PQ of Double Indemnity, D.O.A., Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ric Easton, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    Thanks to Warner Bros. and Fox I have been enjoying quite a bit of Film Noir lately. Both "Double Indemnity" and "D.O.A." have been around for awhile and I was just wondering if anyone knows what the quality of these releases are. Are they in bad shape? Also, is there any talk of re-releasing them in the near future? I consider both of these flicks to be mainstays of the genre.

    While not noir, but I was also wondering about the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" since that release has also been out for more than a few years.
     
  2. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    Double Indemnity The print is in pretty bad shape on the DVD, but is still very watchable (IMHO), I'm sure others will disagree, but for a 60+ year old film I can deal with scratches. That said this film is in desperate need of a remastered re-release. Universal has had it on the schedule and then removed it several times, the last time being more than a year ago. Hopefully, this means that they're taking the appropriate amount of time to restore the film and generate quality extras, but with Universal you never can tell.

    D.O.A. I've only seen this film once on VHS years ago, so I don't have any opinion on the DVD quality. I know that there are countless PD releases of this and I'm not sure which studio it originally belonged to.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers I find the current DVD very serviceable, but the rights recently reverted back to Paramount and hopefully we'll get a proper release with some quality extras. I know there is debate about whether the current DVD is OAR or not. Supposedly it was originally shot in 4x3, but theatrically distributed in both formats. The current DVD is 16x9.
     
  3. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The current Invasion of the Body Snatchers '56 DVD is non-anamorphic 2:1. It was shot for Academy Ratio, but cropped to 2:1 SuperScope for release. The decision for the 2:1 framing was made after the film was finished. While it doesn't look horrible (perhaps it was filmed safe for 1.66:1?), it's very clear in a lot of shots that it wasn't framed for 2:1.

    Double Indemnity has been restored by the UCLA Film & TV Archive from the fine-grain positive, so a remastered edition would probably look vastly better. The Image DVD likely did not use this source.
     
  4. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    Thanks guys!

    I'll probably wait a little longer to see if any of them get on a re-release schedule. As for Invasion of the B.S., I can always drag out my old laserdisc if I get the urge.
     
  5. Craig Beam

    Craig Beam Screenwriter

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    The Image version of DOA is the one to get. Seriously, it looks spectacular, especially next to the hideous PD editions floating around out there.
     
  6. Jing_B

    Jing_B Stunt Coordinator

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    Invasion of the B.S.[​IMG] For awhile you lead me suspecting.
     
  7. CameronMcC

    CameronMcC Second Unit

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    TCM is running Double Indemnity on 02/13/05 at 03:30 p.m. if you wanted to see it again.
     
  8. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Craig Beam, wrote:
    I second that, but Image's edition is pretty expensive for a bare-bones PD title. So unless you love the film, you should probably go for one of the better cheapo editions.

    A remastered Double Indemnity was released in the UK last year with a more or less excellent transfer that was unfortunately marred by some artificial sharpening, edge-enhancement, call it what you will. May sees the 100th anniversary of Billy Wilder's birth, so we might see some releases on or shortly after that month, with Ace in the Hole being highy anticipated.
     
  9. Kai Penttila

    Kai Penttila Agent

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    Mr. McCart’s repeatedly expressed view that Invasion of the body snatchers was shot in Academy ratio is debatable, to say the least. This per the monograph Invasion of the body snatchers (Rutgers films in print series, vol. 14), ed. Al LaValley:

    "In December 1955, when [producer] Wanger saw the final cut, he protested about the Superscope format. Although the Superscope format had been part of the early plans for the film, the first Superscope print was not made until December 1955. Wanger felt the film lost sharpness and detail." (Introduction, p. 26)

    I’ve yet to read any words from Don Siegel to the effect that the film was at any time intended to be projected in any ratio other than Superscope.
     
