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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Vertigo -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Make no mistake.

    Alfred Hitchcock's 1957 (released in 1958) Vertigo, is not an easy film to bring to Blu-ray.

    Scanning the original VistaVision negative gives you proper grain and resolution. And that's about it.

    Fully exposed shots, are far less problematic than the thinner shots, which are horribly faded.

    When we did our restoration back in 1996 or so, all that we had to work with were a faded original negative, heavily shrunken separation masters, and magnetic dupes from the original tracks. All of the stems had been junked (not by Universal) long before. While we had discovered the original music floor recordings in Paramount's vaults, everything else had to come come optical positives.

    The general desire was to use the stereo music and re-mix it, but with what? New effects and Foley had to be created from scratch, and to be honest, studio politics took front position when it came to the use of newly created elements. We were not happy with the final results.

    The majority of those problems, have been far better dealt with here.

    We were able to create 65mm dupe from a newly struck VVLA IP, in varying densities, and processed in differing ways, in order to bring back acceptable color to most of the film.

    Now, with digital technology, and via a process that we proved could work, and perfected over a five year period, anything can be done, with the requisite elements, to bring a film back to the way that it appeared on day one.

    Those early tests, which came after Vertigo, helped to solve problems in Rear Window. Used today, they could have made Vertigo perfect.

    But what most of you want to know is if there are major problems. Is the Blu-ray a pleasurable experience to watch?

    Toward full transparency, I will offer than I've been pleased to have been consulted on the project, and I firmly believe that within financial parameters, Universal has taken the project as far as it can go. The technical execs at Universal very much want this, and the rest of the Hitchcock Blu-ray collection to be as perfect as possible. But in the corporate world, things aren't always as easy as just doing it. Budgets, and financial realities must come to the fore.

    Is the Blu-ray of Vertigo perfect? No.

    Is it horribly problematic?

    Absolutely not.

    My bet would be, that those getting caught up in the film, which would be my expectation, wouldn't be noticing the problems, and if they did, they may not register as such.

    Here's a breakdown.

    Generally, any sequences that are fully exposed have been dealt with via digital color, and the final results are superb. That accounts for probably 90% of the film.

    The problems are in dupes -- the shot in the museum, going from Ms. Novak's hair to the portrait -- the color of which is incorrect, and without further technical support, uncorrectable.

    And in faded shots. Several shots of Mr. Stewart and the police officer on the rooftop in the opening don't answer back color-wise, and could have.

    A thin sequence in Barbara Bel Geddes car needs help.

    A single problematic shot of Mr. Stewart at Carlotta's grave after his release from the hospital, exhibits extreme fade at the top of the frame. For our version, without digital tools, we were forced to go to separations, which ran out of register.

    The ride to the mission at the end of the film, has problems with black levels and skin tones, and as handled, there is no way it could not.

    Probably the most problematic, are the final interior shots in the mission tower, again with poor black levels and improper flesh tones. Apparent fade across the center of the negative, also yields an unpleasant transparency to the sequence.

    But let's go to facts.

    I notice this, as I'm attuned to the film.

    I'm certain that Mr. Kimmel will take note, as he's also used to viewing original prints.

    Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere ) will be pleased, as Mr. Stewart's suit is properly brown, and not aubergine.

    But very few people will be distressed by any of this, and while I would truly like to see this film restored accurately, it's not about to happen at this time. Unfortunately, the elements will continue to evolve, and not in a positive way.

    The bottom line here is that almost all of the film looks, and sounds, terrific.

    I was considering posting frames to show what the Blu-ray should look like as opposed to what it does, but I see neither the need, nor anything positive coming out of it.

    My opinion, for what it's worth, is that Universal tried very hard to make this right. They agreed to take suggestions until after the end, and I have nothing but respect for the final result.

    I believe I have a reasonably good handle on the mindset of the Blu-ray collecting public, and my feeling is that very few will be displeased with this release.

    Is it perfect?

    No.

    But it's generally beautiful and a major attempt has been made toward accuracy.

    That's fair. Surely.

    Recommended.

