on October 30, 2006
It's finally here! The so-called definitive version of this lovely classic has now been restored AGAIN from the surviving 55mm negative, and there is indeed cause for cheers. Yes, it is now finally anamorphic on DVD! And yes, it looks absolutely gorgeous! Better color, sharpness and contrast than the old DVD issued in 1999 - and that one still looks quite impressive thanks to THX, although sadly non-anamorphic. Even so, the new one looks superior and has lots more bonus material!
But now a sad warning: If you own the old DVD and want this beauty of a film in its complete roadshow version - keep it by all means! The new 50th Anniversary Edition lacks the Overture, the Intermission Music and the Exit Music!
Incredible! And all that lush music was available on the 1999 DVD! What goes on in the heads of the people in charge at Fox? After the fiasco with the Todd-AO "Oklahoma!" recently, Fox should very well know by now that fans of these Rodgers & Hammerstein-films are not likely to accept inferior and sloppy product. Here's a loud and clear boo aimed at Fox Home Video top brass from one fan! Get yourselves new jobs outside the entertainment industry and leave the DVD-business to smart film lovers who are also responsible professionals!
on November 3, 2000
A long-awaited arrival on DVD, THE KING AND I is one of the best examples of stage-to-screen adaptation, except for one glaring fault - the trimming of the score! 20th Century-Fox spent lots of effort and money to bring this Rodgers and Hammerstein hit to the very wide CinemaScope 55 screen, and the various artists who worked on the project certainly put a stunning vision of the show up on that wide screen. Production and costume design are dazzling, the orchestrations are expansive in magnetic stereo (re-engineered for Dolby 5.1), the cast is simply perfect; overall a first rate presentation of the material. But at the last minute, the studio scrapped their original idea to roadshow the picture in 55mm, and some filmed numbers were dropped to shorten the overall length. This is always detrimental, not matter what the excuses for cutting, because it means that the show becomes less than complete. But even if we could overlook the cutting of the second half of "I Whistle a Happy Tune", "Western People Funny", and maybe "My Lord and Master", the deletion of Anna's biting "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" is inexcusable, and the cutting of the score's most beautiful ballad, "I Have Dreamed", is a genuine crime. One might have been hopeful that Fox would have restored, or at least included as outtakes, the missing numbers for DVD, but no such luck! The same fate has also befallen their recent release of the 1967 DOCTOR DOLITTLE.
All of that said, this is a gorgeous transfer of a beautiful film, both visually and sonically. The deluxe laserdisc set was very pretty, but the DVD image is much sharper and clearer. Unfortunately, few of the extras on the laserdisc were transferred to DVD, thereby leaving non-laserdisc fans in the dark regarding production, deleted scenes, photos from the deleted footage, and the entertaining explanation of the whole confusion with regard to roadshow vs. non-roadshow, the overture on the soundtrack album, and the lack of such accoutrements on the first run prints (which were in 35mm, reduced from the 55mm negative). Briefly, the decision to not send the film out 55mm hard-ticket was made far enough in advance so that overture, intermission, and exit music were not created for the 1956 release. The 1956 soundtrack album has all the songs, but the overture on that recording was done especially for the album, and never was intended for the film. People who swore they saw the film with these tracks were thinking of the 1962 re-release, blown up to 70mm Grandeur with 6-track stereo, that was presented on a reserved seat basis. This special re-release had overture, entr'acte, and exit music stitched together from the underscoring of the film, but still no deleted numbers from 1956! Nonetheless, this DVD actually holds the extra roadshow tracks, something that the laserdisc (being a faithful representation of the 1956 first run) did not carry, so that's another reason to see this version. Now if Fox Video would just find those missing songs...
Blu-Ray, with its high definition picture, color and sound, is an ideal format for musicals. So, my hopes were high for 20th Century Fox's opulent "The King And I" (1956) on Blu-Ray. Instead, I was shocked. In many places, the color and picture looked washed out or muddled. It looked as if someone had taken a fading print of "The King And I" and transferred it to Blu-Ray. Previously, I had been blown away by such musical classics as "West Side Story" and "The Sound Of Music" on Blu-Ray, which fairly pop with vividness in Blu-Ray High Definition. Not so here. I watched the entire movie, but knew "The King And I" should not look like this on Blu-Ray. So I did a test. I got out my DVD of "The King And I" from the 2005 "Rodgers And Hammerstein Collection." I watched the first 15 minutes of the movie again. Sure enough. Everything was sharper and clearer on DVD! This combo pack also includes two DVDS. Hopefully, they also look better than the Blu-ray. All the Extras from the 2005 DVD edition seem to also be included here.
