West Side Story (50th Anniversary Edition) (Blu-ray)


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Rating: Not Rated

Natalie Wood as Maria
Richard Beymer as Tony
Russ Tamblyn as Riff
Rita Moreno as Anita
George Chakiris as Bernardo
Simon Oakland as Schrank
Ned Glass as Doc
William Bramley as Krupke
Tucker Smith as Ice
Tony Mordente as Action
David Winters as A-rab
Eliot Feld as Baby John
Bert Michaels as Snowboy
David Bean as Tiger
Robert Banas as Joyboy

Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise

Special Features:
Disc 1: West Side Story Remastered in 1080p Hi-Def with 7.1 DTS-HD Sound

Pow! The Dances of West Side Story In-Movie Viewing Mode
Song-Specific Commentary by Stephen Sondheim
Music Machine

Disc 2: Blu-ray Additional Special Features

A Place for Us: West Side Story’s Legacy
Creation and Innovation
A Timeless Vision
West Side Memories
Storyboard-to-Film Comparison Montage

Disc 3: DVD

West Side Story Digitally Restored in
Standard Definition
Music Machine

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.20:1)
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Sound
French and Spanish Language
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 153 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“The greatest love story ever told… in the most acclaimed musical of all time… is now on Blu-ray! Experience every sensational song, dazzling dance number and magical movie moment of West Side Story in sparkling high definition with pure 7.1 digital sound – along with fascinating special features created exclusively for this 50th Anniversary Edition!

Winner of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, this electrifying musical sets the ageless tragedy of Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of gang warfare in 1950’s New York. Featuring an unforgettable score, exuberant choreography and powerful performances by Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, West Side Story will forever resonate as a true cinematic masterpiece.”

“West Side Story” is not rated.

It had been a long time since I had seen “West Side Story,” but I was interested in seeing it again on Blu-ray for this 50th Anniversary release. Plus my wife and kids would get a chance to see it for the first time, so that was an additional bonus.

I believe this film has something that stands out to everyone that watches it. That, for me, is the music. It’s amazing how many memorable tunes are in this film. First up is “Maria,” the song where Tony pines for the woman he just met at the dance. Then we get “America”, the song about what life is like for a Puerto Rican immigrant in New York City. Then there’s the classic love song “Tonight.” As if that wasn’t enough you also get the light “I Feel Pretty” and the heavy (and oft parodied) “Cool.” It’s interesting timing watching this just as our local critics society is trying to come up with nominations for best song for 2011. I’m having trouble even coming up with more than two, yet this film alone has 5 classic songs that are still being sung 50 years later. It really speaks to the sad state of music in films today.

The other notable thing for me about “West Side Story” is how it adapts “Romeo and Juliet.” It takes a familiar story told countless times in countless ways, then it put a fresh spin on it by putting it in a more modern setting. It also gave the story an added layer of poignancy by adding the hot button issues of gangs, immigration, corrupt police, and race relations. It’s a fantastic lesson for writers.

Then there’s the choreography of “West Side Story.” While I kind of snickered about how any gang dancing like that down the middle of the street would get beat up and shot, my wife and kids were enthralled by it. This was especially the case for the dance at the gym where Tony and Maria first meet. There is a big variety in dancing styles and choreography here that you never see in films anymore. In fact, I’d say it would be impossible to make a film like “West Side Story” today. That’s what makes it so worthwhile to check out.

On this 50th Anniversary Blu-ray, you get a good selection of bonus features covering the making of the movie. “West Side Memories” is the highlight of the bonus features (though it has been released on a previous DVD) and features many of the surviving original cast talking about the challenges of making the movie. They talk about the switching of the directors mid-production, the physical injuries they got while dancing, the changes from the stage production, and more. “A Place For Us: West Side Story’s” legacy is a retrospective on the movie and its influences. You see a lot of famous choreographers, dancers, and more talk about the first time they saw the movie, the various parodies, and other fun stuff. Rounding out the bonus features are some commentaries, Storyboard-to-Film Comparison, and The Dances of West Side Story In-Movie Viewing Mode.

It was a little sad to watch this movie this week just as the case of Natalie Wood’s death is reopened. Seeing her as Maria puts a face on the old mystery. But having it available on Blu-ray is something special and a whole new generation can now appreciate it and be inspired by it.