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Yellow Layer Failure, Vinegar Syndrome and Miscellaneous Musings by Robert A. Harris

Robert A. Harris - Main Page

Cinematographers, CinemaScope, John Wayne & Bob Hope

I've always felt that motion pictures are more of an amalgam of creative spirits and designs and much less the work of the "auteur" director, although many of the finer directors have possessed their uniquely identifiable styles.

In that regard, it would be the director in concert with the screenwriter and director of photography or "lighting cameraman" that is the creative force behind a film, and probably even more so in terms of our classic cinema.

While most everyone with a basic knowledge of cinema history is aware that the coming of sound caused a myriad of problems and cost the jobs of many silent screen actors, there is less awareness that the change from the classical 3:4 format to 2.55:1 CinemaScope caused problems of its own. Plagued by optical aberrations known as the CinemaScope or anamorphic "mumps," the format was not exactly desired by many of the classically trained directors, cinematographers, production designers or for that matter, actors.

Placing one's leading lady at the center of a CinemaScope frame was known to add unwanted weight and distortion, which meant that every shot had to be perfectly composed in an effort to work around the problems.

If you view the CinemaScope output of any of the studios in the first few years of CinemaScope, you'll quickly understand just how difficult working with this process was, how distorted the images could be - and why the perfected Panavision optics finally made anamorphic cinematography a fully workable system.

The floodgates are finally beginning to open with studio vault titles and we now have the ability to view many films which have been either unavailable or available only via second or third class VHS releases, and then only in panned and scanned atrocities.

Among the most recent batch are several titles which stand out. One photographed by Freddie Young, another by James Wong Howe, and a third by Burnett Guffey, all of whom began their careers at approximately the same time, in the early 1920s, and all of whom were able to make superb transitions from the spherical work to CinemaScope.

The three films in question are Treasure Island* from Disney, Objective Burma* from Warner Brothers and In a Lonely Place* from Columbia.

Freddie Young began working in the motion picture industry from the laboratory and worked his way up through the camera department to become head of MGM England. After his stint with the studio he went independent and was responsible for many of the most beautifully photographed films from the 1930s through the early 1970s.

A sampling of the films which he photographed includes Nell Gwyn, Victoria the Great, The Invaders, Caesar and Cleopatra, The Winslow Boy, Ivanhoe, Mogambo, Lust for Life, Island in the Sun, Indiscreet, Solomon and Sheba, Lawrence of Arabia, The 7th Dawn, Lord Jim, Dr. Zhivago*, The Deadly Affair, You Only Live Twice* (one of the most beautifully shot Bond films), The Battle of Britain*, Ryan's Daughter and Nicholas and Alexandra*.

His personal favorite black and white production was the 1939 Goodbye, Mr. Chips starring Robert Donat, with whom he worked again in Fox's 1958 Inn of the Sixth Happiness, coming to DVD shortly from Fox as part of their Studio Classics package.

Working in 35mm black and white, followed by three strip Technicolor, Eastman and Ansco color in addition to the first British CinemaScope film, Knights of the Round Table in 1953 (soon to be released by Warner Bros), Panavision and 65mm origination, the quality of his work set a standard that has been matched by few to this day. Which is why I find it interesting that the new Disney release on DVD of their 1950 Treasure Island*, the first "live action" feature from the Disney studio, is not receiving more publicity from the studio than it is and nothing coming from the studio in regard to the film's extraordinary photography. Packaged in Disney's generic white "children friendly" case, it can easily be overlooked as just another kid's classic.

This Technicolor gem seems to be offered more as an also ran to the release of the latest Disney Classic animated Treasure Planet. And while I don't want to take anything away from the newer product and its viability with the below teen audience, it is the 1950 version to which I feel the need to direct you.

Directed by Byron Haskin and magnificently photographed in Technicolor's three strip system by Mr. Young, Treasure Island* is one of the most beautifully shot films of the period. Visually, there is a difference between reel 1A, the first ten minutes of film after the main title sequence, and the rest of the film, as it did not survive as original negative, but rather as masters.

