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Columbia's Treatment of It's Back-Catalogue


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#1 of 48 Brian PB

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Posted February 22 2005 - 07:03 PM

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 of 48 Simon Howson

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Posted February 22 2005 - 08:56 PM

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 of 48 Joe Karlosi

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Posted February 22 2005 - 10:02 PM

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 of 48 GregoryMesh

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Posted February 22 2005 - 11:02 PM

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 of 48 Ken Koc

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Posted February 23 2005 - 12:07 AM

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
Ken

#6 of 48 Jay E

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Posted February 23 2005 - 12:48 AM

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 of 48 DouglasBr

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Posted February 23 2005 - 01:05 AM

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 of 48 Mark Zimmer

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Posted February 23 2005 - 03:03 AM

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 of 48 LaurenceGarvey

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Posted February 23 2005 - 03:24 AM

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 of 48 Steve...O

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Posted February 23 2005 - 03:52 AM

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
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#11 of 48 ChrisPearson

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Posted February 23 2005 - 04:16 AM

Quote:
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?

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 of 48 Brian PB

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Posted February 23 2005 - 04:44 AM

THE DRESSER came out last year in the US on DVD

Thanks for catching that oversight.


#13 of 48 Chris Cheese

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Posted February 23 2005 - 05:06 AM

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 of 48 Deepak Shenoy

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Posted February 23 2005 - 10:40 AM

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 of 48 Patrick McCart

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Posted February 23 2005 - 11:05 AM

Quote:
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.

And Columbia only handled the theatrical release for Samuel Goldwyn.

#16 of 48 ChrisPearson

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Posted February 23 2005 - 10:13 PM

Quote:
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.

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 of 48 ArthurMy

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Posted February 24 2005 - 04:36 AM

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 of 48 Aaron Silverman

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Posted February 24 2005 - 04:47 AM

Always nice to see my review spark a discussion. Posted Image

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.
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#19 of 48 Jay E

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Posted February 24 2005 - 05:12 AM

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

#20 of 48 Bradley-E

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Posted February 24 2005 - 09:18 AM

I have TWENTIETH CENTURY and the transfer is really odd. The formatting is off or something. The opening title cards letter is cut off.Posted Image





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