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A few words about...™ Fox Cinema Archives - DVD

Fox A Few Words About

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#1 of 71 Robert Harris

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Posted March 06 2013 - 02:30 PM

Oh, my...


Where do I begin.  Let's get back history out of the way.  We know that the Fox archive in the mid-1970s was run by a confederacy of dunces.  They junked the entire back library up to 1951.  Fires, floods and famine weren't any further help to the library.


So what the current archival staff has to work with is daunting at best, and horrific at worst.  There work is exemplary.


There are certain things that are knowns.  Back during the Calvin Coolidge administration, there was a huge hue and cry from film fans...


something about asper, or possibly aspirin ratios, or something like that.  Whatever it was people either wanted them, or possibly they didn't.  It was confusing to at least some people.


It's 2013, and Fox decides to copy Warner Home Video's very successful Archive program, which itself had a few problems in the early days.  Their current product not only includes Blu-ray, with many re-mastered projects.  They will not release anything today that is sub-par.  But we learn, and they changed quickly.

Now to Fox...


I've sampled about a dozen different new Fox Cinema Archive releases, and have come away...


Let's just say that I've come away.


Let's begin at the bottom, and get that out of the way.  Two good films, Edward Dmytryk's CinemaScope Warnlock, with Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, et al, and Henry Hathaway's 23 Paces to Baker Street, another CinemaScope production with Van Johnson and Vera Miles...


Sorry, let me go back.


Did I say CinemaScope?


I want to make certain that the point has been made.


I'd prefer that scope films weren't presented inside of a 480i box, non-anamorphic.  But if I have to take them that way...


But give me CinemaScope productions, inside of a 480i box that begin with a boa constrictor-like main title sequence, and then move on to take up the entire frame...


in pan & scan, with cropping on all four sides?


As I said, let's get this point out of the way up front and fast.  If you care about such things, and I do, I suggest that you not order any films produced post 1953, and known to be scope without reading all of the information offered.  Yes, the brand, spanking new, Fox Cinema Archives is releases old TV masters to home video in pan & scan format.


In 2013.


But we're now past that.  Done.  Over.


Let's look at the remains of the Fox Technicolor productions.  Older masters, which are fine.  Not digitally repaired in any way, which is also fine.  At least we have them.  And it is acknowledged that doing digital fixes on these films, surviving only as bad dupes on faded elements is both expensive and daunting.


Here's a sampling of product:


Wilson


A huge 1944 Technicolor production, directed by Henry King.  Alexander Knox is Wilson.  It looks about as I would presume.  Quite dupey, limited shadow detail.  Problematic production dupes.  Wilson has good audio, and while it in no way represents the actual film, allows one to see what it once would have looked like, while squinting.


It's really quite acceptable.


Wabash Avenue


A pleasant musical in Technicolor from Henry Koster, with Betty Grable and Victor Mature.


Quite dupey, with very little shadow detail and too much color and distorted audio.


Coney Island


More Technicolor, this time from director George Seaton.  This was once a glorious Technicolor production.  Today it is what it is, but it's actually a bit of a step up from the others.  And an original Fox logo to boot.


A very decent looking DVD.


Clive of India


This was a huge 1935 production, presented here in wiggle-cam.  The image seldom stops moving.  The DVD has a decent scale between black and white, and is generally impressive for what it is.


Unfaithfully Yours


A terrific film from Preston Sturges, with Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell.  Black & white and actually looking quite pleasant.  Audio is fine.  I like this one.


The Shocking Miss Pilgrim


This 1946 film directed by George Seaton, and in Technicolor, is probably the best looking of the first bunch from Fox as far as Technicolor goes.  More than acceptable, especially knowing the film's limitations.


Apartment for Peggy


1948 Technicolor, once again from director George Seaton, who would not be happy.


Sampling this DVD, I began realizing, or at least getting the handle on how the Fox Cinema Archives project may work.  For all appearances, (more on this concept later), someone is going through the list of Fox productions -- possibly they have a copy of that big Fox book for reference, along with a copy of Leonard Maltin...


"Okay we want the one's with more stars..."


And they make up a list.


And that list gets handed to someone else.


Who gives the list to someone in the vaults, who pulls a video master off the shelf, and gets the dust off it, before sending it on...


And then it goes to DVD mastering, without anyone looking at anything.


And we end up with...


