A Few Words About A few words about...™ A Star is Born -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    There are soon to be four versions of the William Wellman / Dorothy Parker / Alan Campbell scripted A Star is Born, later versions than the 1937 original with other attachments.

    For the pure original, David O. Selznick's production with Janet Gaynor as Esther Blodgett and Fredric March in the role of the down-spiraling Norman Maine, is the go-to film.

    For the record, it was re-made in 1954, the long, original version of which is still proving elusive, and again in 1976 as a vehicle for Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

    Those seeking Hollywood gossip will be aware that the newest, Clint Eastwood version, was held up to work with Beyonce's pregnancy. As a WB production, one might presume that it will be based more upon the 1954 version.

    Or not.

    You'll be seeing it in 2013.

    So what, precisely, does one receive in the new Kino Blu-ray of the 1937 Technicolor original?

    The Selznick studio nitrate print.

    Let's get our terms straight before we continue.

    There was "glorious" Technicolor, with effervescent hues that literally popped off the screen in the 1940s. Think Carmen Miranda at her gaudiest. There was far more accurate Technicolor, with hues that looked more natural in the '50s.

    This is neither.

    A Star is Born is accurately represented, worts and all, from an original 1937 dye transfer print. By "worts and all," i refer to the myriad of occasional registration anomalies that are present, along with a bit of original negative or matrix damage (not problematic). And one might ask what this print was and where it came from. Was it an original answer print?


    Was it a print struck later in the run?

    Not certain.

    What is certain, is that it reasonably accurately represents the original look and textures of a print. Generally, prints do not transfer well, and pre-print elements are desired. If WB decided to re-combine the original negatives, they might come up with something far sharper, and less the registration problems.

    But unless they meticulously followed the look of this print, they would not be accurately representing the film as placed into distribution far more than 25 years ago.

    My advice regarding this version of A Star is Born is simple.

    Disregard the minor problems. Don't be searching for shadow detail or anything that resembles later Technicolor.

    Sit back, relax, and be transported to Hollywood in the late 1930s, and re-live one of the most copied tales in Hollywood history.

    This is the first out of the gate, and remains one of the best.

    Highly Recommended.

  2. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

    Sep 12, 2007
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    Joe Hudak
    Will do. While it would be great to get some sort of full restoration, using one of the best prints available is still very welcome, especially since it is public domain and never really had a quality transfer on DVD.
  3. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

    Apr 10, 2000
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    Even this version was a remake of sorts. Five years earlier, Constance Bennett starred as an aspiring actress opposite Lowell Sherman as a washed-up drunken director in George Cukor's "What Price Hollywood?". Same basic story and still my favorite version.
  4. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

    Mar 1, 2007
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    New Orleans
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    There was a laserdisc of WPH? that is still in my collection. Warner's has been asked a few times about it appearing in the Archives, but their answer is that there needs to be a lot of work done on it.
  5. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

    Aug 2, 2001
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    I have always preferred this version to the Garland version, so I will definitely be picking this up. I still have to order "Nothing Sacred" also. I'm so excited to see these PD titles finally get respectable discs. :D
  6. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

    Oct 2, 2003
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    Boston, MA
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    I have to admit to being on the fence about this one. I bought Kino's NOTHING SACRED (overpriced, but I bought it) and was underwhelmed (to say the least.) I'm all for integrity of presentation but that integrity flies out the window when the image looks as dull and listless as that disc does. Call me a philistine if you want but the STAR blu uses the same family print that the IMAGE DVD used and I'm not sure I can justify upgrading to an incrementally better (but still not stellar) presentation. I may change my mind but it KILLS me that I actually prefer the color saturation on the crappy, un-restored IMAGE DVD of SACRED to the blu so I am a little gun-shy about STAR IS BORN, which is a shame.

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