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A Few Words About A few words about...™ West Side Story -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I did indeed work with Petula - one of the happiest recordings I ever did. What a wonderful woman she was and is. We had an absolute blast.
     
  2. Roger Mathus

    Roger Mathus Supporting Actor

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    There is a saying. "Nothing but your best is success" . As pointed out by Robert Harris, this film deserves the best. I can remember the roadshow presentation when it first was released. It was shown in a theater especially re-modeled for such big productions of the time. This film made and continues to make a big impression.
    It is plain totally irresponsible for MGM to make such an error.
    They should make it right.
     
  3. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    It has been many moons since I've posted here, but this warrants it.
    This whole "mess" reminds me of the 40th Anniversary Mary Poppins release that lopped off the "Buena Vista" logo, which had music under it, specific to the the soundtrack....Without fanfare, it was deleted (despite fan outrage).
    It reminds me also of the OKLAHOMA! dvd transfer of 2005 with the fuzzy ToddAO picture, and an imposed "SAMUEL GOLDWYN" video logo as the overture went into the Main Title.
    I well understand that things like this are not important to many people.
    (My parents, back in the day, never recorded any Main Title sequences when they taped a movie, either...didn't consider that "important" ....yeesh, don't get me started).
    I feel that this type of tampering is tampering with art.
    I agree with Mr. Harris.
    If they released CDs with changed parts of a certain song..........or if they released a book with changed words...I would feel the same.
    It is art...it is valuable.
    I am happy for the people that can make the best of it, I truly am.
    I suppose i dislike "tampering" or "change" (for lack of a better description) in films I love.
     
  4. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I hope that you come back more often...and that you're still smiling!
     
  5. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    And yet the DET is still missing from DET SJUNDE INSEGLET, in the main title, on Criterion's BD.
     
  6. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Yes, and also, how many people do you know that get up and walk out of a theater as soon as the end credits start to roll, or pop pop the movie out of the player. Can you imagine if everybody walked out of a concert or play before the curtain call because as far as they were concerned it was over?
     
  7. Michael1

    Michael1 Stunt Coordinator

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    Excuse my ignorance, but I don't understand how the dissolve at the beginning could possibly have been turned into a fade-out/fade-in. In the original version, there is a pullback on the abstract vertical-lines image, then there is a sort of snapshot-with-flash effect as the title of the movie appears before the abstract image, and then that dissolves directly into the Manhattan skyline. Can someone explain exactly where the fade-out/fade-in occurs in the Blu-Ray?
     
  8. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I guess maybe I explained elsewhere - I thought I'd done so in one of these WSS threads. When the color dissolves to orange we hear the Mambo section of Dance at the Gym. That plays for a while, then when the music changes and the color should go to blue there is a complete fade to black and a second or two later a fade UP to the blue and THEN the camera pulls back to reveal the title.
     
  9. marsnkc

    marsnkc Supporting Actor

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    I just got through saying that I hope WSS is the last of MGM's library I wish to have in blu, then I read Greg P's post and now this. I'd kill to see this best picture Oscar winner properly done in blu. The first DVD looked like a fifth generation tape projected onto the Cinerama Dome screen in Hollywood (or someone's bathroom) with all the lights on! So dark one could hardly make out the faces, it still ranks as the worst transfer I've ever seen.
    I can't remember when that travesty was visited on us, but the 2001 edition was a vast improvement. Though still extremely weak, one could at least distinguish Mr. Finney from Ms. York.
    I'm sorry for all the problems MGM has suffered, but I was hoping that Sony or Warner would acquire it when it was last on the block, or at least purchase its library and give us the opportunity to see gems like this given the treatment they deserve.
    Thanks for the link to that marvellous article. If the maestro had achieved nothing else in his life, his scores for WSS and Waterfront alone would have immortalized him.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Very simple. What you see on screen is not what the original negative looks like.

    Many negatives are conformed in multiple reels. WSS happens to be two. An A roll and a B roll.

    The Prologue and Main Title sequence are made up as below:


    000-0 11‑15 22‑12 1 Head Leader
    12-0 66‑11 54‑12 2 FI Abstract Skyline‑Dissolve
    66‑12 138‑3 71‑8 3 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    138‑4 148‑6 10‑3 4 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    148‑7 178‑11 30‑5 5 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    178‑12 186‑11 8‑0 6 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    186-12 194‑11 8‑0 7 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    194‑12 321‑11 127‑0 8 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    321‑12 414‑3 92‑8 9 Skyline ‑ Dissolve
    414‑4 441‑15 27‑12 10 Skyline ‑ Maint Title - West Side Story ‑ Dissolve
    442‑0 452‑14 10‑15 11 New York City - production footage
    452‑15 459‑8 6‑10 12 ELS Bridge ‑ traffic ‑ water ‑ Dissolve
    459‑9 466‑0 6‑8 13 MLDS ‑ bridge and highway

    Generally the film would be cut as follows:

    The A roll would have shots 1, 2, 4, 6, 8,10, 12 and 14 (not shown)
    The B roll would have shots 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13

    The numbers in the three columns represent the actual footage (as if 35mm). The first column is the beginning of a shot, the second the end, the third the actual length of each shot.

