Fiddler on the Roof (Blu-ray)
The first film I ever saw in a theater was FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. True, I don’t remember it because I was not even a year old, but I was brought along to the re-release of the film so my mother could see Topol on the big screen in this timeless musical. I attribute this experience to my lifelong love of films, especially musicals. While the other kids were rocking out to Madonna and learning Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, I was being cultured by my mother and learning the words to such great musical numbers as “ Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from MY FAIR LADY, “Edelweiss” from SOUND OF MUSIC and “Look to the Rainbow” from FINIAN’S RAINBOW as well as learning the moves to The Bottle Dance from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. It was a good introduction to the world of film, and I have my mother to thank for my love of musicals (and my father to thank for sneaking in some good action/adventure films in there so I was well-rounded).
In the czarist Russia we follow a Jewish milkman named Tevye (Topol) and his family, a wife and five daughters. Due to their faith and traditions, the family and community are able to survive in a country prior to a revolution and the anti-Semites who threaten their village of Anatevka.
The best thing about FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is the music. From the opening number of “Tradition” to the end number of “Anatevka” we journey along with Tevye as he marries off his daughter, realizes the love he has with his wife, and leaves the home he loves. Most musical fans will tell you how much they love and appreciate this film but younger generations skip over it thinking it has nothing to offer them. With that I completely disagree, in fact they may be more familiar with this film than they think seeing as how one of the biggest pop stars of recent time took the backbone of a song from this musical and made it her own. (Gwen Stefani’s “If I Were a Rich Girl”).
The other aspect of this film that stands out to me most is the concept of tradition (and not just because it’s one of the major songs). Due to their deep faith and tradition, this village is able to push on in horrible circumstances because they have their traditions to cling to. Almost all families have some kind of tradition in their lives but usually they revolve around a holiday or other special occasion but in this Jewish community tradition is something that they live with everyday and that’s very fascinating to watch and learn from.
I’m not going to lie, FIDDDLER ON THE ROOF is an acquired taste and not something most people can re-watch that often (unless you were trained to do so like my sister and I) but it is one of those films that everyone should see. Much like SOUND OF MUSIC it has a nice even mix of politics and music, and really Topol’s performance is one of the most endearing I’ve ever seen on film. If you don’t fall in love with Tevye in the first ten minutes you probably don’t have a heart or a sense of humor.
Video (1080p, 2.34:1): For a forty year old film, this is a beautiful transfer. The colors are a little oversaturated at times but what do you expect from a classic?
Audio (7.1 DTS-HD): Sounds wonderful and every song is a joy to listen to.
Commentary by Norman Jewison and Topol: These were recorded separately and then spliced together but it’s still interesting to listen to, especially if you’re a fan of the film.
Norman Jewison Filmmaker (49:33): This is an old featurette from way back in the day and is basically a making-of format that talks about production and challenges of making the film.
Norman Jewison Looks Back (9:30): In this section there are five small sections that talk about the directing, the challenging weather and about the overall theme of the film.
Tevye’s Dream in Color (5:56): This is the original version of the dream sequence Tevye has to break the news to his wife about his daughter’s husband-to-be. This version looks a little worse for the wear but it’s still nice to watch.
Side By Side Comparison (1:39): This is where you get to compare the above dream sequence to the one that ended up in the film.
John Williams: Creating a Musical Tradition (11:32): Talks about famous composer John Williams and the work he did on this particular film which included: adaptor, conductor and co-orchestrator.
Songs of Fiddler on the Roof (14:43): A series of interviews with the original collaborators Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Brock and Joseph Stein. This is extremely interesting and one I would recommend.
Deleted Song: Any Day Now (3:07): This is a song in the original musical but not in the film that introduces Perchik’s character. It’s not actually a deleted scene but is the song set to film clips. Not my favorite Fiddler song but a nice addition to the special feature section.
Tevye’s Daughters (16:28): These are interviews with the three oldest daughters played by Michele Marsh, Neva Small and Rosalind Harris. Very interesting to watch and listen to their experiences working on the film.
Set in Reality: Production Design (9:50): All about the production design process and execution.
Storyboard to Film Comparison (21:04): This not only gives the comparisons and how the storyboard panned out on screen, but also has several of the musical sequences mapped out.
Trailers, Teasers and TV Spots