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Columbia's Treatment of It's Back-Catalogue

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Brian PB, Feb 22, 2005.

  1. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

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    Aaron's review of Columbia/TriStar's DVD of Twentieth Century inspired me to do a little research on the studio's treatment of the older films in its catalog. Certainly Columbia doesn't have the riches accorded to Warner (via MGM, RKO, and Warner itself), Universal (via Universal and Paramount), and Fox. But Columbia is the repository for the films of directors like Frank Capra (their shining star), Howard Hawks, and George Cukor; a smattering of work by Rouben Mamoulian, John Ford, Max Ophüls, Frank Borzage, George Stevens, Leo McCarey, King Vidor, and Orson Welles; and in the Fifties, Nicholas Ray, Budd Boetticher, Jacques Tourneur, Anthony Mann, Stanley Kramer, and Joseph Losey.

    Contract stars included Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, Ann Miller, Glenn Ford, Judy Holliday, and (briefly) Cary Grant, among others.


    With help from DVD Planet's "Power Search" feature, I surveyed Sony/Columbia TriStar's DVD releases for films made before 1950 (I've omitted their "Three Stooges" releases):

    Matinee Idol/The American Dream (1928) $28 (Suggested Retail Price)
    Platinum Blonde (1931) $25
    Twentieth Century (1934) $20
    Pennies from Heaven (1936) $25
    The Awful Truth (1937) $25
    You Can't Take It with You (1938) $30
    Only Angels Have Wings (1939) $28
    The Howards of Virginia (1940) $20
    Angels Over Broadway (1940) $20
    Music in My Heart (1940) $25
    Adam Had Four Sons (1941) $25
    The Devil Commands (1941) $25
    You'll Never Get Rich (1941) $20
    Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942) $20
    Talk of the Town (1942) $30
    You Were Never Lovelier (1942) $25
    The More the Merrier (1943) $25
    The Return of the Vampire (1943) $20
    Cover Girl (1944) $25
    Once Upon a Time (1944) $30
    The Jolson Story (1946) $20
    Dead Reckoning (1947) $25
    Down to Earth (1947) $15
    Blazing Across the Pecos (1948) $20
    The Man from Colorado (1948) $20
    Jolson Sings Again (1949) $20
    Tokyo Joe (1949) $25

    The following titles appear under the "Columbia Classics" banner, and are treated to Special Editions:
    It Happened One Night (1934) $28
    Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) $20
    Lost Horizon (1937) $28
    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) $28
    His Girl Friday (1940) $25
    Sahara (1943) $25
    Gilda (1946) $20
    The Loves of Carmen (1948) $28
    The Lady from Shanghai (1948) $25
    All the King's Men (1949) $25 --- but essentially "barebones"

    It appears that A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) (1946) will be released in a Special Edition later this year, but perhaps not under the "Columbia Classics" series, since it wasn't made for (just distributed by) the studio.


    The first thing to notice is the pricing structure. Columbia routinely charges $25-30 for barebones DVDs of its older titles. Compare this with Warner, which charges $20 for many of its classic Special Editions, or Fox which charges just $15 (originally $20) for its loaded "Studio Classics" line. Likewise, Universal has released some barebones boxsets recently (Marx Bros, WC Fields, Film Noir titles) at very reasonable prices.

    It's interesting that Columbia charges roughly the SAME PRICES for their "Columbia Classics" special edition line as they do for their barebones efforts.

    I am disappointed that Twentieth Century--one of Howard Hawks' best films--received a less-than-stellar, barebones DVD edition (with really horrible cover art, just to add insult to injury). And with Columbia, you can be sure that this is all we'll EVER get.

    And don't get me started about the crime they committed when they--FINALLY--released Satyajit Ray's sublime Apu Trilogy---poor picture quality (compared with the UK edition), no supplements (not even brief essay to place the films in context), no insert, and $30 each. If it achieved poor sales, well, what did they expect? It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. This for three of the acknowledged masterpieces of world cinema!



