OliverK

Cinematographer
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Messages
4,385
Here's a nice review:

Thanks for the link, this sentence is my favorite:
"Kit Parker truly has bragging rights when it comes to a crisp clear product and I was bowled over watching this on a 4k television."

He probably agrees with certain higher-ups of a certain studio that clarity is paramount these days.
 

Joseph Bolus

Effects Supervisor
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Joined
Feb 4, 1999
Messages
2,753
Just viewed disc one of Sons of the Desert & Battle of the Century with the commentary. Had a great time and the commentary on both were excellent especially with Battle of the Century with the info about it's missing scenes.
Same here. It's the only disc I've had time to view so far, but was absolutely *thrilled* with the overall presentation. It more than exceeded my expectations -- at least on content provided on this disc. As I stated elsewhere, this first disc alone justifies the price of the entire set. (At least for me.)
 

Peter Neski

Screenwriter
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Mar 14, 2005
Messages
1,066
I'm not quite certain how to review this set, as it's an extremely important document. It bills itself as "Definitive," "2k/4k From Original 35mm Nitrate Sources," and capping those claims with "The best quality since their original release."

Thems big claims!

On the positive side, there are a myriad of extras, in addition to the two feature films and 18 classic shorts. We're given multiple domestic tracks on a couple of the shorts, which illustrate how the films were re-issued. Someone thought this through.

The problem for me is that this set would, and should be, a must own for any serious cinephile, but it lacks in overall quality.

There are some terrific people and entities behind the set, but it's let down by some of the best hyperbole this side of P.T. Barnum, which I'd surmise came from the marketing side of the project, not being in sync with the restoration and production side.

In short, the claims don't match the finished product.

Here's a sample of what I'm seeing, and keep in mind, everything is publicized to be from 2 and 4k scans of original nitrate:

Some of the M-G-M logos appear tacked on

Berth Marks - Soft, dupey

Brats - Overall soft imagery, with some blown-out whites

Hog Wild - Okay with black levels a bit odd in some shots

Come Clean - Soft and grainless

One Good Turn - Soft and grainless

My and My Pal - Overly digitally soft and grainless

Help Mates - Soft, appears digitally scrubbed. No grain. Lite scratches

The Music Box - Digitally cleansed, no grain, underlying dirt and wear

And the features:

Sons of the Desert - overall dupey, obviously not from original nitrate elements

Way Out West - Nice densities, wonderful audio, overall lack of resolution and detail, soft on the verge of going waxy.
Occasional light positive and negative dirt. A wonderful film that appears to have received an overall digital
cleansing that removed high-frequency definition.

In short, these no longer look like film. They're average appearing video products lacking in overall quality.

The problem is that this set is a big deal. It's doubtful that anyone, after this has been released, will attempt to do it again. So we have what we have, which is a pity, as it's obvious that a great deal of effort and funding has gone into the project.

Image - 3 (overall)

Audio - 4.5 (overall)

Pass / Fail - ???

Recommended (as we probably won't get better)

RAH
well Hog Wild and Come Clean look great,not sure if you are being too picky ,sure everything can look better ,you don't say anything about previous versions I watched those and Brats and Berth Marks ,the only one that look fair was Be Big The Extras are great
can't wait for volume 2
 

Peter Neski

Screenwriter
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Mar 14, 2005
Messages
1,066
View attachment 74677

Rebecca a little too dark? How about 4k scan from OCN - Notorious. I certainly see film grain on Notorious, but again I'm not seeing grain on Come Clean.
Not sure that looks too great,I havent seen the BR yet ,maybe stills are no judge ,I Did watch Come Clean and I liked it way better than those two earlier versions(which I own)
 

Robert Harris

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Robert Harris
well Hog Wild and Come Clean look great,not sure if you are being too picky ,sure everything can look better ,you don't say anything about previous versions I watched those and Brats and Berth Marks ,the only one that look fair was Be Big The Extras are great
can't wait for volume 2
I have zero interest in previous video versions. Irrelevant.

These have been sold to the consumer as 2 and 4k scans from original nitrate elements, that look as good as they did when they premiered.

