A Few Words About A few words about... Cyrano de Bergerac

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, May 10, 2004.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Image Entertainment is also releasing, via Hal Roach Studios, yet another public domain version of the 1950 Cyrano starring Jose Ferrer.

    Although the packaging would lead one to believe that this might be something special, with its copyright notices (which apparently can only be had for the menus, although they mention "data-stream compression," which I somehow doubt would be copyrightable) and the annotation that it is derived from an original nitrate fine grain...

    the release is a visual mess, looking like what one might find on a nice VHS tape, and similar in attitude to their earlier Meet John Doe.

    The problem most likely stems from an ancient transfer, lacking totally in visual clarity. A waste of a good blank DVD.

    Steer clear.

    RAH
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    ...bad news.

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    So many films, so little time...
     
  3. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

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    Robert, you're fantastic. I need to get a minature version of you to bring with my when I go DVD shopping.
     
  4. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    thanks for the update.

    will stay clear of this
     
  5. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Too bad. I also noticed Image will be releasing another movie with Jose Ferrer (and Ingrid Bergman), Joan of Arc (1948) (do a search) next week. I'd be interested in hearing about that one if anybody sees it.

    Image sometimes has some nice looking DVDs, but other times they're really nothing special. It's a shame they are usually priced higher than significantly better-looking catalog releases by Paramount and Fox. And it seems that they prices are never or rarely get reduced after they've been out for awhile.
     
  6. Jay E

    Jay E Cinematographer

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    I picked up the Marengo double feature of Cyrano De Bergerac and Son of Monte Cristo and was very impressed by the picture quality of both films on the DVD. By far the best version of Cyrano I've ever seen on home video. I highly recommend this DVD, especially since you can pick it up for as low as $8.
     
  7. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Glenn: ahem!

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    So many films, so little time...
     
  8. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Whoa, thanks John. Don't know how I missed that thread!
     
  9. Jeff Krispow

    Jeff Krispow Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert,

    I wish I had found your comments on CYRANO earlier… I had picked up this DVD a couple of weeks ago, but hadn't had the chance to take a look at it until this morning.

    Hal Roach usually turns out fairly good DVDs, especially with regard to the public domain titles they have released in the past. I have quite a few of their earlier discs, and they were usually the best copies to be found.

    I suspected tradition would hold true with their release of CYRANO DE BERGERAC. As Robert noted, the disc packaging claims that this was "Mastered from the Original 35mm Nitrate Fine Grain," and one would assume this would guarantee a excellent transfer.

    Well, don't believe a word of it. The is an absolutely disappoint transfer from Hal Roach. In fact, it was so bad, I was actually getting nauseous from watching it, and couldn't take it any longer after about 20 minutes. The image is consistently oversoft to the point where it becomes blurry, and it is so distracting that you cannot concentrate on the film itself. And the blurriness begins to hurt your eyes (and brain) after a while, that you'll have to shut it off or face getting sick. Making matters worse, the contrasts are weak,and there is no black scale; everything is grey grey grey. Further, the audio has been recorded extremely low, and I had to turn up the sound far beyond where I normally listen just so I could hear the dialogue. The only "good' thing I can say about this transfer is that it was clean — there was little in the way or dirt or print debris, although a few light small scratches made an appearance from time to time. Overall, it looks like an okay VHS copy at best, but it's hardly a DVD quality transfer — this is the sort of transfer I'd expect from Madacy or similar companies.

    In comparison, I pulled out my previous copy, a laserdisc released by Republic back in 1992. For a 12 year old laserdisc, the transfer was vastly superior to the Hal Roach DVD in every single way. The image was much sharper, just as clear, and had a welcome grain structure. Black levels were black, not grey; and the soundtrack was strong. From what I recall back when I was in regular contact with Republic and was reviewing their laserdisc titles, Republic did in fact transfer many of their LD titles from the best materials they had on hand — quite often they utilized the original negative, or if that wasn't available, they would utilize a fine grain.

    The reason I mention this is because I noticed something very peculiar when I did my side-by-side comparison of the Hal Roach DVD to the Republic LD —— both of these transfers clearly originated from the exact same print source. Both the film and the accompanying trailer had the exact same framing, and even more telling, every single print marking was identical. Every light scratch, every small speck or piece of dirt or debris, everything was identical.

    From all appearances, it looks as if Hal Roach "borrowed" Republic's LD and copied it for use on their own DVD edition. Except that they screwed it up somehow, since all the fine detail has dissolved into a blurry grey mess. Either they weren't able to copy it with all the detail present, or someone purposely applied a blur to the film and adjusted the contrast in an effort to remove all the existing grain structure. I personally vote for the latter.

    As for Hal Roach's statement that their DVD was "mastered from an original 35mm nitrate fine grain" source, they are "technically" telling the truth. This transfer WAS mastered from the 35mm nitrate fine grain — by Republic 12 years ago. Hal Roach doesn't actually claim to have mastered it from the fine grain source themselves — even though they imply it.

    Hal Roach's DVD is a complete disaster, and you should avoid CYRANO DE BERGERAC at all costs. Further, I'm so disappointed at their apparent deceit (i.e. copying Republic's LD), that I'm also going to hold off purchasing all future Hal Roach titles until I have proof of a quality transfer — I no longer trust this company to deliver the goods. They did wonders with their Laurel & Hardy materials, and several other releases, but seem to have lost their touch.

    As for my Republic LD, it's definitely staying in my library — it's still the best copy I've ever seen of this wonderful film. Hopefully, whoever inherits the Republic library (Lion's Gate?) will reissue all these wonderful films via new transfers actually mastered from the original negatives and/or fine grain sources that Republic holds.

    Regards,
     

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