Twilight Time announces Blu-ray releases March/April 2013

Walter Kittel

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I still remember the thrill when I received the original Criterion laserdisc of Citizen Kane. It was $89.99. Before that release, Kane was only available on crappy VHS versions of public domain quality. Criterion had a stunning print for the laserdisc, and a long and detailed frame-advance visual essay by Robert Carringer. I think I was up until 2:00 A.M. watching it, even though I had to work the next day. I don't see how anyone can deny that laserdisc fans helped fuel the demand for the types of special features that became standard on DVD and Blu-ray. Criterion could never have established itself on a linear format like VHS.
That brings back some fond memories. The Criterion CAV LD of Citizen Kane is one of my most prized LD titles of all time. In addition to special features, the LD format was where respect for Original Aspect Ratios was pioneered (due partly to their increased vertical resolution when compared to VHS.) LD was a wonderful niche format.
- Walter.
 

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Another aspect of the "heavy lifting" accomplished by the advent of LD was the increase in quality of the presentation, a demonstration of what was possible. My wife and I were happy video tape people until we walked into the only store in Seattle featuring LD technology and the owner had (If I remember correctly ) Hitchcock's YOUNG AND INNOCENT (1937) on his television monitor - we were captivated by the clarity of the LD picture, immediately bought a machine, and there was no going back. We have now moved through DVDs and on to Blu-rays, always with the object of getting an improved presentation. The only thing that used to drive me crazy was the need to turn the LD over half way through the film. I understand why the cost of Blus by Olive, Twilight Time, and others is as it is. It is certainly too bad that many cannot afford them, there was a point in my life when I would have been unable to, in fact, the cost of a LD caused quite a hole in my budget in those days. Hopefully, there is enough of an audience to keep these outfits in business as it seems to be the only option available at this point in time. I believe DVD Savant made a noteworthy comment in his year-end column this week when he said it never was the fact that people fell out of love with owning DVDs/Blus during the last few years, it was more decisions made during tough economic times as to where it was most important to spend money. He also reminded us Fox will bring back the "Classics" line in 2013 with a series of Blus which might indicate better (and less costly) times ahead. The first two, WILD RIVER and GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT, both Kazan films, are up for preorder at around $17.49, with LAURA on the way in February. I purchased the two Kazan Blu-ray sets offered directly by Fox and can tell you the transfer of WILD RIVER is a beauty.
 

rich_d

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Bob Cashill said:
As was said, the "heavy lifting" from the LD community (of which I was a part) came from acclimating to correct aspect ratios, commentary tracks, and all the things we take for granted on DVDs and Blu-rays. It also came from our wallets, which is why we roll our eyes at how "expensive" Blu-rays are, even TT"s $30 pricetags. We were the test bed as that format took a quantum leap over VHS. If we didn't show some interest, who knows where we'd be?
THE FURY should make for an outstanding Blu-ray. (I owned the LD and the DVD.)
No. If it had been a "quantum leap" over VHS it would have flourished. It wasn't and it didn't.
David_B_K said:
LD was not a failed format. It was a niche format. You could probably quote similar sales figures for Mercedes Benz, or Persian rugs or MacCallan Scotch. So what?
It's spelled 'Macallan' ... us Joe-Six-Pack kind of guys know these sort of things.
 

Wade Sowers

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Actually, I don't understand why something cannot be a "quantum leap" over something else and still not "flourish" in the market - wasn't Beta considered to allow a higher resolution picture than VHS, but VHS was endorsed by the market because it allowed a longer recording time? Please explain the resoning behind your statement as, sorry to say, I don't get it. Now, regarding LD "quality", when I saw the LD presentation over what was then available I was hooked, as were my circle of friends who used to come over to watch a movie on LD. DVD was an improvement, they were less expensive, had the size and look of a CD, easier to put on a standard shelf, and people could buy one machine that played both. Tape to LD to DVD to Blu - no failures, just transitions, some of which were more "quantum" then others.
 

