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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Eating Raoul



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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted April 11 2004 - 05:08 AM

Posted Image


EATING RAOUL






Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 1982

U.S. Rating: R
Canadian Rating: R

Film Length: 83 minutes
Genre: Comedy

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned: Yes





Release Date: April 13, 2004



Film Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Starring: Paul Bartel (Paul Bland), Mary Woronov (Mary Bland), Robert Beltran (Raoul), Susan Saiger (Doris the Dominatrix)

The scenario: you are a wine ‘connoisseur’ working at a liquor store. You and your wife really want to open up a country restaurant. This was always your dream but you are about $20 000 short to make it come true. You live in an apartment and are paying through the nose in rent as the rates keep increasing because tenants come and go. Not to mention down the hall is a group of swingers having fun at night making racket. This disgusts you – after all, you and your wife never have sex. You sleep in separate beds with stuffed animals and in big pajamas like children being tucked in at night. One day, a swinger walks into your apartment and really wants your wife. He’s all over her but she isn’t into him. After all, the swinger’s life is full of sex…and murder?

Paul Bartel writes, directs, and acts as Paul Bland: wine connoisseur, in Eating Raoul. On a shoestring budget, he tells the story of what any *cough* normal husband and wife would do to get some tax-free income. After Paul hits the swinger on the head with a frying pan and kills him, they pack him up in a garbage bag. Paul is stunned he killed a man, but Mary’s reply is “He was a man, now he’s just a bag of garbage.” They find a load of money in the swinger’s wallet and the come up with the idea that if they find a way to lure swingers into their apartment (because they’ll pay to have some fun), all they need to do it hit them on the head with the pan and take their money, and dump the body down the garbage chute.

Since the couple has no sexual experience themselves, they get the help of a local dominatrix (who Paul had an accidental run in with at the swinger’s party down the hall) to find what really turns people on and then advertise themselves as a sexual duo in the newspaper. This lures people with all kinds of fetishes and they finish them off with the frying pan. Mary’s concern is that she’s getting a little squeamish using the same frying pan they use to cook in, so it would be best to buy a new one eventually.

Their plan goes well until the burglar Raoul finds out what they are doing. He doesn’t want to go to the police on them – he’s a thief. He wants a little cut of the action. Call them business partners. After they kill the people, he’ll take the bodies and sell whatever they have and give Paul and Mary a cut of the profits. They think it’s a great deal because it’ll speed up the savings. Raoul has other interests in mind too: he wants Mary because he thinks her beauty is being wasted on her marriage because of the lack of sexual encounters. Things tense up between the three of them and the couple learns they are being short changed by Raoul. Alternative plans are derived to derail Raoul from the threesome and they all could become victims of their own philosophy.

I remember seeing commercials for this movie on TV when I was 13 although never got a moment to watch it. The subject matter was enticing to watch because at that age it was like reading an encyclopedia no matter how inaccurate it is. I don’t think I would have grasped what was going on but at that age and I’m not sure what I would have got out of it. All I know now is however dirty I thought this film was then is now superceded by my impressions of a clever and clean black comedy. This film is hardly repulsive despite the murderous tendencies of the couple to make money off of those they believe are dirt beneath their shoes. The silly acting, the funny dialogue, and the happy-go-lucky cheesy music during each moment in this film have put this comedy on the list of cult favorites. While it’s effect on the audience would have been different in the ‘80s, I think this movie will still generate a small fan base today.


VIDEO QUALITY Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Anamorphically enhanced and framed at 1.85:1, the image of Eating Raoul looks wrong, very wrong. Shot in 35mm, the source looks like composite video resulting in a soft looking image of a film source that is deteriorated. Composite artifacts such as dot crawl move all over the red objects such as a T-Shirt or letters. The opening credits are very soft some words look illegible.