Either they do, or they do not.

Reality of years of poor preservation and element wear and damage are also irrelevant.
 

Bart T

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Jul 5, 2020
Messages
5
Real Name
Bart
This is the review I wrote for Amazon.com. While I must admit there's some great stuff on these BluRays I share the opinion that most of the titles could have done with a little (or a lot) less DNR:

I’ve been a big L&H fan (and proud SOTD member) since I was 12, I must have seen their movies dozens of times, on all kinds of different formats (Super 8, 16 mm, 35 mm, DCP, VHS, dvd and BluRay). I understand and appreciate all the effort that went into the production of this BluRay set. So it goes without saying I was really looking forward to this set and had very high hopes for it.

I received my BluRays 3 days ago, and after watching the majority of the movies, I must admit I’m having some mixed feelings towards it. I don’t regret buying it, because it has the most complete print of Battle of the Century, That’s That (for the first time on dvd and BluRay), lots of interesting commentaries by Randy Skretvedt on almost every title, and plenty of other fascinating bonus material, including original film scripts, lobby cards, and behind the scenes photographs.

About those commentaries: When you turn them on, you don’t hear the original soundtrack anymore, not even at a low volume. So you hear Randy Skretvedt saying things like “you’re now hearing the original 1930 soundtrack” or “you’re now listening to a LeRoy Shield composition called In My Canoe”, while in fact you’re not hearing it at all.

For this release the best surviving prints were used, meticulously restored by UCLA and the Library of Congress. You can tell from the BluRays those prints must have looked stunning. However, after analogue restoration was performed, the films underwent further digital restoration by several different companies. The credits mention digital restoration by Jeff Joseph/Sabucat, a digital clean-up by Point360, additional digital restoration by Thad Komorowski/Cineaste, and even a final Clean Up by The Finishing Touch.

In my opinion, and I’m sure lots of L&H fans will wholeheartedly and passionately disagree with me, one of these individuals went a little too far with the digital restoration on some of these titles (not on all of them, though). This results in a very clean picture, free of dirt and scratches, but also very soft looking and nearly devoid of film grain . Based on lots of other reviews of this set I’m inclined to believe that the majority of the viewers seems to really like this clean and ultra-smooth look, but I’m not one of them.

I’m not going to review every single title on this set, just the ones I’ve watched from beginning to end.

Sons of the Desert is a big step up from the Vivendi release, but is hardly spectacular. The first reel looks fine, but after that it takes a step back. The German Kinowelt version looks much better. Unfortunately that one has the dreaded PAL speedup and during the opening music the sounds gets distorted for 2 or 3 seconds. Still you should check out the Kinowelt dvd, because it also has a nice print of We Faw Down on it, with the original 1920’s sound-on-disc musical track, that can only be found on this German release. Both the British and the Dutch release have a Beau Hunks soundtrack.

The Battle of the Century: The most complete print available on the market. The first reel looks very good but for the 2nd reel a 16 mm print was used, and it shows. It still looks pretty good, but not as good as the first half.

Berth Marks: A fine looking print, clean, but not too clean, and just the right amount of film grain. Available in the original 1929 version, and the 1937 reissue version. Unfortunately, in the 1937 version the sound is sometimes out of sync. You can clearly see and hear this when Ollie asks Stan to get his foot away from his face and stop crowding. The 1929 version is advertised as having a Vitaphone soundtrack. This is not entirely correct. Vitaphone was the name of the sound-on-disc system used by Warner Brothers, whereas the Hal Roach Studios, as far as I know, were using a similar system produced by the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, NJ.

Brats: A decent copy, not really spectacular, but it looks better than all other versions I’m familiar with. You can choose between the version with the original 1930 (not Vitaphone) soundtrack, or the 1937 version with the LeRoy Shield score. Both versions have the 1930 title cards and opening title (about the wives being out for target practice). I’m not sure why the version with the 1937 sound track doesn’t also have the 1937 title cards. If you want so see and hear the 1937 version you still need the Vivendi DVD. Also I had the impression that the MGM lion that precedes the title cards was copy-pasted from another L&H short, I presume The Hoose-Gow, because the edit isn’t really smooth so you can still hear the first notes of “That’s My Weakness Now.”

