A Few Words About A few words about...™ North by Northwest -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, generally considered to be the master's greatest chase / thriller finds its heritage in his mid to late 1930s UK productions such as The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent. The basis of these films concern someone wrongly accused of a crime, who must survive those who want him dead while staying away from the long arm of the law that is constantly moving in on him.

    For its 50th Anniversary Blu-ray release WB has gone back to the basics and totally restored the film, beginning with its problematic original negative.

    But this is where things get interesting.

    I had once spoken with someone who was purportedly Ned Price, and apparently responsible for the work on The Searchers. Now when I reached out once again, I was told that he was unknown at the studio, and "had never worked there." Not giving up, I made a call to the Warner entity called MPI, and was strangely connected to someone in props. Going through a full search of the studio divisions, I finally found someone who suggested that I was possibly seeking MTI, the developer of digital repair tools, also in California.

    Late yesterday I was finally able to get some information which at least tends to separate the sizzle of high end digital restoration from the truth of the matter. Here are the facts as I've now learned them, and they lead me to disbelieve that there is any digital restoration work that has occurred. Through sources both here, and in Europe, I've been able to put together what seem to be the actual facts of the matter.

    The original VistaVision negative was shipped to Germany in the fall of 2007. Reports from those who received it, confirm that the film stock was too faded to be representative of the film. The elements were delivered to a group of nuns living somewhere nearby Mummelsee in the Black Forest. Here the delicate film elements were carefully unwound and treated with a secret formula created specifically for the purpose by Benedictine monks.

    It was this elixir that was used to regenerate the faded color layers, scene by scene, and in different proportions of chemicals. By the spring of 2009, the material was ready to be returned, and before going to the studio, spent several weeks at a monastery in an undisclosed location somewhere in Northern California, before making its way back to WB.

    Once returned to the studio, the film was handled as new. Color correction was handled normally, as it would be for a new production. To bring things full circle, not an hour after screening the new Blu-ray, I received a call from a Ted Rice, who also strangely purportedly works in restoration at WB, but who denied that the film elements ever left Los Angeles, and averred that the studio brought in new and special equipment to scan the film elements at 16k resolution.

    The bottom line is simple, be it Ned Price or Ted Rice -- it's all part of the same alphabet soup -- the final product looks and sounds superb on Blu-ray. There is minimal grain, as befits not only VistaVision, but negative that has spend some time in Benedictine DOM. Sharpness varies, as it did in 1959, as quite a bit of diffusion was used in production, yielding a beautifully rendered, fully velvety image. Audio is uncompressed.

    With thanks to our friends in Germany, North by Northwest is once again available for prime viewing here back in the States.

    North by Northwest from WB is Very Highly Recommended, and a film not to be missed.

    RAH
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    But...but, you can't leave it like that Robert; where is Ned Price and what have they done with him?
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'm not certain, but there were mentions of trains and the word of hunting mountain lions in the Scottish Highlands.
     
  4. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    film elements delivered to a group of nuns and treated with a secret formula specially created for the purpose by Benedictine monks. Methinks Mr. Harris' pen (or keyboard) has taken on a life of its own.
     
  5. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    I hear them lions is fiercest round Brigadoon.
     
  6. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    Are you sure those were Nuns in the Black Forrest? Are you sure the film elements weren't actually delivered to Helena Marcus and her minions at the Tanz Academy?

    Vincent
     
  7. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Hahaha... Fun read fer sho'r. Can't wait to see the next installment on that little tale

    Thanks, RAH.

    _Man_
     
  8. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    I'm sorry. I CANNOT support a release that has outsourced such vital work to German nuns, when there are perfectly capable American nuns hit hard by this recesssion.
     
  9. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    RAH: Thanks for the review! This is great news for Hitchcock fans. What other Hitchcock films does WB own that might see similar treatment on blu in the future?
     
  10. Craig Beam

    Craig Beam Screenwriter

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    Strangers on a Train
    Dial M for Murder
    Foreign Correspondent
    Suspicion
    The Wrong Man
    Stage Fright
    I Confess
    Mr. and Mrs. Smith
     
  11. Vegas 1

    Vegas 1 Supporting Actor

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    Good one Robert!
     
