What's with all these Out-Of-Print/Limited Edition DVDs?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Roderick Gauci, May 21, 2002.

  1. Roderick Gauci

    Roderick Gauci Stunt Coordinator

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    The recent announcement at the Cannes Film Festival that all the Charlie Chaplin movies made between 1925 and 1957 will be re-released on DVD in late 2002/early 2003 with several exclusive supplements has set me thinking about the copious re-issues to which we collectors have already been subjected during this format’s brief existence.

    Specifically, I have stuck to the “Out-of-Print” phenomenon which usually arises as a result of these re-issues. Later on, I have taken a look at the more recent surge of Limited Edition DVDs which have been, unaccountably, applied to a wide array of classic films. Basing myself solely on the items in my collection, I have sub-divided the relevant discs into their appropriate categories:

    Out-Of-Print:

    THE KID/A DOG'S LIFE (On Order)

    THE GOLD RUSH

    THE CIRCUS

    CITY LIGHTS

    DRACULA

    FRANKENSTEIN

    THE MUMMY

    THE INVISIBLE MAN

    BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN

    DRACULA'S DAUGHTER/SON OF DRACULA

    MODERN TIMES

    SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS [2-Disc Set]

    SON OF FRANKENSTEIN/THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN

    THE GREAT DICTATOR

    THE MUMMY'S HAND/THE MUMMY'S TOMB

    THE WOLF MAN

    PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

    FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN/HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN

    BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Criterion)

    MONSIEUR VERDOUX (On Order)

    LIMELIGHT (On Order)

    CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

    A KING IN NEW YORK/A WOMAN OF PARIS

    DR. NO

    CHARADE (On Order)

    FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE

    GOLDFINGER

    THIS IS SPINAL TAP

    THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

    As you can see, I still have some of these “on order”. In fact, I can safely say that about 60% of the DVDs I purchased in the last six months were bought primarily because of their “out-of-print” status. Although I had been toying with the idea of buying the Charlie Chaplin discs for quite some time, the realization that they were being discontinued made me rush out and buy them. I don’t have to say how I feel now that I know for a fact that most of these will eventually be re-released in a “superior” DVD edition.

    Actually, there has been no mention of a re-release of the Chaplin shorts already on DVD (of which I have THE CHAPLIN MUTUALS VOL. 1: EASY STREET/THE CURE/THE IMMIGRANT/THE ADVENTURER) and A FIRST NATIONAL COLLECTION: SHOULDER ARMS/SUNNYSIDE/A DAY'S PLEASURE/THE IDLE CLASS/PAY DAY/THE PILGRIM/NICE AND FRIENDLY) which are held in the public domain. In the Cannes Film Festival announcement, strangely enough, there was no mention of THE KID either – Chaplin’s first feature-length film, and in my opinion, still one of his best.

    To be honest, although I am satisfied with the Image DVD editions of the Chaplin films I have watched so far (both in the print and transfer quality departments and the supplementary features), one DVD I am particularly looking forward to is THE GOLD RUSH – my own personal favorite Chaplin movie - which should include the original 1925 silent version, virtually unseen since Chaplin recut it for its 1942 theatrical re-issue with his narration substituting the insert titles. And judging from this excerpt below, this may very well happen:

    Quote:

    “Q: Is there any possibility of a restored silent GOLD RUSH, or is the Chaplin estate completely opposed to that?

    A: Well, the Chaplin estate produced a restored silent GOLD RUSH. It's not on video, but it's done frequently in concert performance. Carl Davis constructed a score for it, based on Charlie's score for his 1941 version. The L.A. Chamber Orchestra played it in L.A., and it's been done fairly widely. The film work was done by the late David Gill, and looks very good.”

    However, I have my reservations about the others, especially if, as has been implied, they will feature the “revised cuts” of the films made by Chaplin himself over the years rather than how they were originally released back in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties:

    Quote:

    “In many cases, of course, the films had been reissued with music tracks composed by Chaplin, but these versions had little cuts in them. I was interested in putting them out as they had originally been seen and was able to get permission to do that. But the family has now changed its opinion, and when the contract runs out in September of next year those versions will probably be withdrawn, and I suspect the films will thereafter be available only in what we call the "Daddy" versions.”

    Of course, we won’t know for sure whether this will be the case or not until they are eventually released. Having said all this, I don’t particularly like Chaplin’s particular brand of fooling all that much, preferring rather the much more inventive Buster Keaton and the sympathetic persona created by Harold Lloyd. But, above and beyond all this, Chaplin has managed to make in THE GOLD RUSH, CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES at the very least, three of the greatest films of all time.

