WARNER ARCHIVE – MORE QUALITY RELEASES PLEASE

3 Stars

Warner – where are the many great MGM musicals still under lock and key for blu ray?
HIGH SOCIETY, SEVEN BRIDES, STUDENT PRINCE, ROSE MARIE – so many more. Why The Rounders? Why all the B grade schlock films that achieved neither critical nor box office success? And there are thousands more top MGM classics that remain locked away while second tier distributors continue to release.

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Kevin Collins

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  1. Warner Archive has a very active presence on their Facebook page – if you reach out them directly there, they may be able to shed some light on why certain titles have come before others. In the past, I have found them to be very forthcoming in their explanations when asked politely.

    It generally comes down to a matter of budget and availability of elements, along with Warner's internal policies for standards. Warner currently has a policy of perfection or nothing – they won't release anything that's not absolutely flawless. A lot of the titles they've put out are films that technically are in good condition and do not require extensive or expensive restoration work. They're able to take existing elements, create a new master, and issue it on disc without spending a lot of money to make that happen. They're also targeting films that they believe will sell well. A lot of catalogue titles do not sell huge numbers in 2018, but there are certain genres and titles that are exceptions to that rule, horror being one of them. So that's why, for instance, Green Slime is out on Blu-ray, but other titles aren't. Green Slime as a horror film will sell well for them, and didn't require a lot of effort to be ready to be released in the quality that Warner insists on.

  2. Here we go again! It's called diversity. If the Archives did nothing but peddle old Joan Crawford movies and MGM musicals, their profits would be dim indeed. So for every Brigadoon, we get a The Green Slime, for every Les Girls, we get a The Black Scorpion. Thumb your nose up at the slime and scorpions but they're paying for Brigadoon and Les Girls.

    And you know what? Some of us also have diverse tastes in film. We like both Brigadoon and The Green Slime. They're not mutually exclusive.

  3. M90GM

    Warner – where are the many great MGM musicals still under lock and key for blu ray?
    HIGH SOCIETY, SEVEN BRIDES, STUDENT PRINCE, ROSE MARIE – so many more. Why The Rounders? Why all the B grade schlock films that achieved neither critical nor box office success? And there are thousands more top MGM classics that remain locked away while second tier distributors continue to releas

    Is this some kind of joke? You've been a member since October 2009. Have you not seen over the years the large number of posts making exactly the same point you've just made and the various explanations why these titles have not been released?

  4. RICK BOND

    They should do a Vote. Ask the movie fans what would they like to see released on Bluray. The 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's and 1970's. Fox did this a few years ago.

    Yeah, an experiment never repeated. Why? I suspect it's because the movies that the "fans" voted for didn't sell as well as they expected. It's been my experience that "fans" love to make lists of all the films they "want" but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, sometimes it's another story.

    Frankly, I think the Warner Archives should start a "fund me" page where the "fans" donate to the restoration fund for the films they want on blu ray. Warners funds 50% and the "fans" fund the other 50%. That way everyone's happy. Warners reduces their losses and "fans" get the movies they want. But don't be surprised if Teenagers From Outer Space and The Frozen Dead get funded faster than The Student Prince and Rose Marie.

  5. RICK BOND

    They should do a Vote. Ask the movie fans what would they like to see released on Bluray. The 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's and 1970's. Fox did this a few years ago.

    So did Warner Bros. Archives.

  6. How many times have we seen an announcement made for a long awaited classic title, only to be followed by series of posts stating that the author will wait for a sale before purchasing? How many times is the announcement greeted with comments expression disappointment about a lack of new bonus features, or saying that the old DVD version is good enough? It's human nature to say you want something that's not available, and then to show less urgency when it becomes available. I'm not trying to suggest we're bad people for that, but it can hurt the studio or label putting that disc out, that really had been counting on every "I'd buy that on Day One if it was available" turning into an actual sale.