rich_d

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Wade Sowers said:
Actually, I don't understand why something cannot be a "quantum leap" over something else and still not "flourish" in the market - wasn't Beta considered to allow a higher resolution picture than VHS, but VHS was endorsed by the market because it allowed a longer recording time? Please explain the resoning behind your statement as, sorry to say, I don't get it. Now, regarding LD "quality", when I saw the LD presentation over what was then available I was hooked, as were my circle of friends who used to come over to watch a movie on LD. DVD was an improvement, they were less expensive, had the size and look of a CD, easier to put on a standard shelf, and people could buy one machine that played both. Tape to LD to DVD to Blu - no failures, just transitions, some of which were more "quantum" then others.
Because there was NO substantial difference between Beta and VHS in common practice. From Wikipedia:
When Betamax was introduced in Japan and the United States in 1975, its Beta I speed of 1.5 ips offered a slightly higher horizontal resolution (250 lines vs 240 lines horizontal NTSC), lower video noise, and less luma/chroma crosstalk than VHS, and was later marketed as providing pictures superior to VHS's playback. However the introduction of Beta II speed, 0.8 ips (two-hour mode), to compete with VHS' two-hour Standard Play mode (1.3 ips) reduced Betamax's horizontal resolution to 240 lines.[3] The extension of VHS to VHS HQ increased the apparent resolution to 250 lines so that overall a Betamax/VHS user could expect virtually identical luma resolution and chroma resolution (≈30 lines) wherein the actual picture performance depended on other factors including the condition and quality of the videotape and the specific video recorder machine model. For most consumers the difference as seen on the average television was negligible.
I'm glad that you have fond memories of your laserdisc days. Btw, I'm told there were LD players that would also play CDs.
 

Jon Hertzberg

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Jon Hertzberg said:
Heh, yeah, perhaps I need to re-iterate that I like the film quite a bit. Without an ounce of guilt. :D
I, too, was a laserdisc "heavy lifter" and once owned this disc, which was a bit of an anomaly at the time of its release (1989) in that it was full-frame when most catalog releases were getting the letterboxed treatment. I believe I picked it up via Sight and Sound or Ken Crane's a few years later, probably for under $20. Once found PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (a much earlier Fox catalog release and also full-frame) in a bargain bin for a couple dollars...that was a find! :)
 

Jon Hertzberg

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Jon Hertzberg said:
I, too, was a laserdisc "heavy lifter" and once owned this disc, which was a bit of an anomaly at the time of its release (1989) in that it was full-frame when most catalog releases were getting the letterboxed treatment. I believe I picked it up via Sight and Sound or Ken Crane's a few years later, probably for under $20. Once found PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (a much earlier Fox catalog release and also full-frame) in a bargain bin for a couple dollars...that was a find! :)
 

Wade Sowers

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So, Rich-d, why cannot something be a "quantum leap" over something else and still not "flourish" in the market? Anything in Wikipedia regarding that? After all, that was my question, I would still love to read your response. Regarding your quote from Wikipedia, it seems to say Beta was a bit better in resolution then reduced the resolution to compete with the more popular VHS system in order to match the standard play time. I am not sure that conflicts with what I said in the first place. I do have fond memories of my LD days (I sold most of them for several thousand dollars when DVDs started to be produced) as I also have fond memories of owning many, many video tapes, but I have moved on. As I tried to express, each of these was a step along the way toward better resolution, whether or not there was any flourishing. Nice point regarding LD players being able to handle CDs, but, of course, I did not say they couldn't.
 

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Indeed, VHS tapes were hugely expensive back in the day. I rarely bought them and no longer have any, having junked my player three years ago. But I still have several boxes of LDs and a working player, and indeed recently purchased THE COMPLETE SHOWBOAT online. There are still LDs out whose content will never be replicated on DVD/BD.
 

Wade Sowers

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You are right about some of those LDs, I still kick myself (easier said than done) for getting rid of my machine and ONE-EYED JACKS. Who would have gussed this "classic" would remain among the missing, as least with regard to a Blu-ray restoration. I know the reasons, but, gosh, I do wish I had that LD.
 

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I'm curious about the DUNDEE double set - once disc for Caliendo and one for Amphitheatrof seems odd. What's the second disc for?
I haven't see THE FURY since the theatrical release, when I thought it was somewhat laughable - no denying how good the Williams' score is though. I hope Twilight Time has Columbia's BODY DOUBLE on it's agenda. It's my favorite DePalma after CARRIE.
 

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I hope that Twilight Time has OBSESSION on their future schedule. I'd love to have an audio track with Bernard Herrmann's great score isolated. There has never been a CD release of Herrmann's complete score for OBSESSION.
 

