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Old 01-03-2005, 16:07   #1
John Hodson
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Warner Brothers; the new Criterion?

Saw this very interesting article here highlighted at the HTF, titled Warner Bros. is the new Criterion Collection. How the DVD label cleaned up its act (and its digital transfers)...

A fascinating look at just why Warners transfers of classic movies look so delicious, plus a couple of snippets, one confirming a recent rumour:

"Soon, beginning with a Wizard of Oz reissue later this year, it will start releasing Technicolor DVDs scanned at 4,000 lines..."

...and another in a clickable sidebar in that piece:

"...and a series of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films (five later this year, five next year)"

Huzzah! Fascinating article underlining just why Warners are without equal when it comes to the preservation and presentation of classic movies.
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Old 01-03-2005, 17:01   #2
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I'd say that Warner Bros is neck-to-neck with Criterion - just finished watching the docu on Cary Grant that accompanies Bringing Up Baby. Very impressive, I thought, with expertly chosen clips in stunning quality transfers, and a wonderful array of interviewees - two ex-wives, many co-stars, Howard Hawks and others from vintage interviews, Stanley Donen, Mel Shavelson, criticos like Todd McCarthy and David Denby, plus the ever-excellent Bogdanovich. Oh, and Ralph Lauren! 90 minutes that probes the image while paying due hommage. Next stop is the vintage Hawks docu. Might even get round to seeing the feature one day.
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Old 01-03-2005, 17:06   #3
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Have to say I wholeheartedly agree, glad they purchased the old MGM library a few years back. Not sure MGM would have treated some of those titles as well as Warner.

Those Warner two disc special editions are always excellent and good value. Boxsets like the Hitchcock Signature Collection and Gangsters Collection are top-notch.
Warner are my favourite studio
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Old 01-03-2005, 17:24   #4
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Always loved Warner Brothers, glad they ditched the snapper cases as well! But have to say how lush their recent releases have been... and lets not forget, these titles can be picked up very cheaply from Canadian retailers...
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Old 01-03-2005, 18:47   #5
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Easily the best studio in the world for classic movie releases.
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Old 01-03-2005, 19:26   #6
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Warners beat Criterion IMO because the discs are better value and because they are major studio and have made a corporate decision to treat their catalogue with care and attention unlike Criterion who were formed with expressed aim of doing so.

Warners really deserve all the plaudits that they get, I just wish the other studios would sit up and take notice rather more.

BTW it would be interesting to see whether all this backslapping from the DVD community has actually resulted improved sales for Warners. I have no idea how they compare to other studios saleswise and whether sales of classic boxsets and special editions have met their expectations or not.

One must assume that it has, for Warners to continue producing these fine editions at an almost alarmingly frequent rate - another reason why it seems strange that the others haven't followed their lead.
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Old 01-03-2005, 19:30   #7
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Oh.....apart from FOX, of course.

I've been very impressed with the Studio Classics that I've bought recently and when most are £3.40 on DVD Soon for members, it makes my putting off buying those much wanted £15+ Criterions all the more frequent...
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Old 01-03-2005, 20:18   #8
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I get the impression that Criterion pad their extras out with essays rather than documentaries/shorts etc. Or their contributers are film students and other dry academic types. Watching something is so much more satisfying than reading a whole load of text no matter how much you like the film, the text is the subject of.

I wasn't very keen on extras when I first started buying DVD's, that changed though with the Warner release of Superman the Movie. Warners treatment of their classics such as Robin Hood, Treasure of Sierra Madre, Casablanca has encouraged me to spend time going thru 'disc 2' and a very satisfying use of time it's turned out to be. I just got my copy of Bringing up Baby today and couldn't wait to watch some of the material on disc 2. I'll wait until the weekend to watch the main feature because I can watch it uninterrupted then rather than during a 'work day'. In my experience Warners comes out ahead of Criterion.
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Old 01-03-2005, 20:30   #9
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And who else has thought of a feature like "A Night at the Movies"? I think it's great to be able to watch the shorts, cartoons and newsreel before the main feature, just like being in the cinema at the time of the original release.

Also, don't forget; full-length docus not those awful snippetty things
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Old 01-03-2005, 21:37   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Person A
BTW it would be interesting to see whether all this backslapping from the DVD community has actually resulted improved sales for Warners. I have no idea how they compare to other studios saleswise and whether sales of classic boxsets and special editions have met their expectations or not.
Apparently Warners have been caught on the hop with the demand for recent box sets - including 'Legends' and 'Gangsters' - outstripping supply. Needless to say that they are very happy that the quality of the current product is satisfying discerning movie enthusiasts and casual buyers of movies alike.