The Blu-Ray bust is especially disappointing because "The King And I" features the most crackling and complicated central relationship in all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr play the multiple conflicts between the mercurial King and the high-minded English governess Anna beautifully. This is, in fact, a musical drama, or more accurately, musical tragedy. And it is a tragedy that comes out of the best of intentions. The King was born a conservative, but he wants to be a liberal, modern monarch. Anna comes to Siam with an open heart, if not necessarily an open mind. She is sincerely interested in, and wants to help, the people of Siam. And she is fascinated by the charismatic King. Anna and the King march, argue, sing and dance towards a shaky mutual understanding. But this only leads to a heartbreaking stalemate. The story, music, songs, costumes, and the performances are all excellent. So, please, 20th Century Fox, fix this muddy Blu-Ray mess. "The King And I" definitely deserves a better presentation and restoration on "HD Blu-Ray" than this.
This brand-new 50th Anniversary edition of THE KING AND I is a must for all fans of the timeless Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece. Widowed English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr) travels to Siam after she is offered a position to tutor the children of the King (Yul Brynner). Once in Siam, Anna and the King clash on matters of politics, ethics and the heart...two very different individuals who manage to still find the very best in each other. This magical movie has never looked or sounded better, in a new DVD remaster. Audio commentary for the film is provided by Michael Portantiere and Richard Barrios.
This DVD has been available for a while in the UK and Australia, and will finally get a US release this November. Extra features will include the pilot episode of the "Anna and the King" TV series starring Samantha Eggar and Brynner (with optional commentary by Eggar); vintage performances from the "General Foods" Rodgers & Hammerstein TV tribute (Patricia Morison and Brynner). Several new featurettes and rare MovieTone news segments.
on June 12, 2004
Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE KING AND I (1956) is a wonderous movie musical, an incredible adaption of the Broadway musical that premiered on stage in 1951 (and has been performed tens of thousands of times since). It tells a timeless story about tradition vs. modernity, Eastern vs. Western culture and men vs. women. This story was first written as the first-hand account of Anna Leonowens' experiences in Siam in the mid-19th Century, where she had been hired by King Mongkut to teach his many children, in his hopes to push Siam into the modern age. This account was first adapted for the big screen as ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946); unseen by me, it has been highly regarded in its own right, and starred Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. THE KING AND I stars Deborah Kerr (last name pronounced "Carr") and Yul Brynner. Deborah Kerr completely embodies the strong-willed but emotionally fragile young widow Anna Leonowens; she makes Anna into a character with whom we identify and sympathize. We side with her in all disputes, from demanding that she be given her own house in which to stay as part of the original deal, to calling King Mongkut to task for enforcing double-standard sexual laws that were outdated and demeaning to women even at that time. As the equally strong-willed King Mongkut, Yul Brynner commands the screen in every scene he's in. You simply cannot look away. His King Mongkut is someone who wants to change Siam for the better, yet struggles to cling to many of the same traditions that he slowly begins to realize is partly responsible *for* holding Siam back. His heartbreak by film's end is emotionally gut-wrenching, and never fails to bring me to tears. The Russian-born, half-Mongolian Yul Brynner makes you believe he is a Siamese King; his performance is so brilliant that his transformation into this character appears to be almost effortless. And, of course, it won him a very well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor. Deborah Kerr gives a wide-ranged performance that spans all emotions throughout the course of this film. She was deservedly nominated for Best Actress, but unfortunately didn't win.
This film would have given us enough meat to chew on just in the complex relationship between our two principals alone. However, it is not content with just doing that for us. It gives us two spellbinding subplots, one of the forbidden love between Tuptim (a virtually unrecognizable Rita Moreno, in a truly marvelous performance) one of King Mongkut's many wives, and Lun Tha (Carlos Rivas), and the visit by the British Ambassador Sir John Hay (Alan Mowbray) whom King Mongkut wants to impress with how civilized he, and the Kingdom of Siam, is. Also, the "play within the play"; namely, the hypnotic Siamese theater performance of Harriet Beecher Stowe's epic American tale of oppression and cruelty UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, is just so incredible that words fail me as how else to describe it. Anna's young son Louis (Rex Thompson) provides us with an effective sounding-board onto whom Anna reveals the kind of feelings about the situation that she cannot express to the King.
