337 of 346 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2003
Wow. What a great DVD.
The one hour documentary featuring interviews with some of the cast, Robert Wise, Harold Prince, Sondheim, and some key crew members is completely engrossing. Home movie footage showing the filming of the movie is included. Examples of the techniques that the movie makers used to film a musical are fascinating. I was amazed that the knife scene, for example, is COMPLETELY counted out and the actor/dancers' movements were choreographed down to the second (breath, two, three, four; stab, two three; look, two, three, four). Incredible! Rita Morena is particularly informative regarding the dubbing of her song "A Boy Like That". The Robbins/Wise codirecting of the film is explained. And some of Natalie Wood's original vocals are included. The documentary is invaluable for fans of the film.
As for the film itself, it looks and sounds incredible on my widescreen HDTV. The anamorphic transfer is very good.
The DVD is packaged very well. The book which accompanies the set is very cool, with a great introduction by screenwriter Ernest Lehman (who is one of my movie heros).
I'm very impressed with this special edition of WEST SIDE STORY. The film is a classic, and deserves such treatment.
141 of 151 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2004
"West Side Story" is proof that the sum of its parts can not only be greater than the whole, but possibly be the greatest!
Little known writer in Elizabethian England pens a drama about two star-crossed lovers. Flash ahead to the turbulent streets of New York in the late 1950s and early 60s. Turn feuding families to rival gangs. Add music, choreography, make it vital. Then find a brilliant director who knows what to show, and watch as it takes home every Oscar it can.
We know the story of this film but what's important for you to know about here are the extras you get in this package that make it worth your while: The first disc is the film, preserved perfectly. And the second disc has your special features.
First, you get a great documentary on the making of the film. Titled "West Side Memories," Principals like Sondheim, Moreno, Chakiris, Beymer and more sit before the cameras and explain the process of preparing and executing what could be the finest example of the Hollywood Musical, ever. It's a piece that's could have been a stand alone DVD, it's so rich with insights.
You also get an interesting "Storyboard to Film" montage, where you see the artist's renderings of the scenes, and how those shots looked when they appeared in the film. You get to study these storyboards more carefully in several galleries on the disc. Lots of other goodies, like the theatrical trailers and photos galore... everything from Jerome Robbins's cattle call for dancers to location shots during production!
And if that wasn't enough, there's a massive book that comes with the set, that includes the complete script of the film, the original lobby brouchure that theater patrons who attended the film received, which has more photos and info, and the newspaper clippings lauding the film as it took its place in movie musical legend.
It's simply a valentine to a remarkable film, and a fantastic package, all the way around.
86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2011
There are known issues on this blu ray release. The studio says it will fix the problems ONLY in future manufacturing. Don't buy this one right away. It's a great film and it's opening moments were accidentally mutilated by the blu ray mfr. I am surprised a mass distributor like Amazon is moving forward and shipping this bad pressing.
68 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2003
When "West Side Story" hit the Broadway stage it must have shocked theater critics. A balletic musical about street gangs and murder, with such an emotional swell built in, that even the most hardened cynics must have left the show dewey-eyed and humming the Leonard Berstein score. The film created nothing less than an international craze and garnered an unprecidented 10 Oscars - the most of any musical.
PLOT: In a nut shell, this is Romeo and Juliet in the ghetto. Natilie Wood (dubbed by Marni Nixon) is Maria; poor, Puertorican and in love with Richard Beymer (Tony). But her brother, Bernardo (George Chakaris) and his girlfriend, Anita (Rita Moreno) don't approve. If you know your Shakespeare, you know how this one ends. The difference here are the songs, so electric and outstanding that they easily steal the show. Try listening to "America" or "I Feel Pretty" without tapping your toes or "One Hand, One Heart" without getting goose-bumps. It's impossible.
MGM gives us some nice packaging and some extras but let's state the obvious first: this transfer is identical to the one previously issued on DVD. Having said that, the transfer is quite good, with a rich bold color scheme and fair solid blacks. But there are cases where edge enhancement is present and quite obtrusive. There's also a lot of pixelization in the backgrounds.
Certain scenes appear slightly out of focus, while others are so sharp that even with your televsion sharpness turned to zero, the image is rather hard to look at on the screen.
The soundtrack is very strident. Songs are presented at an explosive listening level that really rocks the house. But other bits of dialogue are soft or muffled. Some of the songs have a grating high pitch to them that really strains the ear. A moderate listening level is recommended to fully appreciate this audio.