Another BIG problem that makes this picture look wrong is the geometry. When using the anamorphic image to fill the screen, everything looks a little stretched more than it should. Faces look oval horizontally and when looking for circles (like shirt buttons) just to confirm, they didn’t look right either. I took it out of anamorphic mode and watch the squeezed image in 4:3, and honestly it looked better, but still not right. Images look a tad too thin, so I suspect the correct ratio lies in between these two. I don’t believe this is a problem with the disc’s unsqueezing process. This image looks like someone took a (4:3) non-anamorphic 1.85:1 framed composite video version of Eating Raoul, then squeezed it incorrectly to be unsqueezed by 16:9 displays – a hokey way of doing it and really is a bummer. If eating Raoul was released on laserdisc in widescreen, I would guess this DVD is a copy of it.

The rest of the picture quality sucks in general. It’s so blemished it’s not enjoyable to watch. Film grain is highly present, along with dirt, scratches, and big marks that move around AND (faintly) stay stationary in the middle of the screen from long periods of time. Most annoyingly, the film bounces around on the screen left to right, up and down, forcing my head to bobb around like a cat being teased while eyeballing a toy. Bright objects stay stationary, while background images move about…a very psychedelic effect that surely wasn’t intentional. How about colours? Muted. Black levels? …what black? Detail? Ha! Smeared as can be. This is a real looser for video quality. I was originally going to give it two stars but I think one and a half is the most it deserves only because I can still see what's going on in the movie. I’m not surprised to see the “Mastered in High Definition” absent from the back of the keep case.


AUDIO QUALITY Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. There is no body to the sound as its just upper midrange and up. Dialogue is always clear, but many times it’s accompanied with hiss. Noise is present throughout the whole soundtrack that is filled with sounds of limited range. The only thing neat on this soundtrack I didn’t expect to hear was a good stereo soundstage. Effects and dialogue were panned across the front as it moved on screen with a lot of phantom imaging between center and the main channels. The results are also mixed – at one moment it sounds decent and the next moment the image is movie all around the front channels with no real focus.


SPECIAL FEATURES ZERO / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

This is a movie-only release, which is fine by me. Not every film is deserving of special features and there never is enough time in the world to watch everything anyways. With this low-quality release, I would have been surprised if any effort was added for special features. There is an insert with a picture for the film, but no chapter stops – just advertising for other films (something that all companies are doing more of each day – they seem to be forgetting about the film on the disc we actually buy). There are three previews on this disc for other films, and no theatrical trailer for Eating Raoul.


THOUGHTS…

Eating Raoul has become a cult favorite of ‘80s black comedy. Fans of this film can finally have it on DVD, albeit the sub-par a/v quality. While this movie isn’t for everyone, I doubt that was its intention. People today call the comedy “bland” as it probably offered more to the audience in 1982 then it does today. I think the movie was quite clever with a budget of only $500 000, and it was all done in good taste. It had the perfect ingredients (including a short running time) making it enjoyable to watch. “It’s amazing what you can do with a cheap piece of meat if you know how to treat it”

Michael Osadciw
04.04.11

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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 11 2004 - 06:00 AM

So I guess you "panned" this release..... :P)
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#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted April 11 2004 - 06:04 AM

Ha ha...um...yeah...for disc quality.

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#4 of 23 OFFLINE   dannyB

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Posted April 11 2004 - 06:58 AM

Even if its fine by you that there are no extras (not even a trailer), why did you give the Special Features section 4 stars? That doesn't seem to make any sense.

I have no intentions of buying this movie, but its still disappointing of Columbia to release a DVD with such shoddy picture quality.

#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Jeff D Han

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Posted April 11 2004 - 08:19 AM

Thanks for the review Michael.Posted Image

I'm very disappointed to see that the video quality
is bad. I wanted to upgrade my VHS tape, but now I think
I'll just keep it and not get the DVD. I don't agree with
paying good money for bad product.