    For better or worse, horror catalog titles on disc still sell. (Same for fantasy and sci-do.) It's perhaps the most reliable genre for catalog sales. And, speaking generally, horror fans aren't waiting for sales when these titles get released, they're buying those discs right away and at or near full price.

    I'm as guilty as the next guy. A couple years ago, I did a project here where I watched all 72 of Cary Grant's films. Only a small number of them have been released on Blu-ray. I said then that I'd buy any Grant movie on Blu immediately on release. While I still aspire to do that, I realize there is a little bit of hyperbole in that statement. I already own all of his movies on DVD. There are probably a dozen I didn't care for. Am I really going to run out instantly and buy 72 Blu-rays at full price if they came out tomorrow? Probably not. Can't afford to do it all at once, and would have to question whether or not I'd even rewatch them all. But I'd definitely vote for them if someone asked what I'd buy on Blu. And I'd probably get a small handful immediately, some more over the long run, and who knows about the rest. I don't think I was intentionally lying when I posted that I'd buy them all on Blu. It's just that the heart wrote that statement, and then the head came by for a quick discussion on frugality and practicality.

    But a company like Warner Archive, they know what's selling and what's not. They know which titles they've had to order second and third printings for, and which ones are struggling to sell even the first batch. They know that releases from one genre generate X amount of revenue, while releases from a different genre generate Y amount. And if it's going to cost more to remaster that title to meet their very high disc standards than it could reasonably be expected to make, that's just not something they're doing right now.

    None of that takes away from my disappointment when something I want isn't available. But I get that that's where the business is at these days. I'm not sure if Warner is being noble in saying "perfection, or nothing at all" while a studio like MGM/UA says, "if someone wants to buy it, we'll gladly sell it to them in whatever condition it's in." I'm not sure there is a right answer.

  7. trajan007

    Where is the love for GOODBYE MR CHIPS and LOCAL HERO?

    I think Local Hero is hitting FilmStruck next month, which may mean something's in the works. 35th anniversary and all that, let's hope.

    No complaints about the Archive and Archive Blus (and no desire to relitigate the Great MOD Wars here–just glad one of these programs still exists in active form, missing the MIA.) Happy to welcome The Black Scorpion and, soon, Dark of the Sun into my Blu collection.

  8. RICK BOND

    They should do a Vote. Ask the movie fans what would they like to see released on Bluray. The 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's and 1970's. Fox did this a few years ago.

    Yeah, & then they stopped releasing stuff! But at least they license titles out. There's a few very non-classics that I'd like Warner to release, but if they don't, well that's life, but when I think of all the genuine classic films that most likely won't see the light of day on Blu-ray I despair (& that's including titles that would never be on any of my lists). Anyway, my last Warner moan, I promise. From now on I'll just buy the titles I fancy & not buy the others.

  9. Josh Steinberg

    I'm not sure if Warner is being noble in saying "perfection, or nothing at all" while a studio like MGM/UA says, "if someone wants to buy it, we'll gladly sell it to them in whatever condition it's in." I'm not sure there is a right answer.

    Josh I think you've hit on all the key points beautifully here. George Feltenstein and his team at Warner Archive have been the best of the bunch, Alas, catalog product direct from all the major studios has slowed to a relative trickle. Thank heavens for the indie labels like Olive, TT and especially Kino.

    I suppose I'm that rare bird around these parts who feels the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good. I'm pining for a 3D blu of Phantom of the Rue Morgue but Warner doesn't seem to want to budge. Apparently they didn't make sufficient profit off their prior classic 3D blus because they insist on doing all the work — quite expensively — in house, likely due to a combination of quality-control and security concerns. I've suggested the team from 3D Film Archive should offer to let Warner outfit them with electronic ankle bracelets if that's what it takes to allow them on to the lot to get the job done properly and profitably. :):3dglasses:

  10. Camps

    I'm pining for a 3D blu of Phantom of the Rue Morgue but Warner doesn't seem to want to budge.

    Now that it seems to be taking baby steps with Shout! Factory, perhaps the studio would reconsider a license for it.

