West Side Story (Blu-ray)
WEST SIDE STORY is one of the most recognized musicals in the history of the genre. Known for its powerful lyrics, poignant subject matter and a gorgeous leading lady, the film managed to deliver the perfect blend of romance, tragedy and entertainment.
The storyline revolves around a turf war between two 1960s gangs in New York City. Local street urchins known as the Jets are ready to rumble with the Puerto Rican Sharks for rights to rule the neighborhood park. The situation is heightened when Tony (Richard Beymer), the former leader of the Jets falls madly in love with Maria (Natalie Wood) who just happens to be the sister of the leader of the Sharks.
Knowing that their relationship is socially forbidden, the pair sneaks around and keeps their love a secret from both their real families and their street families. When Maria learns that her brother will be fighting one of the Jets at midnight, she begs Tony to stop the rumble and talk some sense into the group since he was once one of them but left to become a responsible adult. Tony is too late and witnesses Maria’s brother Bernardo kill his best friend. In a moment of rage, he murders Bernardo by accident. Tony leaves the scene heart broken, knowing that Maria will never forgive him for what he’s done.
Clearly, the writers took the plot straight from Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET. Forbidden romance, tragedy, betrayal and death are all key elements of the story. Sure Robbins and Wise mixed in a few love ballads and well-timed finger snaps, but the subject matter actually made sense and flowed really well. I’m sure New York City and other parts of the nation were certainly dealing with racism and this film chose not to gloss over any of the troubling realities that were making the headlines of every newspaper in the country. In a decade where THE MUSIC MAN, MY FAIR LADY and MARY POPPINS were singing and dancing about spoonfuls of sugar, WEST SIDE STORY sang and danced about racial profiling in America.
The music was, and will always be, phenomenal. “America,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere” are just a few titles that have made their way into soundtrack history. The dancing was equally ground breaking. For the first time, contemporary movement was mixed with classical ballet work. The beats and rhythm are on uneven counts which is highly uncharacteristic for a trained dancer. WEST SIDE STORY had to be one of the first movie musicals to venture in that arena and they succeeded with flying colors.
WEST SIDE STORY was a movie phenomenon that spoke to many cultures beyond the borders of the Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City. It was a profound piece of art that creatively depicted the Shakespearean tragedy we all know and respect. The music and dance moved the story forward in a way that made viewers stop and think. It is no surprise that WEST SIDE STORY won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1961. It truly is a classic.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC 1080p High Definition) WEST SIDE STORY was magical to watch in high definition. The colors and set designs were out of this world.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) The audio quality was excellent for sure. Each song was gorgeous.
A Place for Us: West Side Story’s Legacy (29:28): This feature mainly focused on directors Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, depicting their different takes on directing. Robbins was hard core and expected nothing but the best while Wise was more emotional and dramatic. They also talked about the opening scenes in which New York City is shot from above, like a blue print, which slowly fades into an actual skyline. This was ground breaking footage for that time.
The feature goes on to talk about how WEST SIDE STORY has been featured in various films and TV shows. It even includes a little-known fact that Michael Jackson was obsessed with the film and that’s where inspiration for both the “Beat It” and “Bad” videos come from.
WEST SIDE Memories (55:55): Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise are both heard in radio interviews from the time, along with interviews from the actual actors and actresses from the movie. Robbins was known for saying, “This is not your typical Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire movie.”
Russ Tamblyn (Riff) had the juiciest gossip. He said that the movie took two extra months to shoot because Robbins wanted a million different angles of every dance scene. He also said that Natalie Wood hated Richard Beymer.
Rita Moreno (Anita) admitted that everyone’s voices were dubbed for the movie and that all the characters, especially Natalie Wood, were irritated. The feature showed a “true voice dub” of Natalie singing “I Feel Pretty” and it was horrendous.
Storyboard to Film Montage (4:50): Storyboards are morphed into the actual set where the film was shot.
The Dances of WEST SIDE STORY: Each of the dances in the movie are featured by chapters.
Music Machine: Each of the songs in the movie are featured by chapter.