What astounds me is that other studios can see the template for success, yet still refuse to follow it. While George Feltenstein, a classic film enthusiast, heads up Warners 'classics' department I think we can be sure of more scintillating releases to come.
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Old 01-03-2005, 22:29   #11
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The problem with Fox's Studio Classics is the bizarre variance in the quality of films that they've recently been releasing. I mean, "Return To Peyton Place" isn't even a good film, let alone a classic one. For some bizarre reason, they've licensed "Young Mr Lincoln" out to Criterion when it would have made a fine Classics release - and they wouldn't have foisted another Peter Cowie commentary track on us.
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Old 02-03-2005, 00:01   #12
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Hmmm, can't really do a comparison, both labels are equally excellent at what they do. How Warner's can put out discs with such great transfers with good extras at such low prices is astonishing. Criterion still put together the better discs though, sets like REBECCA, CONTEMPT and DO THE RIGHT THING are unrivalled by anybody, period. With both Criterion and WB seemingly going into overdrive since 2005 kicked off, the only problems I can see are one's relating to my bank balance
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Old 02-03-2005, 08:29   #13
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Criterion still put together the better discs though, sets like REBECCA, CONTEMPT and DO THE RIGHT THING are unrivalled by anybody, period.

Actually, I think that "Treasure of Sierra Madre", "Gone With The Wind" and "Casablanca" are all better releases than the three you mention in terms of transfer and extras.
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Old 02-03-2005, 09:05   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike
For some bizarre reason, they've licensed "Young Mr Lincoln" out to Criterion when it would have made a fine Classics release - and they wouldn't have foisted another Peter Cowie commentary track on us.
Personally, I thought Peter Cowie's commentary for Criterion's The Leopard was a model of its kind - elegant, a mine of info - and he kept it up for three hours too!
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Old 02-03-2005, 10:47   #15
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It's nothing like as good as the one on the BFI disc. Cowie bores me to death.
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Old 02-03-2005, 13:41   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike
The problem with Fox's Studio Classics is the bizarre variance in the quality of films that they've recently been releasing. I mean, "Return To Peyton Place" isn't even a good film, let alone a classic one. For some bizarre reason, they've licensed "Young Mr Lincoln" out to Criterion when it would have made a fine Classics release - and they wouldn't have foisted another Peter Cowie commentary track on us.
I agree about Fox's choice of titles, which is often very bizarre. I have so far steered clear of buying any of the lesser Fox Studio Classic titles, although I also sympathise with one of John Hodson's comments about how the fact that now they are numbered encourages you to collect them all.

I suppose that Fox doesn't have the weath of riches in their catalogue that Warners do (especially since they bought the old MGM titles) and perhaps they have decided to drip feed out the good ones and intersperse them with occassional duds.

As for 'Young Mr Lincoln' I don't know - maybe they would make more money licensing this to Criterion (who would go on to get a street price of around £15 for it, compared to third of that for Fox) than to do it themselves.
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Old 02-03-2005, 13:45   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hodson
Apparently Warners have been caught on the hop with the demand for recent box sets - including 'Legends' and 'Gangsters' - outstripping supply. Needless to say that they are very happy that the quality of the current product is satisfying discerning movie enthusiasts and casual buyers of movies alike.
This is what I like to hear! Bring on those new titles!!

Last edited by Person A; 02-03-2005 at 13:46.
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Old 02-03-2005, 14:10   #18
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I never buy these themed box sets - there's generally one dud included, if not one-and-a-half, and I don't know how you'd place them on the shelf, alphabetically speaking.
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Old 03-03-2005, 17:14   #19
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Actually, I think that "Treasure of Sierra Madre", "Gone With The Wind" and "Casablanca" are all better releases than the three you mention in terms of transfer and extras.

The Huston documentary bored me tremendously on the Madre disc and I thought the commentary less than stellar. The Casablanca DVD is of course excellent but when put side by side with the Do The Right Thing disc I learned more about the making of the film and what went into it through the supplements than I did with Casablanca. Also I personally found the Bogard doc a little dissapointting as it basically rehashed a lot of information I already knew, which isn't to say it's bad as I can imagine it being of great value to some, just not to me. The GWTW disc I can offer no opinion on as I don't have it.
That's an interesting point about the transfers because I always held Rebecca up as the best looking B&W DVD I'd seen but thinking back, Casablanca might just have the better transfer. I think I'll take a quick flick through them both later on and hopefully try to resist the temptation to watch both all the way though
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Old 03-03-2005, 17:50   #20
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Well we're obviously on different wavelengths here because "Huston On Huston" is by far my favourite single DVD extra in my collection.
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