How Wild: This title looks really good, in fact, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the best looking titles in this box set. It’s sharp, clear looking, has nice contrast, and still plenty of film grain. A big step up from the Vivendi release, not in the least because the image on the latter one was stretched out a little horizontally. No excessive DNR on this one.

Come Clean: The image is a lot of cleaner and brighter than the Universal and Vivendi versions, that are pretty dark and scratched up. Still, I’m not crazy about this new version either. It seems as if someone did everything possible to remove all scratches and dirt at any cost, and accidentally took part of the actual picture with it. It looks very clean, but also unsharp, especially when you look at the faces. Also, during the dark scenes at the harbour and at Charlie Hall’s ice cream shop something really goes wrong with the picture. I don’t know the cause, it could be a compression artefact. Look at Ollie’s jacket during the scenes with Charlie Hall. I don’t know what’s going on there, but the image is definitely distorted.

One Good Turn: Looks fine, much better than the Vivendi and Universal prints. It is extremely bright, though, Oliver’s black pants look light grey. I had to turn down the brightness of my TV to 25% to improve it a bit.

Me and My Pal: This title doesn’t look that great to me. A little too much DNR for my taste, there’s hardly any film grain left, and, whereas One Good Turn was too bright, this one is too dark, obscuring all kinds of details. The Vivendi print, although not as clean, looks better.

Helpmates: A decent looking print, better than the Vivendi version. But it would have looked even better if the DNR had been used a little more sparingly.

The Music Box: A very good looking (and sounding) print. Especially the 3rd reel is a big improvement compared to both the Vivendi and the European Universal DVD release. A little too much digital noise reduction (DNR) for my taste but not serious enough to spoil the joy of watching this Oscar winning title.

The Chimp: Looks decent, but once again I would have preferred a lighter touch as far as digital noise reduction is concerned. Especially the dark scenes don’t look that good. Look at Stan’s face when he’s trying to lock up Ethel at 17:29. Compared with the Vivendi release these scenes look a lot lighter, too light even. It seems as if someone turned up the brightness way too much, resulting in artefacting.

County Hospital: Same DNR issue. Compare it with the Vivendi release and you will see that practically all the film grain is gone. The resulting image is so clean that it starts looking unnatural. The boys are starting to look like the artwork on the UK Universal dvd’s. More like incredibly lifelike drawings than actual people.

Their First Mistake: I frankly believe that the Vivendi release looks better. Yes, it’s not nearly as clean as this one, but it has plenty of grain and at least it looks like you’re watching an actual 35 mm movie instead of a video.

Busy Bodies: Now this one looks pretty good. It could have done with a little less DNR as there’s not a lot of film grain left, but it looks pretty sharp and perfectly natural.

Way Out West: This title looks pretty good, but would have looked even better with a little less DNR. Still a big improvement over the Vivendi release (way too dark), the Dutch Universal one (PAL speedup, lots of scratches, some splices) and the German Kinowelt (wonderful picture quality but sound way out of sync, plus PAL speedup).

To summarize: Yes, I encourage everybody to buy this set, if only to show the producers that there’s still a massive interest in Laurel & Hardy. There’s plenty of interesting bonus material on these dvd’s. All titles look a lot cleaner than they do on other releases, but in my humble opinion, cleaner isn’t always better. Some movies look a lot better than they ever did, some look marginally better, others look worse. Is this a great dvd collection to have? Absolutely! Is this the best set on the market and does it make all other releases obsolete? I don’t think so.
 
Last edited:

Mysto

Screenwriter
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Messages
1,420
Location
Florida
Real Name
marv long
This is the review I wrote for Amazon.com. While I must admit there's some great stuff on these BluRays I share the opinion that most of the titles could have done with a little (or a lot) less DNR:

I’ve been a big L&H fan (and proud SOTD member) since I was 12, I must have seen their movies dozens of times, on all kinds of different formats (Super 8, 16 mm, 35 mm, DCP, VHS, dvd and BluRay). I understand and appreciate all the effort that went into the production of this BluRay set. So it goes without saying I was really looking forward to this set and had very high hopes for it.