  11. Dick

    Now that it seems to be taking baby steps with Shout! Factory, perhaps the studio would reconsider a license for it.

    Good point and you've also reminded me I absentmindedly excluded Shout/Scream from my above list of indie labels deserving of kudos.

  12. Camps

    Josh I think you've hit on all the key points beautifully here. George Feltenstein and his team at Warner Archive have been the best of the bunch, Alas, catalog product direct from all the major studios has slowed to a relative trickle. Thank heavens for the indie labels like Olive, TT and especially Kino.

    I suppose I'm that rare bird around these parts who feels the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good. I'm pining for a 3D blu of Phantom of the Rue Morgue but Warner doesn't seem to want to budge. Apparently they didn't make sufficient profit off their prior classic 3D blus because they insist on doing all the work — quite expensively — in house, likely due to a combination of quality-control and security concerns. I've suggested the team from 3D Film Archive should offer to let Warner outfit them with electronic ankle bracelets if that's what it takes to allow them on to the lot to get the job done properly and profitably. :):3dglasses:

    I agree with the sentiments about the perfect not being the enemy of the good. This is probably why I am buying more titles from Kino than the rest of the distributors put together.

  13. I'm very much with you on the "not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good" train as well.

    On the one hand, there's no excuse for classics like Casablanca and The Wizard Of Oz being given anything less than top of the line treatment – and those titles do indeed receive top notch treatment.

    But for the rarer, the more obscure, the less in demand by a wide audience, where a product of reasonably good quality that's 90% of perfection could be completed for a minimal expense on their part, my preference would probably be to go with that. Because Warner is sitting on far more titles than they'll ever be able to release, especially if it's only four titles per month.

  14. I'm impressed with the titles that have been released (as well as the quality). I'm really eager for Dark of the Sun and Colossus of Rhodes. The Hanging Tree, Battleground, Gumball Rally (some of their more recent releases) were very impressive.

  15. Personally, I have been disappointed with WAC's blu-ray output. That's not to say that WAC hasn't been doing good work and putting out good films. It has. That is very difficult to deny. I've been happy to add "The Great Race," "42nd Street," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "The Wheeler-Dealers," and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" to my collection. Sure, WAC has released films I have little to no interest in, but since when am I the arbiter of good taste in movies? Any child knows that the sandbox needs to be shared. My dissatisfaction stems from my biases. Most of the films I watch and enjoy are from before 1940, and WAC hasn't been all that active to date in releasing films from that era on blu-ray. In the five or six years that WAC has been releasing blu-rays, only one pre-1940 title has been deemed worthy of release? Really? Month after month I've been hoping to see the floodgates to open, but I just find myself disappointed in that regard. Again, I'm not saying WAC shouldn't be releasing what it has been putting out. If the horror titles sell so well, keep putting them out, but let's see an occasional 1930s (or even 1920s) title among the horror titles. Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, etc. all need to have far better representation of their MGM/WB films on blu. Where are the more high profile silents – The Cameraman, Spite Marriage, Ben-Hur (in true HD), Greed, The Wind, The Crowd, etc. I get that most of the pre-1940 films aren't reasonable candidates for one reason or another. I'm not expecting to see the complete Wheeler and Woolsey on blu, but I'd like to think that "A Night at the Opera" and "A Day at the Races" can be expected at some point. If 2018 is going to represent some high water mark, then I hope to see more love shown to some of the older catalog titles.

  16. Arthur – I think one of the reasons that we haven't gotten the Marx Brothers movies that Warner owns is that Night At The Opera and Day At The Races are in rougher shape than the studio considers acceptable for a Blu-ray release. The expense to bring them up to where Warner would want them to be is probably higher than a Warner Archive title typically grosses. It could also be caught in a tug-of-war with the main division of the home video label. It's possible that it could be a scenario where the regular Warner Home Video doesn't want to put it out right now because catalog sales are down, but don't want to relinquish it either because they're prestigious titles. So it may be something that Warner Archive wants but doesn't have access to. There are a lot of titles across all the major studios that are in that kind of limbo, where either a smaller internal division or a smaller third party would love to release a title that the studio isn't acting on, but the studio doesn't want to let it go because they don't want someone else to have a hit with it either.

