Go Back  DVD Talk Forum > DVD Discussions > DVD Talk
Reload this Page >

Leonard Maltin article on the quality of dvd releases

DVD Talk Talk about DVDs and Movies on DVD including Covers and Cases

Leonard Maltin article on the quality of dvd releases

Old 11-21-05, 12:42 AM
  #1  
DVD Talk Legend
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 12,306
Leonard Maltin article on the quality of dvd releases

Leonard Maltin article on dvd restorations http://www.leonardmaltin.com/

THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS...

The DVD boom has been a blessing to film buffs everywhere, not only making rare films widely available but adding documentaries, behind-the-scenes footage and commentary tracks that in some cases amount to master classes by preeminent filmmakers and historians.

While I have little patience for some of the DVD review sites online that seem to lay in wait, ready to pounce on any inconsistency or perceived shortcoming in the newest releases, I must admit that even I get frustrated by some of what I see.

Several of the major studios simply don’t care about films, old or new. They release them with no extras at all or with featurettes that can best be described as perfunctory. Worse yet, they have little concern about picture and sound quality. If their parent company happens to have restored the negative and soundtrack, fine; if they haven’t, that’s just too bad.

In some ways, this is a direct result of the medium’s success. At a time when box-office receipts are plummeting, the majors are turning more and more to their home video divisions to shore up quarterly profit statements. This forces those units to keep pumping out “product,” with too little time to do proper restorations or commission thoughtful documentaries.


Sometimes, this results in happy accidents. Fox had already restored 35mm elements on its 1930 feature Soup to Nuts, featuring Ted Healy and the earliest screen incarnation of The Three Stooges. When the studio decided to release the film as part of a budget line, retailing at just $9.98, fans could hardly believe their eyes; one couldn’t ask for a better-looking copy of this early talkie (I learned about this release long after the fact because Fox didn’t even bother to send out a press release. The same studio has just made exclusive deals with Amazon.com to sell complete sets of its Studio Classics and Film Noir series at greatly reduced prices.)

More often, there is no rhyme or reason to what gets released—or how. I recently ran into a friend who directed a small movie years ago that’s always had a loyal following. It’s just been acquired by a major studio and is due for a reissue on DVD . He was asked to appear on-camera for an interview, but when he inquired if the studio would be re-mastering the film (which looked worn and beat-up in its first DVD release) he was told there wasn’t time to do it.

Another friend who produces bonus features for DVDs bid on one of the most prestigious projects of the year, and then was told that if he got the job he would have exactly twelve weeks to deliver the final product, which required extensive travel, shooting of interviews and background material, and elaborate post-production. He lost the gig and was almost glad he did. No wonder some of these video “documentaries” seem to have been stitched together rather than carefully conceived and written.

I begged one company to obtain an interview—even if it was just an audio track—from a famous writer who was intimately involved with an old movie they were about to release. I had no vested interest in this project, but I knew how much it would mean to the author (and his fans) to have his involvement in this DVD . My pleas fell on deaf ears.

I don’t like to print “blind” items, but I must protect the identities of these colleagues who try to do quality work in an atmosphere that is increasingly characterized by the “faster, cheaper” mentality one associates with the heyday of Hollywood B movies.


I also don’t want to generalize, as there are many dedicated people who consistently go the extra mile to create DVDs that film buffs and fans can savor. These projects stand out like neon signs against the night sky; you can tell they’ve been made with tender loving care, from the packaging to the menus to the content on screen.

I’ve just posted reviews of some recent examples on the Leonard’s Picks page, including the third volume of Warner Home Video’s Looney Tunes Golden Collection and two great packages from independent sources: Kino’s Mountain Films series including The White Hell of Pitz Palu, and Image Entertainment’s staggering boxed set Unseen Cinema.

Even Warner, almost certainly the best of the “big boys,” has its occasional lapses: who is that character Bugs Bunny is holding on the cover of the new Looney Tunes box? Is it a character I’m supposed to recognize... because I don’t! (At least Bugs looks like himself, which is more than can be said for the character “likenesses” that appeared on the cover of Volume Two.)

