Q: Can you address the similar debacle with the French Connection Blu-Ray?
The original master that we made back then, what I saw, is perfect. I never saw any of the copies they made. The copies go through four different companies, making different stages of the disc.
Owen Roizman, the cameraman, bought a copy at Best Buy. He took his copy home and it looked like shit.
He went nuts, and he called me, and I said, “Hold on Owen, the master looks great”, and he said, “this copy is shit, Billy!”
He brought his copy into the video house where we made the masters, and we put them up side by side on monitors, and he was right, the master was great, the copies were grainy, and the colour wasn’t there, he was correct. We ran both the master and copy on different systems, and the copy was bad.
In fact, when they sold these copies, they put in the little leaf, inside the front cover, as a warning to buyers that you might find that this copy doesn’t play well on your home video receiver, so send us an email to www something, and we’ll send you a disc that will run through your playback device to make it compatible with this new technology.
And this was bullshit.
So, we made a brand new Blu-Ray of the French Connection, and I brought Owen in with me. As far as we know, the copies they made, from one house now, by a different manufacturer are fine. And those are signature copies, it has my signature on the front cover of the film.
The other copies are shit!
I can’t look at every damn copy they make, it just so happened that the cameraman bought one, and it was terrible, and it’s his work, and he was right!
Q: One thing that came out of this were those arguing about whether it’s your right for the film to look the way the director wants it to look, even if it diverges substantially from the original intent of the first release.
The choice of the colour and the density is mine, but the point of it is, all I was ever trying to do was make it look what it looked like when I looked through the viewfinder. I wasn’t trying to change anything!
Now, you have to adapt to the new technology, if there’s scenes in black or darkness, you have to make them blacker in a video procedure, it’s not the same as printing 35mm. The difference was not to change the look, it was to revive the look to what it first looked like when we printed it.
I supervised all the prints when they went out originally. I never thought I had to supervise copies of a digital master, and yes you do! So I hopefully will never make that mistake again. So, it was a series of errors, that I know hurt the film on digital. But, I felt that the cameraman was right – he had been long retired, I didn’t even contact him to look at the master, I simply told him, you know, all I plan to do is make it look like when we first saw it, and he said, “great!”
He came in and looked at the master, and said, “Great, the master’s wonderful!” So I brought him in on both Exorcist and French Connection while we were colour timing them.