A PLEA FOR WARNER HOME VIDEO TO REVISIT CERTAIN BLU-RAY TITLES

3 Stars

No one has more respect and admiration for the work and efforts Warner Home Video and, in more recent times, the Warner Archive (WAC) have committed to hi-def remastering of vintage deep catalog titles. Warner Home Video, as most of us know, continues to be a treasure trove of priceless entertainment, culled from their own, as well as the MGM and RKO studio catalogs. And while Warner’s efforts of the last decade or so speak to the highest level of quality afforded such movies in hi-def, there are a few early misfires in their mastering that behoove the studio, possibly, taking another look and stab at doing right by these releases. Titles listed below are just a sampling of movies, with major drawing power, that I believe ought to receive an upgrade.

1) Doctor Zhivago – a few years ago Zhivago was shown theatrically in a sparkling new restoration that unfortunately leaves its Blu-ray counterpart looking very much like the poor cousin. One of the crown jewels in Warner’s back catalog (produced for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer originally), the current Warner’s disc sports wan colors and some heavy-handed edge effects, and even some minor untoward digital sharpening. This one could definitely get a reissue with a new 4K remaster derived from that aforementioned restoration.

2) Driving Miss Daisy – Warner suffered a brief and curious anomaly in their mastering efforts, releasing this Oscar-winning treasure, along with the less than well received Bonfire of the Vanities, both suffering from bizarre telecine wobble. In Driving Miss Daisy’s case, the most egregious example occurs in the scene where Daisy and her chauffeur are stopped by a pair of racist troopers while enjoying their curb-side lunches on their way to Daisy’s brother’s 90th birthday party. But the entire disc is a fairly abysmal effort, lacking in the subtleties being extolled in Peter James’ diffused glow cinematography. This is one perennially satisfying movie, too good to deserve this kind of treatment in hi-def.

3) Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet – the original roadshow theatrical release of this Columbia/Castlerock mammoth effort, glittering with an all-star cast, was presented in breathtaking 70mm. The Blu-ray has been authored from a 35mm reduction print, and looks it. Piggy pink flesh tones, a lack of tonality in the entire color spectrum and a general loss of what should have been razor-sharp fine grain detail and, well – the Blu of Branagh’s masterwork looks nothing like it did when it debuted. If ever there was a candidate for a 4K remaster and native 4K reissue, along with an upgrade to standard Blu – this movie is it!

4) Grand Prix – John Frankenheimer’s magnum opus, dedicated to those daring men of speed is another flick, originally released in 70mm. The Blu has been remastered from a reduction 35mm print that was a hold over from Warner’s push to enter the HD-DVD market. They released 2 movies originally shot in 70mm this way to HD-DVD before the format died. The other was Ryan’s Daughter (still MIA in any incarnation on home video). Frankenheimer’s extraordinary story-telling, his exhilarating action sequences, and, above all else, breath-taking cinematography from Lionel Linden, scream for a 70mm remaster in 4K. Pretty please – another disc worthy of a better representation on home video.

I have listed my top four wish fulfillment catalog titles that I believe could be better served by Warner on Blu-ray. Perhaps some of these are already in the works. And if not, perhaps this can serve as a reminder of shortcomings that, while accepted in the infancy of Warner’s mastering efforts, now do not live up to the standard we have all come to accept from hi-def disc mastering. Any takers on adding to this list. Fill in the blanks with your concerns and catalog.

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  1. Zhivago as a sparkling new restoration? That would be a sight for sore eyes with so much drivel being released on UHD 4k

    but I guess we’ll have to wait for the tie in with the 2021 release of the Revisioned version of Doctor Zhivago starring Rami Malek as Yuri
    and Kieran Shipka as Lara

  2. Yup, that's the trouble with famous & obvious film choices, they get released on Blu-ray first, & quite right too, but in the long term it becomes a bit counter-intuitive. As the years go on & the technology improves & the studios get better at scanning & all the other stuff involved in bringing these films to Blu-ray, it's the lesser known films that reap the benefit. Anyway, three obvious choices for me:

    Mutiny On The Bounty (1962)
    The Wild Bunch (1969)
    Where Eagles Dare (1969).

  3. Personally, I'd throw in the likes of Gigi, which seemed to get decent reception at first, but has over time gotten poor reception here, and, for that reason (since I was late in the game switching to HD and Blu-ray), I haven't gotten it yet in the hopes of seeing it redone (and I've been surprised it got nothing in 2018 for its anniversary). Also, I recall seeing their 2015 releases of Anchors Aweigh and On The Town being poorly reviewed (and they must have sold poorly, too, otherwise why did those two end up being the last pre-1954 MGM musicals to come out on Blu-ray until last year's WAC release of Summer Stock).

  4. John Hermes

    Rio Bravo and The Searchers.

    Out of curiosity, what's wrong with The Searchers? It was the first film I watched on blu-ray in 2007 or 2008 and I was blown away by how good it looked then, but that was a while ago and I'm not familiar with how the film is supposed to look.

