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DVD Review: The Lady and the Tramp

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It is absolutely impossible to quantify the greatness of films made before 1960 in comparison to films made today. The technology is much different, the styles are more developed, not to mention that films today have the unique perspective of many years of history in film from which to draw inspiration. But there are a few films made during this period that transcend all time and have the unique ability to maintain relevancy even in today’s modern world of cinema.

Citizen Kane was a true testament to acting prowess and one of the greatest of all time, Nosferatu is credited with ushering in much the film noir era, and the Wizard of Oz showed us that there was more to the movies than just black and white. These are only a few examples. And we all have our favorites from way back in the day, as my generation would call it.

That brings to mind an interesting point. The fact that my generation, the children of the ’80s and teens of the ’90s, really don’t identify very well with the films of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Or at least we don’t know that we do. Ask any 25-year-old about Nosferatu and they will look at you as if you asked them to cure cancer. But ask any 25-year-old about Disney’s timeless classic Lady and the Tramp, and we know exactly where you are in the history of film.

Lady and the Tramp is the timeless classic that represents on of the first attempts by Disney to make a real love story that involved something other than a person. It is the story of the uptown cocker spaniel Lady, whose lavish lifestyle is something she has become engulfed in since her days as a puppy, and the rugged, streetwise mutt Tramp. One day after being chased up town in an effort to evade the dog catcher, Tramp’s path crosses with the stunning and sophisticated beauty of Lady.

Through time and happenings at Lady’s home, including a new arrival to her owners Darling and Jim Dear, Lady decides that it is time to let loose and hang with Tramp for a while. What ensues will go down as one of the most endearing and fun love stories in the history of film. And while Tramp and Lady take time to let their love foster, they know very little of the trouble that two dogs can get into prancing around the city with the dog catcher lurking.

This film is truly a visual joy to behold. It would be absolutely astounding to anyone seeing it for the first time to be told that the movie was made in 1955. The animation displays a sensational level of vivid color and fluid motion. When you look at animation in today’s film arena everything looks computer-generated and smooth. Lost is the art of completely hand-drawn features such as this.

Whether it is the detail in the rainy scenes or the amazingly alluring mood setting colors in the various points of rising action, it is easy to see that Lady and the Tramp was light years beyond its time. And the transfer to DVD for the 50th anniversary of its release does not drop the ball, either. The color is vivid, the animation as smooth as the day it rolled off the pen of its creators, and the sound is delightful in the 5.1 Dolby transfer that was made from the original 4 Track Stereo recording.

In fact, the sound of this film could be a valid reason to own it in and of itself. The soundtrack has songs mostly written by the unfading Peggy Lee, who later sued Disney to retain rights to the transcripts. But despite the legal transgressions, Lee did make some sweet tunes for a film that will always transcend history as one of the greatest love stories ever told.

When looking at older films being released onto DVD as “Collectors” or “Special” editions I always seek out one specific point that will tell me how worthwhile it is to recommend it to my readers. That point is in the realm of the special features. This is something that the folks at Disney have done well with in recent releases. The recent re-release of The Lion King contained many special features that truly enhanced my love of that film.

Lady and the Tramp does not disappoint in this respect, it soars. There are multiple deleted sequences that have not been uncovered since the 50s, a featurette dedicated to the art of the storyboard, and a new featurette called “Lady’s Pedigree” which depicts the making of the film. The music video from the song “Bella Notte” (the song from the romantic scene at the Italian restaurant) is also included, as are many features on the DVD-ROM side of things. And lest we forget the amazing digital restoration and sound enhancement that bring new life to this timeless homage to animated bliss.

When I think of Lady and the Tramp I cannot think of any reason why any person who loves movies, or any person at all for that matter, should not have this movie in their collection. But when I think about the biggest reason why I made the purchase, it is not rooted in having the DVD for myself, but for future generations. Purchasing this DVD brought visions of little “Neils” having the ability to behold one of the most amazing animated films of all time, just as my parents did before me and just as I did before my children. And from now until the end of time this film will never lose its ability to dazzle kids with the unfading love story between the posh Lady and the Tramp from the wrong side of town.

The Upside:
What is there not to love about this film? It is to animation as Wizard of Oz was to color in the world of film.
The Downside:
The DVD is only available for a limited time, thanks Disney…
On the Side:
The idea of Lady being given as a present in a hat box came from an event in real life. Walt Disney gave his wife a dog the same way.

Making the Grade:
The Film: A+
The Extras: B+
The Delivery: A
Overall: A

Neil Miller is the Editor of Film School Rejects.

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  • http://sterfish.blogspot.com Sterfish

    Great review. Lady And The Tramp is a wonderful film and the DVD definitely gave it justice.