The 45th anniversary edition of the movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is out in a three-disc set. Consisting of two Blu-rays containing the feature film and a mountain of special features, including the “Music Machine Sing-Along,” as well as a DVD of the film and more special features, the hills are now more alive than ever.
Set in Salzburg, Austria, during the “last golden days of the 1930s,” the Oscar-winning movie musical tells the more-or-less true story of Maria (Julie Andrews), an outspoken and unlikely novice nun. Always in trouble at the abbey, Maria is sent out into the world for a short time by the Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) to become the governess for the seven Von Trapp children, aged 5 to 16, and their widowed, disciplinarian, naval captain father Georg (Christopher Plummer).
Twelfth in a long line of governesses, Maria wins over the children as well as Captain Von Trapp, in spite of attempts by his wealthy girlfriend the Baroness (Eleanor Parker) to derail their attraction to each other. Under Maria’s guidance, the children blossom as singers. Thrifty impresario Max (Richard Haydn) wants to enter them in a competition at the upcoming folk festival.
Meanwhile, Austria’s independence hangs in the balance as the Nazis rise to power. Everyone is touched by the climate of change, from the oldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl’s (Charmian Carr) Aryan boyfriend Rolf (Daniel Truhitte) to the captain himself, who refuses to be swept up in the Third Reich’s plans for world domination. So, in addition to offering such beloved songs as “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Every Mountain,” “Maria,” “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” “So Long, Farewell,” “Do-Re-Mi” and, of course, the title number, “The Sound of Music” also has a message and a moral. It also has an “intermission” and an “entr’acte” and remains an essential part of movie musical history 45 years later.
Michael Epstein’s “LennoNYC” (American Masters/A&E) could be a companion piece to the 2006 doc “The U.S. vs. John Lennon.” There are that many similarities. But “LennoNYC” feels a bit more personal and tender. Interviews with Yoko Ono, David Geffen, Elton John, Dick Cavett, Tom Hayden, producer Jack Douglas, photographer Bob Gruen, attorney Leon Wildes, recording engineer Roy Cicala, guitarist Earl Slick, drummer Andy Newmark, bass player Klaus Voorman, radio host Dennis Elsas, Geraldo Rivera, publicist Elliot Mintz and others provide meaningful insight and perspective. The same can be said for the fantastic concert and performance footage, including some from recording sessions.
According to Yoko, John used to say that he should have been born in New York, a city where he was finally free. After being treated badly in London and being trashed by the press, John and Yoko, the messengers of peace, relocated to New York, living first in Greenwich Village before moving into the Dakota on the Upper West Side. Of course, while they were making their individual and collective art, they became anti-war activists, which put them squarely on the U.S. government’s radar and resulted in a protracted four-and-a-half-year battle in which Lennon faced the constant threat of deportation. The stress also took its toll on the marriage, depicted in the couple’s separation and Lennon’s lost period in L.A.
John and Yoko’s reunion, following John’s return to New York and his performance at an Elton John concert at Madison Square Garden, is the stuff of legends. But their renewed happiness and devotion, including the birth of son Sean, would be short-lived. Lennon was assassinated in December 1980.
“LennoNYC” is a welcome addition to Lennon’s legacy, especially since it arrives in time for the observance of what would have been his 70th birthday and the 30th anniversary of his untimely passing.
The recently reissued and expanded double CD version of “Double Fantasy” (Capitol), featuring the original album on one disc and a stripped-down version on another, is the perfect musical companion to the “LennoNYC” DVD.