And Disney, with many great achievements to its credit (most recently the breathtaking restorations of Bambi and Cinderella) released a Best of the Original Mickey Mouse Club disc this summer that listed episode dates on the back of the package from 1962 and 1964. Did no one know, or remember, that the series went out of production in 1959? (The dates cited were apparently when those episodes were rerun in syndication.)

But that’s child’s play (no pun intended) compared to some of the problems other seasonal boxed sets of TV series offer diehard fans. Image Entertainment has set the bar for such releases with its exhaustive treatments of The Twilight Zone and The Dick Van Dyke Show, making high-definition transfers from original source materials and surrounding them with extensive bonus features...as well as involving as many of the shows’ creators as possible. Longtime Combat chronicler and aficionado Steve Rubin brought his expertise, and audio interviews, to those Image releases. Paramount has also done right by I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners.

Other studios haven’t wanted to bother with the time or expense of new transfers, which would be bad

This was my biggest concern when I received the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents from Universal. The last time I watched some of these shows was on Nick, where Hitch’s slow, deliberate delivery of his droll introductions was noticeably accelerated, and where some scenes looked like spoofs of silent comedies.

I timed the first episode and was relieved to find that it ran a little more than 26 minutes, which seemed about right for a 1950s network half-hour. Then I checked with an old friend, Gary Stark, who is the savviest TV buff I know.

At first, he wrote, “After watching the two sides of the first Hitchcock TV DVD (14 episodes), I have to give Universal a D- when it comes to the finished product. I hope you know someone well enough over there to convey the disappointment I found (and probably you did as well). First of all, while the picture quality is quite sharp with good blacks and grays, it's obvious that they did not go back to the camera negatives or mag tracks for any of these transfers. The audio is muddy on a number of the episodes and the audio levels seem to vary.

“They apparently took a 35mm print (although some of Hitch's intros look like they came from 16mm) from storage and did the transfer. The most shameful transfer on disc one is the Hitchcock-directed Breakdown with Joseph Cotten. There are deep emulsion scratches at the beginning and end of the episode and some bad spots during (fortunately no splices). I can't believe they would have allowed this to be released this way and even if they claim this was the best print they could find (which I wouldn't believe), they obviously made no attempt to do any restoration or cleaning up of the elements.

“Considering what a nice job Universal does with their transfers of movies, this is really bad.”

Later that week, he added, “As I have now finished another DVD in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents set, I think I erred when I gave Universal a D- for the job they did. I'm changing it to an F. I have now encountered a number of episodes where Hitch's intros and closes are truncated because that is how Universal edited them when they ran on TV Land. Obviously they made no attempt to go back and restore the ones that had already been edited. These were not edits in the original materials so they could have gone back and retransferred the opens and closes but apparently they figured we Hitchcock fans wouldn't notice. Ha! I'd demand a refund if it weren't for the fact that the stories
Cameron is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 12:47 AM
  #2  
DVD Talk Reviewer
 
Rogue588's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: WAS looking for My Own Private Stuckeyville, but stuck in Liberty City (while missing Vice City)
Posts: 15,094
Originally Posted by Cameron
While I have little patience for some of the DVD review sites online that seem to lay in wait, ready to pounce on any inconsistency or perceived shortcoming in the newest releases, I must admit that even I get frustrated by some of what I see.
Good article. However, DVD review sites wouldn't be laying in wait if the studios got it right the FIRST time.
Rogue588 is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 02:33 AM
  #3  
En vacance
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,512
This guy's annual movie guide is biased rubbish toward movies from the last few decades, he favors older movies more, i do too incindently, but i'm just throwing this out there for the wise. The DVD & Video Movie Guide is the best authorative guide, group of people allowing for more accurate reviews and more reviewed.

