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A Few Words About A few words about...™ West Side Story -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Update: Feb 15

    A replacement disc has finally been viewed.

    And I've not come away smiling.

    What could possibly be more simple than encoding a dissolve, in which one piece of film fades out, while the other fades in.

    This is not what is occurring, and is not what the film was designed to be.

    Once again (I didn't expect a change), the opening whistles are in the wrong place, fully at front proscenium, as opposed to the rear.

    I've not bothered to check dupes, as I've given up on this release.

    While it would be nice if MGM once again, offered a return for a proper disc, I'm wondering if as a corporate entity, they have the ability to get this right.

    MGM owns many great films, but they are not represented properly.

    It pains me to say that this Blu-ray is still...

    Not Recommended.

    And the pity is that generally, this is a beautiful release.

    A recall is in order.

    RAH



    With discussions on line regarding West Side Story, I was able to get a UK copy, and will comment on that until my domestic arrives. Hopefully, there will be differences, but somehow I have a feeling it is what it is.

    West Side Story has not be a lucky film on home video in the past few years. The last major DVD release was unviewable as a duet was so far out of sync, it seemed as if Maria was singing Tony's lines.

    Now we have the Blu-ray, supposedly with 300 hours of restoration, whatever that means.

    First the bad...

    Huge problems from the beginning, as has been noted on the web.

    The final dissolve from Mr. Bass' brilliant linear skyline pattern to the Main Title has somehow been turned into a fade out / fade in.

    I'm not at all sure how this can occur, as any serious release should be prepped with both a continuity as well as reference. Apparently, neither were necessary for West Side Story.

    From a purely technical standpoint, this is an easy error to make, as the original negative would have the dissolve as a printer function, as marked on the edges of the film. These errors have occurred in the past when older negatives are handled by some entity other than the original laboratory, which in this case was Technicolor. But with original reference prints that would clearly show this as a dissolve...

    This is inexcusable.

    Once we get past the Main Title, we hit helicopter shots of Manhattan, which now have a slight jitter to them that I don't recall in the past. This may be my memory playing tricks, but regardless, it's something one can live with.

    The first sound heard in the film are whistles, which should come from the side rears, a mix of channels 1 & 6, and 5 & 6, bringing the sound just forward of rear. This doesn't seem to be occurring, as they seem a bit forward. Not a big deal. I can also live with this.

    But far worse, we have faded opticals, which for whatever reason (cost?) no one felt should be fixed. Flesh tones are nonexistent, contrast blooms, sharpness in non-existent. Just bad, especially when one compares it to the good.

    And good there is:

    With the exception of the points noted above, the scan (which I've heard was performed by HTV, the company behind the "restoration" of Patton) seems very nice. There's stability to the image, reasonable grain and good color. Overall a good scan. I have no complaints.

    Color also is nicely handled, with the exception of the dupes, which once transparent to the original, are now abominable.

    While I don't understand why there was no return to the original (recently preserved) 6-track 70mm mix, the audio is superb. I had occasional problems, but nothing that would be disturbing to the casual viewer.

    Once there is a recall -- and a recall is an absolute necessity, as this is no longer the Best Picture of 1961, but rather, some oddly adapted version -- and the dupe problems are dealt with, I'll be pleased to give this a very high rating.

    My advice would be to pull the Blu-ray from distribution before it ships to consumers domestically, go back in and do the various necessary fixes, and then come back out -- in a few months -- with a viable product. If there is a re-issued version, there should be differentiation in the packaging.

    As it is...

    What we have is basically, garbage in, garbage out.

    At this point in time, Not Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Well-Known Member

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    How utterly depressing. Thanks for the heads up...
     