Once past that point via a beautiful transfer, one can see what the term "painting with light" really means. While the purity of the colors and color design of the film make it stand out from the crowd, scenes like Bobby Driscoll in the apple barrel, while Long John Silver and his cohorts plot around him, make the point with great immediacy that you are watching something very special.

Robert Newton as Silver is the role for which he is remember by most, and a quick turn by the great Finlay Currie as Capt. Billy Bones, who you'll recall from David Lean's Great Expectations*, in which he played Magwitch.

It is difficult to discuss Treasure Island* without paying small tribute to Bobby Driscoll, one of the most capable child actors of his day. Unfortunately, this is one of Hollywood's more unpleasant stories. Under contract to Disney, and appearing in a number of films, inclusive of So Dear to My Heart, Song of the South (which Disney should seriously consider releasing on DVD), Treasure Island*, and serving as the voice of Peter Pan, Driscoll had difficulty making a successful metamorphosis into young adult roles. The sad situation became worse as he made his way through the world of drugs, finally losing his battle toward recognition in the darkest of ways.

In 1968 an unidentified body was discovered and removed from an East Village tenement and was buried in a pauper's grave on New York's Hart's Island. It was not for another year and through fingerprints that the truth became known.

Bobby Driscoll was thirty years old.

James Wong Howe, who was born in China in 1899, and after working in assistant capacities in Hollywood, photographed his first film in 1923. He continued at his craft for over fifty years, his final production being Funny Lady*. While Mr. Howe is probably most thought of today for his black and white work, he was equally adept with color. Like Freddie Young, Mr. Howe's work encompasses all of the various screen proportions.

Warner's new DVD release of Raoul Walsh's 1945 Objective Burma* shows off Mr. Howe's rich and contrasty images beautifully. Usually found in a version with shorter running time, the new Warner release gives us the complete 142 minute version of the film.

To place Mr. Howe's work in perspective one just needs to go over a "short" list of his over 130 films inclusive of the 1924 Peter Pan, Mantrap (1926), Shanghai Express, Viva Villa!, The Thin Man, The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Technicolor, 1937), City for Conquest, Fantasia*, The Strawberry Blonde, Out of the Fog, King's Row, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Air Force, Passage to Marseille, Body and Soul, The Old Man and the Sea*, Bell, Book and Candle, The Last Angry Man, Hud, Hombre and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Mr. Howe made his transition to CinemaScope in 1955 for director Joshua Logan with Picnic*.

Burnett Guffey, probably the least known of the three, also worked with some of the finest directors in the business. Although uncredited, he did some "additional" photography on the The Iron Horse (1924). He served as an uncredited camera operator on Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent under cinematographer Rudolph Maté. His credits include Gallant Journey, Knock On Any Door, The Reckless Moment, All the King's Men, Sirocco, From Here to Eternity*, The Harder They Fall, The Brothers Rico, Giget, They Came to Cordura, Birdman of Acatraz*, Kid Galahad, Bonnie and Clyde*, The Learning Tree and The Great White Hope.

Mr. Guffey made his transition into wide screen cinema in 1955 with The Bandits, directed by Rudolph Maté.

As these gentlemen have given us some of the most beautifully shot wide screen releases, I thought it proper to offer a list (for historical purposes) of the early CinemaScope productions.

Things sometimes seem to come together and a discussion of CinemaScope also ties in neatly with some of Fox's new releases of their John Wayne holdings and with Paramount's release of some of Mr. Wayne's later films via the CBS library.

One thing which I don't quite understand about the new Fox titles is their exclusion of what I consider the version of The Big Trail, which is... well, big.

This 1930 production was filmed twice. Once in standard flat format and once in 70mm Grandeur, which creates a totally different experience, and stands as one of the earliest large format feature films.

What I find strange is that Fox has given us the flat version of the film, rather than the Grandeur version or, for that matter, both.

That aside, it's nice to see more of these early CinemaScope films finally showing up in their native aspect ratios and all with quality transfers.

CinemaScope used an anamorphic lens to optically squeeze the image 2:1, which would then be unsqueezed using a similar lens in projection. Originally the format used the entire flat frame which could yield a projected image as wide as 2.66:1.

