on July 24, 2000
There's not too much point in my writing a review of this movie, since everyone already knows it's great. But perhaps I have a slightly different slant on it, because I hate - and I mean, I absolutely HATE - musicals. I would have walked out of the Academy Award-winning "Oliver" if I hadn't promised my wife I'd sit through the entire thing.
Probably my primary reason for hating musicals is that the music is always so out of character with the scenes and characterizations. If a movie is good, then the viewer experiences a temporary suspension of reality, in which he projects himself into the world of the movie, with all of its characters and moods. The effect of most songs in a musical is to jar that mood away and to destroy that illusion. For example, in "Oliver" a bunch of street urchins in Victorian England suddenly stop what they're doing and start dancing up and down the street singing, "Consider Yourself At Home". The scene is ridiculous on its face, and the viewer can never take those street urchins seriously again. For me this one difficulty destroys any chance I have of liking or even respecting almost any musical.
But "West Side Story" is a shining and spectacular exception to the rule. Not only is the story a beautiful one (after all, you can't improve on Shakespeare), not only are the actors and actresses uniformly superb, but the music is so well integrated into the plot and the characterizations that it almost never becomes the jarring influence that it is in so many other films. When Tony sings "I've just met a girl named Maria", when Maria sings, "I Feel Pretty", when all of the groups of characters sing "Tonight, Tonight" in anticipation of the fateful evening - all of these are circumstances in which a real person would FEEL like singing. Instead of stopping the action dead in its tracks, the songs move things forward. Instead of rendering the personalities of the characters less believable, these songs reinforce the characterizations.
Even as stand-alone pieces of music, the Bernstein-Sondheim score puts its competitors to shame. Has any song ever packed more social commentary into a believable and entertaining production piece than "Officer Krupke"? Has there ever been a better wedding song than "One Hand, One Heart"? What song has ever expressed more effectively and fervently the desire of two lovers for a better world and a better life than "There's A Place For Us"?
I hate to use a cliche, but: It doesn't get any better than this.
on May 26, 2000
Though the youngest members of your family will not necessarily get what subtlety exists in this epic romance, and there is much implied violence, this classic musical is an excellent introduction to today's generation the real heat, talent and creativity behind those GAP commercials...The score alone remains one of the most memorable and emotionally satisfying Broadway scores ever; the choreography is a non-stop show of balletic grace, beauty and violence. Set in the real streets of New York, this movie has it all: a Romeo and Juliet love story, featuring the adorable and winning Natalie Wood, who despite the fact that she is lip-synching to Marnie Nixon's lovely soprano, does a smashing job in the role of Maria. Richard Beymer, who continued to play Tony onstage for many years, is goofily winning as Tony. Rita Moreno adds fire and spice in the flashy role of Anita. Robert Wise, who would later helm The Sound Of Music, works magic with Jerome Robbins; the film is gorgeous to look at. Why oh why oh why can we not produce a musical of such immediate power and lasting emotion today? I truly believe that if the right creative team took the chance on something as hip and well-drawn as this, people would flock once again to see musicals on film. Buy it.
on October 26, 2011
the combining of all prior reviews of earlier releases of "West Side Story" with the blu-ray release, so it will be impossible to find reviews of the blu-ray as to quality and value.
The five stars are solely for the film. There have been numerous complaints about the combining of reviews; but Amazon is clearly not interested in correcting that process. And the fact of being customers is irrelevant as concerns such complaints.
Rude is as rude is.
on May 2, 2003
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'!
on November 13, 2012
The movie is, as we all know, fantastic. However, if the last time you saw this film was on broadcast tv in the 1970's, this blue ray disc will leave you wide eyed and slack-jawed. Mastered from the original 70mm film stock, the images are pristine, beautifully saturated, and tack sharp. Viewed on a 110" 1080p screen, this uncut, perfectly restored motion picture is stunningly beautiful to watch. Get it. Immerse yourself.
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.
First thing first: I can forgive the fade at the beginning. It is not very noticeable. And you can send your disc back for a replacement disc from the manufacturer. But it is really just a two to three second fade during the intro credits, not actually in the filmed section at all. It appears they removed the green reel during the remastering of this section and didn't add it back in (since this is technicolor, there are three different reels each with different hues. This was during the waning years of technicolor when it was still being used mainly for musicals. It was filmed on 70mm reels, so the format was (and is) perfect for transition to full 1080p HD (other classic 70mm films have produced great modern digital results including Cleopatra and Lawrence of Arabia).
