A few words about…™ – The Spoilers (1942) & Pittsburgh – in Blu-ray

The films, as released by Kino Lorber, will be an asset, especially for completists of those involved. 4 Stars

A strange confluence of events.

John Wayne appeared in seven films in 1942, Marlene Dietrich in three, and Randolph Scott, also three.

I find it interesting that all three appeared together in two films together. The Spoilers, based upon the earlier films, and Rex Beach’s novel, released in May, and Pittsburgh, released in December.

And as things seem to be arriving in threes from Kino Lorber, it’s three Wayne film, inclusive of Reap the Wild Wind.

Fortunately, both are quality additions to one’s library, but not without some small caveats.

Both appear to be derived from quality fine grains, have superb black levels, gray scales, and grain structure. Nary a problem in sight.

However, both also appear to be derived from older transfers. Pittsburgh has a window-boxed main title. Not a deal breaker, but not a positive attribute for a home theater screening. The Spoilers has an oddity. It appears that there may have been cuts or splices in the logo, which would be easily replaceable, a the music doesn’t work properly.

But these are tiny problems, and the films, as released by Kino Lorber, will be an asset, especially for completists of those involved.

Pittsburgh

Image – 4.25

Audio – 4.5

Upgrade from DVD – Yes

Pass / Fail – Pass

The Spoilers

Image – 4.5

Audio – 4.5

Upgrade from DVD – Yes

Pass / Fail – Pass

Both are Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

15 Comments

  1. I never expected new transfers for these new releases as I wasn't optimistic about any of them being released on Blu-ray. Of course, I wish Universal did more in that regard, but it is, what it is with that company.

    I do have a question, which studio has the original film elements, Paramount or Universal?

  2. Robert Crawford

    I never expected new transfers for these new releases as I wasn't optimistic about any of them being released on Blu-ray. Of course, I wish Universal did more in that regard, but it is, what it is with that company.

    I do have a question, which studio has the original film elements, Paramount or Universal?

    Universal

  3. I too sincerely wish Uni would get off its lump and 'do more' with existing nitrate elements under their custodianship. Glad to see both of these survive in adequate – if not exemplary – image quality. I don't get Uni. After a 100th anniversary kick off, with an investment of capital to remaster 'some' of their back catalog, they basically went back to the tired old model of just slapping out whatever. And we don't even have to go back to 'vintage' catalog to see the dearth in their preservation philosophy. I mean, are there any uglier looking Blu's of more recent product than Death Becomes Her, The Paper, or House Sitter?

    All product from the late 80's/early 90's and all derived from 'likely' LaserDisc masters. Ugh! No kidding. It's all about time and money. It's also, I presume, about proper 'asset management' and Uni really hasn't been paying attention to this of late. For every Sweet Charity there are a couple dozen clunkers ported to hi-def without even the basics being applied to spruce up the quality for future generations. From a collector's standpoint – it's maddening. Because movies like The Spoilers and Pittsburgh are not going to be released multiple times like a Gone With the Wind or Wizard of Oz. So, the overall likelihood of improvement in a few years from this release is about as possible as finding a unicorn grazing in one's backyard. Sad. Especially when the star in question is as titanic an influence on the cinematic landscape as John Wayne (of course, with honorable mention to Dietrich and Scott – both, whom I adore, but likely have 'less' of a following than Wayne).

  4. Nick*Z

    I too sincerely wish Uni would get off its lump and 'do more' with existing nitrate elements under their custodianship. Glad to see both of these survive in adequate – if not exemplary – image quality.

    Here's my admittedly uniformed, armchair speculation on this. Universal probably has on their shelves many (hundreds?) of high-def transfers that are older but of reasonable quality. Robert Harris's review of this and Pittsburgh ("Nary a problem in sight") indicates these are like that. However, Universal doesn't want to release Blu-Rays of such transfers themselves. What should they do with them? Lock them away, keeping them inaccessible and making no money off them with the speculation that at some point they may decide to expend probably considerable funds on upgraded transfers or full restorations, or rather put them up for licensing to third parties for them to market in some fashion, streaming, disc or whatever? Make some money on them or not make any money?