A CinemaScope projection lens looks like this:

CinemaScope projection lens

The filmed image looked like this:

The Robe - film image

And projected looked like this:

The Robe - projected

The earliest John Wayne CinemaScope titles are still among the missing. They include his first, the 1954 The High and the Mighty, which is held by his family plus a number of early studio titles inclusive of: the 1955 The Sea Chase and Blood Alley from WB; The Conqueror, in which he plays one of his stranger roles and The Barbarian and the Geisha (Fox, 1958).

But at 1960 the availability of his CinemaScope and later Panavision releases on DVD begins to bloom.

Anamorphic or large format widescreen previously on DVD:

The Alamo (MGM, 1960, Super Panavision 70)
Hatari!* (Paramount, 1962, VistaVision)
The Longest Day* (Fox, 1963, CinemaScope)
In Harm's Way* (Paramount, 1965, Panavision)
The Sons of Katie Elder (Paramount, 1965, Panavision)
Cast a Giant Shadow (MGM, 1966, Panavision)
The War Wagon* (Universal, 1967, Panavision)
The Green Berets (WB, 1968, Panavision)
Hellfighters (Universal, 1968, Panavision)
The Cowboys (WB, 1972, Panavision)

Among these new releases are:

North to Alaska (Fox, 1960)
The Comancheros (Fox, 1961)
The Undefeated (Universal, 1969)
Big Jake (Paramount/CBS, 1971, Panavision)

In addition, WB has released a flat film, the 1951 Operation Pacific.

While we're on the topic of John Wayne, it should be mentioned that Paramount has begun to release CBS titles which they acquired as part of the acquisition of that corporation, which includes among a myriad of titles the Warner production of My Fair Lady, now in release from Warner Home Video. Who produced, owned and is now releasing what titles (and why) has seemingly become a shell game.

While Paramount has previously given us beautiful DVDs of films like Donovan's Reef, The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit*, The Shootist* RAH, the classic Man Who Shot Liberty Valence* RAH and others, they have now added to that collection with CBS's Big Jake* and Howard Hawk's final film, Rio Lobo*.

Two other titles in the western genre from the CBS library now in release from Paramount should receive a mention and one, Arthur Penn's Little Big Man, should be required viewing. The other, A Man Called Horse may not be for all tastes.

To place the early CinemaScope productions in perspective, here is a list of the early years of production output, with titles available on DVD in yellow.

Titles from studios other than Fox are annotated as such. Some titles of no or little importance have not been included. This information comes from Four Aspects of the Cinema, one of the essential books on technical cinema by James Limbacher. Although out of print, it is sometimes available and can be found by checking

Errors will occur.

CinemaScope Productions

Yellow = Available on DVD


Beneath the 12 Mile Reef
How to Marry a Millionaire
King of the Khyber Rifles
Knights of the Round Table
- MGM (coming soon from WB)
The Robe


The Adventures of Hajji Baba
Bad Day at Black Rock
The Black Shield of Falworth
- UA
Black Widow
Broken Lance
Carmen Jones
The Command
- WB
Demetrius and the Gladiators
Drum Beat
- WB
The Egyptian
Garden of Evil
Green Fire
Hell and High Water
The High and the Mighty
- WB
King Richard and the Crusaders
- WB
Lucky Me
- WB
New Faces
Night People
Prince Valiant
Ring of Fear
- WB
River of No Return
Rose Marie
The Royal Tour of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Sign of the Pagan
- UI
The Silver Chalice
- WB
Sitting Bull
- UA
A Star is Born
- WB
The Student Prince
There's No Business Like Show Business
Three Coins in the Fountain
Track of the Cat
- WB
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Dis
Woman's World


