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DVD Talk review of 'The Big Trail (2-Disc Special Edition)'

Old 05-18-08, 11:20 AM
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DVD Talk review of 'The Big Trail (2-Disc Special Edition)'

I read Stuart Galbraith IV's DVD review of The Big Trail (2-Disc Special Edition) at http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=33120 and...
a few negative things should be pointed out.
The image of the Grandeur version has been cropped drastically. Compare the title sequence clip in the "Making of" documentary with the film presentation, and see how much of the frame image is lost. The decoration around the film title is trimmed (the buffalo head, the shields in the upper corners, etc.). The academy version is cropped as well. Why isn't the film presented as the clips are in the doc?
The featurette on the Grandeur process is very slim. A few more items of interest should have been discussed: the total number of Grandeur films produced; the titles of those and clips; how many of the films still exist; mention of any noted directors or actors who worked on other titles; how many theatres were equipped to show Grandeur--which cities, premiere dates; graphics of original posters or ads for Grandeur showings, etc.
I understand they don't want to bore their viewers with long docs, but us film buffs want to know these things and who is buying these discs anyway? Also, this information could be related in a matter of a few minutes. Many of the featurettes are only 10 minutes, or so.
More and more, these so-called "Special Editions" are not so special. The studios or producers seem to be skimping on the quality and the content of the extras or features. You're not gonna please everybody, but...
Also: In the "Making of", they mention the other foreign versions. Do these versions still exist? Any clips?
Also: the photo galleries. Why no captions? There is more than enough field in the frame to include identification of actors and production staff. If not with the photos, why not assign a number to each photo and have one screen menu with the photo information for those who want to know?
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Old 05-18-08, 06:31 PM
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Funny you should ask these questions....

I just added reader Bruce Lawton's comments as an addendum to my review:

"I just read your excellent review of 'The Big Trail (2-Disc Special Edition). I wanted to point out a maddeningly overlooked aspect about the preservation and survival of the widescreen version of The Big Trail - that from your review, I gather was not at all touched on within the extras of this new release.


About 25 or more years ago The Museum of Modern Art, which housed the 65mm nitrate camera negative for The Big Trail, wanted to preserve the film, but found that the negative was way too shrunken and fragile to be copied and that no film lab would touch it. They went to my grandfather, Karl Malkames - an accomplished cinematographer - and at that time a leading specialist and pioneer in actual film reproduction, restortation and preservation. Malkames was known to be a "problem solver" when it came to early odd gauge format films in desperate need of attention and tender loving care. He immediately set about designing and building a special printer to handle the careful frame by frame reproduction of the negative to a 35mm anamorphic fine grain master. The entire job took him a year to complete. It is solely because of him that this film survives in this version. Malkames - who just turned a spry 82 - still resides in Scarsdale, New York (where he accomplished this and the saving of countless other films)."

I've emailed Mr. Malkames and invited him to add his thoughts about his work on the film, and of course if he does will happily incorporate those into the review as well.

The featurette on the Grandeur process is very slim.
I agree, a longer, more detailed featurette would have been nice, and something certain film fans (myself included) would like to have seen, but as I wrote in the review it's pretty good as a general overview of a process most have never heard of. More primary research would have helped, though.

Also: In the "Making of", they mention the other foreign versions. Do these versions still exist? Any clips?
I thought I mentioned this somewhere in the review, that there are photographs but no clips. Alternate foreign language versions of some films do exist (most famously DRACULA and some Laurel & Hardy shorts) but most appear lost.

Also: the photo galleries. Why no captions? There is more than enough field in the frame to include identification of actors and production staff. If not with the photos, why not assign a number to each photo and have one screen menu with the photo information for those who want to know?
Again, I agree with you, and single out DVDs for praise when they actually bother to caption photos, etc., but most don't go even one-quarter as far as Fox has with its recent releases of classic titles.

Last edited by S Galbraith IV; 05-18-08 at 06:45 PM.
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