on December 11, 1999
I first saw South Pacific when it was released in 1958 at the age of 10, and remember being totally overwhelmed by the orchestrations, performances and photography. Over the years I have regularly heard the film trashed by critics and many members of the public, so I was curious to see how I would respond to it now when I recently bought the video. Well, maybe it's just me, but I found the film as thrilling and beautiful as I did forty years ago. I agree with everyone else that it was a mistake to use those colored filters in many of the sequences, but the film still packs a heck of an emotional whallop, and I think along with The King and I stands out as the most successful of the Rogers and Hammerstein shows put on film. The weakest of the cast is John Kerr, who is somewhat wooden; however, Juanita Hall is magnificent as Bloody Mary (she will never be surpassed in the role she createwd on Braodway), Rossano Brazzi is thoroghly convincing as Emille DeBeque (even if he was dubbed by Giorgio Tozzi), and Mitzi Gaynor gives an unforgettable performance as Nelly Forbrush. Of all of the criticism one hears of South Pacific, to me the most puzzling is the bashing of Mitzi Gaynor, who to me is not only excellent but perfection in the role. I realize a lot of this probably stems from anger that Mary Martin didn't get the role and is basically sour grapes, but the fact is Ms. Martin was too old to be convincing in 1958. The scenes in which Ms. Gaynor struggles with her small-town prejudices are moving and very real, and when Bloody Mary brings Liat to her to find Lieutenant Cable, who has been killed, it breaks one's heart. Anyway, the movie still knocks me out, even if that makes me, as Nelly Forbrush calls herself, a "knucklehead." The incredible photography, gorgeous music, and theme of the need to triumph over bigotry which is still so relevant even today, makes this film a 5-star winner in my book. As trite as it sounds, "They don't make 'em like that anymore!"
on May 26, 2006
Beware all those South Pacific fans....the best version ever to be released on DVD is on its way. For reasons no one seems to know America is the last country in the world to see the 2 disc edition of this classic movie musical. Writing from Australia where the special 2 disc edition has been available for some time, my suggestion is to wait for the real thing --it is worth it. The early edition which is the only one available on American Amazon is and has always been poorly adapted to DVD. The new version is finally 16.9 widescreen version and, wait for it, there are two versions and the second one is superior in that it is the complete 171 minute version of the film, uncut at last with scenes just about nobody (unless you were privy to the original roadshow screenings in the fifties in the States)has seen. You will see things that always seemed peculiar to me suddenly make sense (although, strangely the uncut version of "Wash that Man" remains lost, now probably forever)But this is a real treat and add twenty minutes from the Ford Tv special starring the original Broadway casts, two expert audio commentaries on both versions and a 60 minutes special on James Michener returning to the islands one more time and you have something worth waiting for......IF it ever gets a release in the States that is..!!!!
With the world a little shaky now, it's a real pleasure to be able to put on a DVD and take a trip down memory lane to 1958 when South Pacific was released in movie theaters. The Rogers and Hammerstein score sets the tone for this musical adaptation of the Broadway show that was based on Tales of the South Pacific" by James Mitchener.
The story is set on an island in the South Pacific during WW2. The Japanese are entrenched in a nearby island and are bombing American forces that go near, but life is sweet for the G.I.s at the naval base. Mitzi Gaynor, cast as a nurse, is beginning a romance with an older distinguished French planter played by Rossano Brazzi. John Kerr is a young lieutenant who comes to the island to convince the planter to risk his life to spy for the Americans. And Juanita hall is the older native woman who pushes her daughter, the lovely France Nuyen, at John Kerr. The music is excellent and the words of the songs really do move the story along.
The theme however, is more than a love story. It deals with racism and the tragedy of war too. And these themes are what held it all together for me. It's a great human statement surrounded by wonderful familiar melodies that I'm still humming this morning. I loved it. And I didn't even care that, with the exception of Rossano Brazzi and Ray Walston, whose role as a sailor who always has a scheme and adds some really funny comic relief to this tale of love and war, the acting in general was mediocre. Everyone else gave rather stilted performances, and Mitzi Gaynor might be pretty, but she can't quite show a wide range of emotion. Also, the songs were all dubbed and obviously so. But that was the way Hollywood did things in those days. It's also interesting to note what the standard for beauty was in 1958. With the exception of the dancers, it was youth alone and not workouts in the gym that shaped the actors' bodies. Narrow waists were in style for the women, but hips were allowed to flare naturally.