Apartment for Peggy.  A very sweet film, with Jeanne Crain, one of Fox's Technicolor sweethearts, and William Holden...


and the film has huge scanning lines running through the image.


But apparently no one noticed.


I'd kind of call this one unacceptable.


The Marriage-Go-Round


1960.  CinemaScope, and slightly faded Eastman Color, but never really problematic.  Directed by Walter Lang, with Susan Hayward and James Mason.  Nice film, and a very decent DVD.  16:9 letter-boxed.  All's well.


Except for odd scanning lines at the very top of the image, that could have been cropped.


Oh, Men!  Oh, Women!


Directed by Nunnally Johnson, with Dan Dailey, Ginger Rogers, David Niven et al...  A very decent looking DVD, letter-boxed and 16:9.  I couldn't ask for more.  They should all be this good.


A Message to Garcia


A very good film, directed by George Marshall, with Wallace Beery, Barbara Stanwyck and John Boles.


This actually looks quite good for what appears to be a public domain 16mm dupe.  I probably wouldn't have brought it to DVD in my new Cinema Archives collection.  But the mind returns to the question, "Did anyone look at these masters, at any time, before pulling the trigger to move forward."


Sorry, but this is incredibly horrific!


I'm hopeful that I'm dealing with rational folks at the Fox Cinema Archives, who don't believe in shooting the messenger, but some of these should never have seen the light of day.  They're a mess.


If any entity is going to try something like this, every element, and master must be judged on it's own merits, and problematic transfers culled from those which should get distribution.  Warner Archive takes this very seriously.  If my opinion was asked here, and it has not been, I'd suggest that no further releases hit the streets.  Based upon what I'm seeing, this project is best put on hold, even if just for a few weeks.


Time enough to really take a hard look at the masters, and see what's truly ready for prime time.  There's a huge amount of competition in the marketplace.  Pricing, at $16 street, is more than fair.


Non-original aspect ratio releases are not.


Huge scanning lines in the image are not.


16mm dupes are not.


Don't shoot the messenger.


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 71 Timothy E

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Posted March 06 2013 - 04:33 PM

The astonishing thing is that the Cinemascope films, Warlock and 23 Paces to Baker Street, have better than pan and scan elements in existence.  There is a nice anamorphic version of 23 Paces to Baker Street that has been release on R4 DVD in Australia, and the French have a nice looking Region B Blu-ray of Warlock in the proper aspect ratio, albeit with forced French subtitles on the English audio version.



#3 of 71 OliverK

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Posted March 06 2013 - 04:39 PM

How Warlock can be cropped and non-anamorphic over here when there are Blu-rays out in Europe in the original aspect ratio is beyond me: http://www.dvdbeaver..._blu-ray_03.jpg Not that it looks much better than DVD quality but it still runs circles around the domestic non-anamorphic and cropped 480i offering. Price would be a bit less even if it wasn't for the value added tax which increases the price by between 19 and 20% in most countries: http://www.amazon.fr...62634680&sr=1-2 Edit: Just reading that Timothy E already posted before me but I still did think it was worthwhile to post the links.

#4 of 71 JoHud

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Posted March 06 2013 - 04:53 PM

Warlock is seriously P&S? Looks like we've got a the ultimate testament to this MOD line's worthlessness. For those that don't know, this was released on a quality anamorphic widescreen R1 DVD 8 years ago.

As I said, let's get this point out of the way up front and fast.  If you care about such things, and I do, I suggest that you not order any films produced post 1953, and known to be scope without reading all of the information offered.  Yes, the brand, spanking new, Fox Cinema Archives is releases old TV masters to home video in pan & scan format.

Sampling this DVD, I began realizing, or at least getting the handle on how the Fox Cinema Archives project may work.  For all appearances, (more on this concept later), someone is going through the list of Fox productions -- possibly they have a copy of that big Fox book for reference, along with a copy of Leonard Maltin... "Okay we want the one's with more stars..." And they make up a list. And that list gets handed to someone else. Who gives the list to someone in the vaults, who pulls a video master off the shelf, and gets the dust off it, before sending it on... And then it goes to DVD mastering, without anyone looking at anything. And we end up with... Apartment for Peggy.  A very sweet film, with Jeanne Crain, one of Fox's Technicolor sweethearts, and William Holden... and the film has huge scanning lines running through the image. But apparently no one noticed. I'd kind of call this one unacceptable.