  3. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Well-Known Member

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    You tell 'em, Robert!
    --Amazon order cancelled.--
     
  4. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Well-Known Member

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    I should add that WSS is probably one of only ten films that I absolutely won't tolerate in a sub-par home video release. Ain't gonna happen, nope. I'll put up with a boo-boo here and there for other classic films, but not this one. Nossir.
    MGM--you gave up a perfect bluray release for Fiddler on the Roof. And now this for West Side Story? How could you?
    MGM, either acknowledge there is a problem, fix the problem and get it right, or you can leave it over there in England where I don't have to come across it in the $5 bin at Walmart. Sounds like that's where it's headed.
     
  5. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Well-Known Member

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    So one of my favorite parts the overture going into the Maint title sequence they fade in/ out!?!

    Whos's minding the store? It always seems there are people handling film that have no business touching them. I doubt they would do a recall. This will be it until they feel like re-releasing it.
     
  6. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Amazon preorder cancelled. If it turns out okay once released, I'll reorder.
     
  7. David Coleman

    David Coleman Well-Known Member

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    Wow!!
    This is disturbing!!
     
  8. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Well-Known Member

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    Wow. And Beaver's screencaps were so promising too.
     
  9. JohnMor

    JohnMor Premium
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  10. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    My Amazon pre-order was already cancelled. I'm tempted to order it again just so I can cancel it again.
     
  11. Mark-P

    Mark-P Well-Known Member

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    Shocking. For once the pitchforks and flaming was actually warranted!
     
  12. marsnkc

    marsnkc Well-Known Member

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    With the happy exception of the early Bond BDs (which suprised me), the MGM/UA catalog nightmare continues!
    I remember being excited for them when their distribution agreement with Warner's ended in the early '90s. I was convinced they would revisit whatever they had left of their library and treat it like gold for the burgeoning DVD market. What followed was a quality worse than what had come before, and far worse than any of the other studios' output. They seemed driven to get product out as quickly as possible, no matter the condition, for the cold hard cash.
    We should be eternally grateful to Ted Turner for 'rescuing' the titles he did from MGM, and to Warner's for their subsequent treatment. What a shame the UA gems weren't included in the deal - especially my beloved WSS.
     
  13. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Shocking, sobering, and depressing. Hoping for something good to come out of this. Thank you, RAH.
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe everyone is hoping that MGM will take the right road on this one.

    The fix of the Fade vs. dissolve is a two minute fix from the original pre-conformed data files.

    The dupes are a bit more difficult problem, but nothing that can't be made absolutely perfect.

    This is a wonderful moment, when lemons can be turned into lemonade, and the studio comes out shining.

    RAH
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I've been reading opinions elsewhere that call for firings because of some of the WSS errors.

    This seems a bit over the top. They might wish to consider placing someone in a slightly different position that doesn't affect final output, and bringing someone with
    a bit of background in to QC the actual films being released on Blu-ray, but firing... Don't think so.

    This event should serve, however, to illuminate problems within MGM's QC unit.

    If a corporate point was really going to be made, those individuals who signed off on the disc might be positioned to pay for the fixes, and costs of re-distribution.

    Might make a point.

    Reminds me of an old Nichols & May routine about a mother calling her son, who is with NASA.

    It went something like this:

    Nichols: Ma, you can't call me here. We're sending up Vanguard.

    May: I hear how you keep losing them.

    Nichols: Ma...

    May: I said to Uncle Harry, I hope they're not taking it out of his pay...



    RAH
     
  16. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Well-Known Member

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    It is nice they are going to maybe offer replacement discs according to Blu-ray.com news item. It will keep me from running out and buying a copy asap. I may hold off until the replacement disc is more known, hate to have to send back one disc just to wait weeks into a month or more to have it replaced.
     
  17. haineshisway

    haineshisway Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Mr. Harris. And if anyone from MGM is reading, I volunteer to sit and watch this glorious film and I'll let them know all is well for absolutely no charge :)
    I'd love them to fix the whistles at the top but as Mr. Harris says, not a dealbreaker.
     
  18. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Not a dealbreaker, but it sure would be great.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Welcome back!






    Crawdaddy
     
  20. haineshisway

    haineshisway Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Crawdaddy!
     

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