I received my BluRays 3 days ago, and after watching the majority of the movies, I must admit I’m having some mixed feelings towards it. I don’t regret buying it, because it has the most complete print of Battle of the Century, That’s That (for the first time on dvd and BluRay), lots of interesting commentaries by Randy Skredvedt on almost every title, and plenty of other fascinating bonus material, including original film scripts, lobby cards, and behind the scenes photographs.

About those commentaries: When you turn them on, you don’t hear the original soundtrack anymore, not even at a low volume. So you hear Randy Skretvedt saying things like “you’re now hearing the original 1930 soundtrack” or “you’re now listening to a LeRoy Shield composition called In My Canoe”, while in fact you’re not hearing it at all.

For this release the best surviving prints were used, meticulously restored by UCLA and the Library of Congress. You can tell from the BluRays those prints must have looked stunning. However, after analogue restoration was performed, the films underwent further digital restoration by several different companies. The credits mention digital restoration by Jeff Joseph/Sabucat, a digital clean-up by Point360, additional digital restoration by Thad Komorowski/Cineaste, and even a final Clean Up by The Finishing Touch.

In my opinion, and I’m sure lots of L&H fans will wholeheartedly and passionately disagree with me, one of these individuals went a little too far with the digital restoration on some of these titles (not on all of them, though). This results in a very clean picture, free of dirt and scratches, but also very soft looking and nearly devoid of film grain . Based on lots of other reviews of this set I’m inclined to believe that the majority of the viewers seems to really like this clean and ultra-smooth look, but I’m not one of them.

I’m not going to review every single title on this set, just the ones I’ve watched from beginning to end.

Sons of the Desert is a big step up from the Vivendi release, but is hardly spectacular. The first reel looks fine, but after that it takes a step back. The German Kinowelt version looks much better. Unfortunately that one has the dreaded PAL speedup and during the opening music the sounds gets distorted for 2 or 3 seconds. Still you should check out the Kinowelt dvd, because it also has a nice print of We Faw Down on it, with the original 1920’s sound-on-disc musical track, that can only be found on this German release. Both the British and the Dutch release have a Beau Hunks soundtrack.

The Battle of the Century: The most complete print available on the market. The first reel looks very good but for the 2nd reel a 16 mm print was used, and it shows. It still looks pretty good, but not as good as the first half.

Berth Marks: A fine looking print, clean, but not too clean, and just the right amount of film grain. Available in the original 1929 version, and the 1937 reissue version. Unfortunately, in the 1937 version the sound is sometimes out of sync. You can clearly see and hear this when Ollie asks Stan to get his foot away from his face and stop crowding. The 1929 version is advertised as having a Vitaphone soundtrack. This is not entirely correct. Vitaphone was the name of the sound-on-disc system used by Warner Brothers, whereas the Hal Roach Studios, as far as I know, were using a similar system produced by the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, NJ.

Brats: A decent copy, not really spectacular, but it looks better than all other versions I’m familiar with. You can choose between the version with the original 1930 (not Vitaphone) soundtrack, or the 1937 version with the LeRoy Shield score. Both versions have the 1930 title cards and opening title (about the wives being out for target practice). I’m not sure why the version with the 1937 sound track doesn’t also have the 1937 title cards. If you want so see and hear the 1937 version you still need the Vivendi DVD. Also I had the impression that the MGM lion that precedes the title cards was copy-pasted from another L&H short, I presume The Hoose-Gow, because the edit isn’t really smooth so you can still hear the first notes of “That’s My Weakness Now.”

How Wild: This title looks really good, in fact, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the best looking titles in this box set. It’s sharp, clear looking, has nice contrast, and still plenty of film grain. A big step up from the Vivendi release, not in the least because the image on the latter one was stretched out a little horizontally. No excessive DNR on this one.