  5. I second The Wild Bunch as desperately needing a new release and add the following early format releases:

    -Dark City (1998)
    -The Dirty Dozen (1967)
    -A History of Violence (2005)
    -The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)

  6. Worth

    Out of curiosity, what's wrong with The Searchers? It was the first film I watched on blu-ray in 2007 or 2008 and I was blown away by how good it looked then, but that was a while ago and I'm not familiar with how the film is supposed to look.

    Too yellow, or too brown (or maybe both). There were lots of contentious threads here. I think at least one member was banned,

  7. Worth

    Out of curiosity, what's wrong with The Searchers? It was the first film I watched on blu-ray in 2007 or 2008 and I was blown away by how good it looked then, but that was a while ago and I'm not familiar with how the film is supposed to look.

    It suffers from what RAH calls "yellow dye failure" in the original negative, which affects the color. The sharpness of the Blu-ray is out-of-this-world but the color needs a lot of modern digital tools to correct.

    http://www.thedigitalbits.com/site_archive/articles/robertharris/harris082106.html

  8. Given the weak catalog classics market, it'd be surprising to see many re-dos for films that have had releases already owned by most of the consumers who care to have them. The best hope might be Criterion, which has done some re-dos, since Warner has licensed some films to them. I wonder how well the recent 2001 remaster did on Blu. I count myself lucky to have the Blus I've got.

  9. I second the call for Warners to revisit Gigi. And I'd like them to cast an eye over the beautiful short features in their catalog. I've mentioned in another thread the most outstanding one due for Blu ray redemption — the wonderful 1941 'Gay Parisian' ballet by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, directed by Jean Negulesco (whose credits include 'Daddy Long Legs'). This does exist in a good transfer on the Warner DVD of 'The Maltese Falcon'. It's also on the Blu ray of that title but the transfer was botched and it's unviewable.
    A Blu ray sample from the best of the Warners short features would make a fabulous Archive disc, if the transfers were done with care.

  10. I haven’t looked at Gigi yet but it got an excellent review on Bluray.com. Not for the film itself but for the remastering. Also American in Paris. So I’m surprised to see those two here. I’ve seen the AAIP bluray and I think it’s gorgeous and I’ve seen it a number of times years ago in beautiful prints at the Regency which had excellent technicolor prints back in the 70s. It can be better? Wow.
    Strange that Warners released Summer Stock when there are so many other better MGM musicals that now might never see the light of day including Garland films.
    I don’t know who owns The Hallelujah Trail at this point but supposedly that was done poorly from a 35mm negative. What’s the point? Maybe the Ultra Panavision elements are long gone?

  11. DVBRD

    You'll have to convince Disney to do that; they own the rights to that movie now.

    Pardon my ignorance, but when did Disney acquire the rights to Once Upon a Time in America?

    roxy1927

    I don't know who owns The Hallelujah Trail at this point but supposedly that was done poorly from a 35mm negative. What's the point? Maybe the Ultra Panavision elements are long gone?

    Unfortunately, The Hallelujah Trail is with MGM, and after Robert Harris’ most recent update on the situation with The Alamo, I don’t have much hope for this film getting a proper restoration.

  12. roxy1927

    I haven't looked at Gigi yet but it got an excellent review on Bluray.com. Not for the film itself but for the remastering. Also American in Paris. So I'm surprised to see those two here. I've seen the AAIP bluray and I think it's gorgeous and I've seen it a number of times years ago in beautiful prints at the Regency which had excellent technicolor prints back in the 70s. It can be better? Wow.
    Strange that Warners released Summer Stock when there are so many other better MGM musicals that now might never see the light of day including Garland films.
    I don't know who owns The Hallelujah Trail at this point but supposedly that was done poorly from a 35mm negative. What's the point? Maybe the Ultra Panavision elements are long gone?

    Not too strange. That was one that already had a pretty good transfer on DVD and didn't need AS MUCH work to upgrade (compared to, say, The Pirate, which they have indicated would need a lot of work). I *suspect* the problem comes at least partly back to the whole "more popular films are generally in worse shape" thing. Also considering it is, as I said before, their first new-to-blu pre-1954 MGM musical, I suspect another part of the problem has to do with aspect ratios, as the widescreen movies might have had more work done to prep them for DVD (since they would have had to do new transfers instead of the old pan-and-scan stuff), and the earlier films may not have had as much work done (which would just make it more expensive now, especially if too many people are buying those films on sale as opposed to full price).

  13. richardburton84

    Pardon my ignorance, but when did Disney acquire the rights to Once Upon a Time in America?

    It was one of those Regency titles that Warner distributed up until about a few years ago. Fox released a Blu-Ray recently and the Vudu release is credited to 20th Century Fox as well. And then Disney bought Fox, so there you go.

  14. I would like to add to blu ray and 4K

    Woodstock, both original and director cuts. Since Michael Wadleigh upgraded the sound to Dolby Digital in 1994, he can upgrade to Atmos.

