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Review - Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition (2009)
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Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition (DVD- 2009)

Disney Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

 

Such is the popularity of Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins that the new just-released 45th Anniversary 2-disc  DVD Special Edition of the film is the fourth time the film has appeared on DVD—each release a little bit better than the last.  If ever a film deserved such special and devoted treatment, Mary Poppins is such a film. 

Based on books by P.L. Travers Mary Poppins tells the story of a magical nanny who enters the life of a British family and transforms it.  The film is a bravura production in every way. It has magic, special effects, song and dance, animation integrated with live action and mystical underpinnings.

But this is very much a film for adults as well as children.  It was, for example, among the favorite films of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. Aside from the sterling Oscar-winning performance by Julie Andrews as the title character, the film features outstanding work by Dick Van Dyke, who, amazingly, had never sung and danced before in a film.  Van Dyke also plays a second surprise role in the movie.  The stellar supporting cast includes David Tomlinson, as the father, Glynnis Johns as the mother, Ed Wynn as the laughing Uncle Albert, and Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber as the children and superior ensemble work from the rest of the cast.  The film is superbly directed with sophisticated wit by Disney veteran Robert Stevenson.

The animated work is brilliant and the choreography is on a par with the best movie musicals.  The legendary Ub Iwerks was responsible for some of the process work and Frank Thomas, one of Disney’s nine old men who had worked on Fantasia was involved with the animation.  The film is also the masterwork of matte artist Peter Ellenshaw, and the 102 glass paintings he created for the film are stunning. 

Mary Poppins was Julie Andrews’ first film and it was Disney who brought the  New York stage star to Hollywood.   That, in her first film, Andrews could brilliantly create such an iconic character is no small testament to her immense talent and artistry.  Director, Robert Wise, in being shown some of the rushes of Mary Poppins (when no one knew whether Andrews would successfully translate from a stage star to a screen star) recognized her ability instantly and signed her on the spot.  The result a year or so later was a little film called The Sound of Music.

Dick Van Dyke had once remarked about Mary Poppins that "One day this will make a great stage musical."  It took eleven years of hard work to mount Mary Poppins for the stage, and one of the extras on the DVD - ‘From Page to Stage’ - documents the recent stage production.  It is a fascinating extra and includes the entire ‘Step in Time’ number from the stage musical. 

Also included in the extras are comprehensive documentaries in regard to the making of the film itself, archival footage of its premiere, the technical wizardry involved and the composing of the score.  A great audio commentary track, which includes Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, is yet an extra treat.

The film transfer, picture and sound, is sublime—the best yet. It is offered in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and there is a choice of sound mixes.

This is one of Disney’s powerhouse achievements.  He died not long after the film premiered—that’s called going out in styleg. Mary Poppins is a simple, yet complex, charming and moving film about what really matters in life. It hasn’t dated and is even more relevant in our present-day crazed world.  As Leonard Maltin has observed, it is, in a way, Disney’s culminating achievement, drawing on everything he had learned how to do-- blending magnificent animation with live action and perfectly integrating songs with storytelling. 

The 45th Anniversary edition of Mary Poppins is a masterpiece and this DVD release has polished the film to perfection.  If you don’t own the film, you owe it to yourself to add it to your collection.

 

2009 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams

 

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