One of the Greatest Musicals of All Time!
Robert J. Schneider | Tacoma, WA USA | 06/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE KING AND I (1956) is a wonderous movie musical, an incredible adaption of the Broadway musical that premiered on stage in 1951 (and has been performed tens of thousands of times since). It tells a timeless story about tradition vs. modernity, Eastern vs. Western culture and men vs. women. This story was first written as the first-hand account of Anna Leonowens' experiences in Siam in the mid-19th Century, where she had been hired by King Mongkut to teach his many children, in his hopes to push Siam into the modern age. This account was first adapted for the big screen as ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946); unseen by me, it has been highly regarded in its own right, and starred Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. THE KING AND I stars Deborah Kerr (last name pronounced "Carr") and Yul Brynner. Deborah Kerr completely embodies the strong-willed but emotionally fragile young widow Anna Leonowens; she makes Anna into a character with whom we identify and sympathize. We side with her in all disputes, from demanding that she be given her own house in which to stay as part of the original deal, to calling King Mongkut to task for enforcing double-standard sexual laws that were outdated and demeaning to women even at that time. As the equally strong-willed King Mongkut, Yul Brynner commands the screen in every scene he's in. You simply cannot look away. His King Mongkut is someone who wants to change Siam for the better, yet struggles to cling to many of the same traditions that he slowly begins to realize is partly responsible *for* holding Siam back. His heartbreak by film's end is emotionally gut-wrenching, and never fails to bring me to tears. The Russian-born, half-Mongolian Yul Brynner makes you believe he is a Siamese King; his performance is so brilliant that his transformation into this character appears to be almost effortless. And, of course, it won him a very well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor. Deborah Kerr gives a wide-ranged performance that spans all emotions throughout the course of this film. She was deservedly nominated for Best Actress, but unfortunately didn't win. This film would have given us enough meat to chew on just in the complex relationship between our two principals alone. However, it is not content with just doing that for us. It gives us two spellbinding subplots, one of the forbidden love between Tuptim (a virtually unrecognizable Rita Moreno, in a truly marvelous performance) one of King Mongkut's many wives, and Lun Tha (Carlos Rivas), and the visit by the British Ambassador Sir John Hay (Alan Mowbray) whom King Mongkut wants to impress with how civilized he, and the Kingdom of Siam, is. Also, the "play within the play"; namely, the hypnotic Siamese theater performance of Harriet Beecher Stowe's epic American tale of oppression and cruelty UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, is just so incredible that words fail me as how else to describe it. Anna's young son Louis (Rex Thompson) provides us with an effective sounding-board onto whom Anna reveals the kind of feelings about the situation that she cannot express to the King.Unfortunately, this or any other Western film treatment of this truly fascinating story continues to be banned in Thailand today, namely they feel that King Mongkut, whom I understand was one of their most beloved monarchs, is portrayed as a barbarian. I have two beefs with that sentiment: 1) King Mongkut is most decidedly *not* portrayed as a barbarian in this treatment (or in the 1999 non-musical ANNA AND THE KING, which is quite a brilliant film in its own right)---rather, he is shown to be a deeply conflicted man who agonizes at the prospect of losing centuries-old Siamese traditions, even as he expresses himself as one who wants to help his country modernize; 2) If they want to get the story right in their eyes, then where is the *Thai* version of the story?Controversies aside, this is just a splendid, gorgeous film. It has great period costumes, in both Eastern and Western traditions. It has a huge, ornate set used for the Palace. It has great music ("Getting To Know You" and "Shall We Dance" are my two favorites). And it has incredible acting from all involved, especially Brynner, Kerr and Moreno (who should have been at least nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her sensitive and delicate protrayal of Tuptim). It is a joy to revisit every now & then. Parents, please do your children a favor and *keep them away* from the HORRENDOUS 1999 animated version, insultingly called THE KING AND I. That simpleminded, stereotype-laden, lamebrained version is a complete insult to anyone of decent intelligence. Just show your kids the 1956 original; it is the only version they will ever need to see!MOST RECOMMENDED, AGES 6 & UP"
Oh, no! Fox has made another R&H-blunder!
Lars Sandell | Sweden | 10/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's finally here! The so-called definitive version of this lovely classic has now been restored AGAIN from the surviving 55mm negative, and there is indeed cause for cheers. Yes, it is now finally anamorphic on DVD! And yes, it looks absolutely gorgeous! Better color, sharpness and contrast than the old DVD issued in 1999 - and that one still looks quite impressive thanks to THX, although sadly non-anamorphic. Even so, the new one looks superior and has lots more bonus material!
