A Few Words About A few words about...™ Meet Me in St. Louis -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Nov 28, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Meet Me in St. Louis, new on Blu-ray from WB, exists at the top of the Garland/Minnelli/Freed canon.


    Everything about it excels in that way that only the great M-G-M films could. No one could touch them.


    Produced during-World War II, in Technicolor -- the most expensive and difficult means of creating a motion picture, with the absolute best talent in the industry.


    Let's examine the Technicolor aspect.


    Generally, only the most major productions went before a Technicolor camera.


    1944 saw 27 features produced in the format.


    Fox produced the most at 7 films:


    Buffalo Bill

    Greenwich Village

    Home in Indiana

    Irish Eyes are Smiling

    Pin-up Girl

    Something for the Boys

    Wilson


    Two of those can be considered classics today, and none of the original negatives survive.


    M-G-M produced 6:


    An American Romance

    Bathing Beauty

    Broadway Rhythm

    Kismet

    Meet Me in St. Louis

    National Velvet


    Three will make the classics list.


    RKO come in with 4:


    Belle of the Yukon

    Princess and the Pirate (Goldwyn)

    Three Caballeros (Disney)

    Up in Arms (Goldwyn)


    Paramount also had 4:


    Frenchmen's Creek

    Lady in the Dark

    Rainbow Island

    The Story of Dr. Wassell


    Universal had 4:


    Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

    Can't Help Singing

    The Climax

    Gypsy Wildcat


    Columbia's single entry was a worthy subject: Cover Girl


    In addition, two UK productions, one of which was David Lean's This Happy Breed.


    My point in listing these titles, is that three-strip Technicolor was an expensive rarity. And the bottom line is that while a few productions stand out -- Pin-up Girl, Wilson, Kismet, National Velvet and Cover Girl, it is the Meet Me in St. Louis, that has best stood the test of time, in its music, acting, sets, costumes and its overall sense of an almost mythical America as a family in St. Louis prepared for the World's Fair of 1904. Its cinematography by George Folsey is perfection. His Halloween sequence is a notable Technicolor classic. As an aside, he was brought in to shoot the new sequences for That's Entertainment, Part II.


    We all know that way the WB treats its three-strip productions, and Meet Me in St. Louis takes it to the highest levels.


    Scanned from the original camera negatives, and composited via the proprietary Ultra-resolution process, the resultant element from WB's MPI digital facility is nothing less than breathtaking. One might ask "where did the audio come from?"


    In typical fashion, the studio wasn't happy to use the 1/4 magnetic archival audio.


    Instead they returned to the original optical stems, and re-created the audio to sound better than it did in prints in 1944. This audio is 67 years old, and amazing.


    Meet Me in St. Louis is an extraordinary artifact of Hollywood's Golden Age, brought to Blu-ray with consummate love, care and attention detail.


    Is it perfect?


    Almost.


    I'd have like to have seen the original logotype used for the cover art.


    As for the Blu-ray disc, absolutely, positively perfect in every regard.


    Very Highly Recommended.


    RAH
     
  2. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Screenwriter

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    What a relief! Thank you, Mr Harris. Looking forward to adding this to my collection very soon! :D
     
  3. Guest

    Scared me for a second with "almost perfect."
     
  4. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Great news!! Thanks for this wonderful review. I'll be adding this classic my collection. Probably everybody here knows this movie, but if you don't...I can pretty much guarantee that it will make you laugh several times, smile a lot, and cry at least once with the famous song near the end that became a Judy Garland classic. I'm sorry to hear the negative for Wilson is lost. Even with its flaws, I think it's a fine and epic political film. What happened to the negative? Fire? Thrown away? Are there any others from this year where the negative survives that you think deserve to be on blu-ray?
     
  5. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    National Velvet would be nice. That's a great classic... Up in Arms too...
     
  6. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    I wasn't a bit worried. Warner's Ultra-resolution process has a perfect batting record on Blu-ray. I'm looking forward to the rest of the Ultra-rez DVD titles to make their way to Blu-ray: Easter Parade, The Band Wagon and Singin' in the Rain.
     
  7. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Thank God. Time for a little good news again. Fantastic.
     
  8. moviepas

    moviepas Second Unit

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    Fox 'updated' their negatives and threw the originals away so an article elsewhere stated recently. Makes little sense but that is Fox. Enough said when one considers the 1937 fire in NJ and the later 60s one in that state. Lifeboat had troubles for DVD because of lost elements. Hello, Frisco, Hello was redone on DVD which means we all had to buy it again in. But Fox, for all that, is supposed to have some 20s original nitrate prints rotting away someplace(1930s) and I had heard their European 30s/40s production elements had been returned to Hollywood but the call had been to destroy them in England. Who knows? Funny how Fox seems to have stereo sound stems from the 40s and issued a couple mof LPs from stems they had in their archives long ago(Tommy Dorsey & Glenn Miller). Strange people.


    As I type, I am watching the just received WAC Rhapsody in Blue and seeing this film for the first time in more than 30 years, maybe longer. I can't fault the picture and sound. And an opening full reel of overture I have never seen before. It speaks for itself. I got The Great Waltz at the same time in a different package and I don't believe I will be disappointed in that one either, another I have not seen a while but I have the Laserdisc.
     
  9. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Screenwriter

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    I'd also like to see "National Velvet". The DVD isn't so hot, and the film that catapulted Elizabeth Taylor to stardom when she was 12, which also happens to be one of the greatest family classics, deserves better...
     