By the way, Eating Raoul was never released on laserdisc
in this region.
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#6 of 23 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted April 11 2004 - 05:08 PM

he gave it no stars out of 4, look at the aother sections to compare how he does the stars.
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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 11 2004 - 09:25 PM

Well shoot....Mark Zimmer says the same thing over at dOc: Derek Germano at the cinemalaser is a little more charitable about the video quality. I feel a bit "taken" paying Columbia's premium price for a disk that not only has sub-par video quality but appears to have been encoded in error. Even Madacy doesn't get the geometry wrong.

What's strange is that region 2 and 4 disks are presented unmatted fullframe. This guy reviewing the R4 version www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=678 says you can see the typical boom mikes and such. The R4 is done by "Force Video" whoever that is. The BBC review of the R2 version didn't list the studio. It's odd that Columbia may be the distributor only in R1.
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#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted April 12 2004 - 02:57 AM

sorry about the rating on the special features! My mess-up with HTML...the ZERO disappeared! Now it's back in there!

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#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted April 12 2004 - 08:32 AM

Yeah, there's definitely something screwy with the picture on this. There's an iris just after Paul & Mary leave the dominatrix's house that plainly should be circular, but it's elliptical on both 16:9 and 4:3 sets. Using my infinitely variable Malata N996, I find that the iris is circular at a ratio of about 1.52:1---which I doubt was the original AR. So it seems that the picture has not only been stretched, but that it was cropped too. A mystifyingly poor showing by Columbia.

#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 12 2004 - 09:56 AM

At least I'm lucky enough to have a CRT FP, so for this film I can mess with the AR.....
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#11 of 23 OFFLINE   CraigF

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Posted April 12 2004 - 02:36 PM

I guess I'm too much of a fan to be really critical and put things in a "global" perspective, but the disc is far superior to the VHS. In fact, after viewing this disc, I removed all my VHS tapes out of my sight into (hopefully) permanent storage: this was the last one I was waiting for on DVD (although a few have been lousy DVD's).

It certainly could have been done better, but I have seen far worse discs than this, and I have paid FAR more $$ for worse transfers (i.e. some Criterions, in fact many...you use what you can get).

I observed no transfer "artifacts", but I do understand some are player dependant. Sure the print wasn't great: I'd be surprised, the way they were known to operate and on their budgets, if there is a much better print. Oh well...

Re the fuzzy titles: notice how it gets *really* fuzzy when Paul Bartel is credited as director etc.? BTW...that's a joke...

I have no idea what OAR is supposed to be, but forcing something into WS when it isn't really is not uncommon these days. If you don't like it, your other option is VHS...enjoy!

#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Simon Basso

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Posted April 13 2004 - 10:50 PM

I've just received my disc, and immediately looked up this thread because I could scarcely believe my eyes. I don't have the equipment, or the brainpower, to carry out an analysis of the framing, but to me it looks like the start is anamorphic, with everyone's heads really close to the top of the frame (I believe it's anamorphic because Bartel has a long face, but not as long as it appears in 4:3), then it changes to open matte somewhere, which is really noticeable from chapter 13 where you suddenly get a load of headroom. I'm convinced that whatever the problem is, it's not consistent throughout the film. In fact, it reminds me of some, ahem, specialist dvds my "friend" has which change from anamorphic to full screen, seemingly at random.

Ho-hum, at least Raoul was cheap.

#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Bradley-E

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Posted April 14 2004 - 05:12 AM

It keeps up the tradition of Crappy Catalogue title releases by $ONY.

#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Jeff Krispow

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Posted April 16 2004 - 08:47 AM

Just like the rest of you folks, my copy of Eating Raoul is a pathetic mess. I happily picked this up this past Tuesday prior to reading any reviews… talk about a mistake. I simply cannot believe that Columbia TriStar released this DVD with the geometry so screwed up.

