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

Robert A. Harris - Main Page

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:

"Toto… I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."


"Play it, Sam."

"Frankly my dear…"

"Open the pod bay door please, HAL."

"The trick… is not minding that it hurts."

"Nobody's perfect."

"Louis… this could be the start of a beautiful friendship."

"Phone home…"

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me… aren't you?"

"It's alive!"

And many more which to the advanced cinema aficionado can bring a smile of recognition:

"Look ma, top 'o the world!"

"Hello, gorgeous…"

"I do not drink… wine."

"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…"

"Mr. DeMille… I'm ready for my close-up."

"Fasten you're seat belts… It's going to be a bumpy night."

"He likes your lemonade."

"I'll alert the media."

"I am not an animal!"

"Here's Johnny!"

"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 of SMPTE



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.

Pitch Perfect

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 enjoyable entertainment.

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 Technicolor.

Summer Lovin'

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 Camelot* (1967).

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 screen.

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 documentary.

Dancin' Feet

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 - Flashdance* (1983), 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 Grease*.

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.

On to Part Two

Robert A. Harris - Main Page

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