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A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Miracle Worker -- in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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Arthur Penn's 1962 The Miracle Worker, the tale of the young Helen Keller, was an extraordinary achievement upon release, and has lost none of its power in the intervening decades.

The film was based upon the drama by William Gibson, which first appeared in 1957 as a live episode of Playhouse 90, with Teresa Wright and Patty McCormack in the roles of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.

The work arrived on Broadway in 1959, with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft recreating their roles of the film.

Photographed in a generally high-key style, by Ernesto Caparros, it has been transferred to Blu-ray by MGM, and released via Olive Films.

Image-wise, the Blu-ray is quite lovely, with a transfer that appears to be from a dupe, but with nice blacks, decent grain, etc. A bit too much dirt, but you know what they say about "age related artifacts."

The problem here, and it really is a problem, is the track, which sounds to have come from an improperly made track neg, with far too much hiss, background noise, and occasional sibilance in dialogue that not only becomes grating to the ears, but takes one out of the experience of viewing a extraordinary film, with two of the finest performances of that (or any) era.

I have trouble believing that the audio would have been this bad, even if the film was made back in the terrible old days before magnetic recording.

The film won two Academy Awards. Anne Bancroft for Best Actress and Patty Duke, Supporting Role.

Image - 4.25

Audio - 2.5

4k Up-rez - 4.5

Pass / Fail - Fail

The film is Very Highly Recommended. The disc is not.

RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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The audio being the problem is interesting as I'll keep that in mind when I view my disc this week.
 
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haineshisway

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I remember when we transferred the track of Nudie Musical at Fotokem, and it was exactly as you described this and we were going to have to spend several thousands to clean it up until some enterprising person put it up on an older machine and voila - perfect.
 

PMF

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Hmmmm ..... why do I suspect this will eventually show up as one of Olive's "Signature" series, this time with the sound restored properly. :( I'll wait.
For a moment there, I was of the belief that the "Signature" series had set a precedence and delivered Olive into the big leagues; not just for that banner, but for all of their discs and transfers across the boards.
It wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that Thomas T has recognized a future pattern.
As for the "The Miracle Worker", itself? It represents two of the finest no-holds-barred sparring performances in film history. Spontanious, immediate and altogether alive, with nary a false note.
Hey there, Thomas T...I'll be waiting, too; waiting for a "Miracle", that is.
 
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Stephen PI

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Track negatives were never intended to be used for direct transfer in home video. The tell-tale signs are as RAH describes. But this is not new. This has been going on for years. Post houses convince clients to side step going to the expense of creating a positive optical print from a lab and instead transferring and processing directly from the optical neg. Unless improvements have been made more recently, I can usually tell when track negs have been used a mile away and usually avoid them if I know ahead of time when one has been used. Some studios will go to the expense to make a pos track but unfortunately its use has spread like a disease and has been used on more titles than people realize.
 

Robert Harris

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Track negatives were never intended to be used for direct transfer in home video. The tell-tale signs are as RAH describes. But this is not new. This has been going on for years. Post houses convince clients to side step going to the expense of creating a positive optical print from a lab and instead transferring and processing directly from the optical neg. Unless improvements have been made more recently, I can usually tell when track negs have been used a mile away and usually avoid them if I know ahead of time when one has been used. Some studios will go to the expense to make a pos track but unfortunately its use has spread like a disease and has been used on more titles than people realize.

You speak the truth.

And cost is not a major factor, as track positives (I know you know this) are produced up/down, meaning track printed on both sides of image.
 
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Tom St Jones

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AFAIK this is the film's premiere Blu-ray release. Dunno how many people out there are aware this year is the 55th anniversary of the film, or if Olive released it now to coincide with this, but it really seems like it should have been as a Signature edition the first time around. This film's core fan/ buying demographic (mostly Boomers, I wld guess) is not getting larger with each passing year. Unless they're waiting to see how the current 'Signatures' fare, seems like a real missed opportunity.
 
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Dick

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What's up, Olive? Pretty crumb track record lately, and you're losing customers fast. Would you re-do THE MIRACLE WORKER as a good-faith effort? Any Olive reps frequent this forum?
 

PMF

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Great news about Olive recalling "Father Goose" and "Operation Petticoat" over matters to do with Encoding.
Wouldn't it be wonderful news if something could also be done about "The Miracle Worker" and its tracks?
 

