A Few Words About A few words about...™ It's a Wonderful Life -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Nov 10, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    "No, 'tis not so deep, nor so wide, but 'tis enough..." - William Shakespeare
    Frank Capra's beloved classic finally makes it to Blu-ray in less than beloved form from Paramount. The marketing is oddly skewed toward the colorized version, which I scored, easily broke in half and tossed into the garbage where it belongs. When the lead line begins: "This 2-disc collection set includes the colorized version as well as the pristine black & white version," I'm suspect. I just don't see the colorized version being the deal maker. This is unfortunately much like Fox's Oklahoma! release featuring the 35mm version of the film, with the groundbreaking Todd-AO version as a horrific extra.
    I love this film, and have since I first saw it decades ago, but after viewing this new Blu-ray am wishing that it had been left in the public domain, where it would have received far better and more respectful treatment.
    What's wrong?
    Simple.
    This is one of the titles that will remain a sales staple. Therefore, budget should not be a concern. My perception is that after some nice film elements were created several years ago, the film was transferred to HD, released on standard definition, and finally that same transfer, which probably looked fine in standard definition, is being used for Blu-ray, rather than going back to film and doing it correctly. This seems to be the new Paramount ethic, and it really needs to be discussed, both by the public, as well as (hopefully) on Melrose.
    What we have is a pretty film element that has been transferred, processed, grain reduced, sharpened -- to give it that wonderful Christmas tinsel look -- and then compressed by someone who apparently has no idea what they're doing. The final result can be seen in various Paramount releases, inclusive of The Untouchables. While this is far from what we saw in Patton and The Longest Day, it is far from acceptable in 2009.
    What you'll see on screen is something shorn of grain, and what grain survives appears almost like a suspension in liquid. As someone moves, they seem to force whatever grain there is out of the way -- pushing it in all directions as the obviously terrorized grain attempts to not come in contact with whomever is on screen. They almost appear to be repulsed magnetic particles.
    This particular It's a Wonderful Life will please those with smaller screens, as well as those with larger screens who care little of quality and aren't seeking a film look. It gives me no pleasure to suggest that those who do care are apt to be extremely unforgiving of the poor craftsmanship. And there is no rationale to forgive.
    It's a Wonderful Life is one of the great films. Now that it has made its way to Blu-ray it is ripe for a recall and replacement by someone -- anyone -- who knows how to bring a film to Blu-ray. I'll repeat something that I've said before. The job is simple. Scan the element, clean and stabilize where necessary and take it to Blu-ray. It ain't brain surgery. To make it personal, this is something that I could do with my eyes closed, and probably over the phone, although being on site would probably create a better final product. The point that I'm trying to make is not to disparage, but simply have it understood that this is not film restoration -- merely a transfer, can very easily be performed correctly and with a final Blu-ray product that can look like very stable and clean projected film.
    That, as I understand it, is what Blu-ray, with its incredible technical potential, is all about.
    It's a Wonderful Life is most assuredly Not Recommended!
    RAH
     
  2. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I'm very sorry to hear this, as IAWL is my favorite movie of all-time. Looks like I will be avoiding the Blu-ray for the time being.

    - Steve
     
  3. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    Sad. Good thing I delayed a purchase.
     
  4. LarryH

    LarryH Supporting Actor

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    Too bad this information comes about a week too late for me /img/vbsmilies/htf/frown.gif
     
  5. David Norman

    David Norman Cinematographer
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    Same here Larry. I hate to end up supporting a subpar effort even by mistake.
     
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    That's...disappointing. I was intending to get this, with the accent on the past tense. Thank you Robert.
     
  7. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    This is very disappointing. Unfortunately, my copy arrived in yesterday's mail, so this review is too late to save me some cash.
     
  8. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I am returning my unopened copy for a refund.

