South Pacific sails to Blu for stunning 50th

South Pacific sails to Blu for stunning 50th

The new 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of “South Pacific” provides a film aficionados dream.

In addition to a pristine presentation of the beloved 1958 exotic island Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with audio commentary, a songs-only option and singalong karaoke on Disc One, Fox has included an even more compelling second disc.

SouthPacific50thDisc Two offers a rare treat, the lengthier and heretofore unseen Road Show version of the ultra-widescreen Todd-AO movie released to select invitation-only theaters just prior to the general release of the film. And Richard Barrios provides a loving and fascinating audio commentary specific to this edition.

As has been done with only a couple of films in the past on DVD, including “Oklahoma,” the previously excised footage has been restored to this presentation, offering a first-time chance to see many scenes that were cut to trim the running time and tighten the narrative. The restored footage is obvious since colors are faded but it is nonetheless a treat, enhanced by the commentary of Barrios, who not only notes the reasons and details for the cut scenes, but also provides his own expert historical analysis of the film itself.

For instance, Barrios notes right off the bat the absence of any reference to Twentieth Century Fox in the opening titles or closing credits on the road show version, which interestingly did not distribute that edition in theaters.

Disc Two also includes a remarkable feature-length (90-plus minutes) documentary about “South Pacific” hosted by the still-lovely looking star Mitzi Gaynor, as well as surprisingly extensive footage of a couple of Gaynor’s screen tests and lengthy black-and-white excerpts from the original stage play starring Mary Martin (of Peter Pan fame) and Ezio Pinza.

Also included is a compelling extended “60 Minutes” feature on author James Michener’s sometimes emotional recollection of his World War II story of the challenges of cross-cultural integration during a return visit to the islands with a very young Diane Sawyer. Michener brings context to the lyrics of the most powerful song of the movie, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” (“to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade”… “to hate all the people your relatives hate.”)

One quibble: there is no marking on the two discs to inform viewers which disc offers the road show version and which offers the general release. One has to read the tiny print on the back of the package to learn that the road show edition is featured on Disc 2. How hard would it have been to print the three words “Road Show version” on Disc 2?

Nonetheless, this is a true reference disc, not just for Blu-ray but for the entertaining and informative background that home video versions of movies can provide at their best.

— By Scott Hettrick