The DVD of Stephen King's "IT" Should Have Been Prefaced With "SH"--DO NOT BUY I

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Travis Brashear, Oct 2, 2002.

  1. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    One furious Stephen King fan here, who has waited for umpteen years to trade off his old LaserDisc of the miniseries "IT" in exchange for a shiny new DVD version. So it was with cheeky abandon that I scooped up the new DVD release yesterday at Best Buy for what I thought was a cool $14.99. Upon reading the back of the DVD, I noticed the wording: "Widescreen Version: Preserving a Theatrical Exhibition Aspect Ratio"--cute, for a made-for-TV miniseries? Oh here we go again, I thought. Warner Bros. did this with "V", which was cool beans, because the director was public about his preference for that display format, but then they pulled the same stunt on "V: THE FINAL BATTLE", and this time, its director was conspicuously hush-hush about the issue. No super biggie, I'd said at the time--at least it aesthetically matches with the original and, even with my current doubts that it wasn't meant to be presented at that ratio, I have to admit the framing seems even more pleasing at 1.78:1 than the first, director-approved "V". But in reference to "IT", upon returning home and slapping it into my trusty Sony, it became clear in the opening credits alone that this framing could never have been intentional--far too many shots have their composition thrown off and/or cramped by the letterboxing.
    I was prepared to grumble and grouse for a beat, then let it go, but that's when I noticed that the running time listed on the back of the DVD showed 187 minutes--for reasons I'm not cognizant of, this sent off alarm bells in my head. I grabbed my old LaserDisc up and looked at its packaging...and what did I see? A running time of 192 minutes! "Breathe, Travis!," I told myself. "They probably just shaved off the second helping of opening and end credits"...but would that account for a full 5-minute discrepancy? To allay my fears, I checked the DVD and Laser side by side and, sure enough, the DVD is edited down!
    Missing from the very end of Segment 1, as Richard Masur's wife bellows in horror (a particularly egregious misframing on the DVD, by the way) at her discovery in the bathtub, is a final shot of the word "IT" scrawled on the wall tile in blood, as the words "To Be Continued" appear on the screen, and we fade to black on the sound of Pennywise's freakish laughter. Segment 1's end credits are also excised (no biggie). As we go into Segment 2, the opening credits are also excised (no biggie, Part II), but along with it are the following inexcusable deletions:
    1) A long shot underneath Derry's bridge, looking into the dark emptiness of "IT"'s underground lair.
    2) Richard Thomas' character arriving by airport cab at the Derry Inn. Upon entering the building, he is accosted by the receptionist, an adoring, gushing fan of his writing. As he signs the guest book, he asks if anyone else from his childhood party has arrived yet ("No, you're the first..."), then the receptionist let's him no in no uncertain terms that if he needs anything, anything at all, to not hesitate to call on the worshipping receptionist ("Bettyruth Blair...Bettyruth is all one word...that's my name, Bettyruth Blair!").
    3) Richard Thomas in his hotel room, looking about dejectedly, then moving to the window, where he looks outside and asks the empty room, "What the hell am I doing here?"
    4) Back in the airport cab, Richard Thomas rides through Derry's main street, as the driver drones on about recent talk about revitalizing Derry's downtown section, but at the cost of taking down all the nostalgic buildings of old in place of new ones, like more banks. Thomas asks, "What about the Paramount?", afraid it's been demolished in the name of progress. "See for yourself," the driver motions. Outside the window, the classic cinema passes by, a little the worse for wear, but untouched by modern demolition crews. Thomas sinks back into his seat, seemingly pleased that the theater still stands and disquieted that the figments of his childhood past are becoming concrete once again.
    4) Some slight extended footage of Thomas' car arriving at the cemetery, wherein the DVD begins at last.
    Are these omissions critical to understanding or enjoying "IT"? Certainly not, but as a film purist, I am horrified at these excisions, which have no reasonable case for being deleted.
    But here's wear salt gets rubbed into the wound: I immediately marched my copy of (SH)"IT" right back to Best Buy--new commentary track or not, I don't care to own a pared-down version of any film...my LD will continue to work fine for me, thank you very much--only to be told by no less than the store manager (can you tell I had to ask for one?) that they are only allowed to change the title for another copy of the same thing. He gave me some speech about copyright laws and Warner being the party that transgressed against me, not Best Buy, which basically all added up to, "Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda", and they sent my on my merry way, piece of garbage DVD still in hand. If you are a film purist (B-grade miniseries included [​IMG], then I implore you not to make the same mistake I did. I am firing off a strongly worded e-mail to Warner Bros. currently, advising them that complete half-assed productions like this (widecreen format for 1.33:1 productions, edited footage without sufficient cause or, at least, proper notification of such on the outer packaging, mislabeled disc hub stickers, etc.) cannot and should not be tolerated by the paying consumer. As it stands, I feel like Warner Bros. just flat out stole my money, and I have no recourse for righting the wrong. If these issues are important to you, I hope my situation protects you from suffering the same...
     
  2. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Travis,

    About the poor editing choices, that's one thing to complain about, and more power to you. Unless... the director decided he didn't want those scenes included. It's a possibility. Yet again, perhaps there was a mistake made when putting the episodic miniseries into one complete transfer for DVD.

