Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

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Leaping out of the woods of 1850s Oregon Territory and onto Blu-ray with this jam-packed two-disc Warner Archive Collection Special Edition release, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an explosion of color, dance, and song.

Though billed as a romantic extravaganza, given the fact that Brides is not only rooted in the Ancient Roman legend “The Rape of the Sabine Women” but also features a Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean ride style sequence where its male leads kidnap a group of sobbing (vs. Sabine) women to be their brides, its legacy as a love story times seven doesn't quite add up.

Still it's an exuberant work of tremendous artistry, especially in the film's thrilling group dance sequences, in which over a dozen professional dancers perform Michael Kidd's daring, athletic, logical setting based choreography involving axes and board beams which were – seven years before West Side Story – stylistically ahead of its time. Even going so far as to inspire some of Johnny Mercer's lyrics, it's Kidd who remains Seven's MVP.

Cranking out dazzling musicals with assembly line speed, in stark contrast to director Vincente Minnelli's Lerner and Loewe vehicle Brigadoon starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charise which was filming at the same time, MGM Studios considered Stanley Donen's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to be merely a B level production.

Frequently pulling money out of the film's budget to give to Minnelli's lovely but now largely overlooked romantic musical fantasy, when Seven Brides large cast of characters don't fill cinematographer George J. Folsey's frame, its relatively sparse sets and fake backdrops can be easily recognized, particularly if, like this reviewer, you're making the jump from seeing it on VHS twenty years ago to Blu-ray HD.

Using Ansco Color, the film shot by Folsey in CinemaScope is filled with the equivalent shade range of the 120 count box of Crayola crayons we used to dream about as children. And while all of that color gives Donen's upbeat film enough energy to cause the avalanche we see in the controversial sobbing women sequence onscreen, at home, you may need to flip through your TV menus and adjust the settings to a darker Cinema setting in order to tamp things down from neon poster board hued trees to a more believable Oregon color scheme.

Boasting feature commentary by Stanley Donen, classic trailers, anniversary newsreels, and a documentary hosted by star Howard Keel that includes new interviews with cast members Jane Powell and Jacques d'Amboise, and more, Warner Archive's two-disc set also includes a rarely seen alternate flat (1.77) widescreen version of the movie in 16x9 aspect ratio.

Based on Stephen Vincent Benet's Roman legend inspired short story “The Sobbin' Women,” as sexist and narratively flawed as the film about seven bachelor brothers in need of wives by any means is, Donen's film commands our attention based on the fact that it has so much going on at any one time.

With its catchy songs, jubilant performances, and influential choreography – all of which led to its transition to Broadway musical more than twenty years later – while we might have reservations about the wedding overall, for 102 minutes, Brides offers its guests a wildly entertaining time.

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