On one hand, I always assumed that the image quality would be somewhat soft and/or fuzzy. The film has always looked that way — it could never be considered "pristine," even back during its original theatrical release in 1982… or during the preview screening I saw which was attended by Bartel and Woronov. Eating Raoul was most definitely an ultra low-budget film — Bartel managed to scrape together a budget of ~$350,000. And while Bartel was very proud of this film, and made the best film he could for the money he had, the film's low-budget roots are readily apparent in the image quality (film stock, lighting, etc.). After the screening, I remember our group commenting on the look of the film, and jokingly wondering if it looked that way on purpose, since it fit in perfectly with the main characters — maybe the 'bland" image quality was a sort of further reflection on the bland life of The Bland's?

Anyway, the image quality is one thing, and frankly the disc looks about as good as I'd ever expect it to be.

However, the distorted geometry is another matter entirely. There is absolutely no excuse for releasing a disc where the image is so obviously "problematic." All I can think of is that perhaps Columbia TriStar mastered the disc using a legally-blind technician, and then further visibly-challenged Q.C. personnel approved it for final pressing and release. Barf! Even a p&s transfer would be more watchable than this abortion!

In all my years working as a professional in the industry, or as a main LD/DVD reviewer, or even simply as a movie/LD/DVD fan — I can't recall anyone releasing an LD/DVD with such an obviously-problematic transfer (panning & scanning notwithstanding… that's a totally separate issue). And this comes from someone who likely has one of the largest disc libraries in the world (6000+ LDs, 5000+ DVDs)…

The only remotely similar instance I can think of offhand was Image's 10.15.2002 DVD release of Hercules Against the Moon Men / The Witch's Curse from Something Weird Video. In an amazing move, Hercules Against the Moon Men was actually transferred in its original Cromoscope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and was even anamorphically encoded — it was a terrific looking image! Unfortunately, the anamorphic encoding also caused a major problem with the disc — due to an encoding error, the anamorphic enhancement was always set to "ON," no matter what the player's setting was. The end result was that the disc looked perfect on 16:9 sets, but displayed a seriously vertically-stretched image when viewed on standard 4:3 sets. (The complete opposite of Eating Raoul's squashed-flat image.) The encoding error happened at some point after the final Q.C. was done, so Image didn't catch it.

In fact, I was the one that informed Image of the encoding error. Over the years, I've had many close friends who've worked over at Image, and one of them just so happened to be the person in charge of handling disc production and problems such as this. I spoke with her and told her what was up — she checked it out right away and confirmed the problem. Better still, she immediately had the problem tracked down and corrected, and a new master was made and send out for repressing at the earliest possible opening in the schedule. The corrected discs were available about two months later. Woohoo!

The reason I'm mentioning this is because of the way that Image handled the situation. It was more important for Image to correct the problem and ensure that the aspect ratio was displayed correctly than worry about the financials. Hercules Against the Moon Men / The Witch's Curse was certainly never going to be a huge seller — it's a small cult title that only a small percentage of DVD viewers would be interested in (too bad because it's a really fun film). Since the disc DID play back correctly for owner of 16:9 sets, they could have easily left it alone. But they didn't. Instead, Image corrected the master, had the entire batch of discs repressed asap, and destroyed their existing defective stock. The end result is that Image has a corrected disc, but at a cost of nearly double the budget they had to even produce and press the disc in the first place. The potential returns on the DVD were already fairly small to begin with, and it's even more doubtful that it will make any sort of profit, if ever. But still, Image should be commended for their actions. The disc was corrected because IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.*

* (Well… at least I'm assuming this was the case. Actually, what she told us at the time was that she thought I was likely the only person who actually bought the disc, so she decided to fix it solely for me, so that my family could watch it as intended. This was back a short while before we upgraded to that awesome 40" Sony Wega. Still, however thoughtful she is, I just don't think she did this just for one annoying friend and his family. Sure, I may have been the instigator of this, but the end result is exacty the same — whatever the "motive," she did the right thing and everyone benefits.)

Getting back to Eating Raoul, if Image can fix a super-small title, then Columbia TriStar can certainly take the time to correct a DVD that certainly has a larger following and is definitely more profitable. Whatever the reason — whether is was intentional or truly accidental — Columbia TriStar needs to "do the right thing" and correct this DVD. But the only way to get this done is for folks to contact Columbia TriStar, report their displeasure, and demand that they properly remaster the disc.