    Image - 4

    Audio - 4.5
     
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  2. Mark-P

    Mark-P Well-Known Member

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    Can you tell us anything about the audio? Is the foley now more consistent with what the original soundtrack used to sound like, or is it still over the top?
     
  3. bugsy-pal

    bugsy-pal Well-Known Member

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    Wonderful to hear at last your views on this bluray, and that it has turned out well. I'm sure your advice has pushed Universal to deliver as good a version as we can get within the constraints you mentioned.
    I think you wholeheartedly for your original work in saving the film from total decrepitude.
     
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  4. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Thanks for your assessment. It is good to hear that you were consulted.
    I have the limited edition box set on order from Amazon.co.uk, and am looking very much forward to receiving it.
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    No longer "over the top." I have yet to be able to view the entire film, but generally it seems far more accurate to what we would have like it to be.

    RAH
     
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  6. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your great comments, much appreciated.
    I am generally very receptive to studio financial concerns and the need to be realistic about cost/benefit issues. I live with it in my own life. With most films, I am reasonable.
    Vertigo is something of a different story. It is my favorite film and has been since release day, and the look of the original dye-transfer prints is established in my memory (accurately at least for me). Noting that my #2 favorite--Lawrence--just received an all-stops effort, it is a bit disconcerting that Vertigo is not treated similarly.
    So I will have to reserve judgment until I can see and hear the result.
    Any efforts that you made in improving this are however much appreciated.
    Two questions:
    1. Have they left the stereo music mix alone? I very much appreciated having much of the film in stereo as a result of the restoration and would not like to have it narrowed.
    2. What is the state of the "revelation" scene in Judy's apartment? This has been the most difficult scene for me in the restoration 70mm prints.
     
  7. WadeM

    WadeM Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the informative review!
     
  8. Osato

    Osato Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Robert! I really appreciate your insight and the comparison to the DVD and the restoration work that was done in the 90's.
    Hoping to pick up the set soon!
     
  9. haineshisway

    haineshisway Well-Known Member

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    This is so wonderful to read and was exactly what I was hoping to hear - while it's a shame it can't be 100% for Vertigo 90% will do me just fine.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    1. The audio has been re-worked, to more closely play as we intended. Nice work from Universal.

    2. Digitally, that scene could be properly dealt with, and it's fine.

    RAH
     
  11. Andy_G

    Andy_G Well-Known Member

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    Did they manage to get the suit colors right at the inquest? (That's one specific recollection I have of problems you noted in the old commentary--that even Herbie Coleman apparently didn't notice).
    Thanks for your thoughts. I'm looking forward to this set, really.
     
  12. mikeyhitchfan

    mikeyhitchfan Well-Known Member

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    It sounds like my favorite Hitchcock film will look and sound close to perfection. Thanks.
     
  13. WilliamMcK

    WilliamMcK Well-Known Member

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    Is the original mono track an option? And if so, is it the same one that was on the Masterpiece Box Set DVD?
     
  14. AdrianTurner

    AdrianTurner Banned

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    As many will know, Vertigo this year toppled Citizen Kane off its 50 year-perch as 'The Greatest Film Ever Made' in the once-a-decade poll by Sight and Sound magazine.
     
  15. haineshisway

    haineshisway Well-Known Member

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    I believe it has been stated many times that the original mono track is on the US set.
     
  16. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Well-Known Member

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    So glad to finally get your opinion on this, Robert. I had been waiting for what seemed like years. Thank you (he writes, breathing a sigh of 90% relief)
     
  17. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    So glad to read your thoughts on this.
    What a shame we've lost your wonderful commentary track from the package though.
     
  18. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Which I disagree with as Vertigo isn't even his best film without discussing the merits of Citizen Kane.
    Crawdaddy
     
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  19. Michel_Hafner

    Michel_Hafner Well-Known Member

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    Given this film is the new Kane on the top 10 list it should be no luxury to restore it again in 4K from the best elements. Maybe it will happen for the 4K BD...
     
  20. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Well-Known Member

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    I believe this is possibly the most awaited thread at these forums.
    And the good news is most welcome.
    Many, many thanks.
    Steve W
     

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