South Pacific: those darn color filters

I was a young child when I first saw South Pacific. I didn’t remember much about the film but I could sing all the songs by heart because my aunt had the soundtrack (long-playing album format) and she’d play it for me over and over and over. I was already an adult when I saw the film again after it was released on VHS format. And there were all those scenes, a lot of scenes, where the color kept changing. I would learn later that if there was an aspect of the film that was not praised, it was the overuse of color filters.

Alex is here at home. Sick. I was running out of ideas on how to keep her from getting bored and I suggested she watch South Pacific. On Blu-ray. On a whim, I thought I’d count the times that color filters were used. In the end, I lost count. Unbelievable how the filmmakers could have thought that the darm color filters actually enhanced the film.

Here are screenshots. First, two samples of the normal color.

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And then the color filters. The first scene where they were used was when Bloody Mary sang Bali Ha’i.

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Same shot and the color changed I don’t know how many times.

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In Some Enchanted Evening (above) and A Wonderful Guy (below), not only color filters were used — the scenes were given vignetting effects too.

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Oh, right, the same thing was done in my favorite part of the film — when Lieutenant Cable sang Younger Than Springtime.

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Happy Talk had the same floating clouds effect that was given to the Bali Ha’i scene.

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The only time the color filter worked was in the sunset scene where Nellie had to tell Bloody Mary and Liat that Lieutenant Cable had been killed. Now, that’s a dramatic sunset.

South Pacific was filmed on location in Kauai in Hawaii and Es Vedrà island in Ibiza. With such fantastic locations and an abundance of natural tropical colors, it’s hard to understand why the director and cinematographer couldn’t leave things be. The result? Eerie scenes with unrealistic colors that make the film so dated. But, despite all that, I still find Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s songs from South Pacific dreamy and romantic.

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