I loved South Pacific in spite of its few faults. It was great entertainment even though it didn't make me forget the prospect of war. If you've never seen this film, don't miss it. And if you've seen it before, it's certainly worth a revisit. Highly recommended.
on March 26, 2001
Hauntingly beautiful motion picture of Rodgers & Hammerstein's play, based on James Michener's book `Tales of the South Pacific' is full of atmosphere and has a strange mystical quality of far away places about it. The story is almost disturbing as the beautiful images of the South Pacific are juxtaposed against the background of W.W.II. The film moves at an enjoyable and leisurely pace but the viewer is always left with an underlying feeling of uneasiness pondering what the climax will bring to the main characters. This can be attributed to the dual love stories and the guilt, prejudices and insecurities felt by the two Americans toward their foreign love interests. Mitzi Gaynor as Nurse Nellie Forbush falls in love with the mysterious French plantation owner, Emile De Becque played by Rossano Brazzi. New arrival to the island, USMC Lt. Cable played by John Kerr meets and falls in love with the beautiful native girl Liat played by France Nuyen. The Americans, out of their environment are intoxicated by the almost unnatural beauty of the island thanks to Leon Shamroy's colorful and inventive location Cinematography. For me John Kerr's performance always stood out. He always seemed distant and truly disturbed by his own feelings. "You've Got to Be Taught" was a wonderful song expressing his feelings and Bloody Mary's outrage at his rejection of her daughter matched the ugliness of his own feelings. The images in this film are indelible and the overall effect evokes many moods and emotions. The movie has been critically misjudged and neglected for years. I think this has to do with the structure of the film. It is rather unconventional and does not follow a smooth narrative flow. I call it an emotional flow. The main character definitely appears to be Nellie Forbush given Mitzi Gaynor's energetic performance. Her concerns about Emile De Becque seem a little contrived, but that is intentional because in fact it should be. Rossano Brazzi is the mysterious Frenchman because we are simply told that he is mysterious. France Nuyen as Liat is very beautiful and desirable but even the viewer knows that a meaningful relationship with Lt. Cable is impossible. So all the emotions we feel as the viewer are pent up in just as they are in Lt. Cable. And John Kerr as Lt. Cable is really the odd man out. He is the tragic figure. He must either go back home or face his catharsis. The film has no strong main male character on the surface. Both men seem introverted and it is fitting that they both team together on the perilous mission. One man wanted to return and the other couldn't. "Bali H'ai" is a fitting song expressing all our feelings for what lies beyond the beautiful horizon of life and the examination of those feelings. "Some Enchanted Evening" beautifully expresses in song what can only be felt by the heart. This is a beautiful film. I never realized how good it was until I played it again just recently. Perhaps I am now a little older and a little wiser but the images in this film still hold a bit of mystery for me.
on July 31, 2004
I give this film 5 stars not because it's without fault, but because it manages to convey to the audience things they appreciate, and in fact justify in their minds why they watch movies in the first place. Sounds simple, but it is simply incredible how this recipe for success seems to be forgotten, or maybe it is just disdained as tripe for bumpkins. Well, hooray for us bumpkins.
This film shares a very important trait with "Sayonara" (with Marlon Brando and Red Buttons [two Oscars]); that is, it is an adaptation of a novel by James Michener where the screenplay is superior to the novel. This is not a slam against Michener. I avidly read "Tales of the South Pacific" and its sequel, the underappreciated "Return to Paradise." I enjoy both of these books very much -- they are very well crafted.
However, I would have to agree with those, including Michener himself, who describe him as a narrator, not a master of drama or romance. The way in which these screenplays amend his stories for film is very intelligently done.
Some points made by the detractors of this film are valid (but I disagree with the complaints about casting -- I think everyone, including John Kerr is just fine); but forget about the filters, and just enjoy the film. This film gives viewers some things to connect with. The love stories of this film are more interesting because of the theme of interracial romance. While youngsters seeing this film will probably wonder what's the big deal, this subject was still sensitive enough in 1957 to justify some not-too-subtle messages that open-mindedness is good and bigotry is bad. Anyway, the audience is clearly induced to be rooting for Nellie and Emile, and Joe Cable and Liat to end up together, and it's exactly this kind of prompting that tends to make viewers connect with and enjoy a movie.
Of course the main point of any musical is to entertain, and that it does with its songs and scenes. This is my second favorite musical, behind "My Fair Lady," which in my judgement is hands-down the greatest musical ever made. Most of the songs, words and music, in "South Pacific" are truly cleverly wrought -- the kind of stuff you like to have bouncing around in your head.
Each and every time I watch this film I am left charmed and delighted.
on February 22, 2000
The DVD version of R&H South Pacific was generated from the original TODD-AO 65mm negative.
For this reason alone, every serious DVD owner who wishes to demonstrate the audio and video qualities of this format should add this as a reference disk...even with the scratch, in the start of reel 8 that was not edited out in the digital stage of authoring the DVD.
The producer of South Pacific was Magna Theatre Corp. The 35mm version was released by Fox. Magna was the sponsering development firm incorporated to develop Todd-AO process.
Philips of Holland developed the DP-70 projection system for Todd-AO - the only moving picture machine to ever be awarded an Oscar. The DP-70 has yet to be improved upon or equaled to this day.
The Todd-AO reduction prints in 35mm anamorphic (CinemaScope)have been used by AMC and others to show on TV is very sadly, what the public has seen since the end of the original roadshow engagements.
The depth of field in the Todd-AO process is lost to viewers who have uncorrected stigmatisim.
The audio in Dolby 5.1 is excellent. The original audio was 5 speakers behind the screen and one channel for surround on the side and rear walls of the theater.
South Pacific was the third motion picture photographed in Todd-AO and the first to revert from 30 frames per second to 24 fps. ( a step backward)
While I am on the subject, the first Todd-AO movie, Oklahoma! on DVD is likewise from the 65mm negative and has the same superb technical qualities.
