1776: Sit Down And Bring It Home on 4K Ultra HD

Sit Down, John! 1776 arrives on 4K Ultra HD for the first time in celebration of the 50th anniversary with multiple versions to boot.

1776 is the rare musical to tackle American Independence with memorable tunes and does so in almost three hours. It may be a fictionalized account but we certainly do not get Hamilton without this film. The film’s main focus of the musical is on John Adams (William Daniels), Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva), and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard). They all have their different personalities but they all want independence. It’s just a question of getting the rest of the Continental Congress to agree. This is also easier said than done, of course! Sadly, the clause opposing slavery was removed and pushed down the road for America to deal with later. Every frame of this musical leads up to the headlining act: the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The songs are catchy but again, it’s a hit Broadway musical. Sit Down, John. The Egg. The list of songs go on and on. Fun fact about The Lees of Old Virginia: that’s the same fountain from the Friends credits. Now that it’s on 4K UHD, the picture is better than ever. Because this is a Sony release, you can watch 1776 again and again whether it’s on physical media or your favorite digital retailer!

Unlike Congress today, there was no record of the speeches for the day. At the end of the day, the filmmakers do the best to capture the spirit of the day in 1776 even if they take dramatic liberties. Some dialogue also comes from letters or comments made years after the fact. The fight between John Dickinson (Donald Madden) and John Adams is mainly for dramatic effect. It goes without saying that the vote for independence was on July 2 but the wording of the Declaration was debated until being approved on July 4. There’s a lot of debate over the signing of the document itself. Other historical errors take place, such as the ringing of the Liberty Bell. I can go on and on including the presence of their wives in Philadelphia. But hey, this is a musical and not a documentary.

William Daniels was among those who transitioned from the stage musical cast to starring as John Adams on the big screen. In There I Go Again, Daniels writes about the musical:

“There were no quiet moments in 1776, only sharp confrontations. These were men torn between their desire for independence and their fear of being tried for treason.”

Unlike costars Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard, Daniels admits to not resembling Adams except for his energy and commitment. The actor went on to play Adams on stage for almost 1,000 performances. When you look at the overall career of William Daniels, playing John Adams is probably the most demanding role of his life. But speaking of the transition to film, Daniels suggested to Peter Hunt that they have him introduce the film in a manner similar to what Laurence Olivier did for Henry V. Alas, this was a no-go. But anyway, spending 13 weeks filming 1776 in Hollywood is what would lead to Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett making the move to California.

In this contemporary era, the director of a stage musical might not direct the feature adaptation. However, Peter Hunt solidly makes the transition from stage to screen and pulls no punches here. This also speaks to Jack L. Warner’s mindset at the time when deciding to produce the film. Not only does he bring on Hunt but Warner also hires the whole cast for the film! I guess he felt some regret for not going with Julie Andrews for My Fair Lady.

There is one area where Warner does go wrong and this is removing Cool, Cool Considerate Men from the theatrical release. You can blame this on his friendship with Richard Nixon. If Warner had his way, the editor would have shredded the negative. No president should have that kind of power when it comes to what Hollywood makes–that’s actual censorship! Thankfully for audiences, editor Florence Williamson refused and kept it intact and that’s why this is the Director’s Cut! The same controversy surrounding the song is why the cast refused to play the Nixon White House if they had to cut the song. Eventually, the Nixon staffers reversed course and the cast made the trip.

There I Go Again also features William Daniels in conversation with Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda in the appendix. Here’s what Daniels has to say about the film:

“I was disappointed in the film, because on a proscenium stage, the play had a certain style–and film is very realistic. And yet it worked, and people watched it. Every year on July Fourth I get these letters saying, “You’ve made us look at history in a different way.” As a matter of fact, doing the show got me interested in history. I think that may be the connection with your show, Lin-Manuel. I can’t think of of a musical about American history coming before 1776.

Without 1776, it’s a good bet that Hamilton doesn’t happen. We needed 1776 to walk before Hamilton could run. If you wish to learn more about this time period, please read the books.

Disc Details and Bonus Features

1776 4K ULTRA HD DISC

  • Includes both the 165-minute Director’s Cut and the 167-minute Extended Cut
  • Both versions presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, with Dolby Atmos + 5.1 audio

1776 BLU-RAY FEATURE DISC

  • Includes both the 165-minute Director’s Cut and the 167-minute Extended Cut
  • Both versions presented in High Definition with 5.1 audio
  • Special Features:
    • Commentary with Peter H. Hunt, William Daniels & Ken Howard (Director’s Cut only)
    • Commentary with Peter H. Hunt and Peter Stone (Director’s Cut only)
    • Deleted & Alternate Scenes with Director Commentary
    • 9 Screen Tests
    • Teaser & Theatrical Trailers

1776 BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURE DISC

  • 1972 Theatrical Version of the Film (presented in HD with original mono audio)
  • 1992 Laserdisc Version of the Film (presented in SD with stereo audio)
    • Includes optional archival commentary featuring director Peter H. Hunt

DIRECTOR: Peter H. Hunt
SCREENWRITER:  Peter Stone
MUSIC & LYRICS:  Sherman Edwards
CAST: William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Donald Madden, Blythe Danner, John Cullum, Roy Poole, David Ford, Virginia Vestoff

Columbia Pictures released 1776 in theaters on November 17, 1972. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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