A Few Words About A few words about...™ Johnny Guitar -- in Blu-ray

Robert Harris

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Olive's new Blu-ray of Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (Trucolor - 1954) would be about as good as the film is apt to look on Blu-ray, were it not for some tiny, yet annoying tech problems.

A problem film for decades, with it's Eastman negative no longer extant, the most recent incarnations of the film have been struck from separation masters.

When working from masters derived from production photography, the film can look very good, and natural. When derived from dupes of varying kinds, quality drops precipitously. But this isn't Olive's doing. It is what it is.

There quite a bit that can be discussed about this film, which works on many levels. A superb cast, led by Joan Crawford, as the gun-slinging saloon owner, Vienna, who waits for the railroad to arrive. Mercedes McCambridge plays the supremely dykish rancher, Emma Small, and the two work beautifully together. Great film. There are westerns. There are oaters. This is a true horse opera, in the best sense of the term.

There seems to be some question regarding where these masters actually come from, whether created by Paramount or Olive, but this is another case where just a bit of hand-holding would have led to a far more pleasing final result on Blu-ray.

For whatever reason, whether problematic splices, repairs -- it's irrelevant -- this films bumps its way from shot to shot, with the first frame in many shots problematic, and out of registration with the remainder of the shot. This, once again, could have been an easy fix, but no one did anything about it.

In the final analysis, color and densities look fine when the records are good, and far less so when they're not. Many shots seem to have a red push. Audio seems fine.

And once, again, while I'd prefer to give the film a recommendation, I can't. And that little bit of extra care would have gotten it over the top.

Image - 2

Audio - 4

RAH
 

Russell G

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Thanks for this one MR. Harris. I'll await it to hit a bargain basement price. Seems to be the way to treat these Olive releases. I'm hoping they do right with Orson Welles Macbeth.
 

JoeDoakes

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Robert Harris said:
Olive's new Blu-ray of Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (Trucolor - 1954) would be about as good as the film is apt to look on Blu-ray, were it not for some tiny, yet annoying tech problems.
A problem film for decades, with it's Eastman negative no longer extant, the most recent incarnations of the film have been struck from separation masters.
When working from masters derived from production photography, the film can look very good, and natural.  When derived from dupes of varying kinds, quality drops precipitously.  But this isn't Olive's doing.  It is what it is.
There quite a bit that can be discussed about this film, which works on many levels.  A superb cast, led by Joan Crawford, as the gun-slinging saloon owner, Vienna, who waits for the railroad to arrive.  Mercedes McCambridge plays the supremely dykish rancher, Emma Small, and the two work beautifully together.  Great film.  There are westerns.  There are oaters.  This is a true horse opera, in the best sense of the term.
There seems to be some question regarding where these masters actually come from, whether created by Paramount or Olive, but this is another case where just a bit of hand-holding would have led to a far more pleasing final result on Blu-ray.
For whatever reason, whether problematic splices, repairs -- it's irrelevant -- this films bumps its way from shot to shot, with the first frame in many shots problematic, and out of registration with the remainder of the shot.  This, once again, could have been an easy fix, but no one did anything about it.
In the final analysis, color and densities look fine when the records are good, and far less so when they're not. Many shots seem to have a red push.   Audio seems fine.
And once, again, while I'd prefer to give the film a recommendation, I can't.  And that little bit of extra care would have gotten it over the top.
Image - 2
Audio - 4
RAH
Given the number of Olive's releases, how expensive would it be for them to try to do clean up on every release?
As Olive is relatively inexperienced in this area, is it worth the risk to encourage further cleanup given that they might make things worse (like hanging grain)?
 

Mark-P

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Not to mention that it would have looked better in it's original theatrical aspect ratio.
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by JoeDoakes /t/323216/a-few-words-about-johnny-guitar-in-blu-ray#post_3965765
Given the number of Olive's releases, how expensive would it be for them to try to do clean up on every release?
As Olive is relatively inexperienced in this area, is it worth the risk to encourage further cleanup given that they might make things worse (like hanging grain)?
No. Not if they use something like MTI, which is hand-rendered.

Inexpensive, easy and efficient.

RAH
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by Mark-P /t/323216/a-few-words-about-johnny-guitar-in-blu-ray#post_3965768
Not to mention that it would have looked better in it's original theatrical aspect ratio.
I considered aspect ratio, and came away comfortable with 1.37. Would have been very difficult to do lower cropping on this film.

RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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I understand the issues with this release, but I'm still very happy with my BRD as I think this is the best we're going to see for title, at least, in the forseeable future.







Crawdaddy
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by Robert Crawford /t/323216/a-few-words-about-johnny-guitar-in-blu-ray#post_3965807
I understand the issues with this release, but I'm still very happy with my BRD as I think this is the best we're going to see for title, at least, in the forseeable future.

Crawdaddy
Agreed.
 

ShellOilJunior

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I've had a chance to the view the blu-ray two times. Agreed about PQ. It's not eye-popping at all but an acceptable release. It's always good to have more Nick Ray on BR.
 

Mark-P

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I just watched the Blu-ray. It is the first time I had ever seen this movie. What a great film. The tension really crackled!
On a side note, I matted it to 1.66:1 (my projector can do that) and the composition looked perfect!
 

Matt Hough

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Originally Posted by Mark-P /t/323216/a-few-words-about-johnny-guitar-in-blu-ray#post_4006076
I just watched the Blu-ray. It is the first time I had ever seen this movie. What a great film. The tension really crackled!
On a side note, I matted it to 1.66:1 (my projector can do that) and the composition looked perfect!
I did the same. It plays MUCH better in widescreen than "full frame" (1.37:1). I did think the Blu-ray was a tad short in sharpness. I know many of Joan Crawford's close-ups were diffused, but I thought the entire film was just a bit lacking in detail. Otherwise, it's unquestionably the finest I've ever seen the movie look on TV viewings.

And I have a particular affection for this movie. It's the first one I have any recollection of seeing in a theater. My mother took me along with her to see it when I was about four. I can remember the final shootout between Emma and Vienna and that waterfall lair. I also remember that haunting Peggy Lee song sung at the very end that left me feeling sorry for the people who died at the end. Funny the things we remember from childhood.
 

Bob Furmanek

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There is documentation in the Aspect Ratio thread on this. It began filming several months after Republic had converted to widescreen cinematography.
 

Richard--W

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Bob, as an aside, remind me to tell you one of these days what the late Bob Bradshaw had to say about JOHNNY GUITAR. It was shot on his ranch in Sedona. He worked on all the films shot there.
 

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