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The Definitive A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951): Starring Alastair Sim

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Tony Bensley, Oct 4, 2014.

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  1. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    You're not going to believe what I discovered today in my conversation with a VCI representative, regarding the 2012 A CHRISTMAS CAROL Blu-Ray/DVD Combo! There was apparently one Retailer who INSISTED that VCI include the Standalone DVD with the same features as the Blu-Ray disc INSTEAD of the Bonus DVD! I believe she stated that it was Import CDs (From where I had ordered my set!), with whom they did used to deal with directly, which would explain why my set was packaged the way it was! This is just a note of caution for anyone else who may want to order this set.

    By the way, VCI will be sending me a replacement Bonus DVD!

    CHEERS! :)
     
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  2. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi David!

    Apart from the Emerald releases by Morningstar Entertainment, do you know whether any of the pre 2009 VCI DVD issues include the four missing words of dialogue "for reaching it out," as spoken by Ebenezer's "Former" Maid Mrs. Dilby, during the "Ghost of Christmas Future" sequence? This occurs at about the 1:09:30 mark of the 2009 - 2012 VCI editions!

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony
     
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  3. bgart13

    bgart13 Screenwriter

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    Ya know, I've never noticed this floating boards issue. I'd dig it out now and check, but... I can wait till Xmas time. ;) I also don't need the dirty looks from a disapproving partner about putting on Xmas movies out of season. :P
     
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  4. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Cinematographer

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    I will research this in the wee wee hours and post my findings!
    Forget the floating boards. I never noticed it myself until it was pointed out here, and it won't stop me from enjoying the Blu-Ray, at least until Criterion takes a crack at it.
     
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  5. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi David!

    To be honest, I likely wouldn't have noticed the floating board (Which probably lasts less than half a second!), that very briefly appears right near the left edge of the screen, had I not first read about it in a thread. For me, it's the missing 4 words of dialogue at about the 1:09:30 mark that, at about 1.5 seconds in duration, is a bit more noticeable!

    I would love to see Criterion tackle this one! Perhaps for A CHRISTMAS CAROL's 65th Anniversary?

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony

    P.S. I'm very much looking forward to your findings regarding which versions are missing the aforementioned dialogue, and which versions (Hopefully!) aren't!
     
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  6. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Cinematographer

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    Here are my findings, and I warn you, they may not be for the faint of heart!

    The silent gap in the Blu-Ray audio where Mrs. Dilber says "for reaching it out" is not on any of the DVD versions from 1998 to 2007. Here's what is:

    1998 Roan/VCI DVD (B&W and Colourized) - Mrs. Dilber's entire line is edited out. There's a direct cut after Joe says "You was born to make a fortune, ma'am, and you..you certainly will" to him saying "These his blankets too?"

    2005 Emerald DVD - This has the complete audio for Mrs. Dilber's line. It's the only DVD or Blu-Ray that does.

    2007 VCI 2-DVD set - Both the 4 X 3 and 16 X 9 versions on the first DVD have Mrs. Dilber saying her line without "for reaching it out", but there is no gap in the audio. Instead, it appears that these versions use an alternate take of that part of the scene. You can't see Mrs. Dilber's mouth forming the words "for reaching it out", nor can you see that her words don't match what her mouth is doing. In other words, it appears that she actually says the line as "I certainly won't hold back my hand when I can get something in it for sake of such a man as he was, I promise you Joe." which doesn't make sense without the missing four words, but there it is. The colourized version on the second disc is identical to the 1998 Roan/VCI version, with the entire line edited out.

    Getting back to the Blu-Ray after all of this, the picture is BEAUTIFUL by comparison. The DVD's all have visual inconsistencies, as if bits of scenes were taken from different sources, but the Blu-Ray is very consistent. As for the part of the scene with Mrs. Dilber's line, it is identical on the Blu-Ray to the one on the Emerald DVD, other than the audio gap, and comparing the Blu-Ray to the 2007 VCI DVD, they are slightly different. I just can't see Mrs. Dilber mouthing the missing words on that DVD. Even the subtitles on the Blu-Ray have the line without those four words, so whoever did the subtitling ignored what might have been in the silent audio gap and just transcribed what they heard.

