When I was a child, my first exposure to the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music,” was the original Broadway cast album featuring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel in the lead roles of Maria Rainer and Captain Von Trapp. I later read the play. I didn’t see the 1965 movie version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer until I was in high school, some four years after it had originally been released. I was somewhat skeptical at the time. Maybe I just happened to be in a demographic that deemed it unfashionable. Years later, in the early ’90s, I’m guessing, I saw a double bill of THE SOUND OF MUSIC with an earlier, similarly-themed Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, THE KING AND I (1956), at the Cinema Village in Manhattan. What struck me then was how claustrophobic the more stagebound KING AND I was, while THE SOUND OF MUSIC was “opened up” to allow panoramic Austrian landscapes into the story. Until this month, I hadn’t seen it, or any other version of the musical, since.
Last year on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, TCM ran AIR FORCE (1943) and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), neither of which I’d seen in a long time, so I watched them both and found them just as compelling, as both history and drama, as ever. Two days ago, on December 7th, the 72nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I wanted to take a break from my normal fare of Japanese films and anime to watch something Pearl Harbor-related. TCM ran both AIR FORCE and ETERNITY again and I had a DVD of TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970) beckoning. But then I remembered that I had a DVD of Otto Preminger’s IN HARM’S WAY (1965) on the shelf, a film I’d never seen in its entirety in one sitting. So that’s what I chose. (Interestingly, earlier this week I watched the last hour of BATTLESHIP, the notorious 2012 flop about an alien invasion, and the resolution requires a trip by its Navy heroes to Pearl Harbor where they take over the U.S.S. Missouri and its crew of aged war vets for use in battling the aliens.)
On Saturday night, November 30, I realized it was the last night of the 50th anniversary month of the release of IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, which opened in New York on November 17, 1963. So, while I had enough time to watch it in its entirety, I put in my Blu-ray copy of the film and watched it. The Blu-ray, an MGM release, offers the standard theatrical cut of 159 minutes, which includes overture, intermission and exit music. When I saw the film in February 1965 at a neighborhood theater in the Bronx, none of that stuff was offered, so the print I saw back then, according to an issue of Cue Magazine from January 1965 that a friend of mine helpfully consulted, was 152 minutes. This is in contrast to the 2-tape VHS copy I bought many years ago that offers a print of three hours and one minute thanks to numerous “trims” (lines of dialogue or bits of action cut here and there from the heads or tails of different scenes) inserted back into the film. I wasn’t crazy about that version since I tend to think that there was a good reason those bits were taken out in the first place. The film moves quicker and is much more streamlined without them.