Why don't the "No-name" companies even try?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by BryanV, Oct 3, 2004.

  1. BryanV

    BryanV Stunt Coordinator

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    For classic movie lovers like me it is really heartbreaking when you see a listing for a DVD that you have wanted to own for a long time just to find out that it is a public domain title being pushed out by sometimes more than one hole in the wall outfit.

    Now I have owned some products by the Laser Light company that were not half bad but most DVD products are actually worse then what I could manufacture with my PC here at home.

    I could make my own DVD from a Turner Classic Movie Broadcast that would actually be better than the 100th generation copy that bounces up and down on the screen.

    I'm beginning to feel that some of us should get together and start our own company for the public domain titles to have them put out at least with some kind of decent looking presentation.

    Most of these titles sell for like $5-6 but for these to fall under the "you get what you pay for" rule they should be sold for .50.

    I am sure that those who have bought audio products from these companies know that there is not much better quality there.

    Please let me know if I am being too harsh on these guys and if I just do not understand the business cause I really feel like its a terrible way to treat some of the worlds greatest works of art.
     
  2. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    No, you're not too harsh, lazy cretinous slime is too kind a word for the crap.

    I could never understand the new (lousy) music they bothered to put on Madacy's Metropolis, when they left all the misframed titles, and unnecessary jitter in.[​IMG]
     
  3. BryanV

    BryanV Stunt Coordinator

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    If I ever win the lottery I swear I would start my own company and do my own runs of these. I remember reading one of the first live chat sessions on here and it was basically people working out of there house and then sending it to the digital people for the conversion.
     
  4. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

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    And what would the incentive be for these "no name" companies to invest money in film restoration? So another "no name" company" can rip off their product and issue it. It is public domain after all with no copyright.

    Public domain titles are hit and miss. I've returned a couple of titles that were simply unwatchable by any standard and some public domain titles were above average in their quality. Alpha's DVD of the Jean Negulesco film with Claudette Colbert Three Came Home could pass for a major home video product.

    Though some like Madacy appear willing to release anything regadless of print quality, some like VCI and Alpha appear to at least try to get the best print available in most cases. That those prints don't always measure up to standard is not their fault.
     
  5. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Wouldn't Your restoration work be protected under law? Or would any work done to a PD title be also PD? I'm not terribly familiar with the law on this subject. [​IMG]
     
  6. Ravi K

    Ravi K Supporting Actor

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    Would something have to be added (footage, music, intertitles) to be considered a new work? Would it be enough to just restore the picture quality?
     
  7. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    You would have to make substantial changes to the film in order for it to be considered a copyrightable work. You could spend a ton of money on restoring a print and then anyone in the world could take your print and sell it. There would be nothing you could do about it. The cheapest thing you could do would be to search for a really nice print that doesn't require any work apart from digitizing. Let's face it; most of the public domain films aren't in the best of shape. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD's negative seems to be in terrific shape, but only because the original filmmakers still have it and have taken care of it. Most PD films aren't so lucky. At least with silent films, a new soundtrack can be added and then copyrighted.
     
  8. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    Actually, wouldn't the cheapest thing be to copy a compeitor's already-digitized product? I don't think a digital transfer is considered a substantial addition to a work.
     
  9. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    A lot of PD films on DVD have lousy transfers from lousy prints, yet the original 35mm camera negatives are often in great shape - it's just a question of tracking them down. If they were made by a "Poverty Row Studio" which went bankrupt in 50s and was bought out by someone else, then you would expect that the O-negs for all the "Poverty Row Studio" films would go to the other studio - WRONG! They were often lost, stolen, destroyed (nitrates!) or 'kept' by the producer of the film, for example. So down through the 20th Century, many of these films were in limbo - they were not shown in cinemas and did not show up on TV until the 70s. By then, the O-negs were MIA. Kinoscope broadcasts from 16mm reductions from bad prints were the order of the day! But the O-negs were out there and most likely still in good condition.

    You would think that today, we would be seeing the essential Poverty Row Film Noirs on DVD from their O-negs, but that is still not the case. You have to do a bit of detective work - DVD Beaver is a great, great resource - and always be on the look out for new releases.

    A dream for me would be to set up a DVD production and distribution company that specialised in tracking down the O-negs of Public Domain titles and creating hi-def, digitally refurbished (MTI Digital Restoration System / Lowry Digital Images, etc) transfers and produce commentaries by film scholars - especially dor the Noirs.

