A Few Words About A few words about... Dodge City

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I've taken a very quick advance peek at Warner Home Video's new Errol Flynn Collection which arrives on store shelves and in mailboxes shortly.

    Picking a single title from the collection as representative, I selected Dodge City (1939), directed by Michael Curtiz.

    Something that must be kept in mind is that the set is streeting at or below $45. That's less than $9 per film with the bonus disc thrown in.

    I felt the need to mention this because one might make an incorrect assumption that quality may have been allowed to slip to hit a price point.

    It hasn't.

    Dodge City was one of only ten feature films to be photographed in the new three-strip Technicolor process for release in 1939. Another was The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, also in the collection. This was an expensive and intricate process with original nitrate elements having been used again and again in the intervening 66 years.

    Dodge City is a beautifully rendered representation of what a Technicolor film of the era should look like -- only sharper and more detailed than was ever seen during that era. Dodge City has not gone through the digital clean-up given to some of the other Warner releases, but the film does not suffer for it.

    What you are allowed to see are occasional yellow, cyan and magenta bits of damage or detritus that have become part of the film over the years -- some part of it from day one. Nothing disturbing image, and all part of the film.

    If you move forward on a frame by frame basis, you'll be able to see that the three records seldom registred at splices, something normal for the process, as the records have literally been knocked out of any possible registration.

    In short, the film looks as perfect as one might expect from Warner, without the extra (and exceedingly expensive) digital work.

    As has been the recent Warner concept, Dodge City comes with a Night at the Movies, hosted by Leonard Maltin, ie. short, trailer and cartoon. In this case, Warner again, trumps the package by throwing in one of the few three-strip shorts of the era, the 1939 Sons of Liberty, the story of Hayn Salomon, who helped finance the American Revolution.

    The short is the perfect choice, as it not only won the Academy Award, but was also directed by Michael Curtiz.

    From this quick look at a single film, (and an even quicker look at a few moments of Elizabeth and Essex), I'm pleased to state that Warner has again knocked one out of the home video ballpark.

    The Errol Flynn Collection gets my highest recommendation. These film are worth their weight in gold.

    RAH
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Thank you Robert; this set contains some of my favourite films of all time. I can hardly wait...
     
  3. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    I have had it pre-orderd sine the end of Feb! The "Night At The Movies", price point and documentary all enticed me to buy this blind, but now Mr. Harris has put it over the top!

    Awesome news!
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I echo John's sentiments about his thank you and the boxset. Everytime, I see the visuals of this beautiful film, I wish even more that Warner gave "Virginia City" the same Technicolor process. I'm sure the reason why was due to cost same reason why "The Sea Hawk" wasn't given it.

    Robert,
    Do you know what the round about figure would've been for Warner to film either of those films in the 3-strip Technicolor process?





    Crawdaddy
     
  5. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    I am so excited about seeing this collection very shortly

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Films shot in the three-strip Technicolor process were not only selected for the process and for budgetary reasons, but also based upon the contractual availability of cameras, which was limited

    Warner Brothers had few Technicolor productions, and used their abilities wisely. WB had two Technicolor productions in 1939, none in 1940, one in 1941, one in ' 42, one in '43, one is '44, one in '45, 2 in '46.

    The majority of the cameras were in use at M-G-M and Fox.

    RAH
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Besides the contractural issues with the cameras, Warner Brothers were known for being cheap with the dollar. It's too bad because they had some films that would've looked great in that color process besides Dive Bomber, Captain of the Clouds, This is the Army and the few other titles I can't think of and I'm not talking about what's already been released on dvd.





    Crawdaddy
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I've always felt that Yankee Doodle Dandy would have been "glorious" in Technicolor.

    RAH
     
  9. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Thanks for your insight, Mr. Harris. [​IMG]
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A perfect example.





    Crawdaddy
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    After viewing Dodge City, it became apparent that an additonal point or two were necessary regarding the Technicolor process and what you'll be seeing on the DVD.

    The process was modified somewhat during the early days of the three-strip era, as far as the color pallette as well as the way in which what later would be printer functions were handled in the duping process toward the creation of printing matrices.

    In Dodge City every fade in and out, and every dissolve are handled as dupes, which means that the three original negatives, which had to be meticulously registered, were duped to master stock and then back to three negatives inclusive of the optical effects.

    With additional movement and registration problems exascerbated via the process, Dodge City becomes a perfect example of what a well-produced DVD from the era looks like without intensive shot by shot registration techniques, either analogue or digital.

    This will become more obvious on larger monitors and projection units.

    Something else must also be brought into perspective.

    Because the new element used for the transfer was created with modern optics and printing techniques, it is much sharper than anything produced in the era of production, which makes these anomolies stand out even more than they ordinarily would.

    There is nothing wrong with the way that this DVD has been produced, nor with the way in which the elements have been handled. What you're seeing is simply one of the realities of the Technicolor beast of that era.

    The film holds up beautifully as one of the first major big budget westerns in an era when most were relegated to "B" status.

    RAH
     
  12. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Thank you Robert; I assume you meant to write 'color westerns'?
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    What I should have written and now have corrected was "A" westerns with a major budget.
     
  14. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    I agree. Even though I have no complaints about the look of the film, or the DVD, it should have gotten the Technicolor treatment. How Jack Warner could fail to give Cagney's project the royal treatment after everything Cagney had done for the studio is beyond me.

    After reading Cagney's biography, it is clear to me that WB never quite understood Cagney. It's been a while since I read his bio, but I'm guessing that WB never thought people would want to see Cagney in a musical, and therefore they would lose money on the film. One thing's for certain, Jack Warner and Cagney hated each other. And I'm sure that didn't help the chances for a Technicolor production. Too bad.
     
  15. RobertGr

    RobertGr Second Unit

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    Mr. Harris

    As always your information is outstanding regarding "the classics." I have the old MGM/UA videotape of DODGE CITY and I am eagerly waiting for my Errol Flynn Box to arrive as to enjoy the eye candy of DODGE CITY and PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX.

    I think an important fact about the why's of how what films would be filmed in TECHNICOLOR is not being mentioned. If you go back to press coverage of the time most reviewers would complain about the eye strain that resulted from the over the top colors in the films. So most studios were ver cautious to face that criticism on more films that could be hampered by the critics saying the color work hust the eyes. Amazing as today we all consider them glorious! I guess it was that the public was just used to black and white.


    I would love to make a suggestion to you for a film you should try to restore - THE QUIET MAN it would be glorious if restored properly. It is such a great looking film but suffers from terrible prints. If you could restore it off of the original negatives it should really be stunning!

    Best wishes

    RobertGR
     
  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The Quiet Man was properly restored by Robert Gitt of The UCLA Film & Television Archive several years ago. The problem with the film is not the elements.

    RAH
     
  17. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    The transfer on both Quiet Man DVDs issued to date appears to be the same basic one that has been around since the 40th Anniversary laserdisc and VHS release from 1992. It shares all of the same problems. This title hasn't ever been done justice on home video, and I'm hoping that Paramount has it on their short list of Republic titles to reissue.

    Regards,
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The DVD of The Quiet Man is a fine VHS quality transfer from a high contrast sub-par source.

    Pure garbage and unworthy of discussion.

    RAH
     

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