on August 12, 2004
My husband doesn't even like musicals, but he likes this one!
What could be better than singing by Howard Keel and Jane Powell? The music is great, the colors bright and vivid, the choreography wonderful.
To our modern eyes, the story of this 1954 musical seems a little outdated--the attitudes towards women are somewhat distasteful. Howard Keel's character, Adam, needs someone to clean and cook for his household of 6 wild brothers, so he just goes into town and "acquires" a wife, poor Millie (Jane Powell) who has no idea what is in store for her.
When the boys decide they need wives, they just go into town, kidnap a batch of girls, beat the girls' boyfriends insensible, and spend the winter snowbound with the girls who miraculously fall in love with them. OK, well then...
But, the charm of this musical somehow allows us to overlook all of this, and Millie's sheer spunkiness in trying to tame these wild men redeems them somehow. So everyone learns his lesson and all ends well.
This musical is also interesting in that it showcases several young talents who became better known in later years: The character of Dorcas is played by Julie Newmeyer (a young Julie Newmar, Catwoman in the TV series Batman in later years), Russ Tamblyn (future star of West Side Story), and Ruta Kilmonis (later semi-celebrity Ruta Lee). Even in this very early outing, Julie Newmar's distinctive voice and looks make her stand out.
The director, Stanley Donen, directed some of the best musicals in the 50s, including Damn Yankees, Singing in the Rain, Kismet (uncredited), and Royal Wedding. Inexplicably, in his later career, he directed such bombs as Saturn 3 (1980).
Excellent new `Special Edition' of the musical masterpiece SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, featuring both versions of the film plus a generous array of extras.
Set against the backdrop of settlement-era Oregon, the story concerns Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) who takes a wife in Milly (Jane Powell) before delivering her to his mountaintop ranch. The honeymoon comes to an abrupt end when Milly learns she must also keep house for Adam's six unruly - and uncouth - brothers! But after Milly teaches them the finer points of "Goin' Courtin'" they go and and find brides of their own...with diastrous, hilarious and heartwarming results.
The cast is simply amazing. Among the `Brothers' are Russ Tamblyn, Broadway dancer Marc Platt, New York City Ballet star Jacques d'Amboise and KISS ME KATE's Tommy Rall. The `Brides' include Broadway's Virginia Gibson, B-movie beauty Ruta Lee (in her film debut) and future `Catwoman' Julie Newmar.
The score has become one of the most beloved ever written and elevates the on-screen story into the high heavens. Gene DePaul and Johnny Mercer's flavoursome tunestack includes Milly's jubilant "Wonderful Wonderful Day"; her moonlight aria "When You're in Love" and the soaring "June Bride" with the girls dancing in corsets and bloomers. Adam isn't overlooked music-wise, his numbers include "Bless Yore Beautiful Hide", the syncopated and irresistible "Sobbin' Women" and the brothers' plaintive "Lonesome Polecat". Choreographer Michael Kidd's routines in this film are among his all-time best, including what many consider his Magnum Opus, the showstopping "Barn Raising Ballet". With so many talented dancers among the `Brothers' and `Brides', it's no wonder that this film is so rich in musical numbers.
This is the peak of the original M-G-M musical. It's hard to believe now, but at the time the studio heads had no faith whatsoever in the project and dismissed it as a B-movie. BRIGADOON was also being made at the same time, a film M-G-M held great hopes for, though it was SEVEN BRIDES.. that the audiences and critics fell in love with.
SEVEN BRIDES.. was actually filmed twice. It was intended for the film to be seen exclusively in the new CinemaScope but many movie theaters did not have the facilities to show films in this ratio. So an open-matte 1:78 `flat' format version of the film was made to accommodate the problem. This Special Edition contains both versions of the film. It's almost like attending two different performances of the same show. The CinemaScope version looks a treat in 16:9 enhanced widescreen, and the colours are magnificent.
Extras include an updated version of "Sobbin' Women: The Making of..." (previously seen on the first DVD edition) which features new interview footage with Jane Powell as well as Jacques d'Amboise. Audio commentary is provided by director Stanley Donen who offers listeners a rare insight into the production of this masterpiece. There are two rare newsreels ("Radio City Music Hall Premiere" and "M-G-M 30th Anniversary" which features commentary by Jane Powell and Ann Miller). Also included is the rare CinemaScope "M-G-M Jubilee Overture".
