Release Date:  November 15, 2005
Genre:  Family
Run Time:  174 min.
Producer/Distributor:  Twentieth Century Fox
It’s been four decades since its release, but the hills around the world are still very much alive with “The Sound of Music.” 

“Everywhere I go, people insist on telling me stories from their childhood, and what the musical has meant to them,” says Julie Andrews, in the introduction to this 40th anniversary DVD re-release.  And surely, she is right.  For who doesn’t have very fond memories of this delightful musical?

Andrews, as you will recall, plays the spunky Maria – a would-be nun who is sent to the prestigious Von Trapp home as a governess, where she supervises seven orphaned children and eventually comes to love their widowed father, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).  Along the way, Maria helps the family heal by teaching them the joy of music – to the tune of many Rogers & Hammerstein hits, including “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and of course, the title song, “The Sound of Music.”

As with most DVDs, the attraction of this re-release is its “extras.”  The first disc (of two) contains a lengthy commentary by Andrews, another by Robert Wise, the director, and a third version narrated by both Andrews and Plummer.  The original footage to the film has been carefully restored, frame by frame, and is now of top-notch quality, with bright colors and clarity that give the Austrian Alps a beautiful, distinctive crispness.  Viewers will also enjoy a sing-along version on this disc, which includes subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

The second disc is even more interesting, with several features produced exclusively for the new release.  The first is a 63-minute interview with Andrews, who talks about the original Von Trapp family (including the indomitable Maria Von Trapp); the Broadway musical that spawned the film; and a wide variety of anecdotes about Andrew’s experiences with Wise, Plummer and the young actors who played the Von Trapp children.  Another feature is a fireside chat between Andrews and Plummer, although this is shorter and somewhat less interesting than the memories Andrews shares.  Still another is a short documentary about the sing-along version of the show, which has toured all over the world.

I especially enjoyed the all-new “On Location” featurette, hosted by Charmian Carr, who plays the sixteen-going-on-seventeen Liesl.  After seeing all the sites of Salzburg, Austria, where the film’s exteriors were shot, I was ready to pack my bags and fly across the Atlantic.  I also enjoyed the reunion of the seven Von Trapp “children,” who were brought together for the first time in 20 years.  They reminisced about bloopers and their childish fears on the set – of Plummer, for the most part, who apparently did not like children and who remained largely aloof from the kids (supposedly so that performances would accurately reflect the storyline).  The 50- and 60-something adults laughed about all the pranks they played during filming – like swapping out the breakfast menus of the hotel guests where they were staying, night after night, and throwing acorns at cars, which happened during the scene where Captain Von Trapp, his agent and his baroness-girlfriend drive by the child-filled trees near his estate.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this re-release, however, is the A&E Biography about the original Von Trapp family.  Although the differences between Hollywood and real life are not tremendous, they are certainly significant enough to create an interesting documentary.  Maria Von Trapp, for example, had a very unhappy childhood, with a father who abandoned her after her mother’s death.  Perhaps then, this is why Maria struggled with her temper for the rest of her life.  According to the documentary, she was prone to tantrums and often took out her anger on her husband – who she reportedly married not out of love, but out of intense devotion to the children, after her Mother Superior told her it was “God’s will.”