I'm hopeful that I'm dealing with rational folks at the Fox Cinema Archives, who don't believe in shooting the messenger, but some of these should never have seen the light of day.  They're a mess. If any entity is going to try something like this, every element, and master must be judged on it's own merits, and problematic transfers culled from those which should get distribution.  Warner Archive takes this very seriously.  If my opinion was asked here, and it has not been, I'd suggest that no further releases hit the streets.  Based upon what I'm seeing, this project is best put on hold, even if just for a few weeks.

Quoted for truth. And this represents at least 50% or more of the titles release through the Fox Cinema Archive and it's really quite disappointing. MOD has been referred to as a "dumping ground" for old movies before and it's only when the FCA came to town that that description really rang true. It's literally on par with the countless bootleg and low-end PD outfits currently operating. Some decent transfers filter through, and even a few great ones, but more often than not it's an ancient transfer that no one should spend any money on. Those P&S transfers? Really an eyesore. I'd say roughly 10% or less of the post-1953 FCA releases are in proper OAR and anamorphic widescreen, with the P&S transfers edging out the non-anamorphic widescreen films. I'm with you on pulling the plug on this line until they get their act together. Even the MGM line was much more presentable and professional-looking than this. Hopefully someone out there at Fox cares and starts to improve this line. Simply locating the best available video master would be a marked improvement let alone actually remastering those that need it. I've feel like a broken record at this point, but this product line is quite an embarrassment and Fox should be ashamed having their trademark and logo attached to it.

#5 of 71 ShowsOn

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Posted March 06 2013 - 05:18 PM

Warlock is seriously P&S? Looks like we've got a the ultimate testament to this MOD line's worthlessness. For those that don't know, this was released on a quality anamorphic widescreen R1 DVD 8 years ago.

Doesn't that disc have both widescreen and pan and scan versions on alternate sides of a dual sided disc? I never understood why Fox bothered with the pan and scan transfer. A complete waste of money. It is hilarious that they have chosen to release the Pan and Scan version for their MOD programme, it suggests they couldn't care less about their customers.

#6 of 71 JoHud

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Posted March 06 2013 - 05:59 PM

Doesn't that disc have both widescreen and pan and scan versions on alternate sides of a dual sided disc?

I own it and it's single-sided widescreen only. I know Fox did that with some of their other DVD releases but this wasn't one of them.

#7 of 71 Robert Crawford

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Posted March 06 2013 - 08:50 PM

HTF posters have been screaming about this MOD program from the beginning.  I even brought up the subject matter with Fox back in October during our HTF Meet.  One marketing person cracked a joke about why people use the term "pan and scan" which speaks volumes to me about the issue I brought to their attention.  I don't think they took my complaint seriously about this product line and judging by their recent releases, they have made little attempt to improve their program.  IMO, the only way to get their attention is to not buy their substandard product.  It's a personal decision, I've made and will only buy a few of their titles, if they're accepatable PQ-wise.  I really hope others are not buying these substandard releases, but I have a feeling they are buying these releases in enough quantity because evidently, Fox hasn't made any attempt to improve their quality.  This MOD program is a shadow of what Warner Archive has become with their product releases.









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#8 of 71 revgen

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Posted March 06 2013 - 09:32 PM

The only company that is bringing 20th Century Fox catalog releases out there in a quality format is Twilight Time. Unfortunately, they're a very small-time operation. There needs to be a prime-time 3rd party who will work and bring these Fox titles to market. Kinda like what Olive is doing with the Paramount library.

#9 of 71 Matt Hough

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Posted March 07 2013 - 12:02 AM

I'm sorry, but pan and scan in the 21st century is simply ridiculous. Obviously, these are old video masters that they're trying to squeeze the last drop of juice out of.  Sorry - no sale.


I understand I'll be getting some of these for official HTF reviews. I'm curious as to the quality of some of these based on Mr. Harris' descriptions and look forward to writing about them.



#10 of 71 David_B_K

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:08 AM

I've seen Warlock on one of the HD movie channe4ls looking quite decent. This mod program sounds like a complete joke.

#11 of 71 Charles Smith

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:16 AM

This is pretty shocking and stupifying (or should that be stupidfying?) stuff I'm reading.


I don't have any of the Fox MOD titles, and I'm happy to know to buy only those few rated good or better by RAH and any other trusted reviewer.