    Selected Titles Still in the Vault at Columbia

    Robert Aldrich: Autumn Leaves (1956)
    Dorothy Arzner: Craig's Wife (1936)
    Budd Boetticher: Ride Lonesome (1959), The Tall T (1957), Comanche Station (1960), The Name's Buchanan (1958)
    Frank Borzage: Man's Castle (1933)
    Frank Capra: The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933), The Miracle Woman (1931), American Madness (1932)
    George Cukor: Holiday (1938)
    John Ford: The Whole Town's Talking (1935)
    Samuel Fuller: Underworld U.S.A. (1961)
    Alexander Hall: Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
    Joseph Losey: M (1951) and The Go-Between (1970)
    Mikio Naruse: Mother (1952)
    Max Ophüls: The Reckless Moment (1949)
    Otto Preminger: Porgy and Bess (1959) EDIT: Likely controlled by MGM (via Samuel Goldwyn Entertainment)
    Satyajit Ray: Charulata (1964), Devi (1962), Teen Kanya (1961), Jalsaghar/The Music Room (1958), The Big City (1963), The Masses Music (1976)
    Alain Resnais: Providence (1977)
    Claude Sautet: These Things Happen/Les Choses de la vie (1970)
    André Téchiné: Thieves/Les Voleurs (1996)
    Hiroshi Teshigahara: The Face of Another (1966)
    Peter Yates: The Dresser (1983) [EDIT: Released in April 2004]
    Fred Zinneman: The Member of the Wedding (1952)



    I really hope Sony/Columbia TriStar can clean up its act, but I really have my doubts. I welcome any comments, insights, or corrections.
     
  2. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    The only thing I would add is that Columbia started releasing some Columbia Classics titles in Australia. The titles include In A Lonely Place, Lady From Shanghai, Pal Joey and a few others. The RRP is AUD$14.95 = US$11.90. Although there isn't much range yet, they are substantially cheaper than the U.S. prices.
     
  3. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    Yes, Columbia is a real disappointment. Some horror titles I'd add to this list that need to be released are:

    All starring Boris Karloff (how about a Box Set?):
    THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939)
    BEFORE I HANG (1940)
    THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES (1940)
    THE BLACK ROOM (1935)
    THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU (1942)

    Also:

    THE WEREWOLF (1956)
    CRY OF THE WEREWOLF (1944)
     
  4. GregoryMesh

    GregoryMesh Supporting Actor

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    It's also puzzling that Columbia releases some titles in other regions but ignores region 1 - Holiday, Human Desire, Tight Spot, Knock on Any Door. Speaking of the last three, Columbia can dig into their Film Noir catalog, but I guess they don't know how to market film noirs if it doesn't star Bogart...
     
  5. Ken Koc

    Ken Koc Screenwriter

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    THE DRESSER came out last year in the US on DVD but I am still waiting for.....
    GEORGY GIRL
    THE VICTORS
    GOOD NEIGHBOR SAM
    PEPE
    THEPUMPKIN EATER
    LET NO MAN WRITE MY EPITAPH
    THE GODDESS
    THE INTERNS
    DIAMOND HEAD
     
  6. Jay E

    Jay E Screenwriter

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    I would also like to see Columbia release these:

    $(Dollars)
    5 Against the House
    Big Mouth, The
    Brothers Rico, The
    Cisco Pike
    Crime & Punishment
    Criminal Code, The
    Crimson Kimino, The
    Father Brown
    Getting Straight
    Gorgan, The
    Gumshoe
    Husbands
    I Walk the Line
    Johnny O'Clock
    Liberation of L.B.Jones
    Lineup, The
    Major Dundee
    Mickey One
    My Name is Julia Ross
    Our Man in Havana
    Scandal Sheet
    Strange One, The
    Taste of Fear (Scream of Fear)
    Torture Garden
    Two Rode Together
    Who's Minding the Mint?
    Wrong Box, The
    Young Winston


    The Anderson Tapes & Night of the Generals are out in region 2 UK.
     
  7. DouglasBr

    DouglasBr Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, the appearance of The Dresser last year was quite welcome. Add another vote for releasing

    Holiday
    Father Brown
    Gumshoe
    Our Man in Havana


    Also, there was some criticism of the treatment given to The Prisoner (1955) with Alec Guinness, released last year. The fact that it dropped in price from $29.95 to $9.95 msrp might indicate a no-confidence in the DVD as issued. But would they re-release? . . .
     
  8. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    My understanding of Porgy and Bess is that it is suppressed by the Gershwin Estate, so I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.
     