Although people would be hard-pressed to find any mention of DVD Customer Support on their website, Columbia TriStar does indeed have a support line — they just don't seem to publish this information anywhere where consumers can easily find it. Anywhere, here's the contact info:

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Video & DVD Division
(800) 860-2878

Once you connect, enter option "2" for the defective DVD section, and follow the instructions there. At first, they'll inform you to return the DVD to the point of purchase. However, you are able to leave a message for them "after the tone." Please note that the entire message has to repeat two or three times before you'll hear the "beep" tone and can begin recording your complaint.

If possible, I would very much appreciate if some of you folks would also call CTHE about this issue. Just remember to clearly state the exact nature of the problem (badly-defective geometry), how the distortion is so bad that you absolutely can't watch it, and request that they recall and remaster the disc. You should also leave your name and contact information, and ask them to return your call to discuss this issue in greater detail. And don't forget to be polite — leaving a nasty message will do nothing but piss them off and harm any chances of a good resolution. The more complaints they receive, the better the chances are that they'll take notice of the problem and resolve it. Maybe Columbia TriStar will do the right thing, maybe not — but its guaranteed that nothing will be done if we just sit back and ignore it.

I really like Eating Raoul and want to have a good copy in my collection — but as it stands now, this DVD is completely unwatchable and will be returned. And the studio needs to know that everyone else feels exactly the same about this pathetic excuse for a DVD transfer!

Thanks for reading…
Jeff Krispow
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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Jeff Krispow

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Posted April 16 2004 - 11:05 AM

ADDENDUM! UPDATE FROM COLUMBIA TRISTAR

I just received a call back from the folks at Columbia TriStar Home Entertertainment regarding the Eating Raoul issues.

First off, they are definitely aware of the problem. Apparently their own personnel discovered it the other day, and they honestly aren't too happy that the disc was released with the erroneous geometry. They did thank me for leaving a very precise and technical explanation of the problem — it was much better than the general "the picture looks weird" explanation most people left. They said that if they weren't already aware of the issue, at least they would have been easily able to determine what it was from my messages. (Yes, I left a few messages with other parties as well as the general message line listed on my other post.)

Thus far, they said that a few people have filed complaints about the disc, but that it wasn't really "widespread" as of yet. (Still, the disc WAS just released this past Tuesday, and there are obviously more people who would complain about it, except that they either haven't yet contacted the studio, or simply don't know how to.) I did inform them that most reviewers have noted the problem, and that the people here at the HTF — and other online forums — also were very aware of the problem, and were very upset about it.

That's all fine and dandy, but what are they going to do about it, right?

Well, I do have some good news for you!

Columbia TriStar IS currently looking into the problem. After confirming that the geometry was incorrect, they must determine exactly how this problem arose in the first place. At what stage in the mastering did this occur; was it done on purpose; was it human error; was it a failure somewhere along the manufacturing/pressing stage; etc. Once they determine exactly how this happened, then they can take the proper steps to correct it. And this will obviously take a bit of time to determine, since they are in the very first stages of their investigation.

The CTHE rep did say that they try their hardest to ensure that mistakes such as these never occur. However, this is certainly not a "perfect" world and mistakes do occur, however rare. They said the only thing they can do now is to look into the problem, correct it, and try to make sure that it never happens again. He apologized profusely about this, but reaffirmed that they ARE committed to fixing this problem whatever it takes.

We talked for a couple more minutes, but there really much else he could tell me about at this time, mostly because — again — they were at the very beginning of their discovery process. I asked what I should with my current DVD — should I return it or hold onto it. I was told to hold onto it for now — when the time comes, they will contact me directly regarding exchange and replacement.

I thanked him for responding to my message as quickly as he did, and for providing me with as much information as he was able. If I hear any updates, I will be sure to post them here.