Now for the extras - for starters we get a very handsome book that contains the entire script as well as personal reflections from the producers and cast and newspaper clippings of the initial reviews. The print quality of the book is okay, but the photo image quality herein is simply unacceptable, with smeared images of original stills and others that have faded colors.
Since this is a two-disc set, the movie is on disc one, with the option to listen and view with or without the intermission music - a very nice touch. Disc 2 contains a documentary "West Side Memories" that is somewhat disappointing in that not all the cast members have their say.
Missing from the proceedings are George Chakaris (Bernardo) who is still alive and should have been included. Yes, Natalie Wood is no longer with us but I find it hard to believe that she never gave any sound bytes to the press ever, with regard to her participation on the film. Marni Nixon, who dubbed for Natalie is also not present to lend her expertise and talk about the art of dubbing, which she did plenty of during Hollywood's golden age. There's also no Ernest Lehman - odd, considering how active he's been on other special edition DVD's.
This documentary is self-congratulatory and pretty much plays it safe. The premiere and the film's enduring popularity are glossed over.
On disc 2 we get the isolated intermission music presented a second time - for what reason, I'm not sure - presumably to fill disc space. There's also a montage of stills set to music and no less than five theatrical trailers - all of them looking pretty dull and worn out. Lastly, we get a shameless add from MGM, promoting its other DVD releases. That's pretty much it. A real waste of a second disc if you ask me. Yes, the documentary is fairly comprehensive, but it could have fit on side two of a flipper disc. Yes, the book is a nice companion piece but it's not printed with high quality in mind. The handsome packaging on the exterior hints to more hidden treasures than are actually found inside.
BOTTOM LINE: A genuine work of art. The transfer is nice, just not pristine. The extras are okay, but don't really live up to the excitement one has before taking the plastic wrapper off.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Its hard to review a film like "West Side Story, that has been cannonized as a film classic. All I can do is try to relate the joy, energy and wonder I feel everytime I view this movie. This is one of those rare instances in film history, where commerce/box office success intersects with great art to create an entertainment legacy, that is truely special. We all pretty much know the story. It is a modern, musical retelling of Shakesphere's Romeo and Juliet.Instead of aristocratic families, we have poor NYC youth gangs(Jets & the Sharks), who battle for territory and respect.Two young lovers (Tony & Maria) from the opposite sides try to end the violence, but ultimately their love cannot overcome hate and biogtry.Where do you start with what makes this movie great? Do you begin with the talented youthful cast? Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood both are wonderful as the young lovers, who make the ultimate sacrifice. Likewise Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris give amazing performances as young people, who are caught up in a world that dosn't seem to understand their need to explode in violence. The entire cast is just fantastic and never gives us a false note of acting. Then there is the music. The Leonard Bernstein/ Stephen Sondheim songs such as"Tonight", "Maria", "America", "Somewhere" and the rest of the score have become enshrined in our cultural consciousness. Everytime I watch this movie I unknowingly start singing along to those wonderful tunes, that just seem to stick in your brain and make your toes tap. Finally there is the brilliant Choreogaphy of Co-Director, Jerome Robbins. The only word that comes to mind is 'GENUIS', when I see the dancing at the gym or during the songs "America" and "Cool".How did he get the actors to move like that? The story, music and dancing all comes together under the artistry of Robbins and his Co-Director Robert Wise, who both share the responsiblity for the creation of this filmmaking masterpiece."West Side Story" has now been lovingly remastered in a 'Special Edition', two DVD set.If you are a fan of this movie, then you will be in heaven with the tons of extras included. Most prominent is a great one hour documentary called "West Side Memories", which includes both home movies, original vocal soundtracks, and interviews from actors and production people. Also included along with the DVDs is a 150 page book, that has the script, publicity materials and reviews from the original film release. If you are a fan of "West Side Story" or classic movies in general, then I highly recommend this 'Special Edition'!
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2012
One of the best musical of all time, and I'm glad to report that fixed BD - with the corrected opening transition, already started shipping by AMAZON! Just received my copy, with the new UPC barcode #8 83904 24523 0 82, pasted over the BD case. Both picture and sound are great! Go get it!
46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2001
West Side Story
In 1961, West Side Story, this endearing classic, garnered a total of ten academy awards, which is one of the most plausible amounts ever. The film is now terribly ignored by audiences, but for me, West Side Story set a standard that remains, most likely, unsurpassed in movie musicals. It's that good.
