If you already have a copy on DVD of the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, tough luck. You'll just have to cast it aside and start all over again.
Seven Brides was never one of MGM's greatest musicals -- it simply isn't in the same league as Singin' In the Rain or Meet Me in St Louis. It even has a pretty pedestrian libretto, by the journeyman songsmith Johnny Mercer, who never really climbed much higher than serviceable.
Yet this sprawling outback romp, featuring Howard Keel and Jane Powell, and filmed in the big indoors of the MGM filmlot, is still immensely enjoyable -- in part because it boasts some of the most vigorous, infectious dancing of any musical since Oklahoma! hit the musical stage.
Seven Brides is very loosely based on the myth of how the early Romans, faced with a shortage of women, simply abducted women from the neighbouring town. And in this frontier musical, Howard Keel goes to town and quickly wins Jane Powell as his wife -- leaving his six brothers to visit town and abduct their own. It's hugely politically incorrect, and of course, great fun.
The projected budget for Seven Brides was slashed by MGM because they had an even bigger musical in the works at the same time -- Brigadoon. And blow me down if Seven Brides didn't blow the cheesy, totally cornball Brigadoon clear out of the water -- the ugly duckling turned into an outback Swan.
And there's another reason why the budget couldn't stretch too far -- and why it was shot on the MGM backlot instead of on location, as director Stanley Donen wished.
This was 1953, and 20th Century Fox had just introduced Cinemascope. MGM decided to try out this new format -- but it insisted, at huge cost, that Donen shoot the movie twice -- in Cinemascope, and then reframe and reshoot in 'flat' 1,85 ratio -- just in case most cinemas couldn't screen the new-fangled widescreen format.
But by the time of the movie's release the following year, Cinemascope had proved a sensation with audiences. The fullscreen version was never shown - the negatives were just locked away.
And here on this two-disc set, alongside the widescreen version, is the never-before-seen 'flat' version. It's subtly different, as you'd expect -- and if anything, is even more enjoyable in its composition than the Cinemascope version.
So here are Fourteen Brides for Fourteen Brothers - twice as much singing and dancing as ever before. Go abduct your copy today.
The Cinemascope (2,55) version is now anamorphic, and is of overall high quality.
But it is the newly released 'flat' 1,85 version, shown here as 1,78, which is the eye-opener. It's also anamorphic, and the action is way up front, leaping from the screen with intensified vigour and strength. And perhaps because of it laying dormant for more than half-a-century, the colours in this version are far more intense than we've seen before -- the immediacy and brightness of the hues is just sensational.
This is one case where the original Cinemascope is not the way to go; the newly-unveiled 'flat' edition now becomes my standard edition of choice.