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A few words re: The Adventures of Robin Hood


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#1 of 103 Robert Harris

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Posted September 24 2003 - 05:19 PM

After a brief spin of the new Robin Hood release from WB, I highly recommend their offering.

The Technicolor records have been beautifully rendered from both original and dupe elements, and form the best looking version of the film in modern times. It should be noted that while this release does not accurately represent the 1938 original, those familiar with early three strip Technicolor will be aware that a proper representation of the original look would be met by a less than enthusiastic reception in 2003.

This Robin Hood is wonderfully portrayed and reproduced for its entertainment pleasure, which is immense.

A primary disc and a second are packed with additional material inclusive of a documentary on the Technicolor process and a large group of deleted scenes and outs.

This is a disc which belongs in the collection of anyone who loves film and a bargain at under $20.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 103 Jeff Flugel

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Posted September 24 2003 - 05:38 PM

Thanks for chiming in on this, Mr. Harris! Glad to see it get your recommendation. This is one of my all-time favorite films and I absolutely can't wait to get this in my hot little hands.

#3 of 103 Mark Walker

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Posted September 24 2003 - 05:46 PM

I saw this film at Cinerama in Seattle several weeks ago and it looked great there. One neat-o thing was the prior to the film, they showed the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Robin Hood has a cameo. I do hope that is included on the DVD.

Mark

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#4 of 103 BruceKimmel

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Posted September 24 2003 - 06:39 PM

Wait a mo! You mean all those people who were "disappointed" in this disc without even seeing it because of some rather inane online reviews will be HAPPY? It's lovely to have Mr. Harris here, because he is one person who knows what things should look like (I've had enough 35mm tech prints in my life to also have a pretty good notion). Lesson one: Really, take these online sites' "reviews" with a large container of SALT.

#5 of 103 Gordon McMurphy

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Posted September 24 2003 - 09:13 PM

All that about 90% of on-line reviewers do is keep jive alive.

Hail, Robert Harris! Posted Image Posted Image


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#6 of 103 Peter Kline

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Posted September 24 2003 - 10:52 PM

To film purists this version does not look like the original Technicolor version, as Mr. Harris opines. A similar debate occured when Gone With The Wind came out. Color values were changed for modern tastes. Let the bickering begin. Posted Image

#7 of 103 DeeF

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Posted September 25 2003 - 02:16 AM

Could you expound slightly further, Mr. Harris, about the difference in color in Robin Hood from the original?

I'll ask some questions to get you started...

Is this because of the original "key" strip, say, a print of 50% of the blue negative (printed in grays), which was used for contrast and a kind of edge enhancement? So the original would have been darker, shadowier, and somehow punchier than what we currently see.

Although I understand that the colors are different now, I seem to recall that Selznick was very happy with the colors of Gone with the Wind in 1954, pronouncing them a huge improvement over the original color of that movie. Now Robin Hood was made by Warners, but in an off-handed way, the change in color mimics the other film, since both were 3-strip Technicolor with "key" strips.

In any event, the current DVD and prints of Robin Hood are very pleasurable. I've seen other movies on DVD from 1938 (including You Can't Take It With You, the AA winner that year) and they look OLD, scratchy and worn.

I hope you'll comment on the quality of "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" since it's the one of these current three Warners SEs that seems to have some problems, print damage and other video problems.

#8 of 103 John Knowles

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Posted September 25 2003 - 07:34 AM

I realize that this isn't about the DVD per se, but does the new restored print that's making the rounds in theaters right now have "the look" of the original or has it been "modernized"?
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#9 of 103 Bill Burns

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Posted September 25 2003 - 09:44 AM

When showed a copy of the newly registered and LDI processed Singin' in the Rain (it wasn't clear in the article whether this was shown to him on a scanned film print or on DVD), co-director Stanley Donen, in an LA Times article (available only by subscription now, but previously posted by the paper on-line) said "it didn't look that good when we made it!" The article doesn't read any sarcasm into this, so ... there ya' have it. The directors of Robin Hood are no longer with us, and neither are the cinematographers, but if the same aesthetic of "improvement" brought to Singin' in the Rain is again on display here, I wouldn't worry (that doesn't mean they'd look the same, and of course they shouldn't, but rather that the same principles of digital restoration/remastering and home video transfer have been applied, based upon any number of factors in the original elements).

