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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - December, 2011

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"West Side Story" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-december-2011-west-side-story

Synopsis

Adapted from the classic Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is the story of two gangs, the Sharks and the Jets.  The Jets are all white, where the Sharks are a Puerto Rican gang.  After an early rumble in the park, the gangs are warned by the cops to cool it, but neither one will have any part of that.  Meeting up in neutral territory at a dance later that night, and Jets intend to challenge the Sharks to a fight to see who controls the neighborhood streets, once and for all.

At the dance, Tony meets Maria, and they instantly connect from across the dance floor, oblivious to the fact that they are from rival factions.  After they are broken apart, the gangs decide to set a date and time for their rumble, despite repeated warnings from the police about doing so.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1961, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn
  • Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Of course if you have seen Romeo and Juliet, you know what happens in the film.  Even though I am not a musical guy, and really can't deal with seeing them live that much, I highly enjoy West Side Story.  The songs and choreography are fantastic, and story is wonderful as it uses one of the most classic stories in western literature as its basis, and the film looks gorgeous.  Technicolor just has a look and feel that current film stocks can not touch.  It is well known now that MGM butchered the opening credits on this transfer and will be replacing discs down the road, but that flaw alone isn't nearly enough to make me not recommend this disc very highly to everyone.

Technical

The image on West Side Story looks wonderful.  Colors are rich and virbrant from the Technicolor process and detail is superb.  Opening shots above Manhattan look great and artifact free.  When we first meet the Jets, there are multiple panning shots through a chain link fence that could easily degrade down to a stair-stepped, artifact filled mess, and while there is some shimmering, it's not horrible.  Some scenes are not quite as sharp as others, which could be due to the Technicolor process as well, but overall detail and clarity is very strong.

The soundtrack is also a wonderful revelation.  While everything does sound great, it isn't the mix that could have been.  The soundtrack was drawn from the 4-track masters, even though an original 6-track master was finally discovered just last year.  Apparently the cost of converting it was too great, or they would have missed the 50th Anniversary deadline for this disc, so hearing that will have to wait for a future version I guess.

Extras

The version of the film I received contained a DVD copy of the film, a Blu-ray with bonus features that include some featurettes and trailers, as well as commentary by Stephen Sondheim, and an interactive feature on the dances of West Side Story.