With this all-new `Special Edition', it's a "Wonderful Wonderful Day" for SEVEN BRIDES.. fans!
on May 27, 2001
A "sleeper" when it was released in 1954, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is still one of the freshest musicals ever made. With a pretty, spirited score by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer and rambunctious but carefully-controlled choreography by Michael Kidd, this modestly-budgeted movie surprised everyone by becoming an enormous hit, even being nominated for Best Picture. Based on a short story by Stephen Vncent Benet called "Sobbin' Women" (which was the film's working title), it tells the story of a frontier woman Millie (Jane Powell) courted by a backwoodsman Adam (Howard Keel). He takes her off to his rustic home, neglecting to tell her he has six untamed brothers to care for. Undaunted, Millie sets about domesticating the household, complete with readings from classical history, including the story of the Sabine women, which the boys take to heart. The musical was filmed in AnscoColor and CinemaScope, and the wide screen is utilized to great effect, especially in the barn-raising sequence. Letter-box is mandatory. DePaul and Mercer wrote some effective songs ("Wonderful Day", "When You're in Love", "Sobbin' Women") and the numbers blend into the story perfectly under Stanley Donen's smooth direction. Dresden-doll coloratura Powell and strapping baritone Keel make such an attractive couple it's odd M~G~M never co-starred them again. (Evidently a musical version of "Robin Hood" never got past the drawing board.) The brothers include New York City Ballet star Jacques d'Amboise and a non-dancer, the mysterious Jeff Richards, who may have been the handsomest man ever to appear on the screen, Rock Hudson notwithstanding. Among the brides is Julie Newmar, who a couple of seasons later would stupefy Broadway in "Li'l Abner".Bright and pleasantly aggressive, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is right up there with Metro's best musicals.
on October 5, 2004
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is the story of Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel), the eldest of a rough and tumble breed of backwoodsmen living in Oregon. When Adam returns to his dilapidated cabin with Milly (Jane Powell) as his wife, he sets his brother's minds and hearts awhirl with convoluted notions of doing the same. There's just one problem: the troupe is about as couth and gentile as that proverbial bull in the china shop. So Milly sets to work on molding gentlemen out of these ruffians. MGM, the most lavish purveyors of musical entertainment quashed director, Stanley Donen's desire to film on anything beyond a soundstage, resulting in some pretty obvious looking sets and very claustrophobic staging. Regardless, the film abounds with riotous exuberance and rollicking charm. The outstanding sequence remains the "Barn-Raising Ballet" - a fifteen minute tour de force in which the brothers - newly polished up - take on the cultured town's men for the affections of the town's women and come up the undisputed winners.
So too is Warner Brothers newly minted two disc special edition of this classic musical a winner. Featuring both the Cinemascope original (this time anamorphically enhanced for 16:9 displays) and a recently discovered 1:85:1 print, we get to see twice as much as before. Colors are rich, vibrant and bold. Contrast levels are bang on. Black levels are deep and solid. There's only the slightest amount of age related artifacts and minor edge enhancement to speak of. Neither will distract. The audio is dated by features a newly cleaned up and aggressive 5.1 mix. Extras include a new audio commentary track, the previously released documentary on the making of the film and the film's theatrical trailer. Bless your beautiful hide! This is one humdinger of a good show!
on December 3, 2010
Get the 2 disc Special Edition version for the best DVD quality, you will not regret it. Great movie and much better DVD transfer.
I purchased both the original DVD release Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and the newer two disc version Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Two-Disc Special Edition) from a local used book store. I purchased the original DVD release for my wife as a birthday gift. It is one of her favorite musicals. When we watched it we saw that the DVD had a pretty rough DVD transfer. It is letterboxed and not anamorphic for new HDTVs. The picture is not sharp, colors are faded, and there is a good amount of flicker, grain, and specks. It looks like a laserdisc transfer which seems to usually be the same as a VHS tape.
I went back to the same book store a week later and found the two disc special edition version and I saw the specs, read some reviews online, and bought it. I am so glad I did. The two disc is anamorphic, new DVD transfer, sharper pictures, better colors, great sound, and the never before released alternate 'flat' version.
Dear Mr. Keel, while we respected you and cheered you on in your late-life comeback as Clayton Farlow on TV's DALLAS, we loved you best in the MGM musicals that made you a star. My mom and dad used to say they had seen you on Broadway taking over John Raitt's old parts and giving them new luster in CAROUSEL and OKLAHOMA, but for me I used to see you on the Late Show many times, always playing the he-man, swashbuckling Errol Flynn type, but with a difference, your magnificent voice that rang out through a dozen musical movies, everything from Kiss Me Kate (in 3D, with you singing "Where Is The Life That Late I Led" in the middle of the audience, perched on a piece of scenery like a gargoyle or angel), to Calamity Jane opposite the tomboyish Doris Day. Many years passed before we saw you on VHS as Frank Butler in the George Sidney version of Annie Get Your Gun, one of your very best parts, delayed for eons due to legal complications with the Berlin estate. And only recently thanks to the miracle of DVD have we seen the second, "flat" version of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, the movie in which you played Adam Pontipee and made us laugh and cry out for more, your signature role.