    So there you go. Mrs. Dilber's problematic line exists as two slightly different takes, one of which may or may not have "for reaching it out" in it, and sometimes the line gets completely edited out. I suspect ghostly intervention, but then, I would.
     
  7. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi David!

    Thank you very much for your most valued descriptions regarding the missing dialogue, along with the existence of alternate footage! This gives me cause to wonder whether the print that was sourced for the VCI releases used is missing that bit of dialogue, as unlike the 8 seconds of dialogue that was previously missing only on the 5.1 audio, the missing four words appears to be an across the board issue! Also that they fixed all of the other reported audio issues, yet never touched this one!

    It's too bad that VCI can't source the missing audio from the same print that was used by Morningstar Entertainment! In my opinion, this act, along with fixing the playback mode issue would make their SCROOGE the truly definitive version!

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony
     
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  8. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Cinematographer

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    I think that the Emerald Edition really was sourced separately somehow by Morningstar. The flaws in the image aren't the same as in the Roan/VCI version, the image density differs in individual scene comparisons, they found the alternate "Scrooge" title sequence, and they're the only ones with the complete Mrs. Dilber "for reaching it out" sequence. I wasn't aware of this until last night, but I think that further comparisons would yield more differences. I hope Criterion can build on the research built up by various home video companies (and, of course, Death From Above) when they issue their comprehensive "A Christmas Carol" Blu-Ray next year. I mean, we've totally established that it's "Sim", not "Sims".
     
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  9. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi David!

    So Criterion is actually planning on issuing the Alastair Sim A CHRISTMAS CAROL, then? That WOULD be fantastic news!

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony
     
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  10. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Every couple of years. Like clockwork.
     
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  11. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    As illustrated in my above previous post, the missing four words of dialogue is in the Guillotine Films incomplete knockoff print! Other than this, there really is nothing else to recommend this DVD!

    As it stands, it appears that the Morningstar Emerald Edition is currently the best video release of the U.S. version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, with the 2012 VCI Blu-Ray/DVD combo taking the prize among the UK SCROOGE issues! In my opinion, it is fair to not even count the Morningstar version as a candidate for the latter, as this has been described by David Matychuk as having an awkward blank space between the opening titles and the rest of the Film!

    CHEERS! :)
     
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  12. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi Mike!

    Yes, though apparently not by VCI Entertainment this time around!

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony
     
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  13. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi David!

    A quick Google search uncovered nothing for me regarding any plans by Criterion to issue the 1951 A CHRISTMAS CAROL/SCROOGE! Could you please kindly post your source of this information?

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony
     
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  14. bgart13

    bgart13 Screenwriter

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    I think it's wishful thinking. I see no reason for Criterion to release, ever.
     
  15. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi bgart13!

    Well, Criterion did release the often issued A HARD DAY'S NIGHT earlier this year, so you never know!

    CHEERS! :)

    Tony
     
  16. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Cinematographer

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    Wishful thinking, Tony. But Christmas is still a time for magic, isn't it?
    It's great filmed Dickens, it's the greatest Christmas film, it's Alastair Sim's greatest performance, it's never been properly restored, and it's never ever been properly served on home video. I also think it would sell more like "A Hard Day's Night" than "The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant".
     
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  17. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    In the spirit of wishful thinking and Christmas magic, I present the following, just for fun:

    A CHRISTMAS CAROL (U.S.) /SCROOGE (UK) (1951): What Should And Should Not Be Included In A Future Release!
    The purpose of this is merely a fun exercise, in which I'm listing the items that I'd like to see included in an ultimate, fictional (for now?) future Blu-Ray/DVD Set. I'll be listing these under "Must Have;" "Prefer To Have;" "Could Have;" and "Oh Dear God, Please Not That!" categories.

