I remember quite a few years back, when 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment was putting a bunch of its Todd-AO shot musical on laser disc. One of the first ones I popped in was of Zinneman's Oklahoma, and I was staggered. Not only was the corn really as high as an elephant's eye, its greens and yellows were palpable; the picture overall had an almost hallucinatory 3-D effect to it. SImilar rendering sof other such musicals followed, including South Pacific. While almost none of these films were of great value to the largely cinephilic, they were remarkable tech showpieces, real home-system-demo stuff.
I just got the Blu-ray disc of Joshua Logan's aforementioned 1958 South Pacific, and the image quality here hits with the same force of revelation as the lasers of such stuff did back in the day. Yet another Todd-AO picture, it was shot by the brilliant Leon Shamroy, the Technicolor maestro who also shot Leave Her To Heaven and The Robe. As innovative a stage director as Logan was, he was by and large an absolutely terrible film director, and the rule of thumb is that any Logan picture is only as watchable as its given lenser makes it. Thus, his best film is Picnic, shot by James Wong Howe. South Pacific might be his second best. The Jack-Cardiff-shot Fanny is third. Worst is debatable; I pick Camelot, which was only the third feature shot by cinematographer Richard H. Kline, who went on to do much better work after being compelled to execute Logan's awful ideas about how to shoot close-ups in Cinemascope. (UPDATE: It should be noted that on South Pacific, Shamroy was himself frequently hobbled by Logan's cretinous insistence on using color filters in particular sequences, for fear that untrammeled Technicolor would produce too overwhelming an effect. What a tool.)
This DVD is coming out around the same time as the American Blu-ray of Minnelli's An American In Paris, the Japanese version of which I wrote up for The Auteurs'; I'll be reviewing the domestic for the print edition of Sound + Vision shortly. In their own ways, these discs are giant steps for the Blu-ray format. They're "classic" films, and such fare thus fare hasn't been the real breadwinner for the format. But I can't imagine any home theater maven, no matter how studiously ahistoric or contemporary his or her taste, not being utterly blown away by these discs. Yes, I have something of a sentimental attachment to South Pacific, having played a sailor in a high-school production of the musical (it was before my voice broke, so I got to sing the line about "silhouette of a dame"). Still. Look at this:
These aren't even proper screen captures, just careful snapshots I took off my monitor. I'm quite excited to watch the whole thing. Yowsa.