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NPR Talks DVD (1 Viewer)

Michael Harris

Jun 4, 2001
On today's "Morning Edition" there was this story about why classic movies don't always make it to DVD.

Here is the description of the piece from NPR.org:

Story included interviews with folks from Criterion, MGM, etc. It was a nice way to start the day.


Senior HTF Member
Sep 28, 1998
Real Name
Wrong. Guess they don't know about last week's release.

EDIT: More direct link to the specific audio:

Click on the headline or the audio icon to listen to the story using a RealAudio or WindowsMedia player.

Michael Harris

Jun 4, 2001

I would wonder when the story was actually produced. They could have held it and ran it today since it dovetailed nicely with the MGM purchase by Sony.

Lew Crippen

Senior HTF Member
May 19, 2002
I listened to it on my way to work this morning.

One of those interviewed was the head of Criterion.


Nov 26, 2002
I want to share this transcript with you. It's very interesting...
I still hand't post enough threads to posta link to the actual radio broadcast...


A group led by Sony has agreed in principle to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The price tag is roughly $3 billion in cash and $2 billion in debt assumption. If the deal goes through, Sony will acquire thousands of MGM movie titles for its DVD offerings. As DVDs have taken over the home video market, old-fashioned videocassettes have been shoved to the back of stores. But many movies are not yet out on DVD even when they're available on videotapes. And it seems that for every movie, there's a different reason. Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio reports.


Robert Altman's "Brewster McCloud" is not on DVD.

(Soundbite of "Brewster McCloud"; phone ringing)

Unidentified Actor #1: Did you know...

Unidentified Actor #2: Color lab.

Unidentified Actor #3: Did you know...

Unidentified Actor #4: I'm in traffic.

Unidentified Actor #5: Is there a Lieutenant Shaft here?

MOVSHOVITZ: You also can't get several other Altman films, "A Wedding," "Vincent & Theo" or "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean." Alfred Hitchcock's "I Confess" is not on DVD. Astaire and Rogers are missing in action and film noir fans see red because they can't get Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole." One reason is that it takes a lot of work to put a film on DVD. John Kirk, archivist at MGM, points to Sergio Leone's famous western, "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly." When the movie came out in 1966, the American stars were not the ones who dubbed the Italian dialogue into English.

Mr. JOHN KIRK (MGM): So I had to bring in Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach to dub their lines into English and then we got a few other actors to come in and do the other parts and then we had to re-edit the movie. Then it went out theatrically for a while and then we started working on the DVD. Again, Clint Eastwood was brought in, Eli Wallach was brought in, I came in, a bunch of other people came in to do featurettes for the special edition of the DVD.

MOVSHOVITZ: All of that costs a lot of money. Peter Becker, president of the Criterion Collection, a distributor of classic movies on DVD, says that it may cost $25,000 or more to prepare a movie for digital release. And that's if everything goes perfectly, if the film's negative is in perfect condition, if there are no problems over the rights to the film. If not, the cost of a restoration and DVD release can soar to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Becker says his company had a pretty easy time with Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard," because they found a clean negative. But Jean Renoir's 1939 film "The Rules of the Game," considered one of the greatest movies ever made, was a three-year nightmare. The negative was lost in World War II. No one from the production was alive to help. All that Becker and his team could find were fuzzy-looking copies of copies, many generations from the original.

Mr. PETER BECKER (Criterion Collection President): "The Rules of the Game" is a story where all we were trying to do was get our hands on decent film, almost any generation. And the further we went, the more we despaired of finding what we wanted to find. And we ended up finding something that was, in the end, a generation earlier, marginally better than what we had originally intended to use. But that's a film that may not be restorable or preservable in the same way that "The Leopard" has been.

MOVSHOVITZ: The problem of finding a clean negative or even a good print is not restricted to 65-year-old foreign films. One of the most popular movies of all time does not exist in its original form.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars" theme music)

MOVSHOVITZ: Because the demand for "Star Wars" was so huge and so many prints were struck from the 1977 negative, it was used up.