On what he says here i agree, studios tend to gravitate and splooge toward the super duper acclaimed best older films giving them attention while there's a real huge gap from that and the rest of the movies and tv of the time which have some pretty damn good stuff, like quick example off the top of my head, Bogie's Sahara (1943) considered the best war flick he did, barebones DVD for it while the foot-in-mouth Windtalkers gets a 4-disc monster.
FRwL is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 03:21 AM
  #4  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: The Other Side
Posts: 985
Originally Posted by FRwL
Bogie's Sahara (1943) considered the best war flick he did, barebones DVD for it while the foot-in-mouth Windtalkers gets a 4-disc monster.
Apparently they think Windtalkers would sell more if it gets a 4-disc boner edition. Has it? I don't believe it. But, this all goes together with the "blockbuster" mentality of Hollywood. Windtalkers was a huge expense and an expected blockbuster, and I don't know if it was successful or not, but everything related to it has to be thrown at the consumer in order to make money. A vicious circle: films cost more than the GDP of some countries, so that the studios can hopefully reap even more. I hope Hollywood collapses upon itself so we can go back to simply telling stories. Sorry for the tangent.

Anyway, Sahara isn't something like The Big Sleep, so they think it won't sell very well; they probably think that simply releasing it at all is enough.
Egon's Ghost is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 03:52 AM
  #5  
En vacance
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,512
Yeah it's a shame.
FRwL is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 04:24 AM
  #6  
DVD Talk Reviewer
 
pro-bassoonist's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Blu-ray.com
Posts: 10,380
Originally Posted by Egon's Ghost
Apparently they think Windtalkers would sell more if it gets a 4-disc boner edition. Has it? I don't believe it. But, this all goes together with the "blockbuster" mentality of Hollywood. Windtalkers was a huge expense and an expected blockbuster, and I don't know if it was successful or not, but everything related to it has to be thrown at the consumer in order to make money.
Very well said!!

Ciao,
Pro-B

Last edited by pro-bassoonist; 11-21-05 at 10:26 PM.
pro-bassoonist is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 04:58 AM
  #7  
DVD Talk Ultimate Edition
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 4,383
I agree with his sentiments, the only thing that bugs me is this:

It seems that good old Leonard is feeling "threatened" by the ability of "anyone" to write a thoughtful review and get noticed on the internet. I suppose I can't blame him. If someone did my job for free, in most cases better than I did, I would be worried too and as a result I would be on the "offensive." He accuses online reviewers of being ready to slam every little nuance of a DVD or film. Sounds like a what a paid critic does to me. Pot, kettle, kettle, pot.

But it is hard to disagree that companies see the easy cash grab rather than making something special 90% of the time.
Qui Gon Jim is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 07:32 AM
  #8  
DVD Talk Godfather
 
The Bus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 54,829
Originally Posted by Leonard Maltin
"(At least Bugs looks like himself, which is more than can be said for the character “likenesses” that appeared on the cover of Volume Two.)"
In Volume Two he looks like the very old-styled Bugs Bunny (which I never liked). It is him, just an earlier incarnation of him.
The Bus is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 10:09 AM
  #9  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Falc04's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Upstate, NY
Posts: 1,192
Good article by Leonard. His intros and commentary on the new 'John Wayne Collection' DVDs are really great.

Thanks for posting Cameron.
Falc04 is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 10:13 AM
  #10  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Mr. Cinema's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 18,044
I agree, good article. Now we need one on the poor quality control of manufacturing dvds.
Mr. Cinema is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 11:29 AM
  #11  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 341
I'm not really a fan of Leonard Maltin's reviews but he's right on the money with this article. And when it comes to online reviews, I think it can be even worse than Maltin suggests. Sometimes, I read DVD reviews with inaccurate content information that is repeated from earlier inaccurate reviews! So it's not just an issue of negatively-biased reviewers but lazy ones as well. The point of reviews is not to merely slam every little nuance of films and DVDs. That's as absurd as saying that multi-angles and seamless branching are the same thing. The point is to fairly enlighten consumers about the pros and cons the reviewer believes exist, hopefully providing a balanced insight into the film's value as entertainment and/or art. Anything else is self-serving and destructive.
Count de Monet is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 11:52 AM
  #12  
DVD Talk Ultimate Edition
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 4,383
Originally Posted by Count de Monet
I'm not really a fan of Leonard Maltin's reviews but he's right on the money with this article. And when it comes to online reviews, I think it can be even worse than Maltin suggests. Sometimes, I read DVD reviews with inaccurate content information that is repeated from earlier inaccurate reviews! So it's not just an issue of negatively-biased reviewers but lazy ones as well. The point of reviews is not to merely slam every little nuance of films and DVDs. That's as absurd as saying that multi-angles and seamless branching are the same thing. The point is to fairly enlighten consumers about the pros and cons the reviewer believes exist, hopefully providing a balanced insight into the film's value as entertainment and/or art. Anything else is self-serving and destructive.
Troll much? Nice personal attack. Just wanted to quote it so that when you alter it, the mods will see what you originally wrote. The day YOU author a DVD, you can call someone absurd.

