DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Black Swan - Studio Classics #38

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Jun 29, 2006.

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  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    THE BLACK SWAN
    STUDIO CLASSICS COLLECTION #38


    [​IMG]
    Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Film Year: 1942
    Length: 85 minutes
    Genre: Adventure/Romance

    Aspect Ratio:
    1.33:1

    Colour/B&W: Technicolor

    Audio:
    English [​IMG] [​IMG] 2.0 mono

    English [​IMG] [​IMG] 2.0 stereo

    Spanish [​IMG] [​IMG] 2.0 mono

    French [​IMG] [​IMG] 2.0 mono


    Subtitles: English & Spanish
    Canadian Film Rating: [​IMG]

    U.S. Film Rating: [​IMG]
    U.S. SRP: $11.98
    CDN SRP: $16.98

    [​IMG] [​IMG]






    Release Date: July 11, 2006.


    Film Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Starring: Tyrone Power (Jamie Waring), Maureen O’Hara (Lady Margaret Denby), Laird Cregar (Captain Sir Henry Morgan), Thomas Mitchell (Tom Blue), George Sanders (Captain Billy Leech)

    Novel by: Rafael Sabatini
    Screenplay by: Seton I. Miller & Ben Hecht
    Directed by: Henry King



    Seas Ablaze...with black villainy, with fiery romance, with breathless deeds of daring…in the era of Love, Gold and Adventure!


    After a long absence from the marketplace, Fox is continuing their Studio Classics collection once again beginning with three titles on July 11th, 2006. The Black Swan is numbered where the collection left off last coming in at #38. As a collector it’s good to see these titles have consistency in terms of packaging and order. It’s also great to see that it’s consistent with the quality restorations we’ve seen from Fox because The Black Swan is absolutely stellar. It won’t take a pirate’s sword to the face to make your jaw drop.

    July is the month of the pirates as we’ll see the theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean (2): Dead Man’s Chest and the DVD release of The Black Swan. Starring Tyrone Power as Jamie, the reformed pirate, and Maureen O’Hara as the ever-so-stubborn Lady Margaret, daughter of Lord Denby, past Lord of Jamaica.

    It’s 1674 and Jamaica has changed; Captain Morgan has taken control as the new governor. He vows to wipe the Caribbean clean of pirates who sail on The Black Swan and refuse to take side with England’s desire for peace. The only way to do this is to hire reformed pirates such as Jamie to make sure that the Caribbean stays safe. Jamie, who respects Captain Morgan, wilfully accepts the job but is also sidetracked by the hot-headed Lady Margaret. The adventure turns wild as Jamie kidnaps her from her soon-to-be husband and takes her to sea where pirates run the waters and all is unpredictable and unforgiving!


    [​IMG]VIDEO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I think I’ve been shot at by a pirate ship’s cannon because I’m blown away with the video quality of this film! This is probably one of the most remarkable images I’ve seen on a classic title in a while. Two million dollars in restoration costs and 40 man hours of digital restoration, the results are very clear to my eyes.

    The opening scenes of the pirate battle ships firing at each other are bright, vibrant in colour and detail, and have a level of 3-D that I haven’t seen in a classic film for a while. I really couldn’t believe how good this film looked. All I could do was hope it stayed this way through the whole film! I wasn’t disappointed! When the opening credits came up on screen, it reminded me of my impressions when watching high definition DVD. The text seems to float close to the screen far away from the action in the background. I can’t say I’ve ever had this feeling on SD-DVD before. The red lettering was without a hint of noise or colour bleeding – something I was very afraid of before putting in this old Technicolor film. Apparently a CRI (Color Reversal Internegative) was one of the only surviving elements. This CRI was oversaturated with colour but a colour-corrected answer print was made to create a new interpositive for digital cleanup in HD.

    The film makes a transition to night scenes and each of them are solid in back level and there is excellent shadow detail as every shade of dark grey is noiseless and detailed. Details in the image are also fabulous – every whisker on the face of the character Tommy can be counted and the intricate frayed fabrics on Jamie’s red coat is in full view.

    Interior scenes look just a hair less vibrant than the outdoor scenes. For some shots, a fraction of the far far far right of the picture is slightly out or focus compared to the middle and the left of the picture. I believe this is due to the original photography.

    I am going to say that the cleanup on this film is nearly perfect. Not once did I ever catch a speck of dirt, a scratch, a tear – not a single distracting artefact was visible during my viewing. Even film grain was virtually absent along with digital compression artefacts and edge enhancement. By far, this has been one of the most pleasing pictures I’ve seen to date and the film’s cinematography (winning an Academy Award in 1942) is reproduced justly on DVD.


    [​IMG]AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Like the picture, this is one the better sounding mono recordings I’ve heard too. The dialogue is intelligible; it has body to it and doesn’t sound tinny or frail. The sound effects have some dynamics to them and even the music can have a bit of bass punching at the right moments. There is no background hiss at reference level and the audio isn’t really strident at the level either. My only real complaint is with the original musical soundtrack: I feel Alfred Newman’s music is out of place in many scenes. When dialogue critical to the film happens between characters, music is ho-humming away in the background as if someone accidentally left a radio on in the background. The recorded music doesn’t fit at all and I’d apply the theory of “silence is best” at these points.

    My advice is to stay with the original mono recording option. The fake stereo option is thinner and unfocussed as the sound is splashed around the front channels.