Also, while they didn't name the specific film, in their last chat Warner Bros. said they had a new Ultra Resolution product on the way that bested what they had achieved with Singin' in the Rain. Most have assumed all along that product would be The Adventures of Robin Hood, and if it indeed equals or bests the aesthetic achieved in the UR Singin' in the Rain ... well, this bodes exceedingly well for the rumored 65th Anniversary Edition of Gone with the Wind next year. Posted Image to WB for their continuing dedication to DVD excellence -- they remain a high water mark for the industry, and I'm on tenter hooks awaiting my copy of the Legends set (the DVDFile review of The Adventures of Robin Hood states there isn't the slightest trace of EE, and if this is so ... I may have a new favorite disc on my shelf! The most persistent problems in the industry remain EE and "high frequency filtering," and studios really need to dedicate themselves to treating the DVD format, six years old and counting, with the digital precision it demands, and cease the now needless use of antiquated analogue "fixes" to low res troubles established with VHS and laserdisc, among them the application of edge enhancement -- I just can't wait to see this release; a tentative, but hopeful, bravo to WB).

For those wondering about Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I rented it once on VHS and seem to recall the same odd "brighter/darker" banding mentioned by others here and manifesting itself in one scene, but I can't be certain until I've seen the disc. If I'm right, it's a print error (or possibly an error on the original camera negative, perhaps heat damage such as that seen in parts of Lawrence of Arabia, or a photochemical error of one sort or another), as it has manifested in multiple home video masters. Just a guess, though.

“That line was screwy.”

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#10 of 103 DeeF

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Posted September 25 2003 - 10:31 AM

The stripes I see in that one scene in Treasure couldn't possibly be chemical. There are 3 perfectly straight geometric slices through the picture horizontally. It's some kind of digital error.

#11 of 103 Stephen_J_H

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Posted September 25 2003 - 11:19 AM

Thanks, RAH. I was definitely considering this before; now it's a must buy.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#12 of 103 Peter Kline

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Posted September 25 2003 - 11:19 AM

The original color pallette for Robin Hood and Gone With The Wind was considerably muted compared to the original Singin' In The Rain. Bill, I believe you're comparing Apples and Oranges (or whatever) in this instance. Rain was always "over the top" with the color in my opinion ... it was meant to be.

I once read that the studios were very afraid of 3 stripTechnicolor and feared that audiences would not like ithe "garishness" of it so they went conservative in the beginning. The Cinerama Dome is showing the digital version of Robin Hood so I assume all the current versions running in theatres are the more modern color pallette. "I shot an arrow into the air, and where it....." Posted Image

#13 of 103 Michael Boyd

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Posted September 25 2003 - 11:35 AM

Quote:
I realize that this isn't about the DVD per se, but does the new restored print that's making the rounds in theaters right now have "the look" of the original or has it been "modernized"?


I didn't see it, but I thought here in Dallas it was showing on one of the DLPs.
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#14 of 103 Larry Sutliff

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Posted September 25 2003 - 12:37 PM

Author Bill Warren saw ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD in DLP a few nights ago in Los Angeles. And movie historian par excellence Tom Weaver saw ADVS... in NYC a few weeks ago. He said it looked gorgeous, but he isn't sure if it was DLP or just a great 35mm print.

Either way, it's a great way to see this film(though I'd probably opt for a mint 35mm print if I had the choice).

#15 of 103 Peter Apruzzese

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Posted September 25 2003 - 01:40 PM

I'll be playing it as part of the Big Screen Classics series in Suffern, New York, at the Lafayette Theatre, some time next February or early March. 35mm film only, of course...
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#16 of 103 Bill Burns

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Posted September 25 2003 - 02:58 PM

Peter Kline wrote:
Quote:
The original color pallette for Robin Hood and Gone With The Wind was considerably muted compared to the original Singin' In The Rain. Bill, I believe you're comparing Apples and Oranges (or whatever) in this instance. Rain was always "over the top" with the color in my opinion ... it was meant to be.

