West Side Story Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins

West Side Story Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins
With musicals, thanks to Moulin Rouge and Chicago, creeping back onto the big screen, it seems like perfect timing for the re-release of what many hail as one of Hollywood's greatest song and dance films. West Side Story was produced in 1961, a time when the musical was slowly on its way out the door, making way for more realism on the silver screen. Based on the stage play, which was lifted from the Arthur Laurents novel, West Side Story could be seen as one of the musical's last triumphs, picking up ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The tale of rival New York gangs the Jets and the Sharks wasn't quite like Hollywood's traditional approach to choreographed films though, for it dealt with racism, street violence and gang life. Mind you it's a little difficult to show fear towards hoodlums who break out into dance routines, but West Side Story strikes a fine balance between the traditional musical and a more serious dramatic performance, including Natalie Wood in one of her most memorable roles. The Romeo and Juliet love story between Maria and Tony looks quite amazing, considering this film is now over 40 years old, and the sound is excellent. However, for a double-disc DVD the extras are lacking, with only a documentary and the usual storyboard and photo gallery thrown in to beef things up. The main bonus is the inclusion of possibly the thickest booklet to ever accompany a DVD. This novel contains the entire screenplay, as well as numerous clippings of reviews and features on the film, definitely making up for the lack of extras. West Side Story beat The Hustler for Best Motion Picture at the Academy Awards, something that might not transpire in today's Hollywood. But with musicals on their way back in, West Side Story, with its impressive high-energy choreography, is definitely required research. Extras: documentary; original intermission music; storyboard to film comparison; photo galleries. (MGM)