<p>Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: 50th Anniversary Edition (Dbl DVD)</p><p>Howard Keel and Jane Powell are rapturous newlyweds who tame his six rowdy bachelor brothers in the wild Oregon backwoods in this Best Score Academy Award(R)-winning song-and-dance-filled comedy.</p>
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Home-theater lovers won't have to think twice about upgrading to the two-disc special edition of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The new transfer is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs (unlike the two previous DVDs), and the new commentary by director Stanley Donen is fun, although he falls silent for most of the second half. He recounts how he had to fight with the producers to let the men dance and to use original Gene DePaul-Johnny Mercer songs rather than traditional songs, mentions that the famous barn dance was shot in four days without editing, and even briefly sings along a couple of times. Since the film was MGM's first in CinemaScope, Donen explains it was shot twice, once in CinemaScope and once in conventional "flat" format in case theaters weren't equipped for the new process. The rarely seen second version is included on the second disc, at a 1.77 aspect ratio (compared to the CinemaScope's huge 2.55 ratio). It's of interest because the performances and the framing are slightly different (the songs, though, were lip-synced to the same recordings), but if any musical needed the room for its huge cast and wide open spaces, it's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, so it's hard to imagine wanting to lose any of the widescreen version. (Note, however, that the 1.77 version was framed by Donen, and is not a ruthless "pan and scan" cropping done without the involvement of the creators.) The alternate version also suffers from inferior mono sound and a greenish tint to the picture.
Because most of the second disc is taken up by the alternate cut, the rest of the bonus material is less substantial than has been provided for some of Warner's previous two-disc classic musicals (e.g., Singin' in the Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis), but the fine 1997 documentary "Sobbin' Women: The Making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (which was included on the last DVD release) has been slightly expanded to add new interviews with Jane Powell and Jacques D'Amboise. There's also some newsreel footage and a 1954 short (also in CinemaScope) of the MGM orchestra playing famous songs from its films. --David Horiuchi
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