Come Clean: The image is a lot of cleaner and brighter than the Universal and Vivendi versions, that are pretty dark and scratched up. Still, I’m not crazy about this new version either. It seems as if someone did everything possible to remove all scratches and dirt at any cost, and accidentally took part of the actual picture with it. It looks very clean, but also unsharp, especially when you look at the faces. Also, during the dark scenes at the harbour and at Charlie Hall’s ice cream shop something really goes wrong with the picture. I don’t know the cause, it could be a compression artefact. Look at Ollie’s jacket during the scenes with Charlie Hall. I don’t know what’s going on there, but the image is definitely distorted.

One Good Turn: Looks fine, much better than the Vivendi and Universal prints. It is extremely bright, though, Oliver’s black pants look light grey. I had to turn down the brightness of my TV to 25% to improve it a bit.

Me and My Pal: This title doesn’t look that great to me. A little too much DNR for my taste, there’s hardly any film grain left, and, whereas One Good Turn was too bright, this one is too dark, obscuring all kinds of details. The Vivendi print, although not as clean, looks better.

Helpmates: A decent looking print, better than the Vivendi version. But it would have looked even better if the DNR had been used a little more sparingly.

The Music Box: A very good looking (and sounding) print. Especially the 3rd reel is a big improvement compared to both the Vivendi and the European Universal DVD release. A little too much digital noise reduction (DNR) for my taste but not serious enough to spoil the joy of watching this Oscar winning title.

The Chimp: Looks decent, but once again I would have preferred a lighter touch as far as digital noise reduction is concerned. Especially the dark scenes don’t look that good. Look at Stan’s face when he’s trying to lock up Ethel at 17:29. Compared with the Vivendi release these scenes look a lot lighter, too light even. It seems as if someone turned up the brightness way too much, resulting in artefacting.

County Hospital: Same DNR issue. Compare it with the Vivendi release and you will see that practically all the film grain is gone. The resulting image is so clean that it starts looking unnatural. The boys are starting to look like the artwork on the UK Universal dvd’s. More like incredibly lifelike drawings than actual people.

Their First Mistake: I frankly believe that the Vivendi release looks better. Yes, it’s not nearly as clean as this one, but it has plenty of grain and at least it looks like you’re watching an actual 35 mm movie instead of a video.

Busy Bodies: Now this one looks pretty good. It could have done with a little less DNR as there’s not a lot of film grain left, but it looks pretty sharp and perfectly natural.

Way Out West: This title looks pretty good, but would have looked even better with a little less DNR. Still a big improvement over the Vivendi release (way too dark), the Dutch Universal one (PAL speedup, lots of scratches, some splices) and the German Kinowelt (wonderful picture quality but sound way out of sync, plus PAL speedup).

To summarize: Yes, I encourage everybody to buy this set, if only to show the producers that there’s still a massive interest in Laurel & Hardy. There’s plenty of interesting bonus material on these dvd’s. All titles look a lot cleaner than they do on other releases, but in my humble opinion, cleaner isn’t always better. Some movies look better than they ever did, some look marginally better, others look worse. Is this a great dvd collection to have? Absolutely! Is this the best set on the market and does it make all other releases obsolete? I don’t think so.
Great review - thanks. I think you'll find that most of us are in agreement with you at some level or another.
 

Genoman

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Jul 7, 2020
Messages
2
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Gene O'Brien
Well, hello!!! This is my first post in the HTF. I've been reluctant to join because basically you are all way smarter about this stuff than I am. :)

That having been said, and as a Laurel & Hardy fan, what better way to say hello than to jump right into controversy. :) This is from the Sprocket Films Facebook page just a few moments ago:


"2K vs 4K? There has been a few questions re: which films are in what digital format.
Producer Kit Parker has responded, “You really can’t tell the difference between 2K and 4K on black-and-white movies from the 1930s. I’m told in some cases with newer films there is a minimal difference. These Laurel & Hardy Films underwent photochemical restoration by UCLA. Unlike digital restoration, improvements in sound and picture are limited when working with celluloid. The digital technicians took the UCLA version and greatly improved on it, and the result was used in the collection.“
So there really is no difference and the question is moot because each and every film and short and special features will be enjoyed by the legions of Laurel & Hardy fans."
 

