STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Anyone who has ever played in a marching band, particularly anyone who has played a tuba (as I did in high school) is aware of John Philip Sousa. He is the King of the Marches, and his tunes are immediately recognizable when you hear them. Back in 1952, 20th Century Fox produced a biopic of John Philip Sousa, starring Clifton Webb as the famous band leader. Now, the movie has gotten a Blu-ray release.
The story follows Sousa from a relatively young leader of the military band, through his glory days as he writes his famous marches and how he left an impact on the military and the American music scene. It’s a musical at heart, through it follows a vastly different structure than you’ll normally see in the big musicals from the 50s.
I’m a bit confounded by the release of this film, right in the middle between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s really flown under the radar, which I doubt would have happened were it released closer to the Fourth of July. In many ways, this film is as much an enigma as its release. It was made before widescreen movies were fully employed, yet it has the richness in color you’d expect from and older musical.
The musical numbers are solid, about half of them spotlighting the marches that made Sousa famous. There are a few production numbers, only one of which is achingly out of place. Still, it’s a breezy, fun movie for someone who likes these older biopics, in that it was made before Hollywood tried to show the edgy roughness of real life in every story it tells.
While I wasn’t wild about “Stars and Stripes Forever” (though as a former marching band member who polished and carried a sousaphone on my shoulder for years, it was a bit nostalgic), I appreciated it. This is the kind of film that my father-in-law, who loves movies of the 50s and musical tributes, would love. So I guess the release makes it a worthy potential Christmas gift.
The Blu-ray comes with the original theatrical trailer, still galleries, an alternate U.K. opening sequence and the two featurettes “From our National March to the Silver Screen” and ‘John Philip Sousa’s Contribution to American Music.” A standard-definition DVD is also included in the package.