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Stanley Donen
Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards
Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley
In 1850 Oregon, when a backwoodsman brings a wife home to his farm, his six brothers decide that they want to get married too.
Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 6/5/2018

• Audio Commentary with Director Stanley Donen
• Alternate Widescreen Version
• “Sobbin’ Women” Featurette
• Radio City Music Hall Premiere Featurette
• MGM’s 30th Anniversary Newsreel
MGM Jubilee Overture” Vintage Short
• Trailer


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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers [Blu-Ray] (1954)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 28, 2018)

After he directed Singin’ in the Rain, Stanley Donen led two forgotten films: 1952’s Fearless Fagan and 1953’s Give the Girl a Break. Donen rebounded with 1954’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, an effort that earned “classic” status.

Set in Oregon circa the 1850s, backwoodsman Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) decides that he needs to take a wife, so he rapidly woos local girl Milly (Jane Powell) and brings her home. She encounters a shock, as she soon learns Adam has six brothers, all of whom display little education and poor manners.

Milly takes it upon herself to “civilize” the Pontipee boys. From there they decide they also want wives and they pursue romantic success.

Though I loved Singin’ in the Rain, I went into Brides with skepticism. I’ve never been a big fan of musicals, and the film’s premise left the potential for a relentlessly corny experience.

As much as I hoped I’d encounter a pleasant surprise, unfortunately I ended up with what I expected. Silly and dated, the movie lacks any of the charm found in Singin’ in the Rain.

Granted, it might be unfair to compare Brides to arguably the greatest movie musical ever made, but even if I look at it versus other peers, it falls short. Brides starts in a lumbering, goofy manner and never improves from there.

For a rough-hewn backwoods man, Adam sports an awful lot of hair styling product, and that lack of verisimilitude impacts everything about the utterly unconvincing Brides. No, I don’t expect this musical to turn into The Revenant, but the movie could use a grittier tone than this!

During this disc’s extras, choreographer Michael Kidd recognizes the inherent absurdity of a musical about these characters. He apparently fought against dance segments, as he figured it’d look ridiculous to see these “manly men” frolic and gambol.

Kidd was right. He acquiesced and created production numbers for Brides, of course, but these scenes never become entertaining, partly because they’re so absurd. At its nadir, we see a dance done accompanied by an axe, and it’s a eye-rolling as it sounds.

Even without the ridiculous nature of these segments, the production numbers simply lack real energy. They feel forced and fail to add spark to the proceedings.

The bland, forgettable songs don’t help. One would expect some classic tunes to emerge here, but these numbers feel mediocre and uninspiring.

Because Brides comes with the simplest of stories – so basic that I’m reluctant to call it a “plot” – the movie needs vibrant characters to prosper. Unfortunately, we get a dull assortment of participants who tend to blend into one.

Keel makes the least convincing “backwoods man” committed to film, and the others don’t fare much better. The actors can’t bring life to this effort.

Because I went into Brides with guarded expectations, I can’t call it a disappointment. Still, I hoped it’d be better than this, as it delivers a silly affair with few positives on display.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite some inconsistencies, this became a largely appealing presentation.

Sharpness turned into a somewhat up and down element, as aspects of the film could veer a little soft. That seemed related to the nature of some optical shots as well as the film stock, which hasn’t always aged well.

Even with these variations, the movie usually seemed well-defined, and it could look excellent at times. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and both edge haloes and print flaws remained absent.

Colors tended toward a somewhat ruddy tint that appeared to stem from the aforementioned film stock. Even with that rusty feel at times, the movie offered a lot of vivid hues, and they could become impressive.

Blacks seemed well-rendered, and low-light shots demonstrated nice smoothness. Given the film’s age and limitations, this felt like a pretty solid presentation.

Taken from the movie’s original six-track audio, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack fared well for its era. Music used the soundscape best of all, as the score and songs spread across the front in a pleasing, nicely separated manner.

Effects enjoyed less opportunity to shine, but the mix allowed for some gentle localization and placement of these elements. One standout sequence – an avalanche – burst to life well and utilized all five channels to nice effect.

Audio quality showed its age but remained more than acceptable. Music was reasonably peppy and full, while effects showed fairly positive accuracy and range.

Speech could seem a bit reedy at times, but the lines lacked edginess and remained perfectly intelligible. This was a perfectly pleasant track for an older movie.

We get a mix of extras in this two-disc set, and we open with an audio commentary from director Stanley Donen. He presents a running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and photography, songs and production numbers, the dual aspect ratios, and a few related topics.

When he speaks, Donen offers a reasonable number of insights. Unfortunately, the director goes missing for long stretches of the film's length. These make this a frustrating track, as it just doesn't become an efficient use of time.

Called Sobbin’ Women, a “making of” program runs 43 minutes, 25 seconds. Narrated by actor Howard Keel, it provides notes from Donen, musical arranger Saul Chaplin, choreographer Michael Kidd, and actors Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Jacques D’Amboise, Jane Powell, Julie Newmar, Virginia Gibson and Ruta Lee.

“Women” looks at the project’s path to the screen, the two aspect ratios shot, score, songs, and choreography, cast and performances, costumes, and the film’s reception.

Created for an early 2000s DVD, “Women” delivers a pretty good overview of the production. It benefits from the inclusion of so many cast/crew members and becomes a likable little piece.

Footage from the film’s 7/22/1954 Premiere lasts one minute, 54 seconds. We get silent footage from the event accompanied by comments from Keel, Powell and Donen.

Unfortunately, they don’t directly discuss the film from the premiere, so their comments become less useful. The footage itself seems mildly interesting but it would work better if someone explained what we saw.

A newsreel for MGM’s 30th Anniversary goes for two minutes, seven seconds. The “newsreel” title seems inaccurate, as this gives us raw footage from a celebration and not a finished product.

As with “Premiere”, we get no original audio, as instead, Powell and Miller offer some thoughts. This becomes another decent but flawed piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, Disc One concludes with a vintage short subject. MGM Jubilee Overture lasts nine minutes, 44 seconds and presents a medley of famous tunes as performed by the MGM Symphony Orchestra. Shown in its original Cinemascope grandeur with DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, this becomes an interesting curiosity.

On Disc Two, the main attraction comes from an Alternate Widescreen Version of Brides. Because the studio worried that some theaters lacked the equipment to screen the full 2.55:1 version, they created a 1.77:1 Brides to run on those screens.

Rather than simply crop the sides of the 2.55:1 film, the “Alternate Widescreen” Brides comes from entirely different shots. This means the two give us very similar but not identical experiences.

Because the “Alternate Widescreen” Brides exists as a compromise, I’d regard the 2.55:1 version as the “real one” and the 1.77:1 flick becomes a curiosity. Still, it’s a fun addition to the set.

In terms of presentation, the 1.77:1 Brides looked good but not quite as strong as the 2.55:1 version. It seemed a little iffier in most ways and also came with a mix of small specks that didn’t impact the 2.55:1 version. Audio was less expansive as well, for the 1.77:1 movie offered a 2.0 track, not 5.1.

More than 60 years after its creation, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers still enjoys a good fanbase, but the movie leaves me cold. Sluggish and silly, the movie lacks the pep it needs to impress. The Blu-ray boasts largely positive picture and audio along with a nice array of bonus materials. Fans will enjoy this well-produced Blu-ray but the film does nothing for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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