Feb 24, 2015

Review: The Sound of Music (1965)

The Sound of Music was one of the many VHS tapes my parents had bought for my sisters and I when we were children. That makes it one of my most watched movies even though I haven't seen it since VHS was actually a thing. Pretty sad really, so it's about time I get a proper viewing of it. I'm finally able to appreciate it properly too because how could you expect a young boy not to zone out from time to time during a 174 minute movie?

There's no doubt that The Sound of Music is one of the greatest musicals of all time, arguably the best of all. I'm no musical expert though, so I can't really say. I'm going to say it anyway. It's based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp herself. Don't be fooled though, there are of course some facts that have been changed for entertainment's sake. But who really cares though right? Julie Andrews' place as an actress was firmly cemented because of her performance as Maria von Trapp and with Mary Poppins coming the year before, that's quite the 1-2 punch.


Genre: biography, musical, drama
Directed by: Robert Wise
Produced by: Robert Wise, Peter Levathes, Richard D. Zanuck, etc.
Written by: Ernest Lehman
Music by: Irwin Kostal
Running time: 174 minutes
Production company: Robert Wise Productions, Argyle Enterprises
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Centfox, Fox Films, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $8,200,000
Box office: $286,214,286 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Charmian Carr, Heather Menzies-Urich, Nicholas Hammond, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Kym Karath, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson, Ben Wright, Daniel Truhitte, Norma Varden



Maria (Julie Andrews) is a young postulant at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, Austria. She's having trouble fitting in however and Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) isn't convinced that Maria is cut out to be a nun. Having received word that widowed Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) is looking for a governess for his seven children, she sends Maria for the job.


There are few openings as iconic as the one in The Sound of Music. We're shown aerial shots of mountain tops and rolling hills in Mehlweg, Bavaria before coming across Maria having the time of her life as she sings the titular song "The Sound of Music." It's one of those undeniable "wow" moments, among several others.

It's honestly amazing though how The Sound of Music manages to be one of those movies that don't annoy you as it cuts to singing. It's the complete opposite really since there are so many spellbinding songs that stick out in your mind after having watched it. After watching a movie you can usually name two or three songs max, but with TSoM, you can name far more.

Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers deserve a lot of praise for the strength of their compositions as does Julie Andrews of course for how much energy she puts into her character and her singing. Christopher Plummer ended up being dubbed by Bill Lee and Peggy Wood by Margery McKay, so they definitely deserve credit here as well.

My favourite song? It's hard to say, but I guess it's between "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and "Edelweiss." I know, neither of them is sung by Julie Andrews but I just love those songs which is why I had to give props to Margery McKay and Bill Lee as it's their vocals for both of those songs respectively. Oh, and "The Lonely Goatherd" is amazing too. I could probably just go on and on about which songs I like.

One thing I definitely could never truly appreciate about The Sound of Music as a kid is just how grand and opulent it is. It's an absolutely beautiful film that paints Salzburg as such a pretty location. A lot of this is due to cinematographer Ted D. McCord who filmed TSoM in 70mm. The production as a whole looks so rich, colourful and well put together. By that I mean the mise-en-scène is just spectacular. Take Mother Abbess' office which is grey, shadowy and sparse, or the mirrored ballroom inside the von Trapp villa. It's just impossible to not be astounded by it all.

I also really love some of the more subtle touches with lighting and shadows in TSoM. Like when Maria is sent out to be a governess, she's understandably nervous about taking care of seven children. As she's leaving the abbey, her face is shadowed as she sings the doubting portion of "I Have Confidence" before changing tone completely as she emerges into the sunshine. It's a really nice portion of the movie and there are some other nice little touches like this elsewhere in the film.

Besides the wonderful songs and the great visuals, The Sound of Music features an absolutely enchanting Julie Andrews. She's got an exuberance and charm that is just magnetic and she can belt out notes with unbelievable ease. Christopher Plummer is also great as the stern Captain von Trapp and he's a big change from the older Christopher Plummer that I'm more familiar with today. He's barely recognizable to me even. Still, there's nothing like how he portrays the growth of his character, one who fights to keep all of his emotions in check. It's just a great all around showing.

Another big victory for The Sound of Music is the simple fact that the children aren't annoying in the least. You have Gretl (Kym Karath) who plays the youngest of the von Trapps, but thankfully she isn't overplayed as the cutesy little one too much. With seven children there was just a huge risk of at least one of them being unbearable so I was glad to see that never happened.

The Sound of Music is a rich production in every sense of the word. It's rich in visuals, in emotion, in characters, in music and in length. It's easy to write it off as overly-schmaltzy at times, but that was never a problem for me. I bought into Maria's story hook, line and sinker as well as every other emotional scene. I also had no trouble paying attention for every single minute of Robert Wise's lengthy effort that is now celebrating fifty years since its release. I can tell you that it's well worth a re-watch if you haven't seen it in a while. If you somehow haven't seen TSoM, change that in a hurry.



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