Problematic Transfers: COMEDY OF TERRORS / EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jeff Krispow, Sep 1, 2003.

  1. Jeff Krispow

    Jeff Krispow Stunt Coordinator

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    As I'm sure many of you know, MGM recently released a slew of horror classics on August 26. Unfortunately, I have already discovered problems with two of those titles — THE COMEDY OF TERRORS and AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE — as follows.

    In another general thread, someone mentioned that MGM's recent release of COMEDY OF TERRORS had been edited, and was missing a sequence. I just wanted to confirm that this is absolutely correct!

    First off, I have to say that this transfer of THE COMEDY OF TERRORS is gorgeous — it has never looked better. Unfortunately, the transfer as it appears on the DVD is edited. It is missing a short, very funny scene, that is the conclusion of a long-running gag sequence in the film.

    To corroborate this, I did a comparison between this DVD and the previous Image/MGM laserdisc edition. The footage definitely appears on the laserdisc, but not on the new DVD. The footage that has been cut is only 1 second in length — it appears on the laserdisc from 50:09 - 50:10 (Side 1), and should have been inserted into the DVD at 49:18.

    The scene in question takes place during the sequence where Vincent Price and Peter Lorre are attempting to keep a supposedly-dead Basil Rathbone inside his coffin. Price and Lorre finally "succeed" by both sitting on top of the coffin. On the DVD, this scene immediately cuts to one of Price and Lorre suddenly hitting the floor for no apparent reason.

    The gag that has been cut from the DVD as follows:

    Rathbone's character is obviously still alive, because he suddenly pushes the coffin lid upward with all his might, and you see Price and Lorre flying up and backwards onto the floor.

    This is an absolutely hilarious gag, and one of the funniest moments in the entire film — it is also a fairly-important linking conclusion to this sequence, and there is no excuse for it to be cut from the DVD. It is also noticeable that something was cut on the DVD at this point, because a music cue was affected. The missing scene was the beginning of this quick music cue, but because it was cut, the music just suddenly "appears" halfway through the cue and sounds off.

    [​IMG] great…

    [c]* * * * *[/c]

    Next up is AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, which MGM seriously dropped the ball on. I was very much looking forward to this DVD edition, but unfortunately your transfer leaves much to be desired since it utilized incorrect, substandard source materials.

    AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE was originally a videotaped production — it was shot entirely on videotape, NOT on film. However, the show also exists in substandard 16mm versions — AIP had a number of these 16mm prints made so that they could distribute it to TV stations as part of their "Poe" syndication package (a wise business-decision, considering that most stations couldn't show videotapes back then). The show airs every so often on AMC and the Sci-Fi Channel in an excellent transfer made directly from that original videotape source.

    Unfortunately, MGM opted to master their DVD from one of these inferior 16mm dupes rather than the superior videotape masters. The image is overly soft, ill-defined, grainy. That this was a 16mm source is made obvious not only because of the poorer quality, but because it contains minor print-related defects (i.e. specks, dirt) that don't exist with videotaped sources. While I have no doubt that this was MGM's best 16mm source, it still pales in comparison to the actual videotape source materials.

    It is my understanding that the original master videotape sources still exist and are in perfectly usable condition. Again, the show repeatedly airs on both AMC (and occasionally hit the Sci-Fi Channel), in a transfer made from the original tape master, and it shows — a very sharp, crisp, clearly-defined image with decent color considering its source. It looks very different, and vastly superior, to the new DVD presentation.

    This is a horrible oversight on MGM's behalf. From all appearances, it seems as if the person(s) in charge of AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE did not realize that it was originally a videotape production, assumed it was shot on film, and just never looked for the original videotaped sources. I honestly do not believe that they would knowingly used such inferior sources otherwise.

    I am also unsure as to why nobody caught this mistake while the DVD was being mastered, especially sice MGM licensed and provided the superior transfers shown on AMC and Sci-Fi that did utilize the original videotape source.

    I've never personally seen one of these 16mm versions prior to this DVD edition, and I wish I never did — transferring video onto 16mm film back in 1969 was somewhat of a rarity, and too much of the video definition was lost in the translation. That "crisp" video quality has vanished, only to be replaced by a dull mess. It's really sad that a videotape I made from an over-the-air AMC broadcast looks superior to a DVD presentation... *sigh* Frankly, I was hoping to retire my tape copy, but I'm definitely keeping it now…

    [c]* * * * *[/c]

    In conclusion, I personally feel that MGM has done an outstanding job with this Midnite Movies and science fiction/horror line. I appreciate that you have made brand-new hi-def transfers for nearly every title I can think of, and in anamorphic widescreen where appropriate. And I also appreciate the time and efforts they have made towards restoring these films to their complete, full-length versions — such as with PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and VAMPIRE LOVERS (some of which took ~18 months of hard work to complete).