At Gunpoint - AA
Battle Cry
- WB
Blood Alley
- WB
Captain Lightfoot
- UI
Chief Crazy Horse
- UI
The Cobweb
Count Three and Pray
- Col
Daddy Long Legs
The Deep Blue Sea
East of Eden
- WB
Gentlemen Marry Brunettes
- UA
Good Morning, Miss Dove
Guys and Dolls
- Goldwyn
Helen of Troy
- WB
Hell on Frisco Bay
- WB
Hit the Deck
House of Bamboo
How to Be Very, Very Popular
I Died a Thousand Times
- WB
The Indian Fighter
- UA
Interrupted Melody
It's a Dog's Life
It's Always Fair Weather
Jupiter's Darling
The Kentuckian
- UA
The King's Thief
Lady and the Tramp
- Dis
Land of the Pharaohs
- WB
The Last Frontier
- Col
The Left Hand of God
The Long Gray Line
- Col
Long John Silver
Love is a Many Splendored Thing
Love Me or Leave Me
The McConnell Story
- WB
The Magnificent Matador
A Man Called Peter
The Man From Laramie
- Col
Many Rivers to Cross
Mister Roberts
- WB
My Sister Eileen
- Col
Pete Kelly's Blues
- WB
- Col
Prince of Players
The Prodigal
The Purple Mask
- UI
Quentin Durward
The Racers
The Rains of Ranchipur
Rebel Without a Cause
- WB
The Scarlet Coat
The Sea Chase
- WB
The Second Greatest Sex
- UI
Seven Cities of Gold
The Seven Year Itch
Soldier of Fortune
Strange Lady in Town
- WB
The Tall Men
The Tender Trap
That Lady Three for the Show
- Col
To Hell and Back
- UI
The View from Pompey's Head
The Violent Men
- Col
Violent Saturday
The Virgin Queen
The Warriers
- AA
White Feather Wichita
- AA


An Affair to Remember
Alexander the Great
- UA
The Ambassador's Daughter
- UA
Anastasia Bandido
- UA
Battle Hymn - Univ
Beast of Hollow Mountain
- UA
Best Things in Life are Free
Between Heaven and Hell
Bhowani Junction
Bigger Than Life
The Bottom of the Bottle
The Brave One
The Burning Hills
- WB
Bus Stop
Canyon River
- AA
The Cockleshell Heroes
- Col
- UA
The Conqueror
D-Day the Sixth of June
The Eddy Duchin Story
The First Texan
- AA
Forbidden Planet
Four Girls in Town
- Univ
The Girl Can't Help It
The Great Locomotive Chase
- Disney
Hilda Crane
Hot Blood
- Col
- Col
A Kiss Before Dying
- UA
The Last Hunt
The Last Wagon
The Lieutenant Wore Skirts
Love Me Tender
Lust For Life
Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
The Man Who Never Was
Meet Me in Las Vegas
On the Threshold of Space
The Opposite Sex
Pillars of the Sky
- Univ
The Power and the Prize
The Proud Ones
The Revolt of Mamie Stover
- Col
Satellite in the Sky
- WB
The Shark Fighters
- UA
Storm Over the Nile
- Col
The Swan
Tea and Sympathy
The Teahouse of the August Moon
Teenage Rebel Trapeze
- UA
Tribute to a Bad Man
23 Paces to Baker Street
Walk the Proud Land
- Univ
Westward Ho, the Wagons
- Disney
World Without End
- AA
You Can't Run Away From It
- Col


Action of the Tiger - MGM
April Love
Barretts of Wimpole Street
Bombers B-52
- WB
Boy on a Dolphin
Bridge on the River Kwai
- Col
China Gate
The Deerslayer
Designing Women
Desk Set
Don't Go Near the Water - MGM
Dragoon Wells Massacre
- AA
The Enemy Below
Fire Down Below
- Col
Forty Guns Gun for a Coward
- Univ
Gun Glory
A Hatful of Rain
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
The Helen Morgan Story
- WB
The Hired Gun
House of Numbers
Hunchback of Notre Dame
- AA
- Univ
Island in the Sun
- Univ
Jailhouse Rock
Joe Butterfly
- Univ
Kelly and Me
- Univ
The King and Four Queens
- UA
Kiss Them for Me
The Land Unknown
- Univ
The Last of the Badmen
- AA
Les Girls
Let's Be Happy
- AA
The Living Idol
Man Afraid
- Univ
Man in the Shadow
- Univ
Man of a Thousand Faces
- Univ
Midnight Story
- Univ
Mr. Cory
- Univ
My Man Godfrey
- Univ
No Down Payment
Oh, Men! Oh, Women!
The Oklahoman
- AA
- Univ
The River's Edge
Sea Wife
The Seventh Sin
Silk Stockings


