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March 2005, Week 1


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Darryl Wiggers <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 6 Mar 2005 12:46:03 -0500
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> I just happened across an interesting article in Slate about Warner's
> recent efforts in high-quality DVD transfers of older films. It's great
> to see a studio with such a huge back catalogue taking an interest in
> making it available in versions that rival the theatrical experience.

I can't say I agree with the assessment of Warners. Their main strength is
the excellent condition of their original archives. But you still see dirt
and scratches that could have been digitally corrected, but weren't. Part of
Warner's laziness is evident on their recent release of Once Upon a Time in
America. As the running time is close to 4 hours it was necessary to break
the movie up onto 2 discs. The odd thing is the transition doesn't happen at
the film's self-imposed intermission but a few minutes before -- right in
the middle of an action scene. If anyone saw the laser disc version of the
film released 10 years ago they would know it's because they used the exact
same analogue master. Yet the article states "At least since 2002, the video
division of Warner Bros. has released one great-looking DVD after another. I
know of no other label, in fact, whose output has been more consistently
spectacular." Warner, the new Criterion? I think not.

Amongst the major studios MGM is the one that goes the extra mile. I saw
their recent release of The Good The Bad and The Ugly and it was pristine --
the best I've ever seen for a movie its age. Someone should do a profile on
MGM archivist John Kirk.

Of course MGM doesn't do this with all their releases. Most are direct dumps
from their existing archives. But something is better than nothing, and the
prices are probably the cheapest of any studio. This situation will change
again as the MGM library is now in the possession of Sony which has all
sorts of ramifications -- including the battle between HD dvd and Blu-ray.

Still it's good to see the wealth of films coming available that have been
out of circulation in any format. Recently Paramount announced they would
finally be dumping their back catalogue on dvd which may finally mean the
release of films like Il Conformista and the Lindsay Anderson-directed
"if..." but if you haven't already emptied your bank account -- or blown
your library budget -- building a dvd collection, do be aware that dvd will
soon go the way of vhs. Likely by the end of this decade. As technology
evolves there will likely be yet another format that will require even less
compression. Only that could rival the theatrical experience. Maybe.

Remember, articles such as the one reference above are mainly designed to
entice consumers to keep opening their wallets. This is evidenced in the
article itself when it says "If you disagree, you need to calibrate your
television or buy a new one."


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