Mr. JIM WARD (Executive Producer of DVD Releases): In this business, success breeds dirt. And every time you use those elements for anything, dirt can accumulate and in this case it had.

MOVSHOVITZ: Jim Ward is the executive producer of the upcoming DVD release of the first three "Star Wars" films. He says this version is actually based on the 1997 theatrical release which producers took to one of Hollywood's most respected restorers.

Mr. WARD: When we worked with him in "Indiana Jones," he found about--let's call it 50 pieces of dirt on every other frame of the original elements. When we handed him "Star Wars," he found about 100 pieces of dirt or scratches on every single frame. And you multiply that by 200,000 frames by three movies, that's about 10 million pieces of dirt and scratches on these elements.

MOVSHOVITZ: A movie half as popular as "Star Wars" would shoot to the top of any studio's DVD release schedule. But a less well-known film, even one considered a classic, can face a long wait before making it to disk.

(Soundbite of "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek")

"NORVAL": What am I supposed to do now? Take you home?

Unidentified Actress: Well, naturally, Norval, since I'm out with you.

"NORVAL": What's your father going to say?

Unidentified Actress: Oh, Papa's probably asleep. We don't have to worry about him.

"NORVAL": I suppose you realize it's 8:00 in the morning.

Unidentified Actress: 8:00, oh, Norville, you shouldn't have kept me out so late.

"NORVAL": I shouldn't have kept you out so late!

MOVSHOVITZ: "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" was one of Preston Sturges' best films, according to his son, Tom. In the 1930s and '40s, the elder Sturges was America's great writer-director of comedies. But Tom Sturges, who's now a vice president at Universal Music Publishing, says that today the Sturges name doesn't guarantee sales for the studio that owns his movies.

Mr. TOM STURGES (Universal Music Publishing): You sell a couple of things to a film company. You have to sell the historical value of the film and you have to sell the importance of the film. But also I think you have to sell that the DVDs going to move a few units, because I don't think anybody wants to put out a movie just to have it sit on a shelf. They want to put out a DVD because they want to add to the value of their library.

MOVSHOVITZ: And there's the irony: commerce is actually driving what amounts to historical preservation. Again, Peter Becker, president of the Criterion Collection.

Mr. BECKER: DVD affords us an opportunity to go back and preserve some films and do right by them and make sure that their images survive in a fairly pristine, digital form. If you think about the commitment that the studios make to the new films that they release every year, and the standards that the customer base, the fans in particular, are setting for these things now, for what they want in terms of extras and supplemental features and all that kind of stuff, and the amount of work a DVD represents compared to putting out, you know, a videocassette in the old days, these companies have transformed themselves in order to be able to satisfy this customer base. It's an enormous amount of work. It's a huge challenge and the marketplace that's been built, I think, is pretty impressive and I think that's part of why the things that are missing stand out so much.

MOVSHOVITZ: And the movie Becker would most like to see on DVD? "Ugetsu Monogatari," by the late Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi, a movie Becker's determined to release even though he knows it won't exactly fly off the shelves.

For NPR News, I'm Howie Movshovitz.

(Soundbite of "Ugetsu Monogatari")

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP (Host): And I'm Steve Inskeep.

John Hodson

Senior HTF Member
Apr 14, 2003
Bolton, Lancashire
Real Name

Er, yes they did as John Kirk knows (but whoever wrote this doesn't). They didn't dub a handful of scenes which were first seen in the Rome premiere, but later excised, then reinstated by Kirk for the recent theatrical run and SE DVD. I hate seeing this on the internet; it soon becomes the 'truth'.


Second Unit
Aug 1, 2004
Er, I wouldn't consider ANY of those Robert Altman films mentioned a "classic," by any means. M*A*S*H, sure. "Nashville"? You bet. But I must have missed the firestorm of time-honored acclaim for "Brewster McCloud" and "A Wedding." And "...Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" was probably the most uninvolving piece of cinema I've ever had to sit through.

Hope no one took that as a threadfart. I just wonder about how normally objective NPR defines a "classic" film, that's all.

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