Long before Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) turned the life of Alexander Hamilton into a multicultural, hip-hop/rap Broadway musical, there was another history lesson set to song. In 1972...yes FIFTY years ago...1776 was released in theaters. A feature film adaptation of the 1969 musical, the two-and-a-half-hour movie received mixed reviews from critics but still managed to earn $1.7 million in six weeks.
In the home entertainment market, the film has been previously released on VHS tape, laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray but to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, Sony Pictures has released a combo pack including the 2015 Blu-ray disc, a second Blu-ray disc which includes the 1972 theatrical cut and the highly sought after 1992 laserdisc "Director's Cut" and, for the first time, a 4K disc with two versions of the movie. In total, this release includes four, complete versions of 1776 plus some extras.
The year is 1776 and Massachusetts representative John Adams (William Daniels; Blind Date) is trying to convince the Continental Congress to wage war on the British soldiers sent by the King of England to keep law and order and to collect taxes from the colonists. While some of the delegates from other states agree with his assessment, some, representing the citizens of their states, oppose the idea. As the heat of the summer days roll on, the delegates scheme, connive and fight - both verbally and physically - until they author the Declaration of Independence, essentially waging war on their motherland and the tyrant overseeing them.
The mostly male cast, led by Daniels, does a terrific job of shuffling through the uneven pacing of the film. Adams' two most prevalent sidekicks, Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva; The Blue Dahlia) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard; Rambo) keep him somewhat grounded while mildly egging him on. The three actors have a great bond and a few of their scenes are the most memorable in the movie. Da Silva is a standout amongst a talented cast maybe because he has some of the best lines of the whole film and he delivers them with incredible, comedic timing. Virginia Vestoff (The Doctors) and Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents) well represent the female perspective in Colonial times and both have wonderful singing voices.
The Dolby Vision video quality is well worth the cost of this combo pack. There is a huge difference between the clarity of the 4K version and the Blu-ray with sharp details and beautiful colors. The costumes are so intricate and made from such elegant materials and the 4K video detects each thread and stitch showcasing the brilliant work done by the costume department.
The Dolby Atmos audio is perhaps the best treat this new release has to offer. The musical numbers have depth and the blending of the talented vocalists is just one of the aspects featured by Atmos. The dialogue runs the full spectrum of surround sound speakers making the viewer feels as if they are in the midst of the history they have only learned about in school. One of the two Blu-ray Discs house the extras, which include: Audio Commentary: Director Peter H. Hunt and Actors William Daniels and Ken Howard (Director's Cut Only), Audio Commentary: Director Peter H. Hunt and Screenwriter Peter Stone (Director's Cut Only), Deleted & Alternate Scenes, Screen Tests, and Theatrical Trailers.
While 1776 isn't the best musical ever written and the songs are totally unmemorable, the cast and the screenplay offer some humorous moments, especially from Da Silva, and makes one wonder just how "raunchy" the colonists were back then, not to mention demonstrating how inappropriate actors/writers/directors could be in the early seventies.
With several versions of the movie and the enhanced video and audio quality, this is one combo pack that is well worth the money.