    In participating in this thread, I was thinking about the Warner Archive titles I purchased last year. Honestly, "The Rounders" is one of my favorite finds – it was a blind buy and I ended up watching it again only a day or so after I watched it the first time. I can recognize objectively speaking that it's not Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, but I was absolutely delighted from start to finish.

  17. Josh Steinberg

    Arthur – I think one of the reasons that we haven't gotten the Marx Brothers movies that Warner owns is that Night At The Opera and Day At The Races are in rougher shape than the studio considers acceptable for a Blu-ray release. The expense to bring them up to where Warner would want them to be is probably higher than a Warner Archive title typically grosses. It could also be caught in a tug-of-war with the main division of the home video label. It's possible that it could be a scenario where the regular Warner Home Video doesn't want to put it out right now because catalog sales are down, but don't want to relinquish it either because they're prestigious titles. So it may be something that Warner Archive wants but doesn't have access to. There are a lot of titles across all the major studios that are in that kind of limbo, where either a smaller internal division or a smaller third party would love to release a title that the studio isn't acting on, but the studio doesn't want to let it go because they don't want someone else to have a hit with it either.

    In participating in this thread, I was thinking about the Warner Archive titles I purchased last year. Honestly, "The Rounders" is one of my favorite finds – it was a blind buy and I ended up watching it again only a day or so after I watched it the first time. I can recognize objectively speaking that it's not Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, but I was absolutely delighted from start to finish.

    What I also wonder, with A Night At The Opera, is whether they are hoping to pull off a similar miracle with that film that they did with The Sea Wolf and that Universal did with Animal Crackers, and restore any cut footage (if it still exists at this point).

  18. Josh Steinberg

    It's possible that it could be a scenario where the regular Warner Home Video doesn't want to put it out right now because catalog sales are down, but don't want to relinquish it either because they're prestigious titles. So it may be something that Warner Archive wants but doesn't have access to. There are a lot of titles across all the major studios that are in that kind of limbo, where either a smaller internal division or a smaller third party would love to release a title that the studio isn't acting on, but the studio doesn't want to let it go because they don't want someone else to have a hit with it either. .

    Is this really an issue, though?

    Is WHV still even in the catalog business? They haven’t released a title in two and a half years.

    Based on what we’ve seen, I just assumed that ALL catalog titles fell under WAC domain now.

  19. Thomas T

    Frankly, I think the Warner Archives should start a "fund me" page where the "fans" donate to the restoration fund for the films they want on blu ray.

    And how about we "fans" ask Warner Archive to release classics ALREADY RESTORED in 35mm by Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay Productions. Still, what a terrible burden to have to scan them I guess. I've seen these on the big screen and they look fabulous. Brownlow spoke before a Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse event a few years ago. When asked whether WB would be releasing any of these he said that sadly there was "no interest" in doing this from the WB brass. Guess that's all we really need to know about that.
    Still, they're releasing Colossus of Rhodes (which is my Green Slime) soon, so some things are definitely improving,

  20. Astairefan

    What I also wonder, with A Night At The Opera, is whether they are hoping to pull off a similar miracle with that film that they did with The Sea Wolf and that Universal did with Animal Crackers, and restore any cut footage (if it still exists at this point).

    I have seen an HD master of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, and to my eyes it is a quality presentation. But WB may consider it okay for streaming but not for Blu-ray.

  21. The streaming version in HD is the same master used to create the DVD. It's certainly watchable and I'm happy to have it, but it's not perfect, and as we all know, Warner's policy for discs is now "perfection, or nothing at all".

  22. How come there aren't more people asking for Friendly Persuasion on Blu-ray from Warner Archive?

    I watched the DVD of it tonight, and it's such a lovely film with wonderful performances, a tender, funny, and heartwarming story, and superb William Wyler direction. The DVD transfer certainly needs work with debris and dirt and some damage, but it's not too far gone, and the color isn't terrible.