After having worked in the industry for over 20 years, and knowing quite a bit about what goes on behind-the-scenes in LD & DVD production, I can honestly say that it is never anyone's intention to release a problematic disc (er, not counting schmucks like Madacy or Pacific Family Ent.). But however good intentions are, it is inevitable that problems will occasionally occur. And when that happens, the studios will do their best to rectify it. In most cases, these things are caught before the public ever gets the discs, but sometimes they get through to consumers. Remember, there are upwards of maybe 200 or so DVD releases PER WEEK, going back several years! Considering the 10,000 or so releases every year, the number of truly problematic discs are quite rare percentage wise. Sure, it's easy to bitch about how horrible Columbia is over this single disc, but overall they constantly produce some of the best-quality DVDs being released today.

Anyway, I guess we should all be happy about the current status of Eating Raoul. They are looking into and have every intention of taking care of the problem. My recommendation would be to still call up their DVD Division and leave a message regarding the geometry problem. The more consumers who call in about it, the better. Also, this way they can contact you when a replacement is available and arrange for a direct exchange at the appropriate time.

Not a bad afternoon, eh — going from an apparently hopeless situation to one that's beginning to look quite promising! Looks like we'll still get that terrific Eating Raoul we were looking for in the first place!

Regards,
Jeff Krispow
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#16 of 23 OFFLINE   Jeff D Han

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Posted April 16 2004 - 11:54 AM

Thanks for the update Jeff.Posted Image

I'm glad to see that Columbia might fix the
transfer problems. I wasn't expecting a Lord
Of The Rings looking transfer because I know the
movie was made with very little money, but it's
a shame that fans had to buy a DVD that had
quality control issues. I hope everybody who
bought the first batch of discs gets a corrected
replacement from Columbia, and I hope that the
corrected version will be available for sale.
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#17 of 23 ONLINE   Dick

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Posted April 16 2004 - 05:11 PM

Sure, it's easy to bitch about how horrible Columbia is over this single disc, but overall they constantly produce some of the best-quality DVDs being released today.


Glad to hear that Columbia will be fixing this title, but I must vehemently disagree about their "constantly" producing the best quality DVD's. They used to. Not anymore, as anyone who has bought their classic titles recently - or has pulled their hair in frustration and disgust at their pan-and-scan monstrosities - can attest to. Sure, their current product is excellent, but whose isn't? It's the catalog titles that separate the men from the boys.

#18 of 23 OFFLINE   CraigF

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Posted April 17 2004 - 04:22 AM

Thanks for your efforts Jeff, on behalf of all fans.

Personally, I'm unqualified to judge the difference between a transfer error and a transfer made from poor elements, so appreciate when somebody who does know gets involved to help rectify the problem.

#19 of 23 OFFLINE   John Whittle

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Posted April 21 2004 - 05:16 PM

Jeff,

What are you using for viewing? I just got my copy and put it in tonight and started it. The circle on the opening logo is round, the picture appears correct and my 55" set automatical switches between 4:3 adn 16:9 depending on the DVD flags. This disc starts in 4:3 for the Col Tri Star Home Video logo and the FBI warnings. The movie switches to 16:9. There is alot of weave in the titles (I don't know if it's supposed to be that way) and it "looks" like 16mm blown up to 35mm not 35mm photography. But that's based on observation and not direct knowledge (I have over 30 years in the industry in Post Production and Physical Production in both film for television--tv movies and series--and features.)

So I'm at a loss as to the geometry "problem". The picture quality isn't very good, I agree. I'm really at a loss for those who have tried "variable" unsqueeze and come up with some other factor. Normally when you have the patch set on a Rank for a certain aspect ratio and encoding you leave it alone. And I do know the difference in aspect ratios and all the known and commonly used anamorphic compression ratios (along with a large collection of lenses).

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#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Doug_B

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Posted April 22 2004 - 05:36 AM

Hmmm, haven't unwrapped this title yet. Maybe I'll return it to Amazon. I'd be out only return postage.

Doug