The R&H legacy of the American Musical Theater is a matter of history the stories are classic and timeless, on many levels.
I know how well the Todd-AO prints looked, because I ran them as a projectionist in a Todd-AO theatre.
on September 23, 2001
If you've studied Shakespeare, you know that for the most part, films of the Bard's plays just sit there. The same can be said of the brilliant play by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. It just doesn't translate to film very well. That being said, if you're looking for a film version of "South Pacific" this is the one you need. As uneven as it may at time seem, and as jarring as the color filters may be (though not quite as bad as you may have been led to believe), this version still captures the message and spirit of the 1949 play in so many ways that the 2001 remake does not. Mitzi Gaynor plays Nellie Forbush more convincingly than anyone. Plus, she looks great in her short shorts. Rossano Brazzi (whose singing is handled by Giorgio Tozzi) gives DeBecque that charm that makes us understand what on earth a woman in her 20s would see in him. This film leaves to your imagination exactly what happened when these two characters met. The 2001 remake makes the mistake of showing us how they met. The problem is, we can't understand why the 2001 Nellie is interested in DeBecque. Here it's very clear what the messages are. This is a story about racism, yes, but also what it is that fosters those prejudices, and almost as importantly, freedom. This film, unlike the 2001 version, explains in terms of symbolism why DeBecque murdered the town bully in his past. Here (as in the play), it's because this bully (meaning fascists) was terrorizing people into submission. In the 2001 version, he killed the man because he cheated at cards! Also, John Kerr's Lt. Cable at least seems charming, which Harry Connick, Jr's version does not. The subplot between Cable and Liat is also presented in a more faithful adaptation from the play. Their relationship is doomed because booksmart Cable, no matter what he feels about Liat, can't bring himself to accept the fact that he's falling in love with someone he was raised to see as his inferior. In the 2001 remake, Cable is almost portrayed as a civil rights leader, complete with a newly created fight with a newly created character who makes fun of him for seeing an island girl. The peripheral characters here are also much more likeable and charming than those in the remake. Ray Walston plays Billis exactly as Michener described him in "Tales of the South Pacific," as a wheeler-dealer. In the 2001 remake, Robert Pastorelli tries to make us like him, but his performance is wooden and fails to give the character any charm whatsoever. Your best bet is to see a local performance of "South Pacific" on the stage. Then you'll see what a brilliant piece of work it is, comparable to anything Shakespeare ever did. Neither film really does it justice, but if you're looking for a movie version of "South Pacific," don't strain yourself as you reach for this 1958 original over the awful 2001 remake.
on January 22, 2009
I have seen the 94-minute "making of" documentary that has been created for the Blu-Ray release. It is wonderfully crafted, with interviews from actual WWII Seabees and nurses, along with amazing Technicolor footage of the war. This documentary is hosted most charmingly by Mitzi Gaynor, who looks terrific and is completely self-effacing and enjoyable. It also includes interviews (but no peformance footage) of the stars of the new Lincoln Center revival. The observations by relatives of Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Logan are candid and insightful. This promises to be an excellent release.
on March 17, 1999
Hallelujah! Finally, Fox has retired the CinemaScope print versions previously used in its two video incarnations and gone back to the TODD-AO 65 mm negative to bring us the definitive edition of SOUTH PACIFIC. The THX digitally restored film (available in both pan and scan and widescreen) is impeccably beautiful. The colors are all true and rich and deep. No more grain or bleed as we had in the Scope versions, especially in the controversial color filter sequences, which now render powerful and true as they were intended (and which netted cinematographer Leon Shamroy an Oscar nom). The widescreen version is the one to get, however - the sweep and beauty of the scenery and composition of the players meld into a perfect whole. I've seen this dozens of times but was mesmerized with this print as if seeing it for the first time. Most of the controversy over the film's casting and acting and direction stem from the small screen pan and scan - you NEED the widescreen lush backgrounds to understand the story, why the natives are attracted to it and why it holds the naive Americans in its seductive sway. RUN to get a print of this while they last - a great musical (remember it ran in its TODD-AO versions for over a year in the major city roadshow releases - audiences of the day LOVED it, despite the critics' lukewarm responses). This is a true WINNER! For the record this also contains the original Overture (Some Enchanted Evening, A Wonderful Guy, Nothin Like A Dame, Younger Than Springtime); the Entr'acte (Younger Than Springtime, Gonna Wash That Man, Bloody Mary, Bali H'ai); and Exit Music (Younger Than Springtime, A Wonderful Guy, Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Ha'i) all set against travelogue vista outtakes and title card backgrounds.
on April 2, 2009
The theatrical cut on disk one looks AMAZING. I won't go off on the use of color filters or the other deficiencies of the film, the movie as a whole works and the performances are spot-on. Gaynor and Brazzi are excellent. The Road Show restoration on disk 2 is definitely worth checking out for a few minutes of extra footage here and there but overall the image is softer and less detailed. But the theatrical version on disk one is jaw dropping and well worth the price of the disk. Highly Recommended.