But now a sad warning: If you own the old DVD and want this beauty of a film in its complete roadshow version - keep it by all means! The new 50th Anniversary Edition lacks the Overture, the Intermission Music and the Exit Music!
Incredible! And all that lush music was available on the 1999 DVD! What goes on in the heads of the people in charge at Fox? After the fiasco with the Todd-AO "Oklahoma!" recently, Fox should very well know by now that fans of these Rodgers & Hammerstein-films are not likely to accept inferior and sloppy product. Here's a loud and clear boo aimed at Fox Home Video top brass from one fan! Get yourselves new jobs outside the entertainment industry and leave the DVD-business to smart film lovers who are also responsible professionals!"
It's only flaw is that it isn't complete...
tomovieboy | Thousand Oaks, CA USA | 11/04/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A long-awaited arrival on DVD, THE KING AND I is one of the best examples of stage-to-screen adaptation, except for one glaring fault - the trimming of the score! 20th Century-Fox spent lots of effort and money to bring this Rodgers and Hammerstein hit to the very wide CinemaScope 55 screen, and the various artists who worked on the project certainly put a stunning vision of the show up on that wide screen. Production and costume design are dazzling, the orchestrations are expansive in magnetic stereo (re-engineered for Dolby 5.1), the cast is simply perfect; overall a first rate presentation of the material. But at the last minute, the studio scrapped their original idea to roadshow the picture in 55mm, and some filmed numbers were dropped to shorten the overall length. This is always detrimental, not matter what the excuses for cutting, because it means that the show becomes less than complete. But even if we could overlook the cutting of the second half of "I Whistle a Happy Tune", "Western People Funny", and maybe "My Lord and Master", the deletion of Anna's biting "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" is inexcusable, and the cutting of the score's most beautiful ballad, "I Have Dreamed", is a genuine crime. One might have been hopeful that Fox would have restored, or at least included as outtakes, the missing numbers for DVD, but no such luck! The same fate has also befallen their recent release of the 1967 DOCTOR DOLITTLE.All of that said, this is a gorgeous transfer of a beautiful film, both visually and sonically. The deluxe laserdisc set was very pretty, but the DVD image is much sharper and clearer. Unfortunately, few of the extras on the laserdisc were transferred to DVD, thereby leaving non-laserdisc fans in the dark regarding production, deleted scenes, photos from the deleted footage, and the entertaining explanation of the whole confusion with regard to roadshow vs. non-roadshow, the overture on the soundtrack album, and the lack of such accoutrements on the first run prints (which were in 35mm, reduced from the 55mm negative). Briefly, the decision to not send the film out 55mm hard-ticket was made far enough in advance so that overture, intermission, and exit music were not created for the 1956 release. The 1956 soundtrack album has all the songs, but the overture on that recording was done especially for the album, and never was intended for the film. People who swore they saw the film with these tracks were thinking of the 1962 re-release, blown up to 70mm Grandeur with 6-track stereo, that was presented on a reserved seat basis. This special re-release had overture, entr'acte, and exit music stitched together from the underscoring of the film, but still no deleted numbers from 1956! Nonetheless, this DVD actually holds the extra roadshow tracks, something that the laserdisc (being a faithful representation of the 1956 first run) did not carry, so that's another reason to see this version. Now if Fox Video would just find those missing songs..."
Not "Something Wonderful" This Time Around
Nix Pix | Windsor, Ontario, Canada | 03/02/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Yul Brynner's performance in "The King And I" must stand out as one of a handful of truly memorable film performances. Rodgers and Hammerstein's sweeping musical/drama has been the subject of much critical debate. The Siamese continue to feel that both the play and the film present their monarch as a simple thug converted by colonialism as represented, at least here, by the stunning person of Deborah Kerr. As a musical this is definitely one of the all time greats. It's just such a shame that Fox, the company responsible for this DVD, hasn't realized this. The non-anamorphic DVD is loaded with digital imperfections, aliasing, shimmering, grain and dirt that make for a pretty dismal visual presentation. Also, extras are zero, not even a featurette or interviews. What a disappointment. This is definitely a title that needs to be revisited and soon."