    This is where it will get a bit more complex. The physical negative has longer cuts for each of the shots because of the dissolves. As an example going from shot 9 to 10 -- the actual piece of negative represented for 9 is probably closer to 100 feet in length, and here's why. In addition rolls that do not have printable footage are filled with 65mm black opaque leader.

    The A and B rolls are printed separately, one double exposed over the other, however...

    Shot 9 might have a 6 foot fade out, and 10 a 6 foot fade in. These are performed as printer functions during the exposure of the print. And again, the print stock is run a second time. With the tail of 9 being far longer and the head of 10 equal in length, one ends up with, rather than a fade out and fade in, a dissolve.

    Dissolves and fades are generally scribed into the edge of negative outboard of the perforations, and along with a continuity (or a reference print fifty years hence) one would read "Start 8' FO" "Start 8' FI" which tells the lab technician that this is a dissolve when examining the A and B rolls. This can get a bit more complex, but I'm not going there.

    It appears that either someone mis-read the scribed notes, hit the wrong buttons in digital conform... It really doesn't matter.

    All that matters is that no one noticed throughout the entire QC line.

    It's a very simple error, but not one that you'll see made very often by film professionals.

    And it is precisely what happens fifty years later, that creates an absolute need for a reference print contemporary to the original release. As films are put through post production, things change. An 8 foot dissolve might be changed to a 6, or might be eliminated entirely. Because of that a negative may have multiple scribes.

    As with many creative things in live. "Measure twice, cut once" absolutely comes into play here.

    BTW, after viewing the opening again, I do have another problem with the release, and that is the MGM logo placed before Mr. Bass' graphics. In this case, it is his work that should be the first thing on screen, precisely as it was in theatrical runs. The MGM distribution credit at the end of the Blu-ray should tell the proper story, and there is one in place.

    RAH
     
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  11. mark brown

    mark brown Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the heads up. Just canceled my November order! mdb
    ps: Please MGM sell your library to someone who cares!
     
  12. Panavision70

    Panavision70 Stunt Coordinator

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    I have one question. What is a dupe?
    thank you.
     
  13. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor
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    Thank you Mr. Harris.
     
  14. AdrianTurner

    AdrianTurner Banned
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    Surely you mean, "Who is the dupe?"
     
  15. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    Lest we forget THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
     
  16. Michael1

    Michael1 Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you. That sounds awful.
     
  17. john a hunter

    john a hunter Screenwriter

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    I have just cancelled mine too. I used the "reason why" box at Amazon to say precisely why!
     
  18. Broadwayboy

    Broadwayboy Auditioning

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    Thanks for the info. I just canceled my Amazon order as well. Darn, I was really looking forward to this one.
     
  19. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

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    United Artists never was very good about exhibition issues in my experience.
    UA was not really a studio in the usual sense. It was a releasing company for independent film makers. During the 50's and 60's, as the studio system expired, they had many of the best films.
    How they distributed them was another matter.
    They were known for not having magnetic prints of films that required them, and sponsored very few 70mm productions.
    An illustrative story: the Capri in Des Moines, IA was one of the finest 60's roadshow houses I have ever seen. We won the bid for WSS, but then received a 35mm MONO OPTICAL (!) print for our hard-ticket, roadshow engagement. Since we were used to having 70mm prints to feed the Norelco DP-70's in the booth, we tried very hard to change this. Even had the UA branch manager jumping up and down.
    The answer was that, while the film was advertised all over as being in 70mm, there were very very few 70mm prints. Even with our excellent record for roadshow runs, we didn't rate.
    Since UA didn't make 35mm magnetic prints as pretty much a matter of policy, we got the mono optical. After some noise from all over, however, UA ordered another run of dye-transfer prints with magnetic sound from Technicolor, and we got one.
    Other distributors in that era virtually required 70mm exhibition and were very particular about it as well.
    Of course, their post-Heavens Gate experiences have completed changed the situation. But I would not be surprised to hear that the company didn't keep very good records or masters of things. Again, they were a releasing company. WSS was produced by the Mirisch folks, which had a standing contract with UA for their product, but they were a small producing company as well.
    As we have seen, the companies that have done well in preservation are those that thought about things early on. Disney gets high marks, so does Warners. Sony is very late to this game (Columbia historically did a terrible job) but has made up for lost time. I am afraid that UA has never made it to the party.
    WRT the current Blu-ray (which I have not seen): in some ways, I am unhappier about the sound than anything else. WSS had a beautiful 5-channel front soundstage (with a 6th surround channel) that had a lot of life and directionality. It was remixed during the rush to "Dolby Stereo" in the late 70's. The original has now been restored and it would be nice to hear it again. At the very least, both versions could easily have been included. Fox has been good about the sound on some of their roadshows (South Pacific and The Sound of Music) so it is too bad that we can't have something derived from the original mix for this release.
     
  20. marsnkc

    marsnkc Supporting Actor

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    Thanks, Robert. Nice addtional info to supplement the book on the downfall of UA.
    Curious to know how you stand on the blu. Are you going to buy now or wait for the promised fix? (Just ignore if it puts you on the spot!)
     

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