    However, about the widescreen framing... you have absolutely no way of knowing how the DP and director intended these shots to be framed. Even way back when there were some TV productions that had 1.78:1 HDTV in mind and framed for both 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 compositions (HDTV had been on the drawing board for at least 10 years before the subcommittees formed to hash out a finalized U.S. digital TV formats in the early and mid 90's-- and even then Japan already had its analog HD system using the 1.78:1 ratio).

    Dan
     
  3. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    Dan, fair enough, but a) as I stated, I was prepared to "eat it" on the widescreen issue since I can't verify the director's stance on his format of choice--though, that aside, I DO know what proper composition is, and this DVD doesn't display it (I find it interesting that the director's commentary never address the widescreen issue)--but the real issue at hand is b) these unnecessary and unjustified edits. If, as you say, this represents the preferred edit for the director of the film, then Warner Home Video has an onus to label the outer packaging as a "Director's Cut", which they didn't, so, when also factoring in the absense of reference to these edits on the commentary track, I am inclined to vehemently disagree with your suggestion that they represent a new director's cut.
     
  4. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Travis Brashear wrote:
     
  5. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

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    Hi,

    For what it's worth, I have both the German VHS version and the UK VHS version, and those scenes you describe aren't in those either. In Europe "It" was available as a 3 hour movie on one tape. The total running time was 180 min., which sounds about right if you take the PAL speedup into account.

    I gotta say I'm pretty shocked that they just chopped off the credits of part 2 with everything in it. I had always assumed that for the 3 hour version they simply used a master that didn't have the title cards. But apparently not.
    A rather weird and tbh idiotic decision as far as the DVD is concerned, since the show is spread over 2 sides anyway.

    Chris
     
  6. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  7. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    Another example of Warner cropping a TV production for fake widescreen? Sigh. And lots of people will defend it and say that they read on some obscure website that the director wanted it that way. RIGHT[​IMG] Since the disc is also edited, why would ANYONE buy it?
     
  8. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Steve, it IS true that many TV movies are shot with foreign theatrical distribution in mind.
     
  9. DerrickRemmert

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    Sorry Travis, it sounds like you got screwed. Unless someone can offer proof that the director prefers "IT" in widescreen, then this DVD is P&S in my book. The edits are also uncalled for unless there is proof the director wanted the cuts.
     
  10. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    Yeah, yeah, Jeff, we hear that all the time. The results speak for themselves.....
    [​IMG]
    If I matted CITIZEN KANE and told you the ghost of Orson Welles told me he shot it with cropping in 2002 in mind would you buy it?
     
  11. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I think it's safe to say that the film is edited and matted the way it was intended for feature form. For TV broadcast, it needs to be shown with the "TBC" bumpers, but in this form, it doesn't.

    Since the director was involved with the DVD, it would be safe to say that it's right where it should be.
     
  12. Alan_Horner

    Alan_Horner Stunt Coordinator

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    Was your LaserDisc of IT a Japanese import? I know there was one from there, but I can't remember if there was ever a domestic release. In any event, Japanese releases frequently had "extra" footage in them. That might explain the different cuts.
     
  13. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    what about the tape. is that longer or or the same as the dvd?
     
  14. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    My copy of the DVD isn't hear yet...but regarding the "extra" scenes; they are on the American VHS release. At least, I'm pretty sure...I used to watch it all the time when I was in my early teens, and I definitely remember the Bettyruth Blair scene.
     
  15. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    I'm watching IT right now; watched the first side and now am listening to the commentary. Enjoyable. The commentary parts with John Ritter, Tim Reid, and Dennis Christopher are very easy going and friendly. For me, well worth the $16!
     
  16. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    The domestic laserdisc releases of IT and SALEM'S LOT were presented in their original broadcast formats. Each disc opened and closed with complete credits. Disc 2 contained the "last night on..." recaps.

    I remember comparing the Japanese LD to the domestic one. The Japanese LD edited the closing credits to part 1, and the opening credits to part 2, forming a "seamless" 3 hour "movie". The footage that played under the credits was obviously cut out, so an awkward transition was noticeable at that point. They should have gone back to the original elements (without titles) to create this version. The SALEM'S LOT dvd was also edited to "join" the two parts, but was not matted.

    I disagree with the matting of the IT dvd. It may have been intended to play in theaters as well, but it's pretty obvious the primary presentation was always the TV version.
    Warner should have released the unmatted and unedited TV version for R1 (as originally intended in this region, and matted for other regions where it played theatrically.

    I will not be purchasing this dvd unless Warner reissues it without matting and the edits.
     
  17. Aryn Leroux

    Aryn Leroux Screenwriter

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    I didn't buy this dvd yet and now knowing this i definately will not. I appreciate the thread. Now reading about these scenes being ommitted i have the original broadcast on tape and sure enough those scenes are there. Well i dunno who is at fault here so i won't point any fingers but i can say im very dissapointed.[​IMG]
     
  18. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    Originally posted by Alan_Horner:
    Was your LaserDisc of IT a Japanese import? I know there was one from there, but I can't remember if there was ever a domestic release. In any event, Japanese releases frequently had "extra" footage in them. That might explain the different cuts.
    Though, for all intents and purposes, Matt Hankinson already answered this, I'll reiterate for clarification, yes, this is a domestic release LaserDisc, from Warner Home Video. I don't own any overseas LDs...
     
  19. John Macri

    John Macri Stunt Coordinator

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    Since this will likely be the only R1 DVD release of IT for some time, I guess I'll purchase it until something better comes along...
     
  20. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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