That's absolutely true; I wasn't really comparing the films, but rather the process of making them "better than ever" through Ultra Resolution and LDI processing:

(from my earlier post)
Quote:
The directors of Robin Hood are no longer with us, and neither are the cinematographers, but if the same aesthetic of "improvement" brought to Singin' in the Rain is again on display here, I wouldn't worry (that doesn't mean they'd look the same, and of course they shouldn't, but rather that the same principles of digital restoration/remastering and home video transfer have been applied, based upon any number of factors in the original elements).

If the film is entirely (or even noticeably) retimed (assuming original color matrixes or records of them exist), without oversight by the filmmakers, that's a big Posted Image, but if color densities and "pop" have been given a polish they never had to begin with, I would give that a Posted Image based on what I see in Rain. I've never been a big believer in preserving photographic limitations; if there's reasonable evidence that a team was pushing for the best photographic quality possible at the time of their production (cleanest registration, deepest color saturation), but ran up against technological or, as you point out, Peter, studio hurdles, modern day restorations would have to think long and hard, and proceed with great care, but removing those hurdles without intruding on artistic intent might prove a noble endeavor.

I haven't seen the disc yet, and unlike Gone With the Wind (one of its many re-releases) I've never seen Robin Hood in a theatre ... so mine is just an opinion, not the voice of an expert. Still, though, if greens are deeper, reds richer, and highlights sparkle in a way they never did in 1938 ... as long as it's the same shade of red, the same shade of green, and as long as that sparkle comes of pulling more from the film elements and is not additive, I'd offer praise for that effort. If timing is substantively altered (greens become blues, blues become purples, whatever), or if a dark blue becomes a light blue because someone at a computer terminal thinks it looks more natural, that I would harshly criticize.

While it's by no means a definitive means of judging these matters, the sole previous effort from this new technology (UR + LDI digital + DVD transfer, all for WB, presumably with many of the same people working on both), Singin' in the Rain, while yielding a product that reportedly looks "different" than even the best prints of its original release, prompted one of its directors to remark that it had been improved -- "better(ed)," and the tone of the article suggests he was very enthusiastic about that improvement. If it had been retimed, as discussed above, I can't imagine Donen saying that, but if colors took on a detail and depth never before seen, and damage and other anomalies had been removed so as to offer as clear and "perfect" an image as possible, then his comments make sense, and I'd expect the same from UR's next major offering.

Retimed, without director/cinematographer involvement = bad.

Timed appropriately, but with color density and detail photochemically impossible in 1938 = not necessarily bad, and in fact possibly very good, depending on the extent to which this was accomplished, and whether any of the apparent detail was meant to be hidden (such as by grain structure, to hide wires and other such things).

Grain structure is another matter, but one that doesn't worry me as much on home video. I see grain where no one else around here seems to see it Posted Image (really, look at the shafts of light in the Thatcher Memorial Library on Citizen Kane's DVD, the scene in which a guard removes Thatcher's journal from a safe in the background and the newspaper reporter approaches the table to read it -- am I crazy, or is that not blatant grain? That scene is just one instance), and while I respect grain structure as an artistic choice, if it was a choice made solely to hide specific production detail (wires, etc.), then that detail can be removed along with grain (as LDI did in North by Northwest during the plane crash sequence), and the end result, while not looking like the original, might still please the makers of the original. It might not -- when they're gone, who can say? But Donen was pleased, and according to Peter Bogdanovich, Welles told him the use of deep focus in Kane was strictly an attempt to "mimic the way we see the world" (that's a paraphrase from memory; it's on the PB commentary track) ... now, color was not used, and for specific artistic cause, but just as selective focus obscures the world, so too, in its way, does grain ... I don't think it unreasonable to suggest that the limitation of overt grain in a film (not the complete removal of that grain; as I understand it, LDI generally works with percentages of grain on surviving elements, reducing them to an approximation of the same stock as it might photograph brand new in its era, and of course with client oversight/approval), particularly if that film used the finest resolving 35mm stock of its day (if the appearance of heavy grain was not an obvious choice, such as would be the case if 16mm insert blowups or other such grain-heavy photographic decisions were made), might be artistically justifiable. If an artist expressed a specific use of and love for grain, as did Abel Gance, that's another matter ... there are few sweeping rules in the restoration/remastering game, it seems to me. Every film is its own world.

