1. Guest,
    If you need help getting to know Xenforo, please see our guide here. If you have feedback or questions, please post those here.
    Dismiss Notice

A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Premiere Frank Capra Collection

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    8,624
    Likes Received:
    4,030
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    As Frank Capra directed enough feature films between 1928 and 1939 to fill a number of boxed sets, the fact that Sony has titled their initial offering as The "Premiere" Frank Capra Collection sends out a great message.

    Of the five films offered in the inital collection, four have been in the home video line-up in one form or another for a long time. Initially on VHS and laserdisc, the films were mastered from whatever film elements happened to be found in the vaults. In short, they weren't given a great deal of respect.

    I've been waiting to see how the new (David Bishop) regime might deal with the studio's classic library after years of neglect and disinterest, and one of the intital results is finally available.

    To be both brief and honest, most of the elements surviving on these films would be categorized as fair to moderate. Little of really high quality has survived decades of over-printing, mishandling and the famous Columbia vault flood.

    I've been following the restoration work being performed on these films for quite a while. Let's take a look at each and see what has changed (and what has not).

    As an overview, except for You Can't... these are all new transfers, with generally more appropriate density and contrast, and are also substantially cleaned-up over previous releases.

    There are still scratches here and there, still bad dupes here and there, still some nitrate decomposition (especially in Deeds), but finally -- FINALLY, the set stands apart from anything like this that Sony has put out before.

    That said, it must be understood that these films CAN NEVER BE PERFECT. The elements simply do no allow it. But each and every title has been substantially upgraded.

    All of the audio is newly restored and none from previous releases.

    Let's look at them title by title:

    Mr. Smith: The transfer was produced from two elements - The restored Fine Grain Master from the original and other elements, but which had damage printed in from earlier damaged source elements, bad dupes, etc., and from a new dupe neg made from the recently discovered nitrate print, the best of the Capra nitrate prints and the only one made from the original negative.

    The newly discovered print of Mr. Smith was slightly grainer, but had none (not one) of the scratches in the original. It was pristine, just a bit grainier. The FGM and new dupe negative (from Mr. Capra's personal print) were mixed and matched -- inserting shots or sequences from the dupe in over thirty sections throughout. The work performed is virtually transparent. The poor dupe sections in the original negative have all been replaced. The audio is new and sourced from the nitrate print as it proved to be better than anything that had ever turned up. The film begins with a LOC restoration credit, which has now been updated to reflect the studio's new involvement, as well as that of additional labs.

    Mr. Smith is a revelation.

    American Madness was transfered from newly-restored FGM. Sources were original negative, an old dupe and a nitrate print borrowed from UCLA. The print (an old LA Parks and Recreation screener) was used to replace sections that no longer exist, and is dupier looking, which is unavoidable. I've seen a numer of these prints over the years, and most contain insect parts. There are still a few scratches here and there, but nothing problematic. The densities and contrast are beautiful of the era. Interestingly, the worst looking sections of the film are actually dupes cut into the original back when it was new. Those are NOT the new replaced sections, as everything has those printed in.

    It Happened One Night -- Transfer from restored FGM, made from the original neg. The original has several sections (though not many) where dupes were cut in shortly after the film was released (most notably in the scene where they pretend to be a bickering couple in the one-room cabin they share), probably because of printing damage at the time.

    There are no extant elements that do not have these dupes printed in, but the newest incarnation looks far better than in the past in making them match better to original.

    You Can't Take it with You -- This is the only film in the set that did not go back to the foundation, and was cleaned up with some new sections scanned in from a grainer, but cleaner nitrate element.

    It could take another year or more to bring You Can't Take up to a higher level, but this will do for the time being.

    Mr. Deeds Goes to Town -- This was transfered from a restored FGM, mainly from original. The main problem that has plagued this film for decades is the nitrate decomp in the original elements. There were attempts to reduce the look of decomp, but this is something extremely difficult to cover, even with digital technology.

    All in all, and even with the cleaned up, but not re-mastered You Can't Take it with You, this set is a winner from all aspects.

    Sony has finally given these films the respect that they deserve, and the final results can be viewed in this wonderful set.

    The Premiere Frank Capra Collection comes Highly Recommended, especially at a street price of just over $40 for the set. While I hate to bring up bad old times, many will recall the original releases under the old regime at $30 per title for transfers that were way below acceptability.

    As a final note, the sheer amount of restoration blood and angst that has gone into upgrading these film cannot be imagined by anyone who has not been there. The entire staff of the Columbia asset protection program are to be congratuated, and should be thanked by all.

    RAH
     
  2. m.cellophane

    m.cellophane Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you, Mr. Harris, for your exhaustive information. I've avoided all of the prior releases for reasons you mentioned, but now sounds like the time. I thank you, but my wallet doesn't. ha!
     
  3. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2001
    Messages:
    2,959
    Likes Received:
    1
    Since I have all of the current editions (minus "American Madness"), I was really needing more to replace my current discs and to me this doesn't quite cut it. I appreciate the efforts to make better versions, but my favorite flick by a long shot is "You Can't..." and since that is minimally better at best, I'll have to take a pass.

    Maybe, if there is a break between WB boxes early next year I'll re-think my position but for know there are simply too many other titles that deserve my money more than this.
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2001
    Messages:
    6,161
    Likes Received:
    61
    Location:
    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    Because of cost and quality issues, I had avoided purchasing previous editions of "...Deeds..", "...Smith...", and "You Can't Take it with You". Sony/Columbia managed to address both issues at once with this set, which I bought on its release date. It should also be mentioned that the discs are included in a small but attractive package, and that the insert booklet is no small trifle, but a very nice and substantial supplement in its own right.

    Regards,
     
  5. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2000
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    42
    I'm really looking forward to getting this set.

    I wish they could have included The Miracle Woman, though.
     
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,520
    Likes Received:
    302
    Location:
    Bolton, Lancashire
    Real Name:
    John

    That's exactly what has pushed me on to unload my dupes; I will be picking this up. Sony's Cary Grant set was similarly presented and is quite beautiful (besides saving shelf space...)
     
  7. PaulP

    PaulP Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2001
    Messages:
    3,291
    Likes Received:
    0
    Amazon has this set for 37% off - that's just $37.47 - with free shipping. That's only $7.50 per film. No excuse not to own this.
     
  8. Tim Tucker

    Tim Tucker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2006
    Messages:
    1,023
    Likes Received:
    1
    Mr. Harris, this is exactly the type of information I wanted to hear before deciding to buy this set.

    However, should the new transfer of It Happened One Night be as dark as some screen captures show it?
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    8,624
    Likes Received:
    4,030
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    It is extremely difficult to take a single frame grab from a 1930s film, especially a dupe scene, which will have a tendency toward imperfect tonality or brightness on a frame by frame basis.

    There is nothing wrong with It Happened...

    RAH
     
  10. Tim Tucker

    Tim Tucker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2006
    Messages:
    1,023
    Likes Received:
    1
    That closes the deal for me. Thanks!
     
  11. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2001
    Messages:
    2,959
    Likes Received:
    1
    Any chance that we'll see a volume 2 in the future?

    Contents:
    Miracle Woman
    Lady For a Day
    The Bitter Tea of General Yen
    Lost Horizon
    Forbidden
    Platinum Blonde
     
  12. Corey

    Corey Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2006
    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    0

    My God, that would be a terrific set. Instant buy for me.
     
  13. JohnMor

    JohnMor Premium
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2004
    Messages:
    4,030
    Likes Received:
    1,277
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Real Name:
    John Moreland
    I second that! I would buy that in a second!

    Here's hoping....
     

Share This Page