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Bryan^H said:
'Christine' is one great horror title. Shoot, the isolated score on this is gonna make me happy. Also the dvd, upconverted looks like garbage so......I'm sure this will be the one to break records for how fast it sells out. I'll make sure, and pre-order it as soon as it is available. I'm happy about this being released but also very nervous that if I'm away from the internet for a couple days I may miss the boat.
Yeah I gotta be on top of the pre-order date (and I HOPE TT can port over the Carpenter commentary from the DVD.)
 

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I am putting in orders for Christine and The Fury. Not sure if Christine will carry over the excellent materials from the SE DVD, but if it doesn't, I'm keeping that disc and I'll have this one for the picture quality. I don't remember The Fury having any special features, so the only thing I'd anticipate there would be an isolated score track of John Williams' music.

Interesting to see the Laserdisc debate being walked out again. We've gone over this dozens of time on this forum. Some people are huge advocates for it, some people aren't. I remember someone in one thread proudly discussing how they had never bought into laserdisc and i believe how they had never bought into DVD or Blu either, since the formats were destined to go away eventually. Which meant of course that they'd missed out on a lot of good movies and good experiences with them.

I bought my first laserdisc player in 1998, a Pioneer DVL-909 that I still have in my living room. It plays laserdiscs, CDs and DVDs. It was my mainstay player for years until I uprgraded everything to a full home theater in 2006. I kept the player because I kept a stack of laserdiscs that either never got ported over or never had the extras moved over - including some classic Universal films (a couple of Deanna Durbin movies that have never popped up in the US on DVD) and a bunch of Criterion releases that never got re-licensed for DVD or Blu.

Having lived through the various iterations of this stuff, I remember that Betamax was a higher quality videotape, but Sony guarded it too closely, which allowed VHS, which anyone could make, to eventually swamp it. My father still has his Betamax machine and the tapes he made with it, and they still hold up today - given that they are old videotape of analog broadcasts. I still have a couple of VHS machines and most of the tapes I made, but I did turn in most of the commercial tapes when I upgraded that part of the library to DVD. As I learned when trying to compare the older laserdiscs of JAWS with the new Blu-ray, the difference in picture quality from then to now is staggering. It's very difficult to go back to watching a 1990s laserdisc after watching the same title in Blu-ray or even on a decent DVD.

Laserdisc was at the time a big jump, in that the picture quality was better than VHS and it wouldn't wear out as you played the disc several times, and the sound quality was miles ahead, provided you had good stereo equipment to hear it. Further, laserdisc started the notion of multiple audio tracks and commentaries - most of which was pioneered (pun intended) by Criterion in its first iteration. Laserdisc also really helped the idea of having widescreen movies presented in their theatrical format rather than in the 4x3 box. It had been done before - notably with Woody Allen's Manhattan back in the day - but laserdisc mainstreamed the idea so that you could see pretty much all catalogue titles coming out in a "Deluxe Letterbox Format". (Before I had a laserdisc player of my own, I used to be able to rent a laserdisc player and discs and make VHS copies of the better editions. Not the greatest picture quality, but it allowed me to see the longer ALIENS, the cut scenes from ALIEN and widescreen editions of many of my favorite movies several years before the widescreen VHS versions were made available.)

Laserdisc was indeed a niche format with an avid fanbase. It never really penetrated to most viewers for several reasons: the discs were very expensive, the discs were large and bulky, and you really needed a big TV to see the widescreen movies as something other than a small image on a small screen. Personally, I enjoyed the size of laserdiscs, in that you'd have large record album presentations of movies, but I agree that having to turn the discs over every half hour on CAV got old quickly. Of course, the DVL-909 had a built-in feature of turning the reader to the other side of the disc, thus sparing you the side change. But you'd still have to change out the disc in a multi-disc set. There were certainly people who sat on the sidelines and chose not to enjoy the format, and with good reason given the cost. But I wouldn't diminish the people who did get to experience the improved quality and the special features. The heavy lifting they did was that they invested in the format and showed there was enough of an interest to keep the idea thriving for nearly 20 years. And it was thriving - laserdisc stores like Laser Blazer in Los Angeles were selling units like hotcakes back in the 90s. This was a small number next to the much larger sales of VHS, but to say that nobody was buying laserdiscs would be a significantly inaccurate statement. Because there was enough of an interest in the laserdiscs, the studios were able to take that into account when preparing Digital Versatile Disc.