West Side Story is a musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in New York City, where rival street gangs - the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks - battle for territory and respect. Is the love affair between former Jets leader Tony (Richard Beymer), and Maria (Natalie Wood), sister to Sharks' leader Bernardo, doomed to failure? Well, you're doomed until you find out, so grab this movie as soon as you.
West Side Story is a truly electrifying piece of cinema, it sets ageless tragedy on the slums of New York in the 1950's and does it maturely and with stunning style. The violence and some unnecessary language may slightly falter it, but Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's unforgettable score, which includes such famous songs as Maria, America and Tonight, and Jerome Robbins' exuberant chereography makes up for whatever may put the film down. Performances are no problem for these now-crinkly actors; Natalie Wood captures Maria with such heartbreaking richness that makes her performance ignored beauty, while Richard Beymer is excellently controlled in his performance as the confused but honest Tony. Oscar-winners Rita Moreno and George Chakiris both make sure this film is satisfying in supporting performances as well.
West Side Story is a lovely film that remains a feast for the eye, the ear and, ultimately, the heart.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This new release of "West Side Story" on DVD is a masterstroke of entertainment.: a perfect blend of music, choreography, and talent, such that the screen hasn't seen since the making of this film.
Now I must admit that I haven't been a huge fan of this film prior. It seems that the two other times that I tried watching this, I actually fell asleep. I knew that I wanted to like this movie, and now, after watching the DVD release of this movie, I understand why.
The transfer of the film to DVD is flawless. The movie looks sumptous and rich, the sound incredible, and the music soars. Every performance in the film, from Russ Tamblyn to Natalie Wood to Rita Moreno, and so on and so on, is powerful and compelling. The huge dancing numbers are visually mesmerizing, you get lost in the middle of them constantly.
In fact, the directing of Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins is inspiring. I hate it when you have a large dance number, and it suffers by having to view closeup after closeup without ever being able to see the entire number. Robbins and Wise pull back and allow the dancing to speak for itself. I only wish other directors would realize you don't need a thousand cuts in a dance number to make it exciting.
When purchasing DVDs, I tend to look beyond the simple inclusion of the movie when rating a set. This DVD is loaded, and I mean LOADED with goodies. Not only do you get the movie, but it comes with an interesting documentary, trailers, behind the scene photos, and even includes a "scrapbook" of the script complete with pictures and other information. This DVD has set the standard for all other DVD releases in the future.
So come on, enjoy the Sharks, Jets, their fighting, dancing, all set in the arms of an amazing love story. No wonder AFI chose this as one of the 100 best films of all time. This new DVD collection is one of the best of all time as well.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
When a film is based on a Broadway musical, usually a number of changes have to be made, and people who saw the work on stage feel that the film version loses its integrity. "West Side Story" is one Broadway musical that is often considered an exception to this rule and seems better on film. While the film's version of the work is able to capture all of New York, this is not the only reason for the film's success. Some of the musical numbers are rearranged and slightly rewritten which makes the film version flow a bit better than the stage production. Even though MGM's Golden Days of Musicals had long ended when "West Side Story" was filmed, we see the former glory of this great studio in this film.
The film has some of Hollywood's greats including the young Natalie Wood as Maria (a lip-syncing Maria, but that's no problem) and Rita Moreno as Anita. The singing is great, the dancing leaves a viewer spellbound, and the story is timeless. While we know we are in 1950's NYC, it could happen today. It is no wonder that both the film and the stage production are revered by so many. It is a great film and deserves its rightful place in film history.
For people considering purchasing this DVD set, the collector's edition is well worth the price. Viewers can see the movie as it would have originally aired in movie theatres, complete with intermission music, see behind the scenes tidbits, and get a commemorative book filled with photographs and interesting information.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
Let me state up front that I adore this film and, having grown up in New York City, and lived for years on the west side of Manhattan where the film's now iconic opening sequences were shot, I feel a special connection with it.
Groundbreaking in its transfer from the Broadway stage, and in its production values and design, featuring (among other virtues) a matchless score by Leonard Bernstein, brilliant choreography by Jerome Robbins, costumes by Irene Sharaff, and a fantastic supporting cast, the film is a treat for the eye and ear.
And, having said all that. . .the film also has some huge flaws that leave it disappointingly short of the greatness for which it was surely originally destined.