    The Universal Monster Classics Collection DVDs (all the 8 titles of the first batch and 4 from the second batch of 6) have been discontinued for no apparent reason. Despite the general misgivings felt by several fans in many an online forum discussion about the films not being sufficiently “cleaned up” (if at all) before being transferred onto disc, the DVDs in question (especially the first batch) were pretty hard to fault in the extras department. Although there was talk of missing footage pertaining to DRACULA, THE MUMMY, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE WOLF MAN in their respective Documentaries, none was “unearthed” for their DVD editions. But the Audio Commentaries were a veritable joy to listen to. As yet, so far as I know, there has been no official statement yet forthcoming from Universal as to whether these discs will be re-released, restored or otherwise, but it is hard for me to believe that these perennial horror favorites will remain “buried” for long! The second Double-Features batch was more of a mixed bag but although they may not have been so well received as the individual “Special Edition” DVDs (coupling SON OF FRANKENSTEIN with THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN rather than releasing it separately, thus leaving room for HOUSE OF DRACULA on the HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN disc, was a massive error of judgement), was it necessary to withdraw these discs a mere six months after release date? I, for one, would welcome more Double-Feature DVDs in the near future, especially for their lesser known titles.

    A similarly “strange” decision was Disney’s putting its magnificent 2-Disc Platinum Edition of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS on moratorium. While I have yet to watch it myself, it has been unanimously hailed as a ground-breaking DVD package which led to a slew of other equally impressive Disney discs. I cannot hope to fathom the reasoning behind such a decision, but I suspect the motives are purely financial. Although the 2-Disc Set is still widely available in several online stores, I grabbed myself a copy (along with DUMBO) from a local retailer the minute I read the news of its “demise”.

    Another “sound” marketing decision was behind the withdrawal of the Special Edition DVDs of the James Bond movies. As you may know, the new entry in the James Bond saga will be unveiled next December. Therefore, the powers-that-be have devised a scheme to saturate the market of its current supply of James Bond, thereby increasing the demand for the master spy’s upcoming adventure and, simultaneously, ensuring that the previous outings will be equally lapped up by those who, like myself, missed their chance the first time around! Frankly, the only James Bond movies I will be picking up eventually will be THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. While Roger Moore is likeable enough and quite suitable for the role, the increasingly campy extravaganzas in which he appeared quickly lost their steam and overstayed their welcome. I might still get to rent them, if only my local DVD rental outlet would stock them!

    Finally, three of the four Criterions in the list appear to have been discontinued mainly because of the expiry of their distribution rights in the U.S. While I had been considering the Region 0 Special Edition of CHARADE (released by Sanctuary Digital Entertainment as part of The Laureate Collection), I finally gave in to the pricey Criterion because of the Stanley Donen/Peter Stone Audio Commentary and “The Films of Stanley Donen” segment. Although both packed with extras, the Criterion edition and the 2-Disc set on Region 2 (which I own) of THIS SPINAL TAP have a number of exclusive features to each of them. However, the unavailability of the former (not to mention the prohibiting cost demanded by owners eager to make a fast buck) made me opt, sensibly, for the latter, and I can’t say I’m disappointed. THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is a good film in itself but not one particularly attuned to my tastes. If pressed, I would have to say that its OOP status is the main reason why I bought it when I did. The 1998 Criterion DVD of Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was excellent on the whole, except from some flaws visible in the print used - which, by the way, also jettisoned Cocteau’s amusing original title sequence in favor of the more prosaic one utilized for the U.S. market. Now that it has been recently restored for a brief theatrical run, it will, perhaps wisely, be re-released (as opposed to re-pressed) by The Criterion Collection.

    Now we come to the increasingly more popular form of marketing used by production companies with a view to utilizing to the full the potential of a particular release. From the list below, it can be evidenced that every type of film is in the running for a Limited Edition makeover: from all-time greats to “obscure” Silent movies; from classic animation to Grade ‘B’ potboilers; from tastless horror hokum to masterpieces of “modern” cinema:

    FANTOMAS [2-Disc Set] (R2)

    EL DORADO (R2)

    WALT DISNEY TREASURES: SILLY SYMPHONIES [2-Disc Set] (On Order)

    WALT DISNEY TREASURES: MICKEY MOUSE IN LIVING COLOR [2-Disc Set] (On Order)

    THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI [2-Disc Set]

    LAWRENCE OF ARABIA [2-Disc Set]

    SCARS OF DRACULA/THE MANY FACES OF CHRISTOPHER LEE [2-Disc Set] (On Order)

    BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB/THE HAMMER TRAILER COLLECTION [2-Disc Set] (On Order)

    THE WICKER MAN [2-Disc Set]

    SUSPIRIA [3-Disc Set]

    THE STUNT MAN/THE SINISTER SAGA OF MAKING "THE STUNT MAN" [2-Disc Set]

    Frankly, I do not see the need to dub THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA as “Limited Edition” DVDs. Actually, the Region 2 versions I have do not carry this redundant designation, especially since they contain several useful supplements to warrant an automatic upgrade from VHS and, perhaps, LD.

    FANTOMAS and EL DORADO, released by Gaumont on French Region 2 DVD, are a true treasure trove for the authentic film collector: they feature extensive supplements (albeit in French only) and the films themselves are both great and beautifully restored. They both come in individually numbered cardboard cases limited to 12,000 copies each. Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, my copies are still in the early thousands or even late hundreds threshold. I would heartily recommend these to anyone, both as influential cornerstones in cinema history and as endlessly fascinating films in themselves.

    Anchor Bay’s Limited Editions of two late entries from the Hammer film studio are packaged with an extra Documentary and a collection of trailers disc respectively with the first 10,000 copies of each. Although SCARS OF DRACULA is generally panned, even by fans of the Hammer brand of horror – and, indeed, Christopher Lee himself - but never having watched it, I guess I will have decide for myself. Still, the disc is sufficiently stacked with extras to warrant a purchase for me. On the other hand, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB, while lacking in the supplements area, is one of the better films turned out by Hammer during their “reign of terror”. THE WICKER MAN, SUSPIRIA and THE STUNT MAN all have a single-disc edition besides the multiple disc Limited Edition version. Although THE WICKER MAN has now been superseded by its Region 2 counterpart (which may force me towards my first DVD upgrade), there is no reason for fans of SUSPIRIA and THE STUNT MAN to hold back on the excellent Limited Editions bestowed on them by Anchor Bay.

    The latest Limited Editions which have come to my attention are the Walt Disney Treasures Limited Edition Tin sets of classic animation. While not particularly conversant with Disney’s short subjects (as opposed to the more familiar Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Tex Avery cartoons), I was very impressed by the reviews I read of these two collections and have therefore rushed out and ordered a copy online. I just hope that there are still some floating around in the shops!

    There are still a couple of OOP DVDs which I have yet to pick up, and even some Limited Editions which have yet to be released:

    WEREWOLF OF LONDON/SHE-WOLF OF LONDON

    THE SOUND OF MUSIC [2-Disc Set]

    THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (TV) (R2)

    TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD/RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD

    THE HERZOG/KINSKI COLLECTION: AGUIRRE, WRATH OF GOD

    NOSFERATU, THE VAMPYRE

    WOYZECK

    FITZCARRALDO

    COBRA VERDE

    KINSKI, MY BEST FIEND [6-Disc Set]

    THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (TV) (R2)

    COUNT DRACULA (TV) (R2)

    BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: PLATINUM EDITION [2-Disc Set] (Disney)

    The WEREWOLF OF LONDON/SHE-WOLF OF LONDON Double-Feature DVD still eludes me. After being on order for the best part of six months at DVD Express (which I later learned were on the fringe of insolvency), I cancelled my order and placed another with Deep Discount DVD, only for their copy to be “lost in transit” during shipping! As it happens, they do not have any more copies of it in store for me, and neither does anybody else it seems! If there is somebody out there who knows of an online retailer who still stocks this title, I would appreciate it if he would let me know.

    Another Double-Feature disc which has been discontinued is Anchor Bay’s TOMB OF THE BLIND DEAD/RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD. Ever since I can remember I have been a fan of both classic and cult horror movies. I had read positive reviews of these little-seen Spanish flicks on an old, heady tome called (what else?) “Horror Films”, but so far I have not managed to catch any of them on late night TV. The second outing, apart from being considered the weaker of the two is dubbed, which cannot do it any good. Besides, nobody seems to have this disc in stock either!

