A Little Night Music

A Little Night Music

Director: Harold Prince Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Rigg, Len Cariou

DVD (Wide Screen / Colorized)

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The ownership and preservation situation of this movie must be a nightmare -- that's the only explanation one can perceive for its rather pathetic history on home video. There was fairly decent edition on VHS from Embassy/Nelson Entertainment in the US, and the laserdisc edition from Image Entertainment was notoriously fuzzy and washed out. Additionally, reports over the years claim that the original negative on this movie has been so badly damaged, that major restoration work will be required before a better-looking version will be seen -- and given the movie's reputation, this is unlikely to happen, ever. What we have here is a mixed blessing -- it is superior to the old laserdisc edition, and looks better than the old Nelson VHS tape; there is lots of color and a considerable amount of detail in the very slightly letterboxed image (1.66-to-1 is the claim, but it seems more like about 1.55 or 1.60-to-1). But there are scratches visible in the source print (including a very faint but perceptable vertical line down the center of the screen), and other flaws do show through. And when coupled with the clunkiness of Harold Prince's direction, those imperfections do make for a difficult viewing experience. On the other hand, the sound is reasonably crisp and full, and the one part of this picture that does work is the Stephen Sondheim score -- indeed, the music and John Jympson's editing, with Herta Pisching's production design and the costumes by Florence Klotz and Irene Sharaff, are the virtues to be appreciated here when the music brings things to life. Alas, the producers of the DVD have failed to exploit even the one virtue that survived intact in the movie, having provided us with a mere 12 chapters -- not enough for reference points for each song or the score's full highlights. The menu, which opens up automatically on start-up, is simple enough, but doesn't do the movie justice. Additionally, there seems to be a discrepancy about the running time -- this disc runs 120 minutes, but the official US running time on the movie is 124 minutes (and, supposedly, the European edition ran 15 minutes longer). One would love to have some of this sorted out one of these days -- perhaps it's precisely this kind of flawed representation of a successful and highly regarded stage original that should get the "special edition" treatment; full restoration and a deluxe release with commentary (at this writing, Sondheim himself is still very much with us . . . ), and even a botched film of a masterpiece might make money for some enterprising DVD producer. In the meantime, there is this disc, to satisfy the Sondheim completists, and Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg fans.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/05/2007
UPC: 0759731410823
Original Release: 1977
Rating: PG
Source: Henstooth Video
Presentation: [Wide Screen, Colorized]
Time: 2:00:00
Sales rank: 8,480

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Elizabeth Taylor Desiree
Diana Rigg Charlotte
Len Cariou Frederick
Hermione Gingold Armfeldt
Lesley-Anne Down Anne
Lawrence Guittard Carl-Magnus Mittelheim
Christopher Guard Erich
Lesley Dunlop Petra
Chloe Franks Fredericka Armfeldt
Heinz Maracek Kurt
Jonathan Tunick Conductor
Jean Sincere Box Office Lady

Technical Credits
Harold Prince Director
Patricia Birch Choreography
Arthur Ibbetson Cinematographer
John Jympson Editor
Elliott Kastner Producer
Florence Klotz Costumes/Costume Designer
Heinz Lazek Executive Producer
Herta Pischinger Art Director
Stephen Sondheim Score Composer
Jonathan Tunick Score Composer
Hugh Wheeler Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- A Little Night Music
1. Start [8:11]
2. The Glamorous Life [11:32]
3. You Were Sweet [11:57]
4. We Have Sinned [13:47]
5. Smile, Please Smile [11:13]
6. A Little Death [11:21]
7. An Invitation [10:19]
8. Why Did I Come? [8:15]
9. Dinner [9:01]
10. Send In the Clowns [9:31]
11. Forgive Me [12:24]
12. End Credits [1:34]

Customer Reviews

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A Little Night Music 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
dec0558 More than 1 year ago
This DVD is worth having if you love Sondheim musicals, musicals in general or Elizabeth Taylor films. That being said, Taylor does not give the best performance. (Her performance here was generally considered the low point of her career up until then.)

The best performance in the film is given by Dianna Rigg--who is outstanding as Charlotte: she's beautiful and visciously funny, and though limited vocally is more successful than most of the cast members in selling her songs.

The next best peformance is something of a shocker: the performance of Lesely-Anne Down as Anne. Down was an up and comer in the 1970's who was at first thought of as nothing more than a pretty face. (And she was that; a drop dead gorgeous young woman.) But in "A Little Night Music" she really shines as the beautiful 18 year-old girl who's been married to a middle aged man for over a year and has still managed to avoid having sex with him. Together Down and Rigg steal the film.

Speaking of beautiful and young, Christopher Guard is cast as Erich (the son of the above mentioned middle-aged man who secretly lusts after Down's character). He is a gorgeous young man--the perfect compliment, look-wise, to Down. Unfortunately he is stiff in his acting, and his singing is in no way up to the demands of the role. (His character has some of the most challenging and difficult music in the show. Unfortunately for this film version, the character's music was changed--to accomodate Guard's limited abilities one supposes.)

Len Cariou who starred in the original Broadway production reprises his role as Frederick (the middle aged man mentioned above.) He does a very good job, but never managed to become a big film star (though he starred with Alan Alda and carol Burnette a few years later in the hit comedy "The Four Seasons."). With a year of "A Little Night Music" Cariou went on to create one of the great roles in all of musical theatre--"Sweeny Todd." The film version of "A Little Night Music" allows Broadway fans and historians the rare chance to see a filmed version of one of Cariou's most famous Broadway roles.

Lawrence Guittard is another member of the original Broadway cast who reprises his role of Carl-Magnus (the shallow, egostical adulterous husband of Rigg's character). Hermione Gingold is yet another member of the original Broadway cast whose performance is captured here.

Much of the original score was dropped for this film version--which is tragic considering that "A Little Night Music" has one of the most lush and beautiful scores ever written for a musical. The location is changed from Sweden--which is also tragic as the entire set-up for the plot is the fact that it never gets completely dark at night during the summer in that part of the world.

Despite its flaws, the film nevertheless went on to win an Oscar: for Best Musical Score from a previously existing source. Oddly enough the Oscar did not go to Sondheim but to the fellow who arranged his music.

"A Little Night Music" is consider one of the film musicals of the 1970's that more or less killed off the musical film genre until it was revived with 2003's Oscar winner "Chicago."

Check out the classic "Smiles of a Summer Night"--the film upon which "A Little Night Music" is based.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The musical should have been more cinematic and in the hands of Ingmar Bergman might have. Liz and Diana are superb and the musical number "Weekend in the Country" is excellent. But by changing the locale from Sweden to Austria all references to the midnight sun and its effects on lovers are missing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not the ideal film version of the Sondheim classic but for Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg fans. They are terrific and the musical number "Weekend in the Country" is superbly done. The locale was changed ffrom Sweden to Vienna probably because Austrian banks financed the film. This is unfortunate because all references to the midnight sun and its effects on lovers is gone. Many of the songs are also eliminated. But I still enjoy parts of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago