Watching the standard-issue cassettes of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s better film outings, Carousel and The King and I, is like settling for obstructed-view seats of their Broadway hits: To fill square TVs, much of the wide-screen, panoramic picture gets cropped out. Fortunately, FoxVideo’s letterboxed laserdiscs revive the original rectangular images, letting you see the seamy dockside milieu that drives apart Carousel‘s mismatched lovers and the erotic tension that pulls The King and I‘s Yul Brynner ever closer to the plucky English schoolteacher (Deborah Kerr) he hires to modernize 19th-century Siam.
Flower Drum Song, a 20th-century story of generational sparring in San Francisco’s Chinatown, isn’t nearly as compelling, thanks to a wheezy, warmed- over score and a sitcom script. And it’s all rendered nearly inscrutable by a lousy disc presentation that, except for one number, crops the image instead of letterboxing it. You’re constantly aware that choreography remains off screen, especially in the square-dance finale of an amusing immigrants’ lament, ”Chop Suey.” Fooey. Carousel: B+ King: B+ Flower Drum: D