Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
1954, Dir. Stanley Donen - 102 min. / Ansco Color / 2.55:1 and 1.77:1
Warner Bros. Blu-ray $21.99

Oregon, 1850, and backwoodsman Howard Keel has come to town to do some tradin', some buyin', and - oh, yes - select a bride for himself. He settles on handsome Jane Powell 'cause she can cook and clean and mend and milk cows, and she's so tired of doin' that for the whole town that she actually agrees to the nuptials - only to discover belatedly that Howie comes with six even-rougher younger male siblings. Lovesick for a woman like their new sister-in-law, the six brothers kidnap six sobbin' women from the town, and if Plutarch says it'll work out okay, well, we can expect it'll work out okay.

Phenomenally successful "little" musical that is as beloved today as ever; MGM had no confidence in it, slashed the budget to where nearly all of it was filmed on sound stages, and it was considered a poor second-cousin to the simultaneously-filmed Brigadoon. What th' heck did MGM know? A fine score of memorable songs by Gene DePaul and Johnny Mercer and incredible choreography by Michael Kidd (who'd been dragged into the production kicking and screaming) raise this above most of the 1950s MGM films, few of which this observer can stand.

Standing out amongst the brothers, in addition to Mr. Keel, are Russ Tamblyn as the youngest, doing seemingly impossible acrobatics on planks and barn frames; Matt Mattox as the ballet dancer with the axe; and Jacques d'Amboise. The women, in addition to Miss Powell, consist of Julie Newmar and a bunch of other girls, and yes, that's how I watched it - sorry, but you can't miss a Catwoman who towers a full head above her co-stars, no reflection on them.

The new Warner Archive Blu-ray contains both the CinemaScope version and a "normal" version filmed simultaneously but with different takes, to accommodate those theatres that couldn't show 'Scope - although apparently, the smaller version was never screened. That's the one we watched, along with sequences from the CinemaScope version, which we decided we liked better - it opens things up, as you may well imagine, plus the print/image are simply better. There is no commentary, alas, but lengthy interviews with cast members, newsreels, and a short subject fill out the program nicely. One of our favorite discs of the year so far, bless its beautiful hide.