Studio and Year: MGM

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Feature running time: 153 minutes

Genre: Musical

Disc Format: BD-50

Encoding: AVC

Video Aspect: 2.20:1

Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Starring: Richard Beymer, Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Russ Tamblyn, Simon Oakland

Directed by: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins

Music by: Leonard Bernstein/Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Written by: Ernest Lehmen based on the book by Arthur Laurents

Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 15, 2011

Film Synopsis (courtesy of imdb):

A love affair is fated for tragedy amidst the vicious rivalry of two street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. When Jets member Tony (Richard Beymer) falls for Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of the Sharks leader, it’s more than these two warring gangs can handle. And as mounting tensions rise, innocent blood is shed in a heartbreaking finale.

My Take:

I am a sucker for musicals and West Side Story is one of my all-time favourites.  However, I am very disappointed as to how a title of this magnitude could have been released this way. Transitions going from the film to the in-movie viewing mode feature aren’t smooth which results in momentary fluctuations in colour, contrast, and worse: resolution. Noisy backgrounds were evident during a few (light to dark) scene transitions as well but isn’t overtly problematic. Those issues aside this presentation delivered fair to good overall image quality that predominantly appeared as transparent as possible to the film’s original elements. Its high definition video offers an appreciable level of detail during close ups and certain wide angle camera shots. The exterior appear vivid with a pleasing level of saturation and depth. Sharpness fluctuates throughout the movie which could be a quality attributable to the original film’s photography.  Blacks are solid which increases depth perception in low lit sequences.  Grain is preserved naturally and is noticeable throughout.

So what are we left with? A promising but flawed rendering that should by all accounts be corrected. Flawed or not I must admit to enjoying the majority of this high definition presentation as I have never seen West Side Story look this good.

The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound doesn’t really do anything for my theatre room. The lossless track readily handled the elements contained in the recording. The presentation retains a front loaded perspective with well defined dialogue without much of 3D imaging happening in the room. I would have preferred a bit more depth/weight to sounds and voices which I understand that that is a limitation of the recording.  However with today’s technology, the dialogue should’ve been EQ-ed further to have a more natural tone. The sound field is one dimensional, with discernible front channel separation and good clarity. The soundstage opens up nicely during the musical set pieces and provides bass response that is adequate but nothing spectacular. Considering the age of this recording dynamics had fair solidity and impact. The rear channels supply ambient extension that broadens the sound field and enhances envelopment.  Of course, compared to today’s movie soundtracks this presentation sounds a bit dated however all things considered I was pleased with it.

Overall, it’s somewhat of a missed opportunity; however it’s still the best consumer rendition available yet.  Skip the box set, just get the movie disc.

Equipment used for this review:

Anthem MRX-700 Receiver
Grandviewscreen 96” 21:9 matte-white 1.0-gain screen
PSB Century 300i (front and surround speakers)
PSB Image C5 (centre speaker)
PSB Subseries 300 (subwoofer)
Panasonic PT-AE4000U projector
Pioneer BDP-LX55 BD player
Ultralink Ambiance MKII speaker wires
Viewing room is as per THX and SMPTE recommendation with 45-degree Field of View

Audio: 7/10
Video : 7/10
Storyline: 8/10