I think the reviews here at DVD Talk are very well done. I will reiterate my thought: if I were a paid critic, I would be totally worried about guys who do the job for free online, many times better than the paid critic does.
Qui Gon Jim is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 12:08 PM
  #13  
DVD Talk Legend
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 12,306
Well...i come to the defense of Leonard Maltin once again.

I understand, and to some point I agree that Leonard has been a bit biased towards modern pictures. (he gave gremlins 2 which he cameos in more stars than the original...) However, I see him as one of the great defenders of the art, and keeper of the castle on many titles.

He has been consistent in pushing for OAR releases, remasters, and preservation of original negatives. He is the world authority on Disney, and the Little Rascals among others.

I think the reviews found on the net work for good and evil. It has given anyone with a keyboard the chance to spout off about films. Unlike Maltin and his piers, they don't hire fact checkers, editors, etc. This discredits many reviews, and websites for inconsistancies. At the same time, the hollywood/NY critic system is broken, and has been for a long time. They put these guys up in nice hotel rooms come festival times, rent out entire theaters for a handful of critics to watch, send them print to their home, feed them shrimp, buy them booze...

the net reviews don't worry about offending their good friends on the gravy train, but at the same time only point out the evils of a film. (I am guilty of this as well) they are unknown faces. Love it or hate it, AICN story of the batman sequal is classic...but they have become that same monster at times.

I think their is room in the world for both. I don't run to Ebert, or Maltin for an idea of what I like...but I do listen, and respect what they have to say. Much wisdom in their words, even if sometimes I feel like they don't get it.
Cameron is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 12:25 PM
  #14  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 341
Originally Posted by Qui Gon Jim
Troll much? Nice personal attack. Just wanted to quote it so that when you alter it, the mods will see what you originally wrote. The day YOU author a DVD, you can call someone absurd.
I have authored a DVD. Lots of people have. Use DVD Studio Pro much? It's fairly easy to author a professional-looking DVD. So at least I'm not engaging in the same kind of ad hominem personal attack you just did...and have done in the recent past. I'm merely responding to previous posts. And what posts have I altered in the past to make you think I would alter my last one? Oh right...just more imagined nonsense on your part. You really have some issues you need to work out, I'm afraid.

I think the reviews here at DVD Talk are very well done.
So do I. So what are you whining about?
Count de Monet is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 12:31 PM
  #15  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: New England
Posts: 1,290
Originally Posted by Qui Gon Jim
Troll much? Nice personal attack. Just wanted to quote it so that when you alter it, the mods will see what you originally wrote. The day YOU author a DVD, you can call someone absurd.
.
Bugg is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 01:00 PM
  #16  
DVD Talk Godfather
 
Michael Corvin's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 56,832
I don't see how anyone can be against Maltin. He is championing restorations, true special editions, OAR and other film nuances for the public. I'm all for him helping persuade studios to get a better product out there.

Reviews are a whole other topic, not needed to be discussed here, that isn't what the article is about.
Michael Corvin is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 01:13 PM
  #17  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Docking Bay 94
Posts: 14,259
Originally Posted by Bugg
http://forum.dvdtalk.com/showthread.php?t=445837