  12. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Thanks Craig. Well, Strangers and Dial M are certainly worthy and are well recognized as classics, if not on the level of NNW. I personally don't like Suspicion because the script. I doubt that one has much chance of making it to blu. I love Stage Fright, and would love to see it on blu, but that's rather wishful thinking, most likely. Mr. and Mrs. is a dog, I'm afraid. The others are interesting films that have never been considered strong properties commercially, but I'd sure like to seem em on blu anyway.

    Looks like they really took the crown jewel out with NNW.

    I guess Universal owns most of the others? How have they been on blu-ray releases?
     
  13. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Foreign Correspondent is excellent, but Warner just decided to not renew their license for it from Castle Hill. Because Criterion has picked up the formerly Warner licensed Castle Hill property Stagecoach, rumors for a Criterion Foreign Correspondent have been circling the internet, with no real substance to back it up.

    Dial M for Murder and Strangers on a Train seem the only likely candidates for a Warner Blu-ray release for the time being, as nice DVD special editions were already made.
     
  14. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    As far as I can tell, the US distribution rights are currently as follows (BD releases that are most likely to arrive first, IMO, are bold):

    Warner

    Dial M for Murder
    I Confess
    Mr. and Mrs. Smith
    North by Northwest (already on its way, obviously)
    Stage Fright
    Strangers on a Train
    Suspicion
    The Wrong Man

    Castle Hill (distribution deal just ended with Warner)

    Foreign Correspondent

    Universal

    The Birds
    Family Plot
    Frenzy
    The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
    Marnie
    Psycho
    Rear Window
    Rope
    Saboteur
    Shadow of a Doubt
    Topaz
    Torn Curtain
    The Trouble with Harry
    Vertigo

    (Psycho, Rear Window and Vertigo recently got release pending placeholders on blu-ray.com, which is pretty good about finding out future streeting titles. Those 3 make the most sense for Universal to test the waters.)

    Fox

    Lifeboat
    The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
    Notorious
    The Paradine Case
    Rebecca
    Sabotage
    Spellbound
    Young and Innocent

    (Unfortunately, Fox has yet to indicate any interest in releasing these on Blu)

    Paramount

    To Catch a Thief

    Other

    From what I can tell, most of the other Hitchcock filmography is public domain in the US. The notable films remaining are:

    Blackmail
    The Lady Vanishes
    The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
    The 39 Steps

    Criterion has released The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps, including a nice re-release of the former just a couple years ago. Most people expect them to get around to them eventually.

    Blackmail has never had a good DVD release in the US. Someone has the opportunity to do this one right by releasing both the silent and sound versions.

    Same story for The Man Who Knew Too Much.
     
  15. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    That reminds me of my favourite line of dialogue from Psycho:

    DVDBeaver has screen caps:
    http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare5/northbynorthwest.htm
     
  16. Scott Shanks

    Scott Shanks Second Unit

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    Extremely stoked to get North By Northwest on BluRay.

    Only disappointment is that there is no new commentary. The current commentary with Ernest Lehman leaves a little bit to be desired. This hardly tempers my enthusiasm, though.
     
  17. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    BLACKMAIL was brought out as a wonderful Criterion ld: it had a terrific commentary by scriptwriter Charles Bennett and a clip of Hitchcock with earphones listening to Anny Ondra's voice double (Joan Barry?) in a booth recording dialogue. I'd love Criterion to issue it on dvd. Also maybe Criterion could do something with UNDER CAPRICORN, which Image brought out on dvd (Does Janus own it?)
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    These titles, and many others, may or may not currently be in the public domain, as things may change. Suggest you google the Golan Decision.

    RAH
     
  19. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    Thanks RAH for the entertaining read and good news, but boo for tempting me to read legal decisions at 1:30 in the morning. It's not good for my mental health. Brandon thanks for the info.
     
  20. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Allen
    Notorious
    The Paradine Case
    Rebecca

    Spellbound

    The above films were made by Selznick International which are owned by ABC (Disney) and licensed to MGM who has a DVD distribution agreement with Fox. I don't think we will ever see the light of day on Blu-ray for these films. Disney, MGM, & Fox are running away from catalog films as fast as they can.

    Can't wait to pick up North By Northwest on Blu-ray. I was not going too, but I felt sorry for those nuns working so hard on the this, that I will have to break down to offer some support, maybe they start working on Mad Mad Mad Mad World now.
     

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