    The BBC have launched a new series of DVDs on Region 2 entitled "BBC Special Interest" which will feature classic TV films and series originally made for and shown on BBC. I will start off by saying that I have never been a fan of TV movies. However, I am very interested in the first three DVD releases in the BBC series, namely THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and COUNT DRACULA. While it is certainly commendable that such rare films are being revived (and will, hopefully, be rediscovered as the classics they were on first viewing), I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of supplements on the DVDs. I read that these first releases are Limited Editions intended to gauge the public interest in the BBC's products. Still, I guess that special features for such films are rather hard to come by (unless a Documentary or an Audio Commentary could be provided), though l feel that GBP 19.99 ($29.95) is a bit steep for movie-only editions! That is why, in fact, I am greatly tempted by their special offer of a GBP 50.00 ($71.95) price tag for the three DVDs combined.

    Anchor Bay’s 6-DVD Box Set THE HERZOG/KINSKI COLLECTION will be released on 07/09/02 and is limited to 5000 copies only. I kept postponing the Herzog titles on DVD in anticipation of this Box Set. However, I still had to buy the 2-Disc edition of NOSFERATU, THE VAMPYRE on Region 2 (for the bargain price equivalent of $11.99) since the English language version (as opposed to dubbed) of the film is not included in the Box Set. As yet, I have not managed to find an online store (which ships to my country) which has it up for pre-order. Again, any assistance in directing me towards an online retailer which satisfies both criteria will be greatly appreciated.

    In keeping with their present policy for the Platinum Edition DVDs, Disney’s upcoming BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 2-Disc Set may also be available for a limited time period only. Of course, the film is set to be stacked with supplements a’ la SNOW WHITE, not the least of which shall be three complete versions of the film itself!

    The latest announcement of a title whose DVD is going out of print is Fox’s 5-Star 2-Disc Edition of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Even though I am not a fan of Musicals and family entertainment fare, I think I might still purchase the current version rather than the upcoming single-disc edition, if only for the bargain price of GBP 9.99 ($14.99) presently offered by Play.com, a U.K. based retailer.

    But that is exactly my qualm about these Limited Edition and Out-Of-Print DVDs: more often than not, I am finding myself “saddled” with a bunch of films which were not a priority for me (because they will only be available for a limited time period), while having to do without several others which I badly wanted to add to my collection, due to their unheralded unavailability in most online stores!

    I apologize for having rambled on for so long, but I felt that I needed to get it off my chest. So, what are your opinions on all your favorite titles going Out-Of-Print and all the recent Limited Editions and what not?

    By the way, not to rub it in, but are there any more Out-of-Print/Limited Edition DVDs which I should take note of before they disappear completely? Is there a reliable online source which lists such discs?
     
  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I actually think LEs are a very good idea, especially for particular titles. For example, some of the Anchor Bay LE titles: I think the purpose of making a "limited edition" release is so that those interested will make a real effort to get the title (and maybe appeal to a collector here an there).

    Like the "My so called life" set coming-- they have to generate enough initial interest to make preperation of the title worthwhile. If they need to limit the presing to 60,000 pieces in order to get the 60,000 people who would eventually buy it to act quickly enough to make it possible- I'm all for it!

    And with OOP titles- many of the popular ones come from the Criterion library- where they simply lose the rights. Criterion makes great discs, so when one goes OOP, the idea that it would be difficult to get an equal or better quality version in the fuure drives up the cost.

    -Vince
     
  3. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    wrt the Chaplin films:

    The Chaplin Mutuals and the Essanays are not going out of print because they're public domain and the Chaplin Estate can't stop Image from selling them.

    There's still plenty of reason to own the Image discs because I've yet to hear whether the "restored" films will be restorations of the re-cut versions done by Chaplin in his dotage (think Star Wars Special Edition). The last word we had from the Chaplin Estate was that the re-cut versions would be the only ones they would release from now on. That means big cuts out of The Kid, A Woman of Paris, Modern Times and A King in New York. I don't offhand recall any major cuts to Limelight or Great Dictator, so those may be safe in their 'restored' versions.

    As far as a restored Gold Rush (1925), I wouldn't bet on it. The restoration plays theatrically, but since the silent version is probably public domain (though the Chaplin Estate also makes a fairly flimsy argument that a 2-page treatment for the film is still under copyright under British law and therefore grandfathered under GATT). If it is PD, the Estate doesn't want to put out a pristine version that can immediately be picked up by the pirates and undercut them. I'd love it if they did issue it, and would buy it in a minute, but I'm not holding my breath.

    So I'd remain perfectly happy with the Image discs. I'm not feeling any particular need to downgrade them with censored and recut versions. These are the films that became acknowledged classics, not the revisionist versions.
     

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