    Image Ent. have released some fine PD titles from the O-neg/dupe neg like Detour, D.O.A., etc but they also put out an awful transfer of Fritz Lang's pivotal Noir, You Only Live Once when I know that the O-neg for that film is in great shape and was last stored at MGM - is it still there?

    THIS is a good HTF thread on PD DVDs.
     
  10. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

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    Somtimes I don't think DVD people live in the real world.

    Of course, excellent prints exist for public domain titles but do you really think if Image knocked on MGM's door and said "Excuse me, but we want to release You Only Live Once on DVD, could we use your print?", MGM would be okay with that?

    First of all, MGM owns the print and there ain't no freebies and would charge Image a licensing fee but realistically MGM would preferably like to issue the film itself and reap all the profits (if any) but if they do release their pristine print, the other "no name" companies would merely rip them off within months charging a $4.99 price.

    I'm sure Fox has pristine prints of Snows Of Kiliminjaro and Beneath The 12 Mile Reef in their vaults and Warners has pristine prints of Till The Clouds Roll By and Last Time I Saw Paris in their vaults but with the glut of public domain releases of these titles, what motive does Fox or Warners have for spiffing them up on putting them out on DVD?
     
  11. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    I wouldn't include VCI Home Entertainment among the no-name companies that are the focus of this thread. Although it has released many public-domain titles (among the better versions, as you point out), it also has licensed, restored and released exclusive titles, such as Luis Bunuel's "Robinson Crusoe," which came out last week.
     
  12. BryanV

    BryanV Stunt Coordinator

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    As always you guys justify the name of this web site with your wealth of knowledge of how the system works. This has inspired me to start another posting that will benefit all members:

    Please add what you can to this list:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...hreadid=213208

    Thomas T I understand your posts but what about The Drunken master or Mr. Deeds Goes to Town? These are both movies that has previously Hideous DVD releases with the "No Name" companies but now have extremely well done packages with nice special features. If someone went to the store to by just about anything they can get the "Brown Bag" version or the name brand. I know that by offering a major studio product that may cost a few dollars more yet have COPYRIGHTED extra features on it as does Mr. Deeds and Drunken Master people will want to go with the company they are familiar with over the unknown product.
     
  13. David Grove

    David Grove Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm curious.

    How then does a DVD such as "His Girl Friday" work? Why is it successful? WHy isn't it copied? And, if it can be a success, then why couldn't other PDs be issued by the "big boy" studios?

    DG
     
  14. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Thomas, relax; I'm just stating the facts.

    If Image can track down the O-negs of Detour and D.O.A. then surely they could have tracked down the O-neg of You Only Live Once - or at least a decent print; there has to be something better out there than the Etch-a-Sketch-quality transfer they 'created'. Awful. It looks like a bad 16mm reduction from a 4th generation print.

    MGM are now owened by Sony, of course. Are any of the No Name DVD distributors going to bootleg a Sony product? Would they risk the super heavy weight litigation just for the chance to make a few hundred bucks on black and white film from the 50s?! [​IMG]

    I think that You Only Live Once is Lang's best talkie. A monumental Noir.
    It deserves far, far better.
     
  15. Paul Strilka

    Paul Strilka Stunt Coordinator

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    I worked for one of these PD distributors a few years back as a dubber. They cut corners any way they can. Cheap equipment, cheap media, no quality control. If they had a silent film print with bad music track they would over dub a random classical piece. They cared little for the integrity of the films. The owner was a private film collector. He was constantly being sued, but he never paid a dime and made a fortune- (multi millions)
    Most of it from old Amos and Andy episodes and the 70's porn classic, "Deep Throat".
    What a racket.
     
  16. Ravi K

    Ravi K Supporting Actor

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    Why are the kung fu movies of the 70s often available on video/DVD from PD companies? They're only about 30 years old by now.
     
  17. Paul Strilka

    Paul Strilka Stunt Coordinator

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    Most foreign exploitation films were produced by fly-by-night producers who have no idea their film is being bootlegged and sold. If one did get wind of it- the PD gets a legal warning to stop selling, which would require the producer to hire a lawyer. In most cases the producer is no longer making any $ off the film anyway- so why bother.
     

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