  23. Josh Steinberg

    Arthur – I think one of the reasons that we haven't gotten the Marx Brothers movies that Warner owns is that Night At The Opera and Day At The Races are in rougher shape than the studio considers acceptable for a Blu-ray release.

    I have seen a very decent HD master of NIGHT AT THE OPERA. As for A DAY AT THE RACES, the elements might be in rougher shape. Plus you have what amounts to an elaborate picaninny musical number that kind of interrupts the flow of the film and leaves a bad taste in my mouth (and I am no supporter of censorship…but this sequence just happens to be about twenty times as offensive to my eyes as anything in SONG OF THE SOUTH). Warner Bros. has been known to censor stuff that is politically incorrect…. Tom and Jerry, anyone? But, those were the times, and these crude efforts to erase or rewrite history should be considered yet another threat to democracy.

  24. Josh Steinberg

    Arthur – I think one of the reasons that we haven't gotten the Marx Brothers movies that Warner owns is that Night At The Opera and Day At The Races are in rougher shape than the studio considers acceptable for a Blu-ray release.

    I have seen a very decent HD master of NIGHT AT THE OPERA. As for A DAY AT THE RACES, the elements might be in rougher shape. Plus you have what amounts to an elaborate picaninny musical number that kind of interrupts the flow of the film and leaves a bad taste in my mouth (and I am no supporter of censorship…but this sequence just happens to be about twenty times as offensive to my eyes as anything in SONG OF THE SOUTH). Warner Bros. has been known to censor stuff that is politically incorrect…. Tom and Jerry, anyone? But, those were the times, and these crude efforts to erase or rewrite history should be considered yet another threat to democracy.

  25. RICK BOND

    If Warner's policy is Perfection. Then what's the problem with … Day's of Wine and Roses ? The dvd is in Excellent condition. ??? It should be released. Also many others I could name.

    There is speculation that Days of Wine and Roses is with Criterion.

  26. RICK BOND

    If Warner's policy is Perfection. Then what's the problem with … Day's of Wine and Roses ? The dvd is in Excellent condition. ??? It should be released. Also many others I could name.

    There is speculation that Days of Wine and Roses is with Criterion.

  27. Matt Hough

    How come there aren't more people asking for Friendly Persuasion on Blu-ray from Warner Archive?

    I watched the DVD of it tonight, and it's such a lovely film with wonderful performances, a tender, funny, and heartwarming story, and superb William Wyler direction. The DVD transfer certainly needs work with debris and dirt and some damage, but it's not too far gone, and the color isn't terrible.

    I don't do lists and I don't presume to tell Warner Archive which films to release on Blu-ray disc. But I love Friendly Persuasion – and Dimitri Tiomkin's romantic main melody – and I'd pre-order a Blu-ray disc, particularly one from Warner Archive.

  28. Those MGM Tom & Jerrys were censored for TV by MGM. Warner Bros did not have the archive then. Other MGM cartoons were also censored. I have no idea if Warners have uncensored copies of these cartoons. The nitrate originals and other MGM nitrate cartoons were said to be lost in a fire there in the 1960s, I think. The Lon Chaney London After Midnight materials are said to have been burnt at this time along with the only MGM Greta Garbo silent not existing today(The Divine Woman, 1928. About 7-10mins does and has been used as an extra on discs).

    Remember too, that WB issued sets of Warner Bros Looney Tunes/ merrie Melodies uncut with a Whoopi Goldberg introduction explaining why they were issued uncut on those sets.

  29. Billy Batson

    Yeah, & then they stopped releasing stuff! But at least they license titles out. There's a few very non-classics that I'd like Warner to release, but if they don't, well that's life, but when I think of all the genuine classic films that most likely won't see the light of day on Blu-ray I despair (& that's including titles that would never be on any of my lists). Anyway, my last Warner moan, I promise. From now on I'll just buy the titles I fancy & not buy the others.