The Badlanders - MGM
Bitter Victory
- Col
Bonjour Tristesse
- Col
The Bravados
- AA
Cattle Empire
A Certain Smile
Cole Younger, Gunfighter
- AA
Count Five and Die
- AA
Day of the Badmen
- Univ
The Female Animal
- Univ
The Fiend Who Walked the West
Flood Tide
- Univ
The Fly
Fort Massacre
- UA
(1970) - AA
From Hell to Texas
The Gift of Love
Gunman's Walk
- Col
Gunsmoke in Tuscon
- AA
Harry Black and the Tiger
The High Cost of Living
High Flight
- Col
The Hunters
I Accuse
Imitation General
Intent to Kill The Key
- Col
The Lady Takes a Flyer
- Univ
The Law and Jake Wade
The Long Hot Summer
The Man from God's Country
- AA
Man in the Shadow
- Univ
Merry Andrew
The Naked and the Dead
- WB (WarnerScope)
Naked Earth
Once Upon a Horse
- Univ
Oregon Passage
- AA
Quantrill's Raiders
- AA
Raw Wind in Eden
- Univ
The Reluctant Debutante
Ride a Crooked Trail
- Univ
Saddle the Wind
The Sheepman
Sierra Baron
Sing Boy Sing
Ten North Frederick
This Happy Feeling
- Univ
Thundering Jets
- Univ
A Time to Love
- Univ
Underwater Warrior
The Voice in the Mirror
- Univ
Wild Heritage
- Univ
The Young Lions

Bob Hope's 100th and the Fate of Artist-Owned Motion Pictures

Talk about a name and a persona that are known to everyone. A number of years ago someone in an interview asked author Howard Fast the reason why he was so prolific in his writings. His answer was something like "I've been here a long time."

The same can be said of Mr. Hope, one of the few people in the motion picture industry that most everyone would agree deserves some sort of Canonization while he is still with us. Over the decades he has given us performances in upwards of sixty films over some fifty years. Most of his films have survived in very acceptable condition due to preservation efforts by their original owner Paramount and then by Universal, the current owner of the pre-1949 Paramount sound library. We're referring here to productions dating back sixty fives years.

As Mr. Hope's 100th is approaching, I decided to take an overview of his films available on DVD and offer a short report on them in an almost Consumer Reports like fashion. But what I found was much as I had expected.

History and errors of the past seem to repeat themselves and it looks like a generalization can be made.

Take motion picture elements out of the hands of the studio professionals via which they were produced and distributed, and they will most assuredly be allowed to self-destruct.

This destruction is not, by any means, something planned or in any way an attempt to purposefully destroy these elements. It's simply that filmmakers, be they actors, producers or directors, who by virtue of their contractual relationships with the studios have come into ownership of their own films and thereby the physical elements of those films, have created a situation leading to the downgrading or destruction of those films.

Let's look at a few examples.

Alfred Hitchcock had superb business management throughout his career. At a certain point in time he began to produce, and thereby own, his own creations. One would think that this would be a good thing. But it wasn't.

Mr. Hitchcock ended up owning the rights to five of his productions. Rope*, Rear Window*, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo*.

When the Paramount productions reverted to his ownership he (properly) went to his business management people for advice on their care and handling. The problem seems to be that someone requested information, received bad information, and acted upon it.

With hundreds of cartons of film and audio elements in storage at Paramount, the order was given to deliver the original negatives, the black and white separation masters, one 16mm optical track negative and one 35mm optical track negative to an non-temperature and humidity controlled warehouse.

And to junk all other elements worldwide.

Among the elements junked were all of the publicity materials - stills, negatives, trailers with their original picture and sound elements, all dialogue, music and effects magnetic stems, all composite monaural magnetic fullcoat elements, all three track magnetic elements, all foreign audio and titling elements.

In storage, the original elements deteriorated until they were placed in the hands of Universal in 1983 and the sad tale of precisely what had survived and in what condition became obvious.

