Fiddler on the Roof - 35th Anniversary

Discussion in 'DVD' started by JohnRice, Feb 16, 2007.

  1. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I just got this a few days ago and watched it the other night. I am hoping someone can pipe in about whether they feel the transfer is improved over the previous SE, which I also own. In fact, even though I am immune to all the pointless re-releases on DVD, Fiddler is one I have bought at least 4 times, dating back to LD, because it is a fave and until now it had never been done right.

    I will possibly grab comparison shots between this and the last versions, if there is interest, and post them here.

    My impression was that the transfer looks outstanding, and I recall being less happy with the previous SE. What is worth the price of admission for me is the fact the 35th Anniversary edition has the original mono soundtrack. The 5.1 surround soundtrack is nothing short of a disgrace, with phased, muddled, overbearing, constant surround, and ping-ponging dialog. The one time I watched the previous SE, the audio was a constant distraction, but the mono soundtrack was not included on that edition.

    I am particularly hopeful Robert Harris has some input and/or feedback about the 35th Anniversary edition.
     
  2. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    It does look better. Quite a lot of dirt specks have been removed, and the bitrate seems to be higher.

    I never noticed the sound problem before. The music is so beautiful, though, it might be a shame not to hear it in stereo.
     
  3. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    This is what it says on iMDB.

    Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints) / Mono (35 mm prints)
     
  4. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, I didn't know it was ever in mono or intended to be heard that way. Mono versions of many films from that era were indeed created, but I would think that a soundtrack as close to the original 6-channel 70mm mix would be preferrable now vs. a remix or the original mono.
     
  5. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Certainly it would, but it is quite evident to me the 5.1 soundtrack was actually created from the mono soundtrack because of what I consider obvious results of using phase/frequency separation to create a false surround sound, which is indistinct, muddy and has the telltale warbling. I find it almost impossible to believe it was derived from a true 6 channel soundtrack.

    As far as the image, aside from the dirt, I thought the previous SE was extremely grainy. Now, I know this isn't going to look like a 2006 blockbuster, but it was shot in 65mm, as I recall, and there is no reason for such visible grain. There is still grain, but it appears to me this transfer is from an earlier source. Detail and color seem to be much better.

    I will point out to the fanatics, there is some visible haloing, particualrly during the more backlit scenes, especially the "Little Bird" sequence. This is a shame, but not a deal killer.
     
  6. Rob_Ray

    Rob_Ray Screenwriter
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    Fiddler on the Roof was shot in 35mm Panavision and blown up to 70mm for roadshow engagements stereophonic engagements. It was not shot in 65mm and has never really looked very sharp to my eyes, even in theaters at the time. Norman Jewison mentioned on the commentary track that he and his director of photography even covered the lens with a stocking to give it a rougher look.

    Frankly, I've always thought that "Fiddler" and lot of other films of this period look rather ugly, which filmmakers seemed to think was "realistic." It was a revolt away from the Technicolor look of earlier eras, I suppose.
     
  7. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Somewhere along the line I had gotten the idea it was shot 65mm. I know imdb says it was shot 35mm, but they aren't the most reliable source, and I thought I recalled seeing some behind thhe scenes footage showing cameras which were definitely larger than 35mm. I admit, it is not a reliable memory.

    It has been widely printed that DP Oswald Morris used a nylon stocking stretched over the lens, but I wouldn't exactly it was to give it a "rough" look, so much as a tinted, soft one. It looks a lot like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, though I think that film is even more diffused.

    Anyway, i thought previous releases looked not only dirty, but excessively grainy and had noticeably blocked up shadows. The new release looks how I believe it should. Not crystal clear or "modern", but still with noticeably better tonal range, less grain and particularly better color saturation, but not more saturated than it should be.

    Also, I admit I'm not much of a fan of extras. I get these 2 disc SEs mostly for the improved transfers, but I thought the featurette "Tevye's Daughters" with interviews of Rosalind Harris (Tzeitel), Michele Marsh (Hodel), and Neva Small (Chava) was particularly enjoyable. Definitely don't pass that one over.
     
  8. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    There's an extra about Norman Jewison (the director who isn't Jewish) which shows him singing along and *crying* during the filming of "Anatevka."

    It's a great, great film, the best BroadwayMusicalShow-to-film ever made (IMO).
     