    It rather reminds me of the early criticisms of the Warner Archive, which initially only released even older, off-the-shelf standard definition transfers. Many people griped that this somehow "dishonored" whatever their favorite films happened to be. My reaction was that the way to honor films is to let them be seen. Can you imagine the cost if from the start WA had spent the kind of money they have now on restoring The Thin Man or Jezebel, or even of just doing new high-def transfers of everything they released? Would the hundreds of films they've released since the program's start ever have seen the light of day? The success of the program is one reason we're seeing the restorations and remasters now.

  5. Josh Steinberg

    The Blu-ray for Death Becomes Her is not sourced from a laserdisc master. Let’s not spread nonsense.

    The quality is not much more than a step higher than that! By the way, the word 'likely' was in parenthesis and was meant to denote lack of attention paid – not a literal, 'yes – this came from a LaserDisc. Of course it did not! But what the hell happened to the sequence where Streep's over the hill star visits Rossellini's witchcraft maven? Blurry, out of focus, faded colors, gate weave? Not exactly a cutting edge effort on a movie that should in NO way look this bad. Not 1890's. 1990's!!! The Paper – edge enhanced and artificially sharpened in the extreme. House Sitter? faded colors, anemic contrast, age-related dirt, soft with no fine detail snapping as it should. There are two crowds here, I suppose. Those who are grateful just to have catalog find its way to hi-def, and those who would prefer less titles getting released, with more time and effort being spent on the ones getting released.

    Am I preaching to the crowd that also doesn't mind Technicolor misregistration errors aplenty in virtually all of Uni's vintage color stuff coming down the pike of late, either bare bones from Uni proper or third-party Kino? For Whom The Bell Tolls?!? Thunder Bay?!? Unwatchable in projection without getting eye strain and a headache. Not the way ANYONE should be watching movies.

  6. John Wayne appeared in seven films in 1942, Marlene Dietrich in three, and Randolph Scott, also three.

    Yeah, The Duke was busy in 1942. When those last three Blu-ray titles arrive, I'm going to watch all seven movies over the next 24-48 hours with only "Reunion in France" being on DVD while the rest are in 1080p. Anyhow, he's more of a supporting player in "Reunion in France" as that was clearly a Joan Crawford film. Also, I like that film, the least of the seven.

    Flying Tigers
    In Old California
    Lady for a Night
    Pittsburgh
    Reap the Wild Wind
    Reunion in France
    The Spoilers

  7. Robert Crawford

    Yeah, The Duke was busy in 1942. When those last three Blu-ray titles arrive, I'm going to watch all seven movies over the next 24-48 hours with only "Reunion in France" being on DVD while the rest are in 1080p. Anyhow, he's more of a supporting player in "Reunion in France" as that was clearly a Joan Crawford film. Also, I like that film, the least of the seven.

    Flying Tigers
    In Old California
    Lady for a Night
    Pittsburgh
    Reap the Wild Wind
    Reunion in France
    The Spoilers

    Wayne's extraordinary life-time output is staggering. 'Prolific' is a futile word to describe his actor's acumen.

  8. Nick*Z

    …There are two crowds here, I suppose. Those who are grateful just to have catalog find its way to hi-def, and those who would prefer less titles getting released, with more time and effort being spent on the ones getting released…

    I'd put myself in another category, or maybe sub-category. I can't stand transfers with obvious electronic/digital manipulation. I'd rather not watch it at all than watch something over-sharpened and slathered with DNR. But I don't mind a less than pristine image that still looks like film. A bit of gate weave, the odd scratch, specks of dust here and there – none of that bothers me.

  9. Robert Crawford

    Yeah, The Duke was busy in 1942. When those last three Blu-ray titles arrive, I'm going to watch all seven movies over the next 24-48 hours with only "Reunion in France" being on DVD while the rest are in 1080p. Anyhow, he's more of a supporting player in "Reunion in France" as that was clearly a Joan Crawford film. Also, I like that film, the least of the seven movies.

    Flying Tigers
    In Old California
    Lady for a Night
    Pittsburgh
    Reap the Wild Wind
    Reunion in France
    The Spoilers

    Well, my plans have gone kaput as my Kino Blu-rays arrived today, but I have other commitments before I can watch all seven movies. I did watch "Reap the Wild Wind" today and will watch "Pittsburgh" and "The Spoilers" this weekend. I'll try to get to the other four movies sometime next week.

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