Tony Bensley

Producer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2013
Messages
6,202
Location
Somewhere in Canada
Real Name
Anthony
Well, hello!!! This is my first post in the HTF. I've been reluctant to join because basically you are all way smarter about this stuff than I am. :)

That having been said, and as a Laurel & Hardy fan, what better way to say hello than to jump right into controversy. :) This is from the Sprocket Films Facebook page just a few moments ago:


"2K vs 4K? There has been a few questions re: which films are in what digital format.
Producer Kit Parker has responded, “You really can’t tell the difference between 2K and 4K on black-and-white movies from the 1930s. I’m told in some cases with newer films there is a minimal difference. These Laurel & Hardy Films underwent photochemical restoration by UCLA. Unlike digital restoration, improvements in sound and picture are limited when working with celluloid. The digital technicians took the UCLA version and greatly improved on it, and the result was used in the collection.“
So there really is no difference and the question is moot because each and every film and short and special features will be enjoyed by the legions of Laurel & Hardy fans."
Welcome to HTF, Genoman! :)

CHEERS! :)
 
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Bart T

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Jul 5, 2020
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Bart
So there really is no difference and the question is moot because each and every film and short and special features will be enjoyed by the legions of Laurel & Hardy fans."
All titles on the BluRay set are in 2K. A BluRay disc cannot contain 4K movies, so of course you won't be able to tell the difference between 2K and 4K. ; )
 
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Bart T

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Bart
That's also why I think that the words 2K/4K on this set are a little misleading. They mean of course that the basis for this set are HD and UHD scans made from the original nitrate, but the way it's formulated suggests that the material on these discs is in HD and UHD. That is of course not the case. The material on the dvd is SD, and on the BluRay it's HD.
 

Robert Harris

Archivist
Reviewer
Joined
Feb 8, 1999
Messages
13,082
Real Name
Robert Harris
Well, hello!!! This is my first post in the HTF. I've been reluctant to join because basically you are all way smarter about this stuff than I am. :)

That having been said, and as a Laurel & Hardy fan, what better way to say hello than to jump right into controversy. :) This is from the Sprocket Films Facebook page just a few moments ago:


"2K vs 4K? There has been a few questions re: which films are in what digital format.
Producer Kit Parker has responded, “You really can’t tell the difference between 2K and 4K on black-and-white movies from the 1930s. I’m told in some cases with newer films there is a minimal difference. These Laurel & Hardy Films underwent photochemical restoration by UCLA. Unlike digital restoration, improvements in sound and picture are limited when working with celluloid. The digital technicians took the UCLA version and greatly improved on it, and the result was used in the collection.“
So there really is no difference and the question is moot because each and every film and short and special features will be enjoyed by the legions of Laurel & Hardy fans."
Welcome to HTF.

While your post from Mr. Parker is appreciated, I must disagree with him vehemently.

Aside from Hog Wild, which was a fully digital Restoration, performed in its entirety by UCLA, the majority of the other films in the release have been Damaged, not improved upon, by digital work.

The intent, which one might presume was to remove detritus, scratches and other wear, unfortunately removed film grain, while doing so. The final product would have been far more appealing to the eyes of those who appreciate a proper film look. Others can eat cake.

2 vs 4k. Minimal difference if coming from a print, except that if the print has become the prime preservation element 4k and bit depth come into play. for fine grains and OCNs 4k is essential.

1930s is irrelevant.

As to the L & H set, the obviously most damaged, by digital, is The Music Box.

To handle these films properly in the digital domain, may have been just a bit more difficult than what has been done, but also possibly easier, via more knowledgeable hands.
 

Bart T

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Bart
Aside from Hog Wild, which was a fully digital Restoration, performed in its entirety by UCLA
I didn't know that, but it explains why I liked the digital restoration work on Hog Wild so much better than on the other titles. Do you perhaps know why UCLA didn't do the digital restoration on the other titles?
 

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