    [​IMG]SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Just a few features found on this disc. Historians will love the audio commentary by Maureen O’Hara and film historian Rudy Behlmer. As you can imagine, these two talk about all they can remember about this film as well as other bits of information about the people involved. It’s definitely worth the listen. The film’s theatrical trailer as well as a restoration comparison is included.


    IN THE END…

    As I said before, I am amazed at this release and I can’t wait to get to the other two titles in this newest wave of Studio Classics. Even though I found the film to be a little slow for the first half hour, the rest picked up the speed and excitement and it was nothing but eye-candy all the way to Tortuga. Aye, DVD pirates! (not the criminal ones!)

    Michael Osadciw
    June 29, 2006.
     
  2. Pete York

    Pete York Supporting Actor
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    Wow, that seems like an impressive number to me. Congratulations to Fox on committing to this and thank you very much to Michael for the review.
     
  3. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Classic swashbuckler, thanks for the review, looking forward to seeing the results of 40 man hours of digital restoration. [​IMG]
     
  4. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

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    If it wasn't for Fox and Warner, we wouldn't have any classic films to enjoy on DVD.
     
  5. JohnPM

    JohnPM Second Unit

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  6. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks Michael for a well written review. I've not seen this movie before, but from your description and a look at the cast list it looks like one I will look forward to seeing.

    Did Fox really spend $2 million on restoring this one title? That's roughly 5 times what Warners spent on the Searchers.

    Steve
     
  7. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Directly from the press release:


    It must be true! (and I believe it!!)

    ...I'm glad you liked the review...I'm shifting to more detail in the A/V descriptions.


    Bradley_E, you are correct - we should be giving Fox and Warner a big pat on the back. Who knows where these films would end up or what shape they'd be in if this work was never done. They would be lost treasures...

    Mike
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Fox is being coy.

    I'm told that they actually spent closer to five million dollars restoring the film.

    And Kudos to them!

    RAH
     
  9. Mike*HTF

    Mike*HTF Supporting Actor

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    Nice review, Michael. What is the price point?
     
  10. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Kudos indeed. They will never make this back selling this DVD for $10 apiece (the current Amazon and likely in store price) so investing to preserve part of their history in most commendable.

    All the more reason to support releases like this.

    Steve
     
  11. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Mike,

    It's U.S. SRP is $11.98, CDN $16.98. I know I see these on the shelves in Ontario for $9.99 - they are a steal.

    Mike
     
  12. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Can't wait to get this. I recorded CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE off the Fox Movie Channel the other day and am watching it now. It's only whetted my appetite for more Tyrone Power in color. I've never seen THE BLACK SWAN.
     
  13. ChrisRose

    ChrisRose Stunt Coordinator

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    Love Maureen O'Hara... never seen this movie...can't wait! [​IMG] I'm loving FOX lately, with the amount of work/money they're putting into their DVDs, the cool extras, etc. My only disappointment about the continuation of the Studio Classics line is...no original poster art, like they've been doing with their Classic Cinema & Marquee Musicals lines. Or lobby cards, I assume. Ah well.

    Oh, one more concern - There's a french language track? Eep. Does that mean we'll be getting bilingual artwork here in Canada? I should've ordered it from Amazon.com, not .ca ...
     
  14. Richard M S

    Richard M S Supporting Actor

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    If you have never seen this film you will be in for a treat. The Black Swan is the kind of film they just don't make anymore, (and I know that "The Pirates of the Carribean" sequel is being released this week.)

    Fox really deserves major praise for cleaning this so well, it is a film with stunning photography. Plus with Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara as the leads, and with Maureen O'Hara's commentary, well you cannot go wrong with this purchase IMO.
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Ms. O'Hara's commentary track, in the form of a continuous interview, is one of the best to have appeared on any form of home video. The details of production and her personal reminiscences, are priceless.

    As to the number of man hours involved in the film's digital restoration, I would surmise that it would be upward of 4,000, not the 400 noted.

    "A rock is a rock, a tree is a tree. Shoot it in Griffith Park."

    RAH
     
  16. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    Considering the number of years that the restoration has been going on and the length of the actual movie (85 minutes), the amount of money --be it five nillion or two million dollars--is truly amazing. Has there been any word or movement on CAPTAIN FROM CASTILLE, BLOOD AND SAND, PONY SOLDIER, UNTAMED, THE BLACK ROSE, I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU, Fritz Lang's AMERICAN GUERILLA IN THE PHILLIPINES, KING OF THE KHYBER RIFLES? Or the black-&-whiters THIS ABOVE ALL, SON OF FURY, PRINCE OF FOXES? Power's films were always a bit more earnest than Flynn's, but their camerawork was consistently brilliant (Cardiff, Shamroy, Palmer, Rennahan), and I certainly am looking forward to the forthcoming JESSE JAMES and THE SUN ALSO RISES.

    Were their any pamphlets in THE BLACK SWAN detailing forthcoming Studio Classics releases?
     
  17. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer

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    Having never seen this film (?!), this will be a blind buy for me, and I am really looking forward to it. Even more so after reading here about the restoration, of which I was unaware. Thanks guys!
     
  18. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

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    This was always a treat to watch on Sunday afternoon UHF showings. I can't wait to see it in all of its Technicolor splendor on this new DVD.
     
  19. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Yes this will be a blind buy as well for me
     
  20. JohnRa

    JohnRa Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review. I am really looking forward to seeing this one. I heard (on TCM, I think) that "The Black Swan" is considered the most beautiful US Technicolor movie. "Black Narcissus" was picked as best British Technicolor. Having seen that one multiple times and agreeing that it is a stunner makes me even more eager to see "The Black Swan."
     

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