We liked you in SHOWBOAT and JUPITER's DARLING and so many more, and even in your non-singing parts like The DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (scary!) and THE BIG FISHERMAN (kind of religious, and the very first movie I remember ever seeing). It's a sad day for the movies today, but thank God we are blessed with so many chances to live out your greatness once again, the sparkle and eclat you gave to so many roles, and the thrill of your voice lives on forever.
on May 2, 2000
Yes, I agree with all the glowing reviews. Our whole family, including young boys, LOVE this movie. We've watched it many times. However, we bought the regular VHS version, and they lost a lot in the formatting. You frequently hear actors speaking who are not on screen.
So our advice: buy the widescreen so you can see all seven brothers at the same time.
Our family has decided to buy a DVD player just so we can get this film in the DVD version.
on January 15, 2002
Howard Keel is in his usual manly, slightly misogynist character as Adam and Jane Powell is both strong and vulnerable as his bride, which makes things more interesting. Watch out for a young Julie Newmar stealing the show as Dorcas, the tallest of the brides, and Russ Tamblyn as an athletic youngest brother Gideon. There are three solo love songs (as you often get in these musicals) which are nowhere near the standard of the chorus numbers. By contrast, Bless Her Beautiful Hide, Going Courting, and Spring Spring Spring show Johnny Mercer's skill in crafting memorable lyrics for great tunes by Gene De Paul
The dancing is a delight. The accompanying `making-of' documentary shows how Michael Kidd cleverly made is so that the macho brothers didn't actually dance much unless it was appropriate, instead he had them jumping and moving to time. Interviews with most of the main cast members and director Stanley Donen make this an interesting extra, even if short at 35 minutes. There's also a trailer and subtitles (ideal if you plan to sing-along!).
The techniocolor works very well in this restored version, particularly with the brightly coloured shirts the brothers wear and the pastel shade dresses worn by the brides. There is stereo sound too, not bad for 1954. All in all, you have such a good time watching this you forget the back-projection and rather obvious backdrop paintings which might otherwise detract from this movie.
on June 12, 2001
1954's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is rough around the edges and that's just what the doctor ordered. Stanley Donen directed this rough and tumble highly acclaimed musical, set in Oregon in 1850. It was adapted from Stephen Vincent Benét's story "The Sobbin' Women" (based on Plutarch's The Rape of the Sabine Women) and perfectly integrates song, dance, and storytelling. Russ Tamblyn as one of Howard Keel's brothers and Julie Newmar as one of the potential brides are very memorable. Besides Michael Kidd's brilliant choreography (which almost goes without saying) is Cinematographer George Folsey's CinemaScope photography that captured both the grandeur of the land (shot on MGM's back lot!) and the brilliant and bawdy dance numbers. Unfortunately it was shot in Ansco Color and not Technicolor which makes the images less vivid. Yet it does not hinder the film. I saw a recent interview with Jane Powell and she believed that MGM thought they had a real dud on their hands. Boy, were they wrong. Of the DVD versions I prefer the original MGM issue which had a 2.55 to 1 aspect ratio. The Warner Studios version is 2.35 to 1. Both DVD versions remastered the original 4-track magnetic soundtrack to 5.1 Dolby Digital discrete channels. I find this sound remastering very annoying especially to stereophonic films made in the 50s and 60s. The sound on the hi-fi VHS tape is actually truer to the original film.
on October 13, 2004
I'm sure I'm not the only one who bought DVD titles of some of MGM's classic musicals, like "American in Paris", "Brigadoon", or "Seven Brides", when they were first released on the format, and were disappointed with the skimpy DVD treatment they got. No bonus scenes, no anamorphic transfer...these releases were pathetic.
Now, thankfully, Warners seems to be re-releasing these titles in far more handsome and respectable issues. This release for "Seven Brides" is quite satisfying. Along with a lovely anamorphic transfer of the CinemaScope version of the film (in 5.1 audio), we also get the rarely screened alternate "flat" version of the film, which was filmed separately from the Scope version. That version is presented in Mono, although the music sequences seem to be in Stereo. It's interesting to do a comparison of the two versions, particualrly for the "barn-raising' dance, to see how the two versions were framed for their respective film format ratios.
As far as bonus features, we get the documentary on the making of the film, now expanded-upon from the previous versions, with extra interviews. It's well-done and worth watching. There are a couple montages of vintage MGM clips, one showing people attending the NYC premiere of the film, with voiceovers from those involved, and another montage shows MGM stars celebrating the studios 30th anniversary. I didn't find either of these to be that inspiring, but they are interesting. There is a running commentary with the film, but the coolest bonus feature (to me) was a short film made in CinemaScope, featuring the MGM orchestra playing selections from their music library. No doubt this film was made to demonstrate the wonders of Stereophonic Sound and CinemaScope...it's amusing to watch. I'm assuming this was run with the feature when first released.
All in all, a very nice package, and hopefully we can look forward to more of the classic MGM musicals getting the royal treatment they deserve, in the future.