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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Pete's Dragon -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Pete's Dragon (1977) has always been al "also ran" on home video. It's never looked decent. My earliest memories of it are of the laserdisc release, which seemed to run virtually non-stop when my son was of that age.

    Even the most recent DVD was well...

    not pretty.

    Finally, Disney's 35th Anniversary Edition (Sean Marshall, who played young Pete, is now 47!) makes amends for all past transgressions.

    This Blu-ray is beautiful!

    Highly resolved, great color, shadow detail, even decent grain.

    For those unaware, Pete's Dragon, which seems to have been looked upon as second tier Disney, is a delightful musical comedy, probably best for kids 5 - 10, but not only not painful, but a delight for adults.

    Image - 4.5

    Audio - 5 (DTS-HD MA)

    Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Well-Known Member

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    I'd call it "painful for adults" - loved the movie when I was a kid, think it's borderline unwatchable now.

    But I agree it's a nice Blu-ray - easily the best I've ever seen it look...
     
  3. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Well-Known Member

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    The sound has been centered considerably, in fact the stereo is almost completely gone.
    I saw this in original release at Radio City and the stereo was very nice. The stereo is fine on the LD, but almost completely gone on the Blu-ray.
    When this occurs, sometimes there is enough left on the L/R channels to rebalance but, in this case, nope.
    Picture is fine but I rate the audio 1 star for acceptable mono.
     
  4. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Well-Known Member

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    I'm the same age as Pete. Had no idea.
    I bought the DVD for myself years back and thought it aged ok. I remember Reddy having some good singing moments but a tad awkward during the rest. But otherwise it's nostalgic and likeable. Easy to see why I loved it as a kid and remembered it fondly. As an adult, I won't pay Disney prices to upgrade the DVD. Perhaps when they dump it on a multi-movie BD set like they did recently with some live action things on DVD I'll pick it up.
     
  5. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    I wasn't thrilled with the sound (compared to the Gold Collection DVD and the 1990s laserdisc, I think something is going on with the center channel), but I do think they did a good job with the picture. The French track seems to have stronger high ends (and I suspect it's a dub made in the 21st century). The dirt and dust that plagued every scene with Elliott appears to be gone. I pulled out the Gold Collection DVD and compared the soundtrack, and the DVD. But Disney should have included the extras, since I doubt they'll do a double-dip on this or anything outside their biggest titles.

    BTW, my roommate and I recently saw Helen Reddy in concert in San Francisco. Good show, and her voice has held up extremely well.
     
  6. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Well-Known Member

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    Maybe they used the wrong type of Dolby decoder on the original two-track or something?
     
  7. classicmovieguy

    classicmovieguy Well-Known Member

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    Interestingly, for second-tier Disney material, I believe it was THE FIRST Disney feature to be released on VHS and Betamax. And I don't believe it's ever really been out of print since. As for the film itself, it has a decent-enough score, Helen Reddy is beyond lovely and the photography is excellent - the Blu-ray is the best I've ever seen the title look, although yes the sound has issues.
     
  8. moviepas

    moviepas Well-Known Member

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  9. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Well-Known Member

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    Years ago (probably late 80s, early 90s) Reddy appeared on Lettermen. Dave intro'd her and she popped up in the audience and started singing I Am Woman as Paul and the band played. She basically brought the house down. I think a lot of people, male and female, find that song hugely nostalgic and the meaning of the lyrics isn't the main thing in their enjoyment of it. I know I do.
     
  10. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    Was I the only one who noticed the connections between this film and some of the disaster movies of the era? There's a big storm at the end, and it reunited Shelley Winters and Red Buttons after they had been in The Poseidon Adventure together (this film's songwriters, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, also wrote "The Morning After"), while Helen came from this after Airport 1975. I imagine it was a pretty big deal for Disney to get this many stars in one film at that point in their history.

    Another thing I realized in hindsight is just how dark the story is underneath the visual gags (the story it was based on was even darker still, and IIRC it was not conceived as a sodium vapor hybrid musical from the get-go). And "The Happiest Home in These Hills" and "Every Little Piece" must be two of the most gleefully sadistic songs in Disney history, even moreso than "Les Poissons" from The Little Mermaid.

    I also think Mickey Rooney might have played Pete if the film had been made in the 1930s.
     