#12 of 71 ahollis

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Posted March 07 2013 - 03:42 AM

What Chas in CT said.
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


#13 of 71 JoeDoakes

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Posted March 07 2013 - 05:38 AM

Fox has more product I want than any other studio besides Universal, and the performance of the MOD program is very disappointing.

#14 of 71 Brandon Conway

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Posted March 07 2013 - 05:56 AM

Originally Posted by Robert Harris 


Unfaithfully Yours


A terrific film from Preston Sturges, with Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell.  Black & white and actually looking quite pleasant.  Audio is fine.  I like this one.


The Criterion Collection DVD inclusive of bonus content of Unfaithfully Yours is still in print and available for around $21 on amazon.com.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#15 of 71 Robert Harris

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Posted March 07 2013 - 06:49 AM

Originally Posted by Brandon Conway 


The Criterion Collection DVD inclusive of bonus content of Unfaithfully Yours is still in print and available for around $21 on amazon.com.

Does seem odd, doesn't it.  Criterion, spine number 292, is still in print.


Purchasing the Fox Archive edition will save you 66 cents, but the Criterion is derived from a newer cleaned up HD master.


Nothing like headache inducing decisions.


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


#16 of 71 Lromero1396

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Posted March 07 2013 - 07:26 AM

I can't understand the P&S Warlock. A 'Scope HD master exists. Time to grab the OOP DVD. Regarding Message to Garcia, TCM showed the film in a master that had the right edge cropped *severely* with a *severe* amount of jittering. Oh, and no shadow detail at all. Must be the same master. Doe sthe audio on Wilson suffer from a lot of age-related crackle and hiss? TCM showed a master of that title with said issues present.I have no hope in this program. Absolutely none. New management and employees are required. FCA has a long ways to go to compete with WAC.

#17 of 71 Mark Collins

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Posted March 07 2013 - 07:42 AM

I had so much hope for this program and now with all the complaints i have read here and in other threads I am done. I ordered Tender IS The Night and received a Pan and Scan version even thought Fox Movie Channel shows the movie in wide screen. I sent the movie back to Amazon. I too want most of the Fox movies but will not pay for this type of junk. Marriage Go Round has problems too from what I have read. I sent that back too. I would tell anyone who wants to try to buy from this program to use a large company such as the big river so you will not have problems with returns.

#18 of 71 Robert Harris

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Posted March 07 2013 - 07:45 AM

Originally Posted by Lromero1396 

I can't understand the P&S Warlock. A 'Scope HD master exists. Time to grab the OOP DVD. Regarding Message to Garcia, TCM showed the film in a master that had the right edge cropped *severely* with a *severe* amount of jittering. Oh, and no shadow detail at all. Must be the same master. Doe sthe audio on Wilson suffer from a lot of age-related crackle and hiss? TCM showed a master of that title with said issues present.I have no hope in this program. Absolutely none. New management and employees are required. FCA has a long ways to go to compete with WAC.

New management and employees are not required.  Merely a short re-evaluation of the program, as designed.


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


#19 of 71 Robert Harris

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Posted March 07 2013 - 07:47 AM

Originally Posted by Mark Collins 

I had so much hope for this program and now with all the complaints i have read here and in other threads I am done. I ordered Tender IS The Night and received a Pan and Scan version even thought Fox Movie Channel shows the movie in wide screen. I sent the movie back to Amazon. I too want most of the Fox movies but will not pay for this type of junk. Marriage Go Round has problems too from what I have read. I sent that back too. I would tell anyone who wants to try to buy from this program to use a large company such as the big river so you will not have problems with returns.

Marriage-Go-Round is fine.  Keep in mind, these are not re-mastered.


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


#20 of 71 ahollis

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Posted March 07 2013 - 07:48 AM

I can't understand the P&S Warlock. A 'Scope HD master exists. Time to grab the OOP DVD. Regarding Message to Garcia, TCM showed the film in a master that had the right edge cropped *severely* with a *severe* amount of jittering. Oh, and no shadow detail at all. Must be the same master. Doe sthe audio on Wilson suffer from a lot of age-related crackle and hiss? TCM showed a master of that title with said issues present.I have no hope in this program. Absolutely none. New management and employees are required. FCA has a long ways to go to compete with WAC.

Yes WILSON has some hiss in he soundtrack but to me it was not a problem. Did not notice any crackling. Color was good.
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman






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