By chance Paramount had neglected to junk the original orchestral floor recordings, which sat for forty years in their vaults, having gone seriously vinegar syndrome.

It is only because Universal and the Hitchcock family have seen fit to restore and preserve these films, that they survive.

Today the DVD representations of these films, although in some cases exhibiting some of the ravages of time and care all look very acceptable.

Cary Grant was an equally astute business man. Through his production company, he produced and thereby would eventually own the rights to a number of films from the 1950s and 60s. To the best of my knowledge films like Indiscreet, Father Goose, That Touch of Mink and The Grass is Greener fit into this category.

On DVD, they rate average to fair to barely viewable, especially when one takes into consideration that The Grass is Greener was a large format (Technirama) production. Freddie Young's beautifully lit and composed images in Indiscreet have now lost their middle gradations and look dupey.

The Batjac productions, the creations of John Wayne, which have reverted to the Wayne family have survived in a bit better condition. Under the watchful eye of Michael Wayne and others, while not in distribution, these films have at least been kept up to a reasonable state and some preservation elements have been produced over the years.

Which brings us to the films which are apparently owned by Mr. Hope.

Let's see how they fare as they fit into the body of his work.

According to condition and transfer, these are my thoughts and buying recommendations, starting with the earliest available:

The Big Broadcast of 1938 - 1938 - Paramount - available from Universal on a double disc with College Swing (also 1938):

These films rate a solid B in nicely rendered transfers from Universal - Recommended.

Give Me a Sailor - 1938 - Paramount - available from Universal on a double disc with Caught in the Draft (1941), Mr. Hope's first war effort film.

These films also rate a solid B, in nicely rendered transfers - Recommended.

Never Say Die - 1939 - Paramount - available from Universal on a double disc with Louisiana Purchase (1941).

Never Say Die also rates a B, and should be of interest historically, as Preston Sturges shares screenwriter credit. I was surprised by Louisiana Purchase, as I had forgotten that it was filmed in three-strip Technicolor. This appears to be from either an older element or an older transfer, with too high a level of contrast and saturation. It rates a C +. This disc is also recommended for its historical value.

I should mention here that while the Universal double sets are available for over $20 in many stores, that they can be had for $9.35 from Deep Discount DVD with free shipping. That's $4.68 per film.

The Road to Singapore - 1940 - Paramount - available from Universal. The first of the "road" films, is a beautiful representation of the film and rates a solid B+. Recommended.

The Ghost Breakers - 1940 - Paramount - available from Universal. A terrific and fun film, which also rates a solid B+ and is also recommended. It was remade in 1953 as Scared Stiff by Martin and Lewis, in which Mr. Hope makes a cameo appearance.

Road to Zanzibar - 1941 - Paramount - available from Universal. B-.

My Favorite Blonde - 1942 - Paramount - available from Universal as a double disc with Star Spangled Rhythm (also 1942). My Favorite Blonde shows light wear and fine scratches, but nothing horrific. Star Spangled Rhythm fares better and is of interest as one of the great all-star studio offerings toward the war effort. In this case it features the hi-jinks of navy men visiting Paramount Studios. While Blonde rates a C, Rhythm gets a B for quality and this disc is also recommended, especially at Deep Discount's price point.

Road to Morocco - 1942 - Paramount - available from Universal. A beautiful transfer. A solid B+. Recommended

The Princess and the Pirate - 1944 - Samuel Goldwyn - from HBO. A beautiful three-strip Technicolor film with reasonable quality for an early DVD release. B -. One of the best of the Hope films. Recommended.

Road to Utopia - 1946 - Paramount - available from Universal. A beautiful transfer and another solid B+. Recommended.

Monsieur Beaucaire - 1946 - Paramount - available from Universal. On a double disc with Where There's Life (1947). Strangely, both of these films are slightly soft in focus. Whether due to the quality of the intermediate elements or the transfer, something is going on here. Both films transfer-wise rate a C.

My Favorite Brunette - 1947 - is available from a large number of sources as a public domain product. One of the better transfers is from Image Entertainment. C.

