Fiddler on the Roof: 2-Disc Collector's Edition – DVD Review

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Directed by
Norman Jewison

Topol …. Tevye
Norma Crane …. Golde
Leonard Frey …. Motel Kamzoil
Molly Picon …. Yente
Paul Mann …. Lazar Wolf
Rosalind Harris …. Tzeitel
Michele Marsh …. Hodel
Neva Small …. Chava
Paul Michael Glaser …. Perchik
Ray Lovelock …. Fyedka
Elaine Edwards …. Shprintze
Candy Bonstein …. Bielke
Shimen Ruskin …. Mordcha
Zvee Scooler …. Rabbi
Louis Zorich …. Constable

The Movie:

As a person that simply loves film as an art form, it’s wonderful when you get the opportunity to catch up with a classic film that you’ve never been able to experience before. Though I’ve seen thousands of movies in my lifetime, a number of classics have still been able to slip through the cracks; and though I diligently try to shave this number down every year, there’s seems to be no catching up. What’s often magnificent about these films is to discover that they actually do live up to their reputation. It’s certainly the case with Norman Jewison’s Fiddler on the Roof.

Based on the Musical stage play, which was based on the works of Ukranian writer Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler tells the epic story of a Jewish family in the small Russian village of Anatevka. It is set in a period that seems to be in the early part of the 20th century, just prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. Filled with somber, yet beautiful cinematography, superb music numbers and terrific performances, this is a wonderful, life affirming picture about strong traditions and how a man must deal with the evolution of his family as those traditions break down. It’s easy to forget just how powerful a musical can be considering their scarcity these days, but a picture like Fiddler serves as a reminder of just how amazing a film like this can be.

As its central character Tevye, Israeli-born action Topol is the glue that holds this entire picture together. Getting most of the screen time in a film that goes nearly three hours, the actor’s performance is fascinating to watch, somehow able to burst into song and yet still make his turn one that is very human and easily identifiable. Topol brings a light touch to his comedy, which works quite well, but is easily as good during the film’s many musical sequences. We feel the inspiration of Topol’s renditions of “Tradition” and “If I Were a Rich Man”, as well as the feeling of happiness blended with loss contained within the poignant numbers “Sunrise, Sunset”, “Do You Love Me?”, and the “Chava Ballet”.

The casting was a masterstroke by Norman Jewison, who had to fend off much criticism for not hiring Zero Mostel, who had played the role for some time and was unbelievably popular on Broadway. This was just one of many tremendous creative decisions by Jewison, who is able to make this entire film as over the top as a musical should be, but still have an emotional grounding that never allows the film to overstay its welcome. Jewison also smartly opens up the film to give it and epic landscape, breaking free from the confines of the stage play.

This is a work of great passion from the director, who was able to meet most expectations for what the popular work could be if it was turned into a film. Though it may run a bit long, the movie is able to keep up its energy for most of the running time. There’s a sense of authenticity to this film that is present, even as song and dance routines break out every few minutes. In the hands of a lesser director, this film could have turned into a mediocre feature, emphasizing too much comedy, instead of the genuine human emotion that rings true throughout this piece. The film’s one “stagey” sequence, in which Tevye has a dream in a grave yard with many ghosts, shows that the director could still host a Hollywood production as well as any showman, but uses these theatrics sparingly.

Through smart casting, the film also contains several other memorable performances to compliment Topol. You would swear that Golde (Norma Crane) had actually spent the last 25 years with Topol’s Tevye. There’s a wonderful chemistry between the two, as they bicker their way through life’s problems and joys. There seems to be a real love, just under the surface that provides a wonderful emotional anchor to their scenes. Yente, the matchmaker (Molly Picon) is an astonishingly memorable character, brought to life Picon’s eccentric performance. The cast is quite vast, and no one really seems to bring the proceedings down when it’s their time on screen. If there are any lulls, Topol is always just around the corner to put the film back on track.