  9. LaurenceGarvey

    LaurenceGarvey Second Unit

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    Good point on the Karloff films and '50s horror titles. Columbia did a pretty good job on its William Castle and Ray Harryhausen films, but should go back to the vaults. Does Columbia own any of the classic cartoons released through the studio back in the day, like FOX & THE CROW? I know that several Gerald McBoing Boing cartoons were included as bonuses on HELLBOY; was that a Columbia release? And if I switch to "dreamer" mode, I'd like to mention the hundred of non-Stooges Columbia comedy shorts from the 1930s-1950s, including solo Shemp outings, Charley Chase, Sterling Holloway, El Brendel, Vera Vague, and Andy Clyde, which would make a terrific boxed set. And hey, don't forget all those movie serials, particularly BATMAN (1943 version), THE MONSTER AND THE APE, THE SPIDER'S WEB, and THE SPIDER RETURNS.
     
  10. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Still in "dreamer" mode:

    how about those great series of the 30's and 40's that used to be TV staples but have vanished because Columbia has no TV outlet (like Warners and TCM). These would make great "franchise collections":

    Blondie (beyond the 10 films released by Platinum)
    Boston Blackie
    Lone Wolf
    Crime Doctor

    Steve
     
  11. ChrisPearson

    ChrisPearson Second Unit

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    Yes, Laurence, they own all the Screen Gems, Columbia and UPA cartoons – not just Fox and Crow and Gerald McBoing Boing, but also Scrappy and Mr Magoo. So far, they have only made the following cartoons available on DVD:

    Gerald McBoing Boing, Tell Tale Heart, Gerald McBoing Boing on the Planet Moo and How Now McBoing Boing (extras on Hellboy)
    Skeleton Frolic (on The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera)
    Gerald McBoing Boing's Symphony (on The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T).

    A good number of the Columbia-owned cartoons were restored for a TV series Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew worked on called Totally Tooned In (in fact all the above info comes from Jerry Beck), so could easily be put on DVD at minimal cost.
     
  12. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for catching that oversight.
     
  13. Chris Cheese

    Chris Cheese Stunt Coordinator

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    There are a number of noirs out right now on Columbia that I haven't purchased yet because I can't bring myself to spend $25 on a barebones disc from 4 or 5 years ago. I really wish they'd at the very least price-drop some of what they have out now. But yeah, they should step it up and release a lot of their other vault material too.
     
  14. Deepak Shenoy

    Deepak Shenoy Supporting Actor

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    I have many of the titles released under the Columbia Classics banner during the early years of the DVD format (including It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gilda and His Girl Friday) and I thought all of them were pretty decent. It's only in the last few years that Columbia has retrogressed from being one of the best studios around to one of the worst (as evidenced by their pan-and-scan-only releases and sloppy treatment of classics). I don't think I've bought a Columbia DVD in a long long time (with most of my money going to Warner and Criterion) and things will stay that way unless Columbia really gets on the ball and starts giving its classic (and not-so-classic) titles the respect they deserve.

    -D
     
  15. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    And Columbia only handled the theatrical release for Samuel Goldwyn.
     
  16. ChrisPearson

    ChrisPearson Second Unit

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    I agree. I'm currently working my way through that series and am very impressed – I even think they are worth the price (Warners' releases I consider to be bargains, the rrp being well below what they are worth to me). As for Columbia's current output – what went wrong?
     
  17. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    What went wrong with what? I'm sitting here with wonderful Columbia recently released DVDs like Bunny Lake, My Sister Eileen, Strangers When We Meet, Behold a Pale Horse, Twentieth Century. If something went "wrong" - keep it up.
     
  18. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Always nice to see my review spark a discussion. [​IMG]

    This has been a pretty big week for Columbia catalog titles:
    • Behold A Pale Horse
    • Bitter Victory
    • Funny Girl/ Funny Lady set
    • It Happened To Jane
    • My Sister Eileen
    • Strangers When We Meet
    • Twentieth Century
    • We Were Strangers
    April 5 will also be a big catalog week for them, with a lot of westerns:
    • Bonanza Town
    • The Desperadoes (1943)
    • A Good Day For A Hanging
    • Jubal
    • Lust For Gold
    • The Professionals
    • Silverado (Superbit Special Edition)
    • Texas
    • The Texican
    • The Violent Men
    Mostly bare-bones stuff, but the A/V quality seems to be respectable from what I've seen so far. I agree that it'd be nice to see lower MSRPs and/ or better supplements.
     
  19. Jay E

    Jay E Screenwriter

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    I pre-ordered a slew of those westerns for under $8 so I can't complain anymore about Columbia's prices.
     
  20. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

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    I have TWENTIETH CENTURY and the transfer is really odd. The formatting is off or something. The opening title cards letter is cut off.[​IMG]
     

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