A Few Words About A few words about... The Cary Grant Box Set

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 17, 2006.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    With the release of their "The Cary Grant Box Set," Sony Home Video, which owns the Columbia library seems to finally be joining the rest of the major studios in the pricing of classics.

    Since the advent of DVD technology, Sony has either totally misunderstood the home video marketplace, or even worse, has taken a "we don't care" attitude toward their potential customer base, and priced their offerings well outside the actual marketplace.

    Now, almost a decade into the format, and with the next on the horizon, comes their first collection of films with the inimitable Mr. Grant.

    A five disc set encompassing The Awful Truth (1937), Holiday (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940) and The Talk of the Town (1942) offer some of the best of Mr. Grant's work. There are another five from this era yet to come from the studio.

    Before we visit the quality of the films and extras, let's take a quick look at pricing and marketing.

    Until now, and with software still available separately in stores, one would pay around $85 discounted for approximately $108 in retail "value" for four of the discs. Holiday makes its first appearance in this set.

    The fact that Sony had priced these films, few of which look like anything special quality-wise between $25 and $30 might seem astonishing to the uninitiated, but somehow in their mind, and as the only studio using this pricing structure, they did just that.

    Fortunately for the public, and assumedly for their own bottom line someone in Culver City must have visited one of the video stores on Pico or gone over to Virgin on Sunset and actually checked out what the other studios have been doing.

    The product itself is much like the child of a marriage between WB and Universal, using the pricing strategy of both, the collection concept of Warner Home Video and the packaging of Universal.

    And the DVD collection of this union finally has Sony's software properly priced and elegantly and professionally packaged at a street price of under $40 for five great classic films.

    This is a major step for Sony, and hopefully will be the beginning of other like offerings to come.

    On the problem side, we have the condition of the films themselves.

    Not the transfers, but rather the condition of those surviving elements.

    After decades of mishandling, vault tragedies, the films have finally been getting their due under the aegis of Columbia's Grover Crisp and company.

    For many years, The Awful Truth had only been available in 16mm, and Holiday in less than beautiful prints, but armed with budgets, inventories and a bit of help from the UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Library of Congress, the films are now all in decently viewable condition.

    The only surviving original negative may His Girl Friday. Only Angels Have Wings looks superb, so something in 35mm of quality has survived. Other titles are derived from dupes of varying generations as well as 35mm nitrate prints, but aside the few missing shots from The Awful Truth, every one of these five films looks far better in this set that they have in decades. Hopefully, The Awful Truth will be fixed and replaced.

    I note the quality not to negatively review this set, which I am not doing, but rather to prepare the viewer for the reality of the situation, and to note that the studio has thus far, taken the films as far as can one can in terms of quality.

    The bottom line is that this is nothing but great news.

    Sony Home Video has joined the rest of the world in terms of pricing.

    We have a great set of five Cary Grant films in the best possible quality.

    To those who already own the four previously releases, and wish to now add Holiday, I'll also note that these are new transfers with a myriad of fixes, inclusive of the previously missing frames at the opening of His Girl Friday.

    At this price, the message is to buy the new box set and give your old discs to friends. The upgrade is not only worthwhile, but the next incremental jump in quality from a potential high definition release will not be terribly beneficial to these films.

    As far as being loaded with featurettes, this is more hyperbole than fact. The handful of featurettes are short (some topping out at three minutes) and of minimal import, aside from Mr. Stevens comments on Talk of the Town and Todd McCarthy's commentary on His Girl Friday, which is carried over from the original release.

    Highly recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Dale MA

    Dale MA Screenwriter

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    Thank-you Mr. Harris. I'll definitely be picking up this box set. I'm a big fan of Cary Grant & it's all thanks to the DVD format were I have discovered his many brilliant films [​IMG]

    It's nice to see other studios who have poor backgrounds when it comes to catalog DVD releases take a note out of Warner Brothers book.

    I cannot wait to get this set.
     
  3. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    I got the set, and I'm very happy with it. One question: has Sony always overseen Columbia for DVDs? The old DVDs of these titles were Columbia titles, but this is a Sony box.

    Just asking for information, no complaints.
     