Road to Rio - 1947 - available from Brentwood. Remember what I was discussing about filmmakers owning their own films. Well here we go. Road to Rio is somehow derived from a UCLA restoration, but doesn't look it. I know that UCLA does better work than this. A check of UCLA's web site shows precisely what elements have survived. C-.

If you'd like to visit UCLA's archival website go to this link, highlight "film and television archive," fill in your title and hit title search.

The Paleface - 1948 - Paramount - available from Universal on a double disc with Sorrowful Jones (1949). The Paleface is a beautiful transfer and a very accurate representation of the three-strip Technicolor film. Sorrowful is based on a Damon Runyan story. The Paleface rate a very solid A. Sorrowful a B. Highly recommended.

The Great Lover - 1949 - Brentwood. This may be the worst film element and worst transfer that I've thus far seen on DVD. It is derived from a 16mm dupe which is loaded with scratches and splices. The worst of the public domain films fare better than this. What are these people thinking! This disc should be an embarrassment to all concerned. There isn't a failing grade low enough to classify this release.

The Lemon Drop Kid - 1951 - Brentwood. What might have been an interesting film to view, I didn't. The quality of this one from Brentwood was also well below what anyone familiar with DVDs would accept as even minimal. Another transfer from 16mm. D-.

Son of Paleface - 1952 - Paramount - available from Brentwood. I must admit that I'm a bit confused here. This is a Brentwood DVD, which doesn't look like a PD release. B.

Road to Bali - 1952 - Paramount - available from Brentwood. I feel better now. Another Brentwood release from what appears to be a color print. Just barely acceptable. C-.

The Seven Little Foys - 1955 - Paramount by way of Brentwood. This one is painful. I've always enjoyed this film, with its tabletop dance number between Mr. Hope and Mr. Cagney, reprising his role as George Cohan. What was originally a beautifully photographed VistaVision production from Paramount is now a 1.33 offering from Brentwood. Apparently derived from a print, the DVD has inaccurate color and contrast levels, but a pleasing soundtrack. It needs to be done properly in OAR from a quality element. D.

Road to Hong Kong - 1962 - A United Artists release from MGM. A nice looking transfer from MGM. B+.

There are several other titles available, most notably from Brentwood, but after viewing several of their discs, I decided that I wasn't about to put myself through it, not even for The Bits.

The bottom line here is that I would recommend the purchase of the Road Collection from Universal, available for $32.40 from Deep Discount DVD. Ghost Breakers is great fun at $14 and The Paleface (with Sorrowful) can be had also from Deep Discount for $9.35. Others are suggested according to your personal taste. The caveat here would be to steer clear of anything from Brentwood, unless otherwise informed beforehand.

As a final note to this column I spoke with a customer service rep from Deep Discount, explaining the problems with Lemon Drop Kid and Great Lover. Although their policy is not to accept back opened DVD packages, they offered a credit against future purchases upon the discs return. I would not advise anyone to attempt to take advantage of their kindness. I simply state this as a matter of positive customer concern. I generally use three different companies for on-line purchases: DVD Empire, Deep Discount and DVD Planet. Dependant upon the studio, Deep Discount seems to continue to offer very fair prices, and like the others, accessible customer service.

I have borrowed several images from The Wide Screen Museum and would like to thank Mr. Martin Hart for his courtesy. You can visit the museum on line (and the CinemaScope section specifically) at this link.

A final note on another new release of a classic title which should be in every library. Disney has done a beautiful job, both transfer wise and with supplements of the 1954 CinemaScope production, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea* in a two disc set.

This release offers the film in its original and proper 2.55:1 aspect ratio and is based upon the restoration work done by Scott MacQueen some years ago from faded and damaged film elements. At the time, there was a superb article on the restoration in The Perfect Vision. If a copy of the article can be found, I suggest it as an interesting read.

Robert Harris


* Designates a film worthy of purchase on DVD. RAH Designates a film worth of "blind" purchase on DVD.

Don't forget - you can CLICK HERE to discuss this article with Robert and other home theater enthusiasts online right now at The Home Theater Forum. And speaking of that, thanks to the HTF's Ron Epstein for the picture of Robert seen in the column graphic above.

Robert A. Harris - Main Page

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