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    This American Cinematographer article by George Turner mentions the change to SuperScope post-shooting:

    http://www.celtoslavica.de/chiaroscu.../invasion.html

    "Wanger was horrified to learn that the Allied execs opted to release the picture in SuperScope, an anamorphic widescreen process introduced by RKO Radio in 1954. It differed from CinemaScope in that the photography was done with normal lenses; the images were squeezed at the printing stage rather than in the camera. Wanger argued that a duped image would not do justice to Dana Wynter’s beauty, that the carefully wrought compositions would be ruined, and that the widescreen effect would make the picture resemble recent inferior anamorphic sci-fi pictures Again, he was overruled – widescreen was considered a "must” at the time due to the perceived competition with television for audiences.

    Incidentally, Wanger was dead right on all counts. The damage caused by this last-minute decision can hardly be exaggerated. Fredericks had composed the picture for the 1.33:1 ratio, and the image-chopping required to obtain the 2:1 ratio needed for SuperScope not only destroyed the compositions, but left important details out of the frame. In addition, the images became grainier when the remaining frame was blown up to fill the wide screens. Only a very good movie could survive such butchery; somehow, Body Snatchers did."


    A lot of shots are just composed in such a way that 2:1 just isn't viable:

    [​IMG]

    The framing is tight and the positioning of the actors is awkward. If it was in Academy Ratio, the composition of the actors would be perfect.

    Now, 1.66:1 may also work, but it would still look awkward on some of the closeups. The lighter parts of the black bars are where image would be visible at the 1.66:1 ratio. As you can see, the framing would be a lot better than the 2:1.

    [​IMG]

    With a lot of films shot in Academy Ratio, you could probably crop to 2:1 while it still looks "normal"...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Even a 1.66:1 film could look decent at 2:1...

    [​IMG]

    ... it just doesn't mean it's the intended framing. [​IMG]
     
  11. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    Doesn't sound debatable to me, to say the least. Sounds like Patrick and Walter are correct. SuperScope was a bad decision. And to make matters worse, there's the further cropped version that played on TV and VHS.
     
  12. Kai Penttila

    Kai Penttila Agent

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    If I remember correctly, the sole source for The American Cinematographer article is Wanger and it represents his views (false memories?). The editor of the Invasion of the body snatchers book has researched his subject extensively and I tend to give him more credence in this matter.

    That one single frame from Invasion is hardly conclusive evidence. Shots are composed differently for different aspect ratios; to say that you would prefer to see more headroom in a certain scope frame, does not necessarily mean that the frame was actually composed for one of the narrower ratios. Take a look at the extreme close-ups of eyes in the Leone Techniscope westerns — they are pretty tightly framed and meant that way.
     
  13. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    in all my years of watching the widescreen IOTBS, i can't say that i have ever ben bothered by a sense of the compositions being 'off' or compromised.
    in fact, the nature of the film is such that awkwardness in its compositions, including a cramped feeling in medium and closeups, etc probably subtly works to the films advantage.

    in any case, from what i seem to recall, finding the original uncropped footage is a goal up there with finding the silent London After Midnight or or the pre-code Convention City.
    i could be wrong about that, but it seems like the full screen versions that have been going around for years are cropped from the superscope prints. if the original AR prints were out there, wouldn't we have seen them in years past?

    i just want at the very least, an anamorphic transfer, and more preferably (and more unlikely for now) a Bd issue of the film.
     
  14. Mark Edward Heuck

    Mark Edward Heuck Screenwriter

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    I'll eat a pod if I'm wrong, but I had thought Criterion at one time located the fullscreen element and planned to offer both versions on laserdisc.

    Wouldn't it be nice if Paramount sprung to license the commentaries and features Criterion prepared for SNATCHERS, HIGH NOON, and the few other Republic properties they released on laserdisc?
    Of course it'll never happen, but it would be nice.
     
  15. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Whew! Okay.

    Films composed for 2:1 SuperScope utilised the larger 1.33:1 silent aperture which measured 0.6795 inches high by 0.9062 inches wide. The 1.37:1 Academy 'sound' aperture is 0.602 x 0.825 inches. In projection, the framing is scaled down/cropped, though.

