One of the most common complaints I've noticed on various dvd review websites, voiced by both reviewers and consumers alike, has been about the practice of "double dipping," meaning the same title first being released as a "special edition" only to be followed, after a respectable interval, by yet another "new, improved collector's edition." It seems entirely appropriate that some dvd buyers are up-in-arms about having to shell out their hard earned dollars twice (or more!) for the same title. (How many more TERMINATOR 2's, for instance, are consumers expected to stomach?) There are times, though, when this practice is justified, such as Warner’s most recent re-do's of both CASABLANCA and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and now Warner's yet again validates the repeat process with their lustrous two-disc special edition of MY FAIR LADY.

For purposes of this review, we compared the eight-pound(!?!) laser-disc box-set and the original dvd release with the latest two-disc incarnation, as all three used Robert H. Harris's and James Katz's 1994 restoration as their source material.

First of all ,  the laserdisc's comparatively mushy visuals and echoey sound instantly take it out of the running as far as any comparisons are concerned. (hard to believe how state-of-the art it seemed back in '94!)

I was quite surprised, however, at the seemingly crisp and accurate anamorphic image on the original (and much maligned) dvd, especially considering the fact that the bit-rate was severely hampered by the fact that Warner's crammed hours of extra features, in addition to the 173 minute feature, on ONE disc. The criticism of the soundtrack on this initial disc, however, was entirely justified: rarely have my ears been assaulted by such an inferior sound track. To put it bluntly, everything sounds as if it's coming from the bottom of a well!

Warner's new two-disc special edition of MY FAIR LADY rectifies the bit-rate problem by putting the film on disc one and the glorious special features on disc two, and while the difference in image quality is subtle, it is immediately apparent. The level of improvement in audio quality, however, is anything but subtle--it is spectacular! The biggest beneficiary is Andre Previn's brilliant arranging of the great Lerner and Loewe score, which for the first time envelops the viewer in complete speaker-specific clarity. The surround channels are also given more of a workout, and there is much more clearly defined front channel imaging. (I only noticed slightly hollow and metallic influences in Rex Harrison's solos, especially his first WHY CAN'T THE ENGLISH?, but I'm guessing this is because Mr. Harrison insisted that the bulk of his numbers be recorded live!)

Warner's should be congratulated for their meticulous face-lift of MY FAIR LADY. Indeed, she's never looked fairer. (Now about that re-do of KISS ME KATE…)



Original Sheet Music
 

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Hepburn as the unpolished  Eliza 

 

 

Harrison ponders in character

Harrison and Hepburn behind the scenes