If the old MGM were still around you can rest assured its legacy of important movies would be more 'out there' for public consumption then they currently are under Warner's corporate umbrella. Warner did a spectacular job in the late 1990s on DVD and let's not forget Ted Turner who, despite his misfire with colorization, nevertheless pumped out VHS copies of that vast library into the mass market during the 1980s. We would know absolutely nothing of MGM's vast holdings without his foresight to rescue the MGM library from Kirk Kerkorian's pillaging of the studio in the late 1970s. Lest we forget that Kerkorian was the fellow who, having bought the studio lock stock and barrel, wasted absolutely no time selling off its assets bit by bit; the back lot, the labs, et al. while pitching thousands of archival music notes, publicity stills and animation cells into dumpsters out back - presumably because none of these had any 'resale' value, and then adding insult to injury by auctioning off costumes and props to bidders who paid peanuts for a chance to own a bit of immortal movie history. A sad death knell to Louis B. Mayer's fanciful kingdom indeed!!!
But Warner of late has been rather suspect in their intentions to go the route one further with Blu-ray. About three years ago I wrote the studio, and more directly VP George Feltenstein with my concerns and an independent report prepared by yours truly regarding the 'state of the art' where home video was concerned. At the time the report raised certain concerns over quality and quantity and the even more unnerving threat of Warner's MOD burn on demand program becoming the flagship to eclipse and finally replace legitimately authored DVD as the preferred mode of getting classics out to the public. Alas, this prediction has come to pass.
I grow weary when I hear people who have bought some of these MOD titles write in and say "it looks fine to me". I'll confess. I've bought some of Warner's MOD discs and the quality - on the whole - is average to better than average. Yes, there are misfires to be sure, but I won't go into those herein. What I will state again for the record is that MOD is not a preferable archival format with any degree of longevity. If one is simply looking to watch something in the immediate future then yes - burn on demand discs satisfy the "I want it now and I don't care how" aspect of our current cultural impatience. The problem is that these discs will not last the testament of time and in the meantime movies on film continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate, threatening to bankrupt our cultural heritage in a very permanent and concrete way.
Raintree County is just one example of a title currently absent from that cultural spectrum for which the studio seems to have little regard in releasing anywhere on home video. Is it a great movie. Personal opinion, of course, I think not. But does that mean it should remain buried from public view for all time. Again, I think not! I wish the studios would reconsider the way they're marketing classics. Warner seems to think all they have to do is regurgitate previous box sets as new box sets with different packaging but not NEW transfers (Classic Gangsters anyone?) but actually the focus ought to have shifted by now to a more proactive re-orchestration of New transfers presented in refreshingly new box set ideas.
I mean, with the passing of Elizabeth Taylor what would have been so wrong about doing a comprehensive box set of her movies on Blu-ray? One of the concepts I have been trying to push for some time is Warner doing anthology box sets of a particular actor's career, outfitted in boxes like the one that accompanied Oz's and GWTW's 70th. Think about it, we get a plush box with a collectible hard cover book outlining the star's career and a set of say 10 outstanding examples of that actor's work to enjoy.
My examples in the aforementioned letter to Mr. Feltenstein included a Gable set of ten: Red Dust, Test Pilot, Idiot's Delight, China Seas, San Francisco, Strange Cargo, Wife Vs. Secretary, Honky Tonk, Boom Town, and Manhattan Melodrama. I also mentioned Taylor in that report with a possible box set including the following hi-def releases: Raintree County, National Velvet, Cynthia, The Girl Who Had Everything, The Last Time I Saw Paris, A Date With Judy, Conspirator, Father of the Bride, Little Women and Butterfield 8. Again, with an accompanying hardbound book and possibly a set of ten lobby cards, one for each movie in the set, plus an offer for a poster reproduction of one's choice applicable by mail in request to purchasers in the U.S. and Canada. None of my suggestions ever went beyond the hook and worm stage. But they do offer a compelling way to rethink the way classic movies are reaching the market and, I have no doubt, they would make the studio a tidy little profit besides. Everything old is new again, n'est pas?
Edited by Nick*Z, July 06 2013 - 07:24 AM.