Fiddler on the Roof is a film that has pleased audiences for decades and has lost none of its power over the years. Deep down, this is only a film about simple people trying to get through life the best they can. They want to feel love and work hard, and it’s these basic ideas that make them so universal. This may not be the best musical of all time, but the film is at least in the conversation.

The DVD:

The Video
This is a tremendous print from MGM/Fox on this disc, which eliminates most of the debris and scratches that have appeared before on this film. The picture is clear and has a very nice balance. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1

The Audio
This is a wonderful audio track as well, as the musical numbers never outweighs the rest of the film. The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Deleted Song, Documentary, Featurettes, Photo Galleries, Trailer, Easter Egg

Feature Commentary by Director/Producer Norman Jewison and Actor Topol – This is a good commentary track, though Jewison and Topol are not actually together. They’ve each got great tidbits on the production, from Jewison’s need to make the film as “real” as possible and in order to achieve that sense of realism was the final reason he chose Topol over Zero Mostel. They each give stories about the horse that follows Tevye throughout the movie, and how Jewison actually saved it from the glue factory.

Norman Jewison, Filmmaker – This is a 49 minute vintage documentary on the making of the film. The production was epic, especially for the time, and Jewison looks to be in his prime as he orchestrates all the artists that toiled on the project. This is an okay feature, but it would have been nice to have a modern documentary to compliment it on this disc.

Creating a Musical Tradition: An Interview with John Williams – This goes about 11 minutes or so and has Williams speaking about how important this film was to his career. He speaks about how he had to adapt the original music from the stage play to play bigger than it had on stage because Norman Jewison had built up this entire world from the foundations of the play.

Tevye’s Daughters – Running over 16 minutes, this is a wonderful interview with the three woman that played Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small). The women speak about their experiences getting cast, and their different backgrounds. They each talk about how important the film was to them personally and what an amazing time in their lives it was to be in the movie.

Norman Jewison Looks Back – This is a 9-part Featurette in which Jewison recalls his experiences with the film, and answers different questions, such as if he thinks the film is a classic and so on. This isn’t a very long feature, but still worth viewing.

Set In Reality – The Production Designer on the film talks about how he really wanted Anatevka to be a real place and not just a set and that’s why so many pains went into making the place seem as real as possible. Apparently due to the Nazis removing so many towns like the one in this film during WWII, it was difficult to find the perfect shooting location, but in Yugoslavia they were able to find just the right place.

Tevye’s Dream in Full Colour – This is a full color restoration of the scene in which Tevye dreams of his dead relatives. I prefer the saturated look of the version that’s in the film better, but it’s nice to have this for comparison sake.

Historical Background with Photographs by Ann Weiss – This is a pretty neat feature, as Norman Jewison reads about the historical period in which the film is set, while we see beautiful pictures for reference.

The Stories of Sholam Aleichem – Also read by Norman Jewison, this featurette has the director taking us through important passages from the original author’s stories that were adapted for Fiddler.

The Songs of Fiddler on the Roof – Jerry Bock, who wrote much of the film’s music, and others talk about the songs and their importance to this piece.

Deleted Song – “Any Day Now” – This is a number that was cut from the original theatrical release. All that remains is the audio for this song, as the footage was deleted.

Trailers – You get numerous trailers and TV Spots for this film.

Easter Egg

Photo Galleries

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Fiddler on the Roof (2-Disc Collector’s Edition)
(OUT OF 10)






The Inside Pulse
Fiddler on the Roof is an intensly powerful film and a movie that will endure for decades to come because of its wonderful music and universal themes. This is also a really nice edition for this movie and probably the frontrunner for best DVD of ’07 so far.

Robert Sutton feels the most at home when he's watching some movie scumbag getting blown up, punched in the face, or kung fu'd to death, especially in that order. He's a founding writer for the movies section of, featured in his weekly column R0BTRAIN's Badass Cinema as well as a frequent reviewer of DVDs and Blu-rays. Also, he's a proud Sony fanboy, loves everything Star Wars and Superman related and hopes to someday be taken seriously by his friends and family.