Mike Boone

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As RAH said, Arthur Penn's The Miracle Worker was an extraordinary achievement when it came out in 1962. (And, no doubt, would still be an extraordinary achievement today.) Being only 11 when I first saw the film, back in 1962, just how extraordinary a creation The Miracle Worker is, was not fully appreciated by yours truly, though I recall the film entirely engaging my attention, throughout its length.

And because it's been at least 4 or 5 decades since my last viewing of the film, I really regret seeing that Mr Harris is not able to extend one of his full throated recommendations concerning The Miracle Worker's Blu-ray incarnation.

But not knowing, until today, of RAH's review of the Blu-ray, or even that The Miracle Worker had been issued in the format, gives me one of those eerie feelings that one sometimes experiences. Just 2 days ago, I was at a friend's house giving her a dozen DVDs of movies I had updated to the Blu-ray versions. And somehow, the subject of Helen Keller came up. And in a most inarticulate way, I struggled to explain just how extraordinary of an achievement that it certainly also was, that Helen Keller, who lacked any sight or hearing ability, after she was 16 months of age, could have accomplished the seemingly impossible task of not only learning to understand what people were trying to communicate to her, but eventually, Miss Keller was able to gain the ability to write, and have books published, and was even able to learn to speak, enabling her to give presentations to audiences. On Monday, it occurred to me that Helen Keller must have possessed such a tremendous intellect, that my own level of sophistication would be like that of a caveman, if compared to that of Miss Keller.

On Monday I told my friend that she needs to view The Miracle Worker to see a vivid recreation of what still strikes me as a genuine miracle, that Anne Sullivan was able to break through the barriers of darkness and silence that imprisoned Miss Keller, and help her to begin to understand her world. But unfortunately, as I mentioned to my friend on Monday, The Miracle Worker isn't included in our film collection, on any type of format.

Those who love the film can only hope that some people seriously devoted to presenting films in the most pure form possible, such as the folks at the Criterion Collection, will be afforded their own chance to devote their efforts and expertise on behalf of creating a quality Blu-ray edition of The Miracle Worker.
 
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Stephen_J_H

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I remember when we transferred the track of Nudie Musical at Fotokem, and it was exactly as you described this and we were going to have to spend several thousands to clean it up until some enterprising person put it up on an older machine and voila - perfect.
Were you transferring from audio negative or positive? I'm curious.
 

haineshisway

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We first tried the optical negative, which came out horribly. Then we tried a print and that was horrible. I believe he took the print and put it on an older reader and that did the trick.
 

Alan Tully

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Yup, I had all sorts of problems with negative optical tracks, they have no bottom, they sound thin & in the worse case, sibilant, & things can be made a lot worse by playing a mono track on a stereo optical reader. When I was doing some work at Deluxe in London a few years ago (work is a thing of the past these days), I had some problems with neg opt tracks (old newsreels), but it was a very well equipped facility with quite a choice of optical heads mono & stereo, & yes, there was a huge difference between them (a mono opical reader on a mag follower {a Sondor I think} sounded the best). In the "old" days it wasn't much of a problem, just get an up/down print made, you could even use out of date print stock. I'd have thought this problem would be old news & fixed somehow by now, but it seems not.
 
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Robert Crawford

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The Beaver says the audio on this film sounds wonderful... What’s up with that?
Not surprising as many issues RAH brings up, many of us wouldn't notice an issue or at least, it wouldn't bother us as much. I'll have my disc this week so I can't wait to watch and listen to it.
 

Matt Hough

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I'll have mine very soon as well. The film has ranked in my top five of all time for most of my adult life, so I'm anxious to see an above average presentation.
 

Richard V

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A rare fail from RAH. Sad, because as he said, the film itself is quite excellent.
 

Robert Harris

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Gotta love the irony of a film about Helen Keller that has audio that's unintelligible.

I'll get my coat.

Please do not misread my comments.

The audio is in no way “unintelligible.”

It has the characteristic sibilance, and noise levels of being derived from the wrong element.

Many people will not notice the problem.

Which does not excuse the fact that it’s there.
 

Josh Steinberg

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The problem here, and it really is a problem, is the track, which sounds to have come from an improperly made track neg, with far too much hiss, background noise, and occasional sibilance in dialogue that not only becomes grating to the ears, but takes one out of the experience of viewing a extraordinary film

I recall the audio being similarly problematic on Olive's release of The Grass Is Greener - different film and different story I'm sure, but the same disappointing end result of something not sounding as good as it could or should.
 

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