    - Steve
     
  9. willyTass

    willyTass Second Unit

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    Fair call: The Seventh Seal it ain't
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I received an email from a friend this morning who led me to comments re: this piece on other sites. Strangely some are coming away, presumably after reading this thread thinking that:
    a. I had given a negative because a colorized version was included. I couldn't care less about that inclusion. If people view and enjoy it, I wish them well. My personal feeling have nothing to do with it, and the colorized version has no impact upon the original. When I hear this I think of wise words from an old, dear friend. A famous book that he had written had been made into a less than wonderful film. When queried about how he felt about his book "being destroyed," he responded that he had no idea what was being asked. "My book," he said, "is up there on the shelf." A bad film has nothing to do with the original work.
    b. I had given a negative because the film had not been "restored." I'm unaware that the film needed serious restorative efforts, possibly beyond some footage replacement from fine grain and a bit of dirt clean-up. I believe that at least the majority of the OCN survives. Where it does not there would be a complete FGM and track. Regardless, my comments have nothing to do with whatever restorative efforts were performed. Whatever needed to be done has been, and I'm certain that the film elements are currently beautiful.
    My comments concern neither of those points. Rather, they point directly to a Blu-ray that is generally pretty, but looks nothing like film. My point is that it easily can look like film, and not a digital mess with swirling particles that occasionally take on the look of a magnetic force field. The power of Blu-ray is, in this case, not being accessed.
    RAH
     
  11. Guest

    Thanks RAH. Preorder cancelled.
     
  12. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    The colorized version of the movie reportedly made Frank Capra cry. I think anyone on this forum who watches the colorized version should have their membership revoked.

    - Steve
     
  13. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Tinker says that anyone who watches the crayoned in version will have their eyes poked out.
    Frank Capra was not the only one moved to tears BTW...
    TBH, I haven't 'upgraded' IAWL since I bought the old Artisan R1, and Paramount's 'tweaking in babysteps' of the film (and many other titles they hold), probably means that it'll be a few releases yet before they come up with a real 'bells and whistles' BD SE that satisfies all.
    I haven't seen either the UK or US BDs (which I think I'm safe in assuming are from the same source), but I certainly trust Robert's judgement enough to put thoughts of buying this again on hold. At least the old R1 has a very good transfer, with no 'colorized' coaster included.
     
  14. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I'm currently writing the HTF review. Short version: I generally share RAH's assessment. If this is the first time you're buying IaWL, this Blu-ray has more picture information than any DVD. If you already have a good DVD, watch it upconverted and save your money.
    As for the colorized version, I put it in out of curiosity, gaped at it for a minute like I might at a train wreck, then hit eject.
     
  15. Guest

    To expand on my above remark: I cancel preorders of overly DNR'd blu rays whenever I can, mainly because I spent a lot of money on my HDTV, and DNR makes my TV look retarded.*


    * movement challenged.
     
  16. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I'm sure it's been said before I don't really understand who colorized versions were made for. If someone doesn't like black and white movies, they probably aren't going to suddenly fall in love with its colorized counterpart because the movie is still clearly made in a different time and about a different era and I assume that, for those people, that's as much of a turnoff as the B+W.
     
  17. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe the original impetus for colorization (colourisation for those of you in the UK) was to expand the market for potential television sales. The concept has been used to some success in taking, for example, a first season of a series filmed in b & w and making it available as "color." I really don't have a problem with that use, but do when used to destroy films shot in b & w generally because it was a production decision, with every department following the concept. Costumes, sets, etc. But again, each to their own.
    With a "thank you" to John Hodson for correcting my UK spelling.
    RAH
     
  18. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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  19. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    I was wondering about this release, and I laughed when the color disc version was tossed to the trash.. didn't know if it should have been used as a coaster or not.

    Too bad Paramount didn't do some restoration or cleanup for the HD release. Just like Mr Harris stated this is a holiday staple that they will release year after year after year. If you do it correctly from the start then you can sit back and repress the discs year after year if needed. Everyone wins.

    I will stick with the classic Miracle on 34th Street for a holiday themed film this year.
     
  20. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Here's the bums' contact info:

    5555 Melrose Ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
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    Demand that this disc be recalled as defective NOW!

    Quote:
    Yet NBC only shows the B&W version on what is now the film's sole annual TV airing.
     

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