DVD was not just supposed to be for movies when it was developed. It was supposed to be a Versatile disc that could hold various content, including computer data and music. One big idea at the time was for DVD to make it easier to put out a large box set of music. With CDs, you'd have a 6 disc set or more, for example with Tom Petty's Playback collection. The advent of DVD meant that you could put all of the tracks on a single disc and thus save everyone the space and time. Same thing with DVD-ROM versus CD-ROM. But the idea that really pushed DVD over the top was the movies. All of a sudden, you could have your movie presented both in letterbox and in full frame on two sides of the same disc. Plus you could have a bunch of different audio tracks, including multiple languages and commentaries. And you could load on various other extras including documentaries, text screens, etc. Much of this material had already been happening for laserdisc and many early releases simply ported over the laser content onto the new DVDs. Universal's "Collector's Edition" releases were usually just the Signature Laserdisc content, condensed down to a single DVD from a box set of multiple lasers. I remember there was an added feature of having additional angles possible, but this rarely got used by mainstream releases.

DVD did pretty good out of the gate, even though the picture quality of the first releases wasn't the greatest, and sometimes was questionable. (Capricorn One and Outland are two examples of unfortunate picture quality in the early DVD days.) But after we got to The Matrix, the whole thing burst wide open and it became clear that DVD was going to reach many millions of people more than laserdisc ever could. And it's clear to see why that happened. DVD was really inexpensive, was really easy to handle, and you could still enjoy the extras on a smaller set. Further, many people began transitioning to the widescreen LCD sets, making it a lot easier to watch widescreen movies without trouble. And now we have Blu-ray, which upgrades the picture and sound quality in a significant fashion, but is something that requires that the viewer have a large enough HDTV and a good enough sound system to be able to see and hear the difference. The discs themselves are more expensive than DVD, but nowhere near the heights reached by laserdisc back in the big collectors' set days. Paying 60 bucks for a deluxe Blu-ray is a bargain compared to 150 bucks for the ALIEN box set back in the day. And paying 100+ bucks for all of the ALIEN movies plus all the extras in the Anthology Blu-ray set is nothing compared to the fact that the 150 buck laserdisc set only had the materials for ONE movie. We complain today about how much it costs to buy a Blu-ray or DVD set of 8 or 15 movies, and yet a similar release on laserdisc would have been several times more expensive, not to mention a gigantic box.

Had laserdisc not paved the way for DVD, I believe that you would have seen a lot less content. There still would have been DVD movies, and they still would have sold lots of copies. But I strongly doubt you'd have seen all the commentary tracks and all the extra features viewers have become accustomed to getting on the discs. Most likely, the trend toward widescreen TVs would have happened anyway, but laserdisc certainly helped push that along. It wasn't until people began really noting all the widescreen lasers available that the studios began putting out widescreen VHS tapes for many movies in the 1990s.

To dismiss or to diminish the contribution of laserdisc in creating our current home video situation would be to lose a crucial part of the history. And each step along the way has meant a notable increase in quality that benefits all of us today. The fact that we now have high quality copies of many catalogue movies, where we can see details at home that we never could have seen in the theater, and where we can see extensive materials about the making of these movies, all on a single disc, is a real gift.

The work of companies like Twilight Time is notable for the fact that they are getting a lot of titles out in high definition that would not otherwise get the attention. And there are certainly enough fans of these movies to buy the limited releases Twilight Time and the Archive programs do. I think both ideas are good ones - it allows people who really like the movies to get them, but doesn't have the producer making thousands of discs that will just sit on shelves.
 

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I was too young to buy Laserdiscs back when they were at their peak but was definitely aware of them and aware that they were considered a high-end product (with the price tag to go with it). If the format had dominated through the years and the discs were still being made today (yeah, right) I would have no problem buying my favorite films on the format, even at Laserdisc prices. Buying a copy of a movie isn't like putting gas in your car or paying a cellphone bill - it's a luxury for some folks but if you're a cinephile and a collector then paying a bit of a premium for a limited edition Blu-ray should NEVER be a concern. If it's something you enjoy and it's the only way to go, put a little less gas in the tank this week or get rid of your premium cable package (there's never anything good on anyway) and get the Blu-ray. It's the best some of these films will ever look and it's totally worth it.
BTW, if CHRISTINE or THE BLOB remake look as good as The Blue Lagoon, I'll be very happy :D
 

Charles Smith

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Excellent overview and nice trip down memory lane, Kevin. Thanks for that.

And I agree with that line of thinking, too, Luis. Right now this is what the disposable income (such as it is) goes toward - an "investment" in a personal library that I expect to please and nourish me far into the future.
 

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