Unfortunately, this or any other Western film treatment of this truly fascinating story continues to be banned in Thailand today, namely they feel that King Mongkut, whom I understand was one of their most beloved monarchs, is portrayed as a barbarian. I have two beefs with that sentiment: 1) King Mongkut is most decidedly *not* portrayed as a barbarian in this treatment (or in the 1999 non-musical ANNA AND THE KING, which is quite a brilliant film in its own right)---rather, he is shown to be a deeply conflicted man who agonizes at the prospect of losing centuries-old Siamese traditions, even as he expresses himself as one who wants to help his country modernize; 2) If they want to get the story right in their eyes, then where is the *Thai* version of the story?
Controversies aside, this is just a splendid, gorgeous film. It has great period costumes, in both Eastern and Western traditions. It has a huge, ornate set used for the Palace. It has great music ("Getting To Know You" and "Shall We Dance" are my two favorites). And it has incredible acting from all involved, especially Brynner, Kerr and Moreno (who should have been at least nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her sensitive and delicate protrayal of Tuptim). It is a joy to revisit every now & then. Parents, please do your children a favor and *keep them away* from the HORRENDOUS 1999 animated version, insultingly called THE KING AND I. That simpleminded, stereotype-laden, lamebrained version is a complete insult to anyone of decent intelligence. Just show your kids the 1956 original; it is the only version they will ever need to see!
MOST RECOMMENDED, AGES 6 & UP
on April 5, 2001
One of the grandest, most entertaining musicals ever committed to the silver screen, "The King And I" is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's greatest achievements. From the film's excellent performances by two beloved screen icons, Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, to the splendid score, to the breathtakingly beautiful cinematography and set direction and elegant costuming... all come together to create an indelible movie masterpiece.
Loosely based on the real-life story of British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, the film begins in the year 1860, when Leonowens (Kerr, at her most beautiful and most charming) comes to Siam with her young son to educate the many children of His Majesty the King of Siam (Yul Brynner, in an oustanding Academy-Award winning performance). Although Anna enjoys very friendly relationships with her charges, she has many conflicts with the stubborn King, at first refusing to live in the palace, in the King's "harem". He questions her culture and customs, but many of which he readily adopts, including the phrase: "Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera," (which becomes an oft-repeated line in the film). Although wary of the proper Englishwoman, he is intrigued by her teaching methods and her sly sense of humor and her pronounced propriety. Anna soon finds herself developing a deeper relationship with her employer... and the unspoken feeling is mutual.
Another romantic drama is also unfolding behind the scenes: Tuptim, the King's favorite courtesan, has fallen in love with Lun Tha, a young slave. They wish to run away together, but to forever seal their love, they would have to defy the King... or be separated forever.
With underlined with unspoken emotions, vain pride, and biting humor, "The King And I" is glorious entertainment, not only for its fine performances and glamorous spectacle, but for its legendary music: Kerr and the children perform a delightful rendition of the classic "Getting To Know You", Kerr sings the praises of young love in "Hello, Young Lovers", Brynner shines with his pronounced staccato "Confusion", and the film's most memorable scene has Kerr and Brynner waltzing and singing to the film's masterpiece, "Shall We Dance?".
The film is also full of many golden scenes: the King's wives giggling at the sight of Kerr in a billowy petticoated gown (believing that is how she is shaped!), Kerr teaching the inquisitive Siamese youngsters about falling lace from the sky called snow, and one scene in particular, a royal banquet given for an English ambassador, with a performance by the King's dancers of an interpretive version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", reworked as "Small House of Uncle Thomas", which is very entertaining. And the film's final, memorable scene will not be forgotten quickly.