  10. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    A couple of things - the sound has been redone - is it still stereo? Great info about Technicolor - two of the paramount ones i would kill for - Frenchmans creek and Lady in the Dark
     
  11. Guest

    I've told this story before but I'd like to tell it here: at one of the Wizard of Oz festivals, I was hanging out with the celebrities (John Fricke and I are close friends.) Margaret O' Brien was there that year. Another friend of mine owns the Judy Garland dress from the "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" scene. He clipped off a patch from the inside and presented it to Margaret. She was overwhelmed with joy! Very cool moment. I'll never forget that year. I also got to hold Judy's high school diploma that said friend also owns.
     
  12. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    According to DVDBeaver the sound is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0, so I would say yes.
     
  13. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I thought it was Fox's The Gang's All Here that had to be redone, not Hello, Frisco, Hello.
     
  14. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Based on some contradictory press releases I was concerned that the extras would be jettisoned, but if all we have to worry about is a crappy cover then they've done good by me. This is my favorite Judy Garland film that has no flying monkeys in it; I'm looking forward to getting it.
     
  15. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Good story. Thanks for sharing it.
     
  16. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Your right it was The Gang's All Here. Once in the first Alice Faye Collection, then again in a Carmen Miranda Collection. The color in the first one was horrendous and the Laser looked better. The second release was a hundred times better. And because of that incident, I started to loose faith in FOX and that has continued until today.

    Hello, Frisco, Hello, had a warning on the front about the poor elements just as Lillian Russell did, but it was not that bad.
     
  17. moviepas

    moviepas Second Unit

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    You are right, I confused the two titles. It was The Gang's All Here that was redone. I have more on these choice(to me, anyway) titles. Firstly, when I was getting into the business as a young man in my early 20s and started subscribing to Classic Film Collector there was a 35mm screening in New York of The Gang's All Here. A guy involved in it says he secretly got into the bio box and filed down the gate to have the film screen full frame. Maybe, but never too sure about that one.


    However, what is true is that some local guys were franatic about these Technicolor Fox 40s musicals. One guy was said to live in a suburb about 2 miles from my home and had a number but the house burnt down because of these films. Another guy lived closer to downtown Melbourne but was somewhat backward and had a job with the city doing grass cutting and weeding. Arthur used to always be in overalls and wrote me letters about films he wanted and wrote every other which way around the envelope. He lived in a little old house with his Mom next door to a licensee of Westinghouse appliances. He had a load of these 35mm Technicolor nitrates and one day they found him staring at the ruins of what had been the little old house. Again the films were the culprits. How these guys got these films, I never knew. Later Fox used to have a lawyer go to the dump with prints and sign a form that he had seen the prints chopped up with an ax. There have been numerous raids in those far off days for prints stolen from silver reclaim plants but usually one thing leads to another when one is caught and gives the names of other guys to try and save their own skin or is it a case of one in all in? A rare Canadian Western was destroyed by a scared old man who had it on 35mm but still got charged and went to court. Years later his film loving son(who had worked in an exchange and Fox movie chain office) read the search story in Classic Film Collector and told me the story. Don't know if the Canadians ever found a copy of this 1930s title, whatever it was.

    Today we know it is collectors and forgotten reels that have saved many a title that we are still able to see today. The FBI never did see it that way.
     
  18. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    When Film Inspection had several warehouse/depots around the country one of these was in New Orleans. Once a month the FI would clean out old films that the film companies deemed excess. FI would sign a form saying that they were completely destroyed, but in actuality they would end up in the dumpster. In the dead of night people would sneak around the dumpsters and a few would climb in tossing out reels of film to collectors below. I had a friend who did this quite often and took me along one night and it was like the a horde of hungry people waiting for a tidbit to be tossed to them. By the way my friend had a garage full of 35mm cans of film stacked to the ceiling. Nitrate was long gone thank goodness. He did have a great collection of Three Stooges shorts though and he did have a 35mm projector set up shooting out of a back bedroom window and we would sit on the patio watching the Stooges and others dance across a plywood white painted screen erected in his backyard. "Can I have another Bourbon and coke?"
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I would not "loose faith" in Fox based upon three-strip Technicolor titles, as, even with digital work, these titles will never be perfect. All of the original elements were improperly copied and the originals junked in the mid-1970s.


    The archivists at Fox can only take these titles, inherited from past regimes, so far.


    With the exception of some three-strips and other nitrates, the quality of Fox releases in the past few years has been overall superb.


    RAH
     
  20. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    I do agree with you on some of the Fox Technicolor DVD's are superb. All of the Carmen Miranda title were bursting with color. And there was nothing like a Fox Technicolor musical.

    I guess I did not make myself clear. My disappointment with Fox was the lackluster The Gang's All Here in the Alice Faye Collection, and when it was brought to their attention, Fox just ignored it, but ended up re-issuing it in another collection and in a way forcing a double dip. I would have hoped they would have tried to make a correction the first time around. I do not feel that they work to correct mistakes as Disney, Paramount and Warners have in the past. That is my disappointment.

    Fox has done excellent work on their Blu-ray titles and are at the mercy of MGM on what elements they are given for transfer. I look forward to Cleopatra and the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals next year. With a much improved Todd-AO Oklahoma! (I hope), One title that should have been replaced when orginally released also.
     

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