    Oliver Stone’s JFK. Again, both theatrical and directors cuts. The theatrical hasn’t been seen in ages. Again, an Atmos mix like they did for The Doors last year.

  15. DVBRD

    It was one of those Regency titles that Warner distributed up until about a few years ago. Fox released a Blu-Ray recently and the Vudu release is credited to 20th Century Fox as well. And then Disney bought Fox, so there you go.

    Well Arnon Milchan, whose company has been based at Fox (now 20th-Disney) for some years, still controls certain rights to this; his Embassy International Pictures company* produced the movie. But Milchan's early '80s deal for domestic rights with the Ladd Co. gave that company US/Canada distribution on all levels for, it is said, the duration of the copyright. To my knowledge, that deal is still in effect; Warners, which now owns the Ladd Co., brought out that longer print some years ago, and WB has been distributing the movie in TV syndication
    From my Friend

  16. Peter Neski

    Well Arnon Milchan, whose company has been based at Fox (now 20th-Disney) for some years, still controls certain rights to this; his Embassy International Pictures company* produced the movie. But Milchan's early '80s deal for domestic rights with the Ladd Co. gave that company US/Canada distribution on all levels for, it is said, the duration of the copyright. To my knowledge, that deal is still in effect; Warners, which now owns the Ladd Co., brought out that longer print some years ago, and WB has been distributing the movie in TV syndication
    From my Friend

    This is from the back cover of one of the recent BD releases. It has the "R" rating symbol in the center and the Fox logo at the bottom.

    [​IMG]

  17. Peter Neski

    That's weird , mine has Warners logo,is that a US version

    Yes, it is. You can see the MPAA "Rated R" symbol in the middle of the photo, plus what appears to be Canadian ratings.

  18. These are the top 5 that I would like to see revisited:

    Mutiny on the Bounty
    Battle of the Bulge
    Rio Bravo
    The Searchers
    The Wild Bunch

    I would think that among these The Wild Bunch has the least potential for improvement but I like that movie a lot and it surely could show more detail that it currently does.

    Rio Bravo and The Searchers definitely look to be on the brownish/yellow side of correct colors and Rio Bravo also has very little detail that goes beyond DVD resolutioin.

    Battle of the Bulge and Mutiny on the Bounty have huge potential because they were lavish Ultra Panavision 70 productions and they also both come from old HD-DVD era masters that even back then were only considered OK at best.

  19. roxy1927

    So why are blurays of 70mm films coming from 35mm ips?

    Because it is cheaper and the quality is considered to be "good enough".

    roxy1927

    In better condition than the original 70mm negative or that doesn't exist anymore?

    Probably not an issue for any of the titles discussed in this thread, the negatives should be in decent shape.

  20. willyTass

    Bounty came from 35mm ip if memory serves me right

    Indeed all of the 65/70mm titles mentioned in this thread did:

    Mutiny on the Bounty
    Battle of the Bulge
    Grand Prix
    Hamlet

    There are others both from Warner and from other studios:

    Ice Station Zebra
    Airport
    Exodus
    Krakatoa: East of Java

    There is also a number of (Super)Technirama productions where the Blu-ray goes back to a standard 35mm 4-perf IP, like Zulu or Custer of the West.

  21. I wish now I hadn't got Airport or Zulu but the reviews of the blurays were excellent. Thought they were from original negatives. Saw Airport at Radio City in Todd AO in the '70 Easter show and it looked and sounded great.

  22. roxy1927

    I wish now I hadn't got Airport or Zulu but the reviews of the blurays were excellent. Thought they were from original negatives. Saw Airport at Radio City in Todd AO in the '70 Easter show and it looked and sounded great.

    The reviews often are but having seen proper releases of some large format movies it is not that difficult to spot the difference these days. On the other hand you probably got these very long ago so if you wanted to watch them at home this was the best you could get. Agreed on Airport that really looks great in 70mm and I am still waiting to watch Zulu another time but not from the currently available Blu-ray's. Hopefully in 70mm or from a remastered Blu-ray as I find both available transfers to be disappointing.

  23. Yeah, typical conversation, going off the subject. Warner have revisited some titles: the Kubrick films, Batman (& I'm sure the world really needed a 4K Batman Forever & Batman And Robin) & Goodfellas & I'm sure a few more, so hopefully they're working on a few titles suggested here.

  24. Billy Batson

    Yeah, typical conversation, going off the subject. Warner have revisited some titles: the Kubrick films, Batman (& I'm sure the world really needed a 4K Batman Forever & Batman And Robin) & Goodfellas & I'm sure a few more, so hopefully they're working on a few titles suggested here.

    They also have revisited Once Upon a Time in America – I would hope they'll revisit it again!

  25. Mark-P

    Once Upon a Time in America (and most other Regency titles) are no longer with Warner.

    Well if the new company on the block is willing to regrade Once Upon a Time I am all for it but I would still have preferred for Warner to do it.

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