    Must Have:
    - A pristine, complete print of both U.S and UK original releases!

    Prefer To Have:
    - All of the extra features that are included in the 2012 VCI release (Except the George Cole Commentary Track, which I've yet to listen to!), with the most complete available prints of the 1922 SCROOGE and BLEAK HOUSE Silents.
    - The 78 minute version of the 1935 Seymour Hicks* as Ebenezer Scrooge UK A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Transferred from a pristine print, of course!).
    - All of the Patrick MacNee Host footage from the 1989 Television premiere of the Colorized SCROOGE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Though I'm not a huge fan of Colorization, the Colorized feature would of course, have to be included by extension, though the more up to date digitally Colorized version would be preferable!

    Could Have:
    - The 28 minute animated A CHRISTMAS CAROL from 1971, which features the voice work of Alastair Sim, reprising his Ebenezer Scrooge character!
    - The aforementioned George Cole Commentary Track, though I've read that it's rather dull and veers well away from his experiences in having been featured as young Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim was George's Acting Mentor AND Godfather!), and the Film in general! I'm reserving judgement on this for the time being.

    Oh Dear God, Please Not That!:
    - The 1938 MGM version, starring Reginald Owen, who is severely miscast as a most unconvincing Ebenezer Scrooge, and also featuring Terry Kilburn as an annoyingly wide eyed and generally freakish looking Tiny Tim! That this anaemic version is about to be issued on its own Blu-Ray is bad enough, in my opinion!
    - AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Henry Winkler. While he was ultra cool as Arthur Fonzarelli (The Fonz!) on the seventies classic AMERICAN GRAFFITI inspired sitcom HAPPY DAYS, his turn as Ebenezer Scrooge has always been a big thumbs down for me!
    - Ditto for any other, really cheesy bastardized version of this classic Dickens yuletide tale ever issued!
    - The ill advised 16x9 "Cropped Widescreen" version of the Alastair Sim classic! At least with the Colorized versions, the color can sometimes be turned off, but there's no way to "uncrop" a cropped screen!

    *Though I've never really seen the Seymour Hicks version, it surely can't be any worse than the Reginald Owen & Henry Winkler vehicles! Besides, I'm curious to see this, though not just any knockoff video transfer!

    CHEERS! :)
     
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  18. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Having just played a tiny fragment of the Guillotine Films version (Under the UK SCROOGE title. although labelled A CHRISTMAS CAROL on the DVD cover!), it has occurred to me that its slightly shorter 82 minutes and 50 seconds running time is probably not due to editing, but that it was subjected to 4% PAL speedup at some point. A DVD need not have been issued in the PAL format for this to occur, but merely has to have come from a print that was digitized using the PAL transfer format, instead of NTSC! When listening to this on my Laptop with my Headphones, Alastair Sim's voice does indeed sound a bit higher pitched than it should!

    CHEERS! :)
     
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  19. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    To date, it appears that the only home video releases of the complete, unedited version are the sub-par Guillotine Films DVD (Which bears the UK SCROOGE title card, despite the DVD cover bearing the A CHRISTMAS CAROL title!), with the 4% PAL speedup; and the Emerald DVD/Blu-Ray Editions by Morningstar Entertainment that represent the only complete quality versions!

    CHEERS! :)
     
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  20. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Maybe I'm just being impatient, but does EVERYTHING coming to Canada from the U.S. have to take at least the better part of two weeks to arrive, even when it's shipped priority post? I've been anxiously waiting for my replacement disc containing the Lionel Barrymore Christmas 1939 A CHRISTMAS CAROL Radio Play, along with the Fred Guida Bio-Bibliography, to arrive, which was sent from VCI Entertainment on November 3!

    I'm hoping that I don't have to wait through yet another weekend for this!

    CHEERS!
     

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