  11. Darren Gross

    Darren Gross Well-Known Member

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    I saw this when I was just a mere sapling, at Radio City Music Hall, and then dozens of times over the years when it was on HBO and the like. Those versions were a somewhat longer version, and as Pauline Kael would say, I feel my "memory has been mugged" whenever I watch the shorter version that Disney put out on home video and DVD.
    I presume this Blu-ray is the same, shorter wide-release version that was on DVD.
    That said, I loved this movie vastly when I was a kid, but it's a bit of an embarassing misfire now. It's extremely in-your-face & strident, all the performances are so big and hammy, that I'm surprised there was any scenery left to act in front of. Jim Dale and Red Buttons makes Don Knotts in the Apple Dumpling Gang look as subtle as Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc.
    I grew up with the songs though (my poor parents) and while the two sides of my brain will fight about whether they are actually any good, I still love them. Can't help that.
     
  12. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Well-Known Member

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    This is a film that, for me, only catches fire once: in the "Candle on the Water" sequence. Simply and beautifully filmed, it's worth the price of the Blu all by itself.
     
  13. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. The film has always felt to like it was supposed to be longer (musicals seem to bear the brunt of studio-imposed edits more than any other genre), and rumors of a longer cut have persisted for years.
     
  14. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Well-Known Member

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    I've heard of a longer cut also...nobody seems to know what was cut, however...
     
  15. Darren Gross

    Darren Gross Well-Known Member

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    To the best of my knowledge, the "I Saw A Dragon" and "Passamaquoddy," "Brazzle Dazzle Day," and "Every Little Piece" and numbers were longer as I recall.
    If it premiered before the director felt it was ready, I'm certainly fine with a tighter, more definitive version being released, but I'd love to see the full numbers again, even as bonus features.
    I believe the soundtrack LP was of different takes, so probably isn't a good guide...
     
  16. classicmovieguy

    classicmovieguy Well-Known Member

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    "I Saw a Dragon", I think, definitely SEEMS like it was meant to be longer. "Every Little Piece", I'm sure, probably had a few more verses.
     
  17. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    Some of the sources that claimed the film was longer than 128 minutes (perhaps the plan was to make it a roadshow-type musical, which no one else was doing in 1977) said cuts were made after the LA Premiere, but thus far, the Disney Archives never found documented evidence of a longer version that got released to the public. Considering Disney's similar treatment of other films during this era (I have also heard of cut 70s reissues of Walt-era films, including a censored Treasure Island and a shortened-to-two-hours Follow Me Boys), the extra musical material on the soundtrack album, and the jarring editing in the scene where Lampie finds Pete in the lighthouse, I always found the claims credible.



    Only "I Saw a Dragon" and "Passamashloddy" have extra lyrics on the soundtrack. The latter just has another chorus of Dr. Terminus mispronouncing the town's name, but the former has more substantial extra lyrics.

    Interestingly, the CD reissue of the LP has a reprise of "Candle on the Water," which replaces the AM radio-style single version on the song that was released as a single (if this reprise had been in the film, then I guess it would have been after "Bill of Sale," but before the scene where Nora admits Paul is dead). And you are correct that the LP takes are different. I never heard about the other two songs being longer, but the "Brazzle Dazzle Effects" featurette uses about 30 seconds of extra dance music from "There's Room for Everyone."

    Somehow I doubt Don Chaffey got final cut privileges, nor do I think any director at Disney would have gotten them, at least not then (and probably not now, either).
     
  18. donidarko

    donidarko Well-Known Member

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    Well I remember seeing "Pete's Dragon" on HBO when it premiered in January 1981. And I recorded it to VCR tape and I remember it being 137 minutes long. Unfortunately I don't have the tape anymore for comparison. Even the HBO guide I still have and the Long Island CABLEVISION guide states a running time of 2:17. So I don't know what exactly has been cut.
     
  19. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    Quote:
    Years ago, I picked up the old white clamshell VHS version of the film (the very first Disney video actually released by Disney), and the box listed a 105 minute running time, while the tape was the same 128 minute cut that's been on every release since then.

    Without a continuity script of an earlier cut, we will never know the truth. I'm starting to feel like Lampie when he tried to convince everyone he saw a dragon. (another random observation: Lampie in Pinocchio is kind of a Mickey Rooney-type character, which is an interesting coincidence)
     

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