  4. MarkHarrison

    MarkHarrison Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the information Robert. I'm a big Cary Grant fan and look forward to adding these to my collection. I'm also pleased to hear that Sony has finally priced things right.
     
  5. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    I hope that Sony does a similar set with Humphrey Bogart, including the previously released SAHARA, DEAD RECKONING, SIRROCO,IN A LONELY PLACE, TOKYO JOE, THE HARDER THEY FALL, and never-before-on-dvd KNOCK ON ANY DOOR and a non-pd BEAT THE DEVIL.
     
  6. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    I hope Sony does a Frank Capra set. The Columbia releases of many of these really don't look good at all.

    It could have:

    It Happened One Night
    Mr. Deeds Goes To Town
    You Can't Take It With You (needs some serious restoration)
    Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
    Meet John Doe

    and maybe

    Lost Horizon
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I don't believe Meet John Doe is a Columbia title. This may have been a Capra production distributed via WB.

    Although it fell into the public domain, there are superb extant film elements of both versions.

    RAH
     
  8. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    It was; I can barely watch my Laureate R2 - they've removed the Warners logo and slapped their own over the titles. I wish to God someone would do this justice...
     
  9. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    According to UCLA's listings, they restored Meet John Doe from the original nitrate camera negative and the nitrate soundtrack negative. It's mentioned that it was done with the approval of Turner Entertainment, so I guess WB at least holds the film materials (although, it also seems that the Stanford Theatre Foundation holds the negatives - it's not clear).

    The Hal Roach Studios/Image Entertainment DVD is quite good, though. It's uncut (still has the WB logo) and besides being a little too dark, I think it's fine.

    WB ought to put out special editions of both Arsenic and Old Lace, as well as Meet John Doe. The former has a beautiful transfer, but absolutely no bonus material.
     
  10. Garysb

    Garysb Screenwriter

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    Quote
    "I hope Sony does a Frank Capra set. The Columbia releases of many of these really don't look good at all.

    It could have:

    It Happened One Night
    Mr. Deeds Goes To Town
    You Can't Take It With You (needs some serious restoration)
    Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
    Meet John Doe

    and maybe

    Lost Horizon "

    As has been mentioned by Barrie Maxwell and others the Cary Grant set has a trailer for an upcoming Frank Capra set which will included
    It Happened One Night
    Mr. Deeds Goes To Town
    You Can't Take It With You
    Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
    Platinum Blonde
    American Madness

    Only American Madness is new to DVD. Should be out later in 2006
     
  11. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

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    Boy, I hope so, but now that we've had two DVD releases with the same problem, I wonder how optimistic we should be, if at all. I went into detail about this segment in this HTF message.

    I hate to sound like an obsessive carping about these two brief shots, but for me that scene had always been one of the high points of the film, and their absence just ruins the moment. Of course, if you hadn't known it was there, the scene just plays through, no big deal. But that's the point, there should be a big deal there, and now there isn't.
     
  12. Casey C.

    Casey C. Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, Sony has always overseen Columbia for DVDs. Sony has owned Columbia since 1989.

    The home video division, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, was renamed Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2004, and its DVDs since then bear the Sony brand.
     
  13. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the info Robert.

    Considering that I'm only interested in The Awful Truth, Talk of the Town and Holiday, and already own the first two, I was going to hold out for a single release, unless the Awful Truth had the missing shots back in, or Talk of the Town was an improved transfer. Sounds like the latter is true, if not the former, so I guess I'll spring for this box.
     
  14. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

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    I just received my copy of this box set....I bought it solely for "Holiday", since I already forked out the dough for the other 4 titles separately.

    What will be interesting is to decide if I should sell the 4 individual DVD's........I guess so.

    Bullocks to Columbia (Sony) for its disregard and lack of respect for the very customers who are likely to buy these classic titles.

    Other than their excellent "Columbia Classics" series - still in print, but long abanded, the very few titles they've decided to release have all had serious film condition issues, and apparently, Sony has no interest whatsoever in doing any repairs.

    Of all the major studios of the 1930's and 1940's, the Columbia library has been mined less. Paramount's pre-1945 stuff runs a close second.
     
  15. JohnPM

    JohnPM Second Unit

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