  9. Mark B

    Mark B Supporting Actor

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    I saw this film in a theater in the 90s. The print was the shorter 1979 re-issue, and it was in true stereo.
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I just went back to a few chosen segments of this release and listened to the 5.1 soundtrack with a different thought in mind. This is pretty much how I perceive it now. This movie was released in 1971. Back in the 50s, stereo and various forms of multichannel soundtracks had been common to draw audiences away from their TVs and back into theaters. Some time after that, movies typically went back to mono, then in the 70s, stereo and multichannel started cominng back again. Fiddler was probably at the forefront of this resurrection and I think the studio, filmmakers or whoever wanted to make sure it had impact. So, they went even further by having extremely directional sounds such as dialog and other ambient sounds. This works OK in theaters, where the speakers in the front are all behind the screen, but in HT, the L&R channels are almost always a fair distance to the sides, so dialog will go careening off to the side of the screen when a character isn't near the center of the image.

    In my opinion, this can be very distracting. Also, it seems to me that some of the sounds (take the ambient sounds during the wedding, for example) were sent to the surround channels at an abormally high level, which I also find very distracting. I wish the directional dialog had been reduced or eliminated for video, but it wasn't. I find it often takes me out of the movie, but hearing the music in "stereo" is a big plus.

    I guess it will always be a bit of give and take with this film, regardless of which soundtrack is chosen. On the whole, the 5.1 is probably what virtually everyone will choose.
     
  11. JeffMc

    JeffMc Supporting Actor

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    Do you know if there are any extras on the previous SE that weren't carried over to this new release? TIA.
     
  12. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Neither of the cases has a complete listing, but it doesn't look like it. I'll look at the actual discs tomorrow to be sure.
     
  13. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Even when I saw Fiddler in 70mm, I didn't think it looked particularly good.

    Stereo had gone out by the late 50s but not at all studios. Fox and MGM still seemed to have a constant stream of stereo films.
    All the big roadshows, especially the musicals had stereo sound all through the sixties-
    Gypsy, music Man, Oliver funny Girl, Sound of Music My fair Lady, Star, Throughly MOdern Millie.
    Sadly, the current videos of My Fair Lady sound pitifull cpmared to the theatrical presentation and all the original surrounds are gone.
     
  14. Brian Sharp

    Brian Sharp Second Unit

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    In the UK it was also released in 35mm with 4 track mag stereo. IIRC, it was only the premiere presentaion in London that had a 70mm print.
     
  15. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    I love directional dialogue! I'm glad they didn't try to centralize it like Fox did with so many of its films for video - until they woke up and started putting the original 4.0 tracks on some DVD's.

    I didn't know people still listened to films in 2 channel stereo, in which case I'll bet FIDDLER does sound rather strange. If the new soundtracks are adapted from the original mix, then I'll for preserving that. Didn't the original sound mix win or was nominated for an Oscar?

    Also, GYPSY was apparently released in mono and remixed for Dolby Digital for the DVD release - or it was in stereo and those tracks were lost. All previous video and Laserdisc releases were mono until the DVD.
     
  16. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    I love directional dialogue as well. It is, in fact, true to the original theatrical presentations of many films.

    Unfortunately in many HT's, and for many reasons, the left and reight speakers are located beyond the edges of the screen.

    To be true to the original mix, the left and right speakers should be located at points equidistant from the center and the respective edge of the screen.

    For those without these speaker locations, directional dialogue and effects will not be properly positioned on the screen.

    Ted
     
  17. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    There is no 2 channel stereo soundtrack on the new DVD, just a 5.1 and a 2 channel mono.

    As I pointed out in my last post, yes, the 5.1 probably is true to how the soundtrack was in theaters, but theaters have all the front speakers behind the screen, which is virtually unheard of in home theater, and only really possible in front projection. Whether or not the speakers are equadistant from the screen, the sound will still move more radically to the sides than it really should. I personally have the L&R speakers set up to provide optimum imaging, with the screen centered between them. In the end, having the dialog this directional is correct in theory, but only in theaters. Somehow, I had gotten the impression it was a synthesized 5.1, which I no longer believe. I also believe the original mix, even with preceived disadvantages, is most likely preferable to one which the studio had tampered with.

    I guess it really just comes back to the fact I am glad it has both 5.1 and Mono in this release, which the previous SE didn't have.

    Also, the DVD probably looks about as good as this film possibly can, and it is a truly great film, which regrettably, many people (mostly male, it seems) refuse to watch.
     
  18. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

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    Does the new release also contain the original intermission card? The previous transfer went straight to the entr'acte.
     
  19. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Great film! Love the soundtrack...
     
  20. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I don't know what the original Intermission Card was. After all, I saw this in the theater when I was 7. Anyway, the intermission on this edition is the same as the previous SE. It goes directly to the entre'acte screen after the wedding is broken up, with music, then a brief black screen, then the second part of the film.
     

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