    Which is why I don't understand how THE COMEDY OF TERRORS and AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE could have been neglected. These two should have been relatively simple, straight-forward transfers — instead, one film is missing a fairly important (and hilarous) linking scene, while the other erroneously utilizes the most inferior of source materials.

    What I feel is a major issue here is that these DVD editions are now considered to be the "definitive editions" of these movies — this is how these movies will exist from this point forward. These new high-definition transfers will likely be the ones utilized for all media (DVD, tape, cable, tv, etc.) for many years to come. Unless MGM remasters these two titles appropriately, these films will never again been seen in their original, intended manner (short of viewing the laserdisc edition or a rare theatrical print showing). The MGM Technical Services team has already proven that they care a great deal about this line of titles and preserving them in the best way possible, and I would hope that they would like to be made aware of any such problems.

    I honestly don't know what chances there are, if any, for this to occur. I can only hope that someone over at MGM Technical Services also cares enough about these two films to see that there IS a real problem, admit the mistakes, and see that they are remastered properly.

    In that regard, if MGM Technical Services is reading this, I kindly request that you properly remaster THE COMEDY OF TERRORS and AN EVENING WITH EDGAR ALLAN POE — please reinstate the missing sequence from COMEDY, and remaster EVENING using the superior source materials. All I can say "Please… do the right thing."

    I have already written to MGM Technical Services to inform them of these problems, and if any of you folks care about these two films, I urge you to write them as well and politely ask them to fix these errors.

    Thanks for listening…
     
  2. AlanBrom

    AlanBrom Second Unit

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    These problems might be there for sure, but they'd don't bother me so much, as I'm very glad to have the restored VAMPIRE LOVERS, uncut BROOD, SQUIRM and RAW MEAT and all the other Aug. releases. I am used to the 16mm EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, as it was shown on late night TV like that, and I remember it that way.
     
  3. EdwardKarlinski

    EdwardKarlinski Stunt Coordinator

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    I really can't see that one second makes any difference in a film. This sort of nitpicking is not likely to make studios think highly of genre fans. I also don't really have a problem with the transfer on An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe. It seems fine to me for a made for TV special which was low budget to begin with. I love genre films, but some complaints are just absurd.
     
  4. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    If the 1-second in question did not spoil a scene, I'd agree with you, Edward. But that's not the case here.

    In the case of EVENING, since there is a video tape master available (as the broadcasts on Sci-Fi and AMC demonstrate) that is what should have been used and not a 16mm kinescope. The difference between the two is night & day and it is not "absurd" to bring it up.

    MGM's budget releases are, for the most part, so good that these small errors do stand out and it's good to let them know about it. They often don't know there are mistakes and consumer feedback is the only way they'll find out.
     
  5. AlanBrom

    AlanBrom Second Unit

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    I think MGM should know of these problems, however miniscule they may be, so they know how much these films mean to us, and also so that they keep up their excellent work on these titles, and continue to release more.
     
  6. Roderick Gauci

    Roderick Gauci Stunt Coordinator

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    Jeff,

    Thank you for your thorough (and passionate) post about the shortcomings of these two MGM DVDs. I cannot understand some of the replies you have received where members admit to not being bothered by all of this!

    Let’s not forget last year’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964): MGM mistakenly (?) used an edited print (in three different scenes!) for the DVD transfer, and the same seems to have happened with THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1964)! Fortunately for me, I also own a pan-and-scan version of MASQUE (taped off Cable TV) which does include the missing footage and, interestingly enough, even features some differences in the credits at both the film’s beginning and end!

    MGM may have done a generally swell job on their “Midnite Movies“ line of DVDs – their restored edition of THE GHOUL (1933), which I have yet to sample myself, is reportedly a gorgeous affair – but when they commit mistakes like the ones mentioned in this thread, I don’t think we should just shrug them off as if nothing had happened! I also read somewhere that the color scheme of THE RAVEN (1963) has not been rendered as satisfactorily on DVD as it was on the Image LD (which I never owned); I don’t know how true this statement is but, right now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised!