    And if you notice what they are licensing to Shout Factory it is more grade b "schlock" because Shout factory also knows what sells.

  30. 1. Warner, like most studios, seems to be piggy-backing their Blu-ray releases with the studio's ongoing program of transferring their back catalogue to theatrical DCP format for future theatrical use. Thus, the theatrical division's decisions on what to restore and convert to dcp may be affecting Home Video's choices.

    2. Home Video has been around for over 30 years now and Warner has released a huge portion of their back catalogue on at least three different formats before Blu-ray over the years. I would assume they know what they're doing based on sales figures for their titles over the years.

  31. Ken Koc

    I took a look at LOCAL HERO on Filmstruck last night. It is in SD and has the same PQ as the DVD. 🙁

    Come on, Criterion. Bill Forsyth Blu-Ray box set: "Gregory's Girl", "Local Hero", "Comfort And Joy", and "Housekeeping". You may add "That Sinking Feeling" at your discretion. Nothing to it! You may use my idea for free.

  32. For all the titles not released I find that there are plenty of available others still to catch up on.
    Of course those captures come from Twilight Time, Criterion and Kino Lorber.
    WAC will distribute – like all others – what they will; and, likewise, I will pick and choose from my own interests, as well.
    Good luck to both sides, I say; but in the end, my library of BD's has a larger percentage from those aforementioned competitors.

  33. Ken Koc

    I took a look at LOCAL HERO on Filmstruck last night. It is in SD and has the same PQ as the DVD. 🙁

    There is a decent looking HD transfer of Local Hero out there somewhere, but I can't remember where I saw it.

  34. Well, obviously somebody at Universal cares enough to lease out a bevy of Ernst Lubisch titles to Elephant Films in France. Coming soon are Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, If I Had a Million, One Hour With You and Design For Living (already a BD from Criterion). This follows their fine group of HD Doug Sirk and Powell-Pressburger titles. I would suppose that WB has to upgrade most titles it wants to make available for streaming to 4K in order to make use of the new standard in HDTVs. Perhaps, if we're lucky, they might make some masters available to foreign sources since a market for our classics seems to still exist in places like France and Germany, especially for director-centric collectors. For myself, if Helen of Troy made it into a Robert Wise group, Land of the Pharaohs made it into a Howard Hawks group or Julius Caesar made it into a Joseph L. Mankiewicz group I'd be ecstatic. Just maybe our classics can be enjoyed from afar by those able or intelligent enough to appreciate them. Just wish Elephant Films would consider Mitch Leisen or C.B. DeMille, although the latter's Cleopatra blu-ray will be released by Universal USA next week.

  35. Ed Lachmann

    Well, obviously somebody at Universal cares enough to lease out a bevy of Ernst Lubisch titles to Elephant Films in France. Coming soon are Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, If I Had a Million, One Hour With You and Design For Living (already a BD from Criterion). This follows their fine group of HD Doug Sirk and Powell-Pressburger titles. I would suppose that WB has to upgrade most titles it wants to make available for streaming to 4K in order to make use of the new standard in HDTVs. Perhaps, if we're lucky, they might make some masters available to foreign sources since a market for our classics seems to still exist in places like France and Germany, especially for director-centric collectors. For myself, if Helen of Troy made it into a Robert Wise group, Land of the Pharaohs made it into a Howard Hawks group or Julius Caesar made it into a Joseph L. Mankiewicz group I'd be ecstatic. Just maybe our classics can be enjoyed from afar by those able or intelligent enough to appreciate them. Just wish Elephant Films would consider Mitch Leisen or C.B. DeMille, although the latter's Cleopatra blu-ray will be released by Universal USA next week.

    Wow! If I Had A Million. Finally, W.C. Fields on Blu-ray!

  36. Sadsack

    Is there an interactive Warner Archive blog anywhere else besides Facebook? Like the KINO LORBER INSIDER thread here on hometheater? I'm not joining FB just to ask a question.

    Nope but they also answer questions on Twitter.

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