"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" Special Edition DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 3 Old 04-19-08, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" Special Edition DVD review

I recently purchased and screened the standard DVD special edition of Stanley Donen's
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" a 1954 CinemaScope musical. In general I would
recommend it. Although it was Donen's most successful picture I think it's a bit overated.
It's certainly fun but the score is only average. What makes it worthwhile is the dancing
and choreography.

The story is similar to the later TV series "Here Comes the Brides" which was loosely derived
from it. Seven backwards mountain men in 1850 Oregeon come to town looking for women
to marry. They are dirty, unshaven and lack manners and decide to basically kidnap them.
The furious towns people try to retreive them but are block by a avanche and so the women
are trapped with the men in a cabin for the winter. Although a contemporary film would turn
it into an orgy, this is the fifties so rather than have their way with them, Jane Powell who
is the only woman who is married to one of the brothers played by Howard Keel decides to
civilize them in a variation of Pygmalian. They all get married for real by the end. Obviously,
while risque it's not as raunchy as it could've been even with the restrictions of the era.

A few songs are catchy. Jane Powell is very sexy and sassy if you like petite women (which I do) who
can hit high notes that could break glasses. Keel has a magnificent voice and an appealing
presence although he's has a very theatrical way of performing. She only comes up to Keel's
chest and it's funny to see them stand together. Among the brothers are
Russ Tamblyn (Riff in "West Side Story") and Tommy Rall (Bill Calhoun in "Kiss Me Kate").

The best number in the film is the justifiably famous barn raising bit where Tamblyn and Rall
do their gymnastic dancing. Tamblyn was an acrobat tumbler and he seems to defy gravity
as he did in the gym dance in "West Side Story". Rall was one of the best dancers in cinema
but made very few movies. Strange how he has a small supporting role after his major role
in the previous years "Kiss Me Kate". He ended up as a bit player in "Funny Girl" ten years
later. A pity he wasn't used for maximum impact in other pictures.

In general, MGM has done the best job they could in restoring the film. Still, it has a very blurry
and pasty look if you project it. So did the original prints. It was filmed in Anscocolor, a cheap
imitation of Eastmancolor that the studio was promoting at the time. After "Lust for Life" they
abandoned the company and switched to Eastmancolor (Metrocolor) although they still did their
block busters in Technicolor ("Raintree County", "Ben Hur", "Mutiny on the Bounty"). In the suppliments
surviving participants like Donen, Rall and Powell state that the studio didn't have much faith in the
film and made it on the cheap. Unfortunately, it looks it with phony looking backdrops for sets
and the grainy Anscocolor. Most of the dust and dirt has been removed although there is still
an occasional scratch. The opticals (fades, dissolves, credits) look horrible. They're so mucky
you can see the grain blobs on screen. However, they made Technicolor prints from the Anscocolor
negative which I screened and they looked just as bad. A pity because it looks like the photography
would've been pretty good had they shot it in some other negative format. Add to that the distorted
CinemaScope lens to the problem. I don't want to suggest it's unwatchable, after a while you get
used to the look but if you screen a Panavision musical like "Sweet Charity", the quality difference is
quite apparent. There is one inexplicable black slug for a few seconds in the middle of the film.
I thought my bulb had blown but apparently they're missing a portion of one shot. They should've replaced it from a surviving Technicolor print to fill in the gap.

The 5.1 sound, adapted from the original 4 channel mix, is lively. In the suppliments there's a CinemaScope short called "MGM 30th Jubilee" which features their orchestra playing famous tunes
in full stereo. I guess it was MGM's answer to the beginning of Fox's "How to Marry a Millionaire"
which had their orchestra doing an overture. There's also B&W clips of the Radio City Music
Hall premiere which had the cast and other participants arriving via hansom cabs.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this special edition is that they have the flat, non-CinemaScope
version of the film shot simultanesouly. This was common for the early scope films. The studios
weren't sure if the process would last so they shot each take twice. Once for the widescreen and
once for the standard version. Two negatives. There were slight differences in the performances
and of course the compositions were rather cluttered and croweded in the flat version. However,
it looked a bit better because the Anscocolor negative wasn't being stretched out so the resolution
was a tad sharper. The credits state 'Color by Anscocolor, print by Technicolor' for this version.
As I mentioned, they made Technicolor prints of the CinemaScope version too but it wasn't listed in
the credits.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 04-20-08 at 02:35 PM.
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post #2 of 3 Old 05-11-08, 05:22 PM
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Re: "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" Special Edition DVD review

Excellent review as usual Richard!

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post #3 of 3 Old 05-11-08, 06:58 PM Thread Starter
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Re: "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" Special Edition DVD review

Many thanks blaser.
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