FIDDLER does tend to become more of a downer near the end, but the rest of the film is chock-full of humorous moments and lively performances. The best of the bunch is lead actor Topol, who plays the father of the three daughters. Not only is his acting outstanding, but he's also an incredibly fun-loving guy. Most of the movie's humor comes courtesy of his presence. He also delivers one of the movie's more memorable songs - the well-known "If I Were A Rich Man." The other actors do a solid job as well, but I was slightly put off by how over-the-top some of them were. I guess it makes sense though, this being adapted from a musical stage show and all.
And of course, you can't discuss FIDDLER without mentioning John William's top-notch score. Normally this type of music would have zero appeal to me, but I found myself toe-tapping to nearly every song. Obviously, much of this is also a credit to the singing abilities of the performers.
On the downside, the movie does tend to drag in places. At three hours, there are certainly a couple of scenes that could've been cut without much effect on the story. This is a minor complaint though, as things are kept very interesting throughout most of the running time. It's not just the well-developed story that does this - it's the themes explored as well. There are a number of important messages regarding how we live our lives, the traditions we follow, and how we deal with our hardships. It's powerful material that's handled in a completely relevant manner, no matter who you are or where you're from. And even if the movie doesn't connect with you emotionally, you'll at least be able to enjoy the beautiful cinematography. For a movie this old, I was blown away by how delicately framed its shots are. Truly stunning.
New special features have been marked with an asterisk...
Audio Commentary (with director/producer Norman Jewison and actor Topol): Even though the two speakers have been recorded separately, this is a very interesting track for any fans of the film. I didn't listen to the whole thing (c'mon - it's 3 hours), but their chatter seemed to stay active even while skipping ahead. There are some worthwhile tidbits about the production, and also a number of great on-set stories. Check it out.
*John Williams: Creating a Musical Tradition (11:33): This featurette has Williams discussing how FIDDLER jump-started his career, and also how he attempted to bring the play's musical numbers to life by making them "bigger." An interesting watch.
*Tevye’s Daughters (16:28): A praise-filled collection of interviews from the three respective actresses. They discuss auditions, working with the director, and the like.
*Set In Reality Production Design (9:51): This interesting featurette shows how much of an ordeal it was to create the sets for the film.
*Songs of Fiddler on the Roof (14:44): Writing the songs for FIDDLER was more complicated than it would seem, and this featurette shows why. A surprisingly interesting watch.
Historical Background (11:37): Norman Jewison goes into detail regarding the history of FIDDLER, while old photos fade in and out for reference.
Norman Jewison, Filmmaker (49:28): This vintage documentary is long and somewhat in-depth, but it's also fairly dull. It covers the director's undertaking of the huge project, but it does so with little energy.
*Norman Jewison Looks Back (9:25): This 5-part collection of mini-featurettes has the director discussing some interesting aspects of the production, including studio problems and his debated casting choices.
Tevye's Dream in Full Color (7:33): This lets you enjoy the black-and-white dream sequence in all it's color-filled glory, right along with an introduction and a side-by-side comparison.
The Stories of Sholam Aleichem (6:06): Read by Norman Jewison, these are passages from the original author's stories (on which FIDDLER was based).
Deleted Song - "Any Day Now" (3:05): Although the introduction to the song is available, the actual footage for the number was never filmed. Only the audio remains.
There's also a collection of Galleries (Production Design, Storyboards, Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons, Photographic Production Diary, Promotional Materials), Production Notes, 4 Trailers, and 2 TV Spots.