Well, at any rate, my comments were meant only to suggest that if the timing of the film is correct, a greater depth and clarity to its color pallette (a pallette which would have been achieved with color matrixes in a 3-Strip Technicolor production; the negative is composed of three B&W strips; today that color application would be done digitally, I presume, as digital grading becomes the norm in the industry, and of course any digitally scanned film would naturally be timed digitally) would be something we should perhaps praise, rather than criticize. If those original color matrixes survive, and everyone who made the film seemed happy with them at the time, they should be honored ... but again, if digital technology today allows a depth of detail and color density to come through that printing technology at the time did not, that might be false to a print, but true to the artistic aims recorded on the negative and the color matrixes established by the lab and filmmakers. Just an opinion. I'll of course know more about its visual appeal, and whether it looks "artificially new," when the disc arrives, but I was thrilled with Singin' in the Rain, and again, they should not look alike, but a similar level of color delineation and detail, as imparted by the UR process and LDI's work, would, I think, prove very appealing and, dare I say, appropriate to the spirit of the film. It goes without saying that low light sequences and sequences shot through filters were aiming for a specific low-detail look that must be preserved. I'm sure WB, LDI, and the various groups who've worked on Robin Hood considered all of this and more.

DeeF: I misunderstood -- I thought you had seen vertical stripes of alternating contrast; my mistake (that's what I get for skimming). I do specifically recall noticing something along those lines in one dark scene of Treasure on VHS, but I don't recall any horizontal striping. I'll be able to comment more clearly when my copy arrives, but if it's an encoding error, I trust WB will fix it and offer a replacement.

“That line was screwy.”

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#17 of 103 Roger Rollins

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Posted September 25 2003 - 03:18 PM

To the best of my knowledge, Lowery has had NOTHING to do with Warner Brothers' upcoming DVD of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.

#18 of 103 Bill Burns

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Posted September 25 2003 - 03:27 PM

According to the above-mentioned LA Times article, Lowry Digital provided cleaning and anti-flare digital services on the Singin' in the Rain digital restoration/remastering effort. As I've mentioned several times elsewhere, John Lowry, in his chat here at the HTF (which can be found at the "chat transcripts" link at the top of this page), took credit for Ultra Resolution in a direct question about the potential of the process.

The matter is far from resolved. Robert Harris (I believe) has mentioned elsewhere that the process was developed by AOL (presumably for purposes other than film strip registry) and came into use by WB when the two companies merged. But LDI most definitely worked on Singin', and if, as all indications suggest, Robin Hood is another Ultra-Resolution project, it stands very much to reason that LDI has again provided digital clean-up services, at the very least. They have a long-standing relationship with WB that includes a great many films on disc (Citizen Kane, North by Northwest, Now, Voyager, The Women, Them!, Mildred Pierce, Singin' in the Rain ... to name just those that come to mind at the moment).

“That line was screwy.”

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#19 of 103 Dome Vongvises

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Posted September 25 2003 - 06:23 PM

I wonder: should we just call Bill Burns, Mr. Burns? I vote he should have one-word posts where he says, "Excellent"

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#20 of 103 Robert Harris

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Posted September 25 2003 - 07:27 PM

A few notes:

I do find it odd when individuals take credit for something that they have nothing to do with by simply not denying the fact.

While "ultra-rez" is a fine process, which works well with older three strip (and presumably) separation elements, this process is not unique to W/AOL and has been in use in the digital domain by others which track the separate records and conform them to one another.

We're currently using this process at Kodak's CineSite facility in Hollywood for Williamsburg's The Story of a Patriot.

Three strip films produced during the early years of the process generally had an extremely heavy, muted, sepia look with low color levels. Some give the impression of almost being a lightly tinted version of a sepia toned black and white image. The silver record, as I recall, derived from the green master was used to help the dye image along.

I should also make it clear that while I've noted that Robin Hood no longer looks as it did in 1938, that this is not necessarily a negative attribute. We're not looking at the new release as an "archival" entity, but rather as a source of modern entertainment, at which it succeeds mightily.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence






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