Musicals and More Musings
There are hundreds of dialogue lines from films (actually many
more), which are instantly recognizable by any audience with just a
bit of film history. Extremely obvious lines like:
I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
"Play it, Sam."
"Frankly my dear
"Open the pod bay door please, HAL."
is not minding that it hurts."
this could be the start of a beautiful
"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me
And many more which to the advanced cinema aficionado can bring a
smile of recognition:
"Look ma, top 'o the world!"
"I do not drink
"I'm as mad as hell
"I coulda been a contender."
"You're going to need a bigger boat
"It's almost time for Wapner."
"Snap out of it!"
"La di dah
I'm ready for my close-up."
"Fasten you're seat belts
It's going to be a bumpy
"He likes your lemonade."
"I'll alert the media."
"I am not an animal!"
"You want me to hold the chicken?"
"Pres, I'm kneelin' to ya."
"You just put your lips together
By the way... here are a couple of additional test charts, courtesy
They offer a slightly different perspective, albeit with basically
the same information as the chart originally posted. If you examine
the 70mm chart, you'll note percentage grids. When cutting a
theatrical aperture plate, these inform the technician as to
precisely how over or under-cut the plate is, and how the masking
system affects the cropping of the image.
Perfection would be +/- 0. You can see precisely how much image is
lost at 5 and 10% cropping. If the projectors are on any sort of
angle, the reverse cuts necessary to create a rectangular image
become all the more intrusive.
Our discussion of aspect ratios, aperture plates, theatre maskings,
etc. should give you some idea of how difficult projection can be in
anything other than perfect venues, and how much more image you're
actually able to view on a properly produced home video.
Now then... after viewing 9/11
and Don't Look Now, I found
myself in need of something a bit lighter. And found it in several
of the new releases.
The first DVD to hit my system was a film that I missed during its
theatrical run - The Rookie* *
from Disney. This is a project, which in typical Hollywood fashion
was turned down at Warner before finding a home at Disney. The
Rookie* is the type of film that Dawn Steel would have
produced during her tenure at Paramount - the tale of an individual
who battles odds and "the system" to prove that they can
make their personal goal come about.
The Rookie* is a thoroughly
Make 'em Laugh
Warner has gone back to the Technicolor fine grains of
Singin' in the Rain, and
digitally re-combined them. The result is lovely.
Mis-registration, which was a problem on the initial release is now
virtually gone. While there are still some registration problems,
they are minor. The contrast and color also are superior to the old
transfer. As a point of reference, mis-registration, which creates
color fringing, is also responsible for a lack of focus, which looks
great on this transfer.
WHV has included a great program of extras, inclusive of a couple
of documentaries; one originally produced for television on the
career of Arthur Freed, MGM's top musical producer, and another on
the history of SitR. A special
treat is the number of original musical and vocal recordings in
their raw state. This is something that would appear on MGM
laserdiscs in the past, usually via the hand of George Feltenstein,
and I must believe that he is behind these well-placed offerings.
An earlier release of an MGM Technicolor title from Warner, the
1948 Good News* is another
example from the three-strip Technicolor period, which has been
beautifully rendered to DVD, and also with a number of extras. The
elements used to prepare this film were combined optically as
opposed to the digital combine for the new release of
SitR. You can look for slight
mis-registrations, but overall, the transfer is of a very high
quality and properly representative of the film and of 40s
The classic American movie musical era was relatively short (forty
years) and changed in a number of aspects over those years. It began
with the infancy of "talking" pictures in 1927 and is
generally considered to have been dead by the late 1960s. The final
vestiges of quality musicals ended not long after
My Fair Lady* (1964), with
Funny Girl* (1968),
Hello, Dolly (1969) and
So it was a bit of a shock to have a musical aimed at teens and
20-somethings arrive in 1973. To put it as simply as possible
Grease* is a terrific movie.
I missed it in its original theatrical run and was too involved
with my own projects to catch it in re-release a few years ago. I
saw it for the first time via a cable or satellite broadcast - or
slightly less than half of it anyway. I'm not certain whether I saw
EAS or REA, on cable, but it didn't work, looking cramped on my
Finally arriving in its full Panavision glory via Paramount's new
DVD, Grease* is a welcome
addition to any musical library. The 5.1 stereo re-mixed for the
re-issue under Bill Varney, who did the original mix, is superb with
a full rich environment. The picture, however, while not anything
nearly as problematic as The Sound of
Music, suffers from edge enhancement. It's not an
embarrassment, nor would it prevent me from purchasing this title -
it's just there. Everything else is fine. The proper grain structure
all in place where it should be.
To see what the film should look like, even in its cropped and
enlarged state, simply venture over to the well-produced
And then came an entirely new direction in musicals. Not wishing to
be the bearer of negative tidings, I can report that three other
Paramount releases soon to hit video store shelves -
Footloose* (1984) and the 1977
hit that made polyester famous, Saturday
Night Fever*, all look and sound stupendous in their
newly fashioned DVD incarnations.
These are the quality of the releases we have come to expect from
Paramount, and they are placed out before us in spades. The timing
for the release of these three titles is perfect in following
I have never heard these films sound as good as in their new 5.1
audio designs. Flashdance*
especially, brings Giorgio Moroder's music front and center (and
around your home theatre).
The transfer quality on these films is so superb, that you will be
able to define the speed of the film stock by its grain structure.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s film speed and grain structure was
still very much a part of the production design and a byproduct and
necessity of lighting, both incandescent and available. And the
grain is there is scenes which are not fully lit.
And yes, this is a good thing. Grain is the entity that brings film
to life and separates it from video. It is the palette with which
the cinematographer paints with light. And it forms the very
structure of every film.