Rather than dissect the film, which is a variation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I will discuss the amazing value of this collection. It doesn't have the huge box and knick knacks of some other recent Blu-Ray releases of classics like Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and Sound of Music. Instead, this is a compact collector set with a lot of DVD and Blu-Ray extras. The main 'keepsakes' included are the small versions of the international film posters (love the Japanese ones!) and a hard cover booklet. There is a tribute CD recorded by various artists which is hit or miss depending on your preference.
Disc one is a Blu-Ray with the film and a few commentary extras.
Disc two is a Blu-Ray and jam packed with bonus features such as several mini documentaries, and storyboard comparisons.
Disc three is identical to Disc on except that it is the DVD, standard definition version of the film.
We purchased this in the Gold Box for $15. It appears this version is sold out on Amazon.com but some third party sellers are listing it. It might also be available at local retail stores.
All in all this is an epic film and this is the best version so far - just the one minor visual glitch during the intro keeps it from being the definitive version. (How did you forget the green reel?!?!?!?!?) But that one little error aside, this is a sumptuous visual and audio treat that deserves a spot in any musical fan's Blu-Ray collection.
on May 29, 2003
This film is no doubt, one of the greatest pieces of cinematic work that has ever existed. Its stunning visual beauty, heartwrenching story, and deep-rooted emotions that run through all come together to create an absolute marvelous film. To call it a modern version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is not giving this film its due credit; it's far more than that. With the classic forbidden love tale, it also channels the emotions of childhood friendship, gang hatred, racism, and loyalty.
Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer give the performances of a lifetime as the two lovers, Maria and Tony. They are so perfectly matched and convincing that I almost forgot they were only actors. The way they look at each other is timeless, even though in real life it's been reported that they didn't really get along that well at all. The colorful supporting cast carry on fame of their own, and deservably so. The hatred that brews between gang leaders Bernardo (George Chakiris) and Riff (Russ Tamblyn) is so deep and menacing it's frightening at times, and Anita's (Rita Moreno) display of fun agitation and odious dismay is astonishing. All of these actors are top-notch; they reportedly are all extremely close, yet the hatred they are required to display towards each other in their performances is brilliant.
And then, of course, there is the directon and the story. The choreography in this film is simply breahtaking. The dancers perform stunts and moves that one wouldn't think were possible (and there's interesting tidbits about this on the extras). The film is also cinematically and visually stunning, from the opening park scene to the alleys and the rooftops. The direction is also fantastic and cleverly planned; there is pratically no dialogue until a good 20 minutes into the film, yet you can still sense hatred through their eyes and their opening choreography.
This DVD would be a fanstastic addition to any collection. Though I expected more from the extras, I definitely don't regret buying it, because watching the film in DVD format is great in itself. This is my favorite musical of all time, and I've seen lots of them. No other musical has come close to this one, and many recent ones have adapted the similar tragic love story (Moulin Rouge) that was done in West Side Story. So be sure to pick this one up soon -- you won't regret it.
on July 6, 2015
I think this "West Side Story" 50th Anniversary Edition Boxed Set is terrific. However, Amazon.com should be ashamed of themselves for failing to mention in their listing that a DVD copy is also included. I'm sure they didn't do it intentionally but I did waste some money on eBay buying a clearly marked Blu-Ray & DVD copy as well to get a DVD...which...unbeknownst to me was already included in the boxed set!!! Anyway, now you won't make the same mistake. This set includes a Blu-Ray AND DVD copy of the movie; a Blu-Ray Special Features disc; a Tribute CD;with 8 covers by different artists; a 5-5/8" x 7" hardbound book with pictures and stories about making the movie &, finally, a packet of 10 - 5 5/8" x 7" - movie poster reproductions (from around the world) on high gloss paper. All-in-all, a really nice set if you're a "West Side Story" fan I think you'd love this set..
on January 22, 1999
This ia a very intense, fast moving story in which many of the scenes easily could have happened in real life in New York at that time.
The quality of the music and lyrics blends beautifully with the action, and the choreographed dances are breathtaking.The actors fit their parts to such perfection that I could not imagine anyone else than Natalie Wood playing Maria, or George Chakiris as Bernardo, and on and on for the rest of the Jets and Sharks. My favorite musicals are those from 1950-1970 and of all the great ones like Oklahoma, South Pacific, and the Sound of Music, West Side Story impresses me as the most exciting dramatic musical of all time. It is hard to find a boring moment in this movie. When I think about this movie, the ballet numbers, choreography, and excitement stand out the most in my mind. For a fast moving drama this is a classic against which to compare other musical drama. Who would have thought that a mere conflict between two gangs could have been portrayed into such a dynamic movie. The producers certainly succeeded in bringing up to date the Romeo and Juliet saga. The romance and tragedy of Tony and Maria will always be indelibly impressed in my mind.