Count -- I'm not a mod, but come on... do you really need to be baiting members like that?
bboisvert is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 06:21 PM
  #18  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Josh Z's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Boston
Posts: 11,085
Originally Posted by Count de Monet
I'm not really a fan of Leonard Maltin's reviews but he's right on the money with this article. And when it comes to online reviews, I think it can be even worse than Maltin suggests. Sometimes, I read DVD reviews with inaccurate content information that is repeated from earlier inaccurate reviews! So it's not just an issue of negatively-biased reviewers but lazy ones as well.
And how exactly is this any different than anything else in life? There are some people who are very good at what they do, and others who are very bad at what they do. This applies to movie reviewers, basket weavers, rocket scientists, or Presidents of the United States.
Josh Z is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 06:36 PM
  #19  
DVD Talk Legend
 
darkside's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 19,847
I give Maltin credit. I don't agree with many of his reviews and find his likes very different from many of my own. However, he was called out pretty big by MS3TK during the Comedy Central era for his great reviews on a couple of total crap films and the guy actually appeared on another MST3K episode in the Sci-Fi era with a clunker he gave a good review to and took his medicine. You have to like the fact he has a sense of humor about his reviews and doesn't take himself so seriously that he can't take criticism.

I'm still a bit mad about his DVD Review magazine from a few years back that took subscription money from many people including myself and never came through with the actual magazine or refunded the money. Maltin still owes me $20.
darkside is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 06:56 PM
  #20  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 250
It's Leonard Maltin, I mean, c'mon. His only claim to fame is giving The Shawshank Redemption a horrible review and standing firm to it regardless of how the film's grown in the past ten years.
robsul82 is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 09:42 PM
  #21  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Trencher's Farm
Posts: 1,974
He should stand firm, if he still dislikes the film. Besides, The Shawshank Redemption still sucks. But this top 40 mentality was destined to filter into the DVD format; if HD fails to fly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hollywood begin to abandon older films entirely, and merely limiting us to the "all time favorites" like Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, etc. The glory days of classic film on dvd may have already passed.
mike7162 is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 10:49 PM
  #22  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 251
Originally Posted by FRwL
This guy's annual movie guide is biased rubbish toward movies from the last few decades, he favors older movies more, i do too incindently, but i'm just throwing this out there for the wise. The DVD & Video Movie Guide is the best authorative guide, group of people allowing for more accurate reviews and more reviewed.

And this has WHAT to do with the article??

Well, he (and we) are concerned with the treatment of older material, right? Thank god SOMEBODY in the mass media is concerned with this issue. Matlin has done much to make sure some major studios (Disney, for example) are aware of quality issues that might otherwise get ignored.

Of course, there are many different writers involved with "his" annual guide.
unclehulot is offline  
Old 11-21-05, 11:17 PM
  #23  
boe
Suspended
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 325
Simple Solution

The studios set absurd time lines to release DVDs. Fans want the DVDs as soon as possible.

Do what they did for LOTR and others.

1 Let fans know when the first release is coming out.
2 Let fans know when the uncut release with good audio and video will be out.
3 Let fans know when the uncut release with the interviews, the making of, and all that other stuff - will be out.

Make three copies to fit everyones desire but if we know the dates we won't have to double dip and we'll get the movie as soon as possible if we can't wait and then it is our own issue if we double dip - no complaining.

I'll get option 2 EVERY SINGLE TIME. Option 3 gives the DVD makers time to get all the people they want to interview ready etc.

PS I'm not sure how the information was released about the LOTR EE release dates but I REALLY REALLY appreciated knowing that the good one was in the works and when it was coming out so I wasn't as tempted to get the first one and then just be pissed that I had the crappy release. I understand why the uncut version took longer to make so I wasn't pissed that it was being released a few months after the first at least I knew it was coming out. A lot of times a movie comes out poorly done and I think, are they coming out with a DTS version or a WS version or a DTS version.

Last edited by boe; 11-21-05 at 11:19 PM.
boe is offline  
Old 11-22-05, 01:10 AM
  #24  
En vacance
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,512
Originally Posted by unclehulot
And this has WHAT to do with the article??
Did you even read the rest of the post? It's called opinions, this isn't fascism.
FRwL is offline  
Old 11-22-05, 06:59 AM
  #25  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Josh Z's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Boston
Posts: 11,085
Originally Posted by robsul82
It's Leonard Maltin, I mean, c'mon. His only claim to fame is giving The Shawshank Redemption a horrible review and standing firm to it regardless of how the film's grown in the past ten years.
Good for him. That tedious, formulaic movie is absurdly overrated.
Josh Z is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.