Rodgers and Hammerstein work their incredible magic and Hollywood works its own magic in this beloved movie musical, which has delighted and entertained audiences for years, and lives on in this celebrated film classic.
on March 1, 2003
Yul Brynner's performance in "The King And I" must stand out as one of a handful of truly memorable film performances. Rodgers and Hammerstein's sweeping musical/drama has been the subject of much critical debate. The Siamese continue to feel that both the play and the film present their monarch as a simple thug converted by colonialism as represented, at least here, by the stunning person of Deborah Kerr. As a musical this is definitely one of the all time greats. It's just such a shame that Fox, the company responsible for this DVD, hasn't realized this. The non-anamorphic DVD is loaded with digital imperfections, aliasing, shimmering, grain and dirt that make for a pretty dismal visual presentation. Also, extras are zero, not even a featurette or interviews. What a disappointment. This is definitely a title that needs to be revisited and soon.
on October 18, 1999
Short of seeing this film on the big screen, there is only one way to see this film, and that is on dvd. The wide screen presentation is a treat for the eyes. The film is faithfully presented in it's original 2,55 aspect ratio, so you should have at leasr a 27' set to view this movie. I strongly dissagree with the reviewers that complained about the color. My dvd of the movie rendered the film with great detail and accurate vibrant color. Other than perhaps a little film grain, the picture is flawless. Keep in mind here that we are talking about a film that is about 43 years old.. The audio on this dvd is also first rate. The frequency range, signal to noise ratio, dynamic range, and soundstage are all very good. There is little if any audio didtortion. I wish I could say that for my copy of 2001 on dvd, which has a terrible soundtrack, and that film is twelve years newer. In conclussion, until you have seen The King And I in it's original wide screen format, you have not really seen The King And I.
THE KING AND I has a remarkably convoluted history. Anna Leonowens (1831-1915) was indeed a real person who did indeed teach in the royal court of Siam. She did not allow fact to get in the way of a good story; while her memoirs were extremely popular, they were also fictionalized. They became further so in 1944, when novelist Margaret Langdon retold the story in the novel ANNA AND THE KING; a play and film, the latter with Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, soon followed and proved popular as well. According to theatre lore, actress Gertrude Lawrence, one of the great talents of her era, encountered the material and recommended it to Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein with the thought that she herself might play Anna in a musical version.
Opening on Broadway in 1951 with Lawrence in the lead, it proved a tremendous success. Sadly, Lawrence did not live to recreate the role for the screen; she died of cancer during the New York run. After much indecision and not a little argument, the role fell to Deborah Kerr--a memorable actress--but one whose singing voice was hardly up to the role. In consequence the songs were voiced by the ubiquitious Marnie Nixon, a performer who specialized in this work throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
As a film, THE KING AND I belongs to a period during which Hollywood tended to approach musicals from a theatrical rather than a cinematic point of view: there is no pretense that we are any where but on a sound stage and the camera itself seldom moves, creating an effect that is very much like that a performance given on a proscenium stage. It is a style which has not aged well--but THE KING AND I is the exception that proves the rule: with outrageously colorful sets, brilliant costuming, memorable music, and remarkable performances it remains as enchanting as it was when it first debuted in 1956.
It is also distinctly of its era in terms of casting. Voice aside, Deborah Kerr was a natural choice for the role of Anna; she too was a cultured Englishwoman. But although minor roles were generally played by people of Asian origin, none of the leads and few of the major supporting roles were. Yul Brennar was of Russian origin; Rita Moreno was Puerto Rican (and, like Kerr, her singing voice would be dubbed); Martin Benson (Kralahome) was English; Carlos Rivera (Lun Thai) was Mexican-American; and so on. Such would be quite unthinkable today, but there is no getting around the fact that all these performers give performances which are not only credible, but often extraordinary--with Brennar and Moreno cases in point.
Regardless of who, what, why, and how, the end result is enchanting from start to finish, the sort of musical that is stamped as "a special event" from start to finish. Everything glitters; the music is among the best created by Rogers and Hammerstein; the larger-than-life performances are spot-on. The story itself is both endearing and touching--and, as is often the case with Rogers and Hammerstein, makes an oblique statement against racial prejudice. While it may not be good history (the story so annoys the Thailand government that it is banned from that nation in all its many incarnations), it is delightful entertainment... and, in my opinion at least, the best of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals both on the stage and on the screen.
The 50th Anniversary edition offers excellent color and sound and, unlike the previous edition, a noteworthy bonus package as well. As some have noted, it does not include the Overture and Intermission music of the earlier DVD--but while some will find this annoyance, the film as first released had neither; both were added during later re-release. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on November 12, 2014
The long awaited Blu-ray release of The King and I was very disappointing, as compared to other classics that were released on
Blu-ray the picture quality has a sort of bluish tint. Not at all what I expected. For fans of this movie I would await another release.