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Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: DTS HD-Master Audio 7.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Rating: G
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: MGM
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 5, 2011
  • List Price: $29.99

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BestBuy.com:
Fiddler on the Roof - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle

Purchase Fiddler on the Roof on Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Broadway’s history has a short list of iconic musicals, and the Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick production of  Fiddler on the Roof surely belongs on that list. With over 3000 performances, Fiddler is the 14th longest running show of all time. I had the pleasure of seeing the original production in 1964 with the incomparable Zero Mostel as Tevye the milkman, who is the central character in this heart-warming story of Jewish life in early 20th century Czarist Russia.

Not all musicals adapt well to the big screen but Norman Jewison who produced and directed this cinematic adaptation has done a creditable job with this film. While sacrificing some of  the intimacy of the stage, there is still a very personal touch conveyed by the close shots of the characters, individually and collectively.  The casting of Chaim Topol instead of Mostel as Teyve was controversial but, not to worry,  he delivers a convincing portrait of the family patriach whose five daughters will all eventually need to be married.  Traditions clash with the new generation, as portrayed through Teyve’s children and the men that they meet or are promised to. Ethnic persecution  by the Russian government is not treated heavy-handedly when the Jews of Anatevka are forced to leave their homes and, in a 20th century diaspora, seek new lives in other countries.  The supporting cast are near perfection, with legendary Yiddish theater star Molly Picon as Yente the matchmaker. Everything works well in this film, the sets, the songs, and the choreography.  While running more than three hours, Fiddler is well-paced and does not  play as a long movie.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

There is only so much that the video wizards can do to a 40 year old film. The picture quality is quite variable, ranging from occasional crisp and vivid images to frequent soft and grainy panoramas.  There is also a darker quality to the print than what I remembered from its theatrical release. Overall, while an improvement over the DVD original,  those seeking a miraculous cinematographic restoration will need to look elsewhere.  The aspect ratio of 2.35: 1 also appears to truncate both indoor and outdoor scenes.  With these reservations in mind, it is still  not likely that viewers will get a better presentation of this musical.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

Musical videos usually live or die by the quality of their soundtracks. Here is where this  film disappointed me the most. Although remastered in DTS-HD Master Audio, the audio presentation, while generally clear,  has compressed dynamics. The overall soundstage is flat and does not spring to life from the speakers as a musical should. Forget about surround or ambience  channels, which are virtually nonexistent here. That said, Fiddler has so much great music, that these reservations, while unfortunate, can be tolerated.  Viewers will be still be willingly swept along by a great score abetted by superb lyrics. As a special treat for classical music fans, the fiddle is played by the great violinist, Isaac Stern.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

Unlike some recent resurrections of classic films, this set is chock-a-block with extras including illuminating reminiscences by director Jewison,  interviews  with some cast and production members and composer  John  Williams (of Star Wars fame). There are also story board and production shorts, and the usual trailers and teasers.  A bonus is provided by the color version of Teyve’s dream sequence, while the film contains a more appropriate black-and-white setting.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

For those who love this musical but remember it through a glass darkly, this Blu-ray disc will provide a fond memento. For  first-time viewers of Fiddler on the Roof, there is still much pleasure to be derived in spite of this film’s video and audio limitations.  It is, perhaps, a bit ironic that of  the seven Oscar nominations, two of the  three  statuettes won, went for Best Cinematography, and Best Sound.  The third award, for Best Stage Score Adaptation,  is the reason that you will come back to this show over and over. As an honest portrayal of family  life in hard times, it doesn’t get more authentic or moving than this.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004N66XZ8[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Fiddler on the Roof - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle

Purchase Fiddler on the Roof on Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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