This brilliant (The New Republic) film sets the ageless story of Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of gang warfare in 1950s New York. Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and scripted by Ernest Lehman, the film combines Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's unforgettable score ( Maria, America, 'somewhere, 'tonight ) with Robbins own exuberant choreography to achieve an exhilarating work of art (Saturday Review). A love affair is fated for tragedy amidst the vicious rivalry of two street gangsthe Jets and the Sharks. When Jets member Tony (RichardBeymer) falls for Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of the Sharks leader, it's more than these two warring gangs can handle. And as mounting tensions rise, a battle to the death ensues, and innocent blood is shed in a heartbreaking finale.
West Side Story
, considered by many the greatest movie musical ever, is beautifully packaged in its collector's edition set. The film itself has a new transfer and 5.1 sound mix (though the picture and 5.1 sound of the original DVD release were also excellent), and adds 90 seconds of intermission music, which is an instrumental version of "I Feel Pretty" before the film resumes with that song. The opening menu allows viewers to select whether they want to hear the intermission music (it's not separately tracked). The second disc offers numerous features, such as storyboards, international advertising, and, of chief interest, a 56-minute 2003 documentary that interviews key contributors such as director-coproducer Robert Wise, playwright Arthur Laurents, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (who says that even when the show was on stage he wanted "Gee, Officer Krupke" and "Cool" switched to the order they appear in the film). Most interesting are the discussions about the extensive dubbing. It's common knowledge that Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer were dubbed (you can hear her original "I Feel Pretty," which is adequate, and her part in the "Tonight" quintet, which is not), but Russ Tamblyn says that associate producer Saul Chaplin insisted on dubbing everyone, and Rita Moreno expresses her dissatisfaction with the character of her dubbed voice. The package is rounded out by a lovely and thick (if somewhat small-sized) booklet that reproduces the original screenplay and lobby brochure, supplemented by a new letter from screenwriter Ernest Lehman and other goodies. --David Horiuchi