    So, if one was to measure the frames on the original camera negative of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and found it to be 0.602 by 0.825 inches (1.37:1) then that would be sufficient proof that film was never concieved or composed on set for 2:1 SuperScope.

    If the frame dimensions are 0.6795 by 0.9062 then it will be conclusive proof that the film was intended for SuperScope 2:1 extraction.

    So, the original camera negatives for Invasion of the Body Snatchers will either have an aspect ratio of 1.33 or 1.37.

    SuperScope prints (for cinemas) were anamorphic with framing dimensions of 0.715 x 0.715 which yielded the 2:1 screen ratio when unsqueezed in the projector.

    If the camera negative is the only element that is 1.33/1.37 then it might explain a lot. What if all new prints were made from a hard-matted 2:1 dupe neg and all video transfers were made a hard-matted 2:1 fine grain master positive?

    If the O-neg stills exists and is in good shape, then I feel that any new DVD edition should be created thus:

    - Digitally restored, high-definition, progressive transfer made from the original camera negative in the never-before-seen unmatted 1.33:1 ratio

    - Digitally restored, high-definition, progressive transfer made from the original camera negative in the theatrical 2:1 SuperScope ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions


    Martin Hart at the Widescreen Museum states that the film wasn't shot in SuperScope: www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/wingss4.htm
     
  16. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

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    And I agree with you, Gordon! That would be wonderful.

    Doug
     
  17. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I'm pretty sure the camera negative is listed on Paramount's film preservation list. Only the duplicate negative (perhaps only prints were made optical through the negative?) would have the SuperScope 2:1 image.

    Leone's films we are 100% certain are framed correctly because there's ONLY the 2.35:1 image. And his compositions are always perfect. In the 2:1 Body Snatchers, it really looks awkward. One frame isn't a good indicator, but it just feels wrong.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to offer both, but it would be neat to have a short featurette explaining the post-production alteration.

    Records show us that a lot of SuperScope films were never meant for 2:1 and we even have an article by George Turner (a very reputable source) mentioning how Walter Wanger says the film never intended to be 2:1. So, we basically have to believe that Walter Wanger was wrong and believe the film was really meant to have Sergio Leone style framing.


    Well, some people thought Tim Burton was making a homage to Fellini by Pee-Wee's Big Adventure having the hole visible when a chain is being pulled out of a bicycle's cargo box or visible tracks pushing signs down. It's because of wrong framing! Showing too much or too little can mess with the composition and intent of a shot really badly.
     
  18. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Patrick McCart, wrote:

    What - this list? It isn't listed, but that list hasn't been updated in ages. Their boffins have surely inspected the Body Snatchers elements, though.

    The announcement I am most looking forward to in 2006 is Paramount's first batch of Republic titles. Will they start with the big ones - High Noon, etc?

    Thanks, Patrick. [​IMG]
     
  19. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Well, for example, there's "Jet Pilot". Released in 1957, but it was filmed in 1949! Cropped to 2:1 regardless.

    Fantasia was re-released in SuperScope. Obvious explaination here.

    Fritz Lang's "While the City Sleeps" was released in SuperScope in 1956. Given how he didn't like widescreen, we can pretty much infer that it wasn't shot for 2:1. Especially since his "Indian Epic" films were released 3 years later in Academy Ratio. "Widescreen is only good for filming snakes and funeral caskets"

    Son of Sinbad was shot in 1953 and released two years later in SuperScope. Most likely not made for 2:1 (especially since it was shot before Vera Cruz was - the first SS release).



    Vera Cruz seems like it was really shot for 2:1, though.
     
  20. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Hah! Jet Pilot was filmed in 1949? I did not know that. Madness to release it in SuperScope. Isn't the Goodtimes DVD 1.85:1 letterbox?

    Lang's, While the City Sleeps example is probably the best example. I cannot image Lang yielding to pressure to compose in 2:1 - he was a single-minded tyrant. But in a good way, of course!

    Son of Sinbad was shot in '53? Interesting.

    I am begining to get the feeling that Body Snatchers was composed in and for 1.37:1 Academy ratio only. What a situation!
     

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