    Even so, I have THE RAVEN/THE COMEDY OF TERRORS double-feature disc on pre-order and I wouldn’t dream of boycotting it (mainly because I’ve been waiting to re-acquaint myself with the latter for some 15 years!) but I wish MGM would address these problems and fix them accordingly – not to mention, replace the current versions when this is done...
     
  7. richardWI

    richardWI Second Unit

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  8. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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  9. Roderick Gauci

    Roderick Gauci Stunt Coordinator

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  10. Jeff Krispow

    Jeff Krispow Stunt Coordinator

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  11. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

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  12. AlanBrom

    AlanBrom Second Unit

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    "I don't get it either. Had these flaws shown up on Halloween or Day of the Dead, there'd be 7 pages of heated discussion about the offense, but these titles don't get the same level of respect."

    I totally agree Richard, it's great to see so much concern here from fans of these AIP films. BTW, TOMB OF LIGEIA looks fabulous.


    [​IMG]
     
  13. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    I've got a DVD+R version of EVENING from AMC and indeed it is the superior videotape master. The quality is far better than that of the MGM DVD transfer.

    Still, MGM has done so many wonderful restorations in recent years, I can forgive them for these errors. Actually I am more annoyed by the over-matting on THE VAMPIRE LOVERS.

    I'm glad I held on to the VHS and/or laser versions of these!
     
  14. AlanBrom

    AlanBrom Second Unit

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    THE VAMPIRE LOVERS is actually not overmatted, its original aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and it looks pretty much the way I remember it presented in the theater.
     
  15. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    Jeff,

    Do you have a link to MGM Technical Services' email? I have both discs (though I haven't had time to watch them all the way through yet) and would like to comment on them. MGM drives me nuts sometimes, but other than the two problems you've mentioned, I've been pretty happy with the Midnite Movies series. Thanks much.
     
  16. Ron Morgan

    Ron Morgan Agent

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    Jeff,

    Have you heard if MGM feels there is a problem with the color on THE RAVEN? I've posted about it before, here and elswhere, and I feel the color balance is far too red. It looks too much like the faded and red-shifted prints that used to air on TV rather than the gorgeous colors and tones on the laserdisc. The LD and DVD seem to share the same source material as there is an audio defect common to both (the sound get hissy and crackly for about twenty minutes). I do give MGM good marks for doing their best to lessen that deect. They weren't able to eliminate it entirely, but they reduced it a great deal from the laser.

    I thinks some of those scenes missing from MASQUE were shot for the TV prints. I remember reading in 'Video Watchdog' about a couple of scenes 'missing' from the laserdisc, but information came along later that they were shot for TV, as was a prologue for PIT AND THE PENDULUM, and couldn't be located in time to be included on the DVD. However, it is missing a bit of dialogue in an early scene, when Francesca is pleading with Prospero for mercy.

    Apart from these issues, I am very happy with the job MGM has been doing with the Midnite Movies series. The respect with which they treat these, often marginal, titles has been commendable. To offer them at such affordable prices is just icing on the cake. I just want to make it clear that these, very few, flaws do not detract from my enjoyment of MGM's other exemplary releases.
     
  17. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    THE VAMPIRE LOVERS was intended for 1:66 to 1 ratio, though it is certain US theatres presented it in 1:85 to 1. There is no question some of the famous nude shots are cropped out in comparison with the fullscreen tape, and which would have been visible with the British 1:66 matte. It's not a BIG deal on this one (in contast with HORROR OF DRACULA) but people are being surprised the attributes of the Hammer babes are not there any longer. There is that newly restored shot of Ingrid that is still in full view though!
     
  18. AlanBrom

    AlanBrom Second Unit

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    Steve, as I stated before, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS was shot at 1.85:1 (so were a lot of other AIP financed British films of the period such as THE CONQUEROR WORM, THE CRIMSON CULT, HORROR HOUSE, THE OBLONG BOX, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, etc.). It was co-financed by AIP in America who had their non scope films shot this way by that time. Why do you assume it's 1.66:1 just because the bottom of a bossum is cropped?

    I remember seeing this in 1971 with BLOOD AND LACE. :)
     
  19. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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  20. Scott Calvert

    Scott Calvert Supporting Actor

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    Alan, what do you mean when you say they were "shot at 1.85:1"? Are you saying that the films were hard-matted at that ratio? It's certainly possible, but unlikely. I tend to believe they were shot flat in the standard fashion and cropped however the cinema showing them deemed fit.
     

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