The greatest of these flaws is its two leads, Natalie Wood as the Latina Maria, and Richard Beymer as her Anglo love, Tony. The very beautiful Wood gave it a solid, professional try, and was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, but she was, although only 25, already a bit too glamorous and too much the Hollywood star to persuade as the slum-dwelling, fresh-to-the-world, dewey Maria. Her Spanish accent slips noticeably in several places, and she could not sing; that stalwart of non-singing actresses in the 1950s and 1960s, Marnie Nixon, was brought in to dub Wood's songs, further depriving Wood's performance of the somewhat stronger gestalt it needed. Wood had some nice moments, but the performance overall is not as strong as it needed to be.
Wood, of course, got the role because the Mirisch studio wanted a bona fide star, and Carol Lawrence, who created the role of Maria on Broadway, was felt to be neither sufficiently well-known nor glamorous enough to carry the film - they wanted a Big Star. This is a great shame, for while not the beauty that Wood was, Lawrence was nonetheless very pretty and could sing her own songs - most of all, according to those who saw her in the original Broadway production, she was deeply moving in the role, which is more than can be said of Wood's merely adequate performance.
However, the failure to connect deeply enough with the part was only partly Wood's fault; some portion of her failure must be laid at the feet of the truly abysmal leading man she was given to play to, Richard Beymer. That Wood responded as much as she did to Beymer says something complimentary about her abilities. Many rumors abound about how and why, in a film this important, with this charismatic a leading lady, so lousy an actor was cast in the role of Tony. Neither a particularly good singer, nor particularly good-looking, and without a fraction of Wood's candlepower, Beymer was remarkably weak and looked like an understudy posing with a leading lady - not a single spark of real chemistry was struck. His unsuitability, the lopsided match, undercut Wood, I think, and made it impossible for her to reach full stature in the role. What the producers and directors and Mirisch studio heads were thinking in casting Beymer is beyond this reviewer's comprehension.
It is not surprising that neither Wood nor Beymer won Oscars for their performances (although Wood was nominated), while two of the supporting leads, the riveting George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, were not only nominated for, but won Oscars for their roles as Bernardo and Anita. Chakiris's Oscar is particularly noteworthy, for he had been recruited for the role of Bernardo from the London stage production, where he had been playing Bernardo's arch-enemy, Riff (played in the film by the energetic and insouciant Russ Tamblyn). One would never know from Chakiris's intense, bitter, and gorgeously danced performance as Bernardo, that he was fresh from playing his opposite number. Moreno was equally unforgettable as Anita.
The film's other, and less glaring flaw, is its somewhat arch "beat" script, with phrases like "Daddy-O" sprinkled liberally throughout - this has dated the film in an unfortunate way, although its script was never going to be the primary reason to watch this film. And it must be said that the slum environment here is more picturesque than anything else - you can see the difference immediately if you watch a film like "On the Waterfront" with its gritty presentation of the woeful poverty of the New York waterfront. In this sense, West Side Story hasn't held up well.
As I said, even with these exceptions, the film retains a warm and affectionate place in my heart. I was far too young to catch the original Broadway play, but fell quickly under the film's spell later on in life. The supporting cast is brilliant, with the aforementioned Chakiris and Moreno, in particular, pulling out memorable performances on both the dramatic and musical levels. Russ Tamblyn, an acrobat rather than a dancer, holds his own as Riff among the very fine group of trained dancers that Robbins gathered (a feat Tamblyn also pulled off in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, where he was also surrounded by top notch dancers). Eliot Feld, who plays Baby John in the film, went on to found his own successful modern ballet company and is now rather a Grand Old Man of the ballet scene. Many of the dancers in the film were from the Broadway cast.
The gang members glower and dance and sing up a storm - the character actors playing police Lt. Schrank (Simon Oakes), Officer Krupke, and Doc the candy store owner (the wonderful Ned Glass, who makes the most of every moment onscreen) - all serve up a delectable feast of melody, movement, color, and strong characterizations. Steven Sondheim's lyrics have become immortal ("Maria" has probably been sung more often than any song in modern Broadway history), and Irene Sharaff's costumes are divine, especially those for the dance at the gym.
As for those big numbers: that amazing opening sequence, the dance at the gym, the rooftop dance by the Sharks, the dance in the garage for the Jets - you'll go a very, very long way to surpass their propulsive, irresistable spirit and beauty. The film is worth your time and money just for those sequences, and for the supporting performances. West Side Story won ten Oscars, including Best Picture.
Thus, for this ex-New Yorker, even with its flaws, West Side Story remains the greatest of the musicals of the post-Rodgers and Hammerstein era.