzling colors practically leaping off the screen. Blacks are velvety, while the whites are smooth and silky. Contrast is excellent and shadow detail is very good for a vintage film. The elements from which THE MUSIC MAN was transferred display very few flaws. Mild grain is present during the presentation, which maintains a nicely organic quality.

THE MUSIC MAN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering the film’s age and the recording technology available at the time, I would consider this rendering nothing short of excellent. THE MUSIC MAN has never sounded better in the home venue than it does right here. In fact, songs such as Goodnight My Someone, 76 Trombones, Pick A Little, Talk A Little, Marian The Librarian, Gary, Indiana, Shipoopi and Till There Was You tend to tickle one in DTS. Of course, the sound mix isn’t as expansive as that of a modern film, with ambient sound and musical being about all that is directed to the rear channels. Still, there is a very nice stereo image across the front. Dialogue is crisply rendered and easy to understand. Spanish and German Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some extras that include an Introduction by Shirley Jones, as well as a twenty-two minute Featurette entitled Right Here In River City, plus a Theatrical Trailer.

THE MUSIC MAN is a wonderful classic musical that has been given glorious representation on Blu-ray. Very highly recommended.



The Music Man [Blu-ray] (1962)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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