The King And I
Hello young lovers, who ever you are. Could anything be more delightful than owning a copy of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King & I” on DVD? Never have the colors looked so smashing, so vivid, so true to life. It’s like watching “The King & I” for the first time.
Directed by Walter Lang, the big screen adaptation of “The King & I” is eye candy for purveyors of elaborate musical. Shot against some of the most enormous, amazing and beautiful sets ever caught on film, “The King and I” is a visual and aural treat. It’s like you’re watching the best possible version of the musical on the world’s largest sound stage. Deborah Kerr is excellent as Anna Lenowens, who has come to Siam to serve as a teacher of western culture to the children of the Royal Court.
Set in 1860’s, the book by Oscar Hammerstein II (adapted for the screen by Ernest Lehman) immediately establishes Anna as a strong woman, who has had to fend for her young son by herself since the death of her husband. Anna’s western ideas and her determination rub the King (Yul Brenner in an Oscar-winning performance) the wrong way.
The King is not used to strong women, especially ones not afraid to voice their opinion or put the King in his place. Unlike previous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The King & I” isn’t really a love story, but a story about mutual respect. At first the King resents Anna, but he warms up to her as he begins to understand where she is coming from. Brenner’s is a performance constantly filled with discovery. His character has to make a 180 degree turn, and Brenner makes each navigation a delight.
Kerr, whose singing voice was dubbed, brings just the right amount of nobility to her performance, hiding a fiery hellcat under her hoop skirt. The supporting cast is outstanding, especially Rita Moreno (on her way to an Oscar win for “West Side Story“) as the young native girl given to the King as a gift even though her heart belongs to someone else. There’s love, romance, diplomacy and a little heartache as the King and Anna put aside their differences in order to provide the best for his children. The production and costume design are exemplary, while Jerome Robbins’ choreography shows why he was the best at what he did. “The King & I” is a delight from start to finish, and is filled with such memorable tunes as “Hello Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance?” You’ll find yourself humming along because the film is that infectious.
VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind
Except for the occasional artifact, the Cinemascope 2.55:1 widescreen digital transfer is superb. The colors and their saturation are extraordinary. I thought I had a new television. The blacks are strong and never waver, while the film looks sharp thanks to a generally clean original negative. There were a couple of moments were the flesh tones would turn light green, but I’m not really sure if this is a digital compression problem or just color correcting on the original print. The King’s polka-dot shirt is also a digital nightmare. Regardless, it’s not enough to detract from the DVD’s overall quality. The colors are especially brilliant, turning the screen into a visual display of royal blues, hot reds, soothing yellows and flattering flesh tones.
HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf
Buoyantly remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack (it’s also available in English 2.0 and French Mono). The music and lyrics sound sensational, with crisp and clean high and low ends. Even ambient noise is present, remarkable for a film made in 1956. The stereo separation isn’t anything to wave flags about, but it more than gets the job done. The rear speakers are relegated to score and the occasional echo effect. Dialogue mix is superior, while the score couldn’t sound better.
ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor
Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing, subtitles in Spanish.
COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak
Simply splendid main menu that perfectly captures the theme of the film. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment makes the DVD of “The King & I” a royal experience with the inclusion of two Movietone News trailers, one on the premiere of the film, the other on the film’s wins at the Academy Awards. There’s also the original theatrical trailer, a “Royal” trivia game that gives you a round of applause if you answer all of the questions correctly. There’s also a “Sing Along” section (the lyrics are printed on the accompanying literature) where you can warble along to three of the film’s most famous songs.
PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal
“The King & I” is simply royal on DVD.
VITALS: $24.99/Rated G/133 Minutes/Color/52 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#4110826
ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S THE KING & I
BIRTH DATE: 1956
HMO: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment