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The Aisle Seat August Assembly

Tons of Mail Bag Responses and SUPERMAN DVD News!

By Andy Dursin

Widescreen Review reported last week on the specifics of the long-awaited SUPERMAN DVD, and it sounds like it's going to be worth the wait (which could be a while, but more on that in a minute).


See http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/cds/married.asp for info on our new John Williams CD, A Guide for the Married Man!

According to the magazine, the DVD will be a two-sided "DVD-18" release (two dual-layer DVDs glued together), containing both the original 143-minute theatrical cut and the premiere of a "Director's Cut" version running 158 minutes. Now, this isn't quite the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink 187-minute TV version, but if you've seen all of the outtakes restored to that edition, you know the film needed to trim some of its fat in the first place. (There's no mention, however, that the DVD will include a separate chapter of deleted material featuring the half-hour of scenes that will remain left on the cutting room floor).

The extras will include a full isolated score track (yay!), a new documentary on the making of the film (including interviews with John Williams), a brand-new 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and, of course, a fully restored transfer.

Since Warner Bros. doesn't seem to be certain that they'll be issuing a theatrical re-release of the film, the release date has yet to be determined -- but here's hoping we finally get our hands on this long, long, long- awaited restoration by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Aisle Seat Mail Bag has been filling up so much that we need to get caught up before moving on to another barrage of films and DVDs next time. As usual, send all comments here at dursina@att.net and we'll get back to you asap! Now, on with the reader comments....


From Brian Lindstrand <brianli@mail.soltec.net>

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciated reading a review of the X-MEN movie on the internet that wasn't completely fawning. I used to read the comic (and still read some other titles) and was interested in seeing the film. After seeing it, however, I felt that it was one of the most uninteresting and uninvolving movies I've seen in a long time. My friend Katrina who came along remarked that it was one of the most "actionless" action movies she had ever seen.

    While the characters of Wolverine and Rogue are given some decent screen time to actually become characters, the rest are just walking code names with no real depth. During the big show down at the Statue of Liberty at the climax, I sat there going "so what?" I hope that there might be a "director's cut" video/DVD release just so we can see some of the characterization that I'm sure is lying on a cutting room floor somewhere.

    And I have to agree about Mr. Kamen's score. It was completely unmemorable, and just became background noise after a while.

    Personally, I think a lot of the reviews and comments on the internet About the film have been of the "let's not do the movie any real harm" variety. Fans are so worried that no other "serious" attempts will be made at comic-related films, that they are nervous about speaking out about the film's obvious (at least to me) flaws. I'm not saying that it was terrible, just that it was mediocre when it could have been great. Hopefully, 20th Century Fox will let the filmmakers run with the ball next time (and here's a vote for John Ottman on score and editing).

    Your comments on the JAWS rerelease were also interesting. I was lucky enough to run across one of the laserdisc box sets at a Chicago area store in their bargain bin. I got the CLV/CAV one without the copy of Mr. Benchley's book for about 60% off the retail price and love it. I can't believe that they cut down the documentary for the DVD release! It was terrific and gave great insight into the making and marketing of the film.

    Why has Steven Spielberg apparently turned away from shooting in Panavision? He was a master at it. Heck, I am to this day blown away by the Compositions for INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, of all things.

    As to the cd, I love it. I have always been a fan of John Williams' music for the film, but had never purchased the original release. So when the announcement was made that the cd would feature the original score, I was thrilled. And it doesn't disappoint. Sure, you need to reprogram "Shark Cage Fugue" for later than it's placed on the disc, but so what? Let's just be happy it got released.

    Anyway, thanks for your time and the reviews. Keep up the column. It makes for fun reading when I check the FSM site.

Agreed about the X-MEN, and I also whole-heartedly agree about the shortcomings of the JAWS DVD. The documentary has been cut down substantially (by more than half!), there are deleted scenes missing, and they even managed to bungle one of the trailers' most effective moments (when Percy Rodrigues goes, "Rated PG...may be too intense for younger children"!). Still, the transfer is almost-as-good and the sound remix is even better, but why couldn't they have gotten everything else right?

It's funny, but I have the same feeling about TEMPLE OF DOOM as you do. For some reason, the gorgeous cinematography and sweeping images were pretty much the last, most effective use of scope Spielberg ever featured in one of his films. Aside from a brief sojourn back into Panavision country for LAST CRUSADE and HOOK (which is near-incomprehensible without letterboxing), there really is something sumptuous about how good TEMPLE OF DOOM appears in widescreen (the letterboxed laserdisc is sensational!). JAWS is yet another example of how adept Spielberg was at shooting in an anamorphic process...CE3K, 1941, SUGARLAND EXPRESS...all of these films don't work nearly as well without seeing them in their original aspect ratio.

I think it also has something to do with cinematography. Cinematographers like Douglas Slocombe, Bill Butler, William A. Fraker, and Vilmos Zsigmond had a far better eye for detail and design than some of the folks who have worked on some of Spielberg's more recent pictures, particularly Janusz Kaminski, whose ugly, green-hued, colorless tints for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and THE LOST WORLD ruined a good deal of each film's visual impact, at least for me. (Yes, you could argue about the "newsreel" approach on RYAN, but THE LOST WORLD is totally inexcusable).


From David Coscina (cprokofiev@aol.com):

    Hey Andy,

    I feel compelled to let you know how right you are about the X-men. I've seen the movie twice (2 nights in a row which I haven't done since Jurassic Park!) but still acknowledge all of the flaws which you pointed out. I can only hope, as you and countless others do that the DVD will contain the extra 20 or 30 or 40 minutes that Singer cut out due to test audiences bitching about how "boring" the film was (when is Hollywood going to kick all of these MBA assholes out and let artists see their vision through? Probably not anytime soon sadly enough).

    As for Kamen's score, it sounds as though he phoned it in, a shocking revelation for me because I've always had an affinity for his music. Maybe the choppy editing hindered him too.

    p.s. Jaws is one of the greatest films of all time. I hope they re-release it in theatres sometime.

Thanks, David. I saw JAWS out on Martha's Vineyard when I visited Lukas a few summers ago, and it's true that seeing the film in a theater is a great experience, since the movie plays so well with an audience. Not that the film doesn't work equally well at home, but there's certainly something to be said for the communal event that JAWS affords in a theatrical setting.


From Corey Witte:

    Hey Andy. I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but my guess is that the reason the frame looks blue when we see Rome is the sub-standard digital effect. You probably know that the Scott brothers started an FX company of their own called The Mill, and I believe Gladiator is their first film (they also do work for Scott Free TV commercials.) On the whole I'd say their FX work for wide shots wasn't very good and left some digital artifacts in the frame. Thanks again for what is a consistently good article.

Corey, again, thanks for the response. Seems like everyone is being involved with CGI these days, as prices come down and the technology becomes accessible to a wider group of artists. But whatever I've said about GLADIATOR in the past, at least it's not as cringe-inducing as my all-time favorite BAD CGI film, ESCAPE FROM L.A.!


From Adoughty1@aol.com:

    It's good to hear something definitive on the LEGEND DVD. Rather than just being a reissue, I hope Universal ponies up for a restoration, allowing for a remix of the Goldsmith score--which I've heard is recorded at very low volumes in the European versions of the film--and a detailed, encompassing Dolby 5.1 soundfield (not that 5.1 means a damn thing to a regular two-speaker Joe such as myself). And, given the film's rough treatment by its US distributor, A Scott commentary track--which also addresses the Goldsmith situation--would be a welcome addition. I'm dreaming about the latter, I'm sure; what with Scott probably up to his elbows in facsimile blood on the Hannibal set, nothing's bound to tear him away... But I'll take what I can get. I haven't jonesed for a dvd so intensely since awaiting the 20th anniversary edition of Alien.

    Speaking of which, it would take some doing to dethrone that title as the most impressive disc I've seen. Imagine, an Alien DVD which allows for a side-by-side comparison of Goldsmith's original music for the "shaft sequence" and Scott's temp track (which works amazingly well...for a temp track)! Sounds like Scott played to a sense of dread, while Goldsmith wentafter a crisper, more intense variety of fear; take your pick. I'm getting way off-topic here, but have you heard any speculation about whether Fox may have botched the audio tracks on this dvd? The two-channel Dolby surround track sounds very pinched and thin when compared to the French two-channel track (which is substantially beefier, bassier). I could be hearing a "down-mix" phenomenon which occurs when 5.1 is compressed in order to be rendered in a two-channel version...though I've heard plenty of two-channel "versions" of 5.1 that are far lusher than the stereo tracks on the Alien DVD. Try cueing up the French soundtrack (audio option 3, I think); the difference is striking. Maybe since the French language soundtrack is not downmixed from 5.1...it suffers less in the compression department? It's entirely possible I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

    P.S. Still digging that Buffy the Vampire Slayer action? I'm proud to report that that series was named to the PTC's--Parent's television council (a fascist family values watchdog group)--list of ten worst shows...owing to rampant sexuality. Talk about a ringing endorsement! As for 'D-Creek,' I think it's devolved somewhat, but even shadows and faint glimmers of the earlier, more brazen Creek are better than nothing. It was always at its best when itwas most alienatingly, high-verbal and existentialist for its core demographic. Yep, I'm talking about Dawson's Creek, all right.

A., as usual there's plenty of food for thought here, so let's go blow-by-blow.

1) The LEGEND DVD has been in production for several months, and it's pretty much set in stone from what has been reported and the rumblings we've heard that we're going to be getting -- finally -- a longer print of the movie, in widescreen, with Jerry Goldsmith's score. There also should be a documentary from J.M. Kenny, who has produced several of Universal's collector's edition DVDs.

What ends up on the DVD beyond that is pure speculation -- especially in terms of how/if it will include the American version of the movie with Tangerine Dream's score (yes, there are some viewers out there who crave the Dream's new-agey, Tesh-like soundtrack). We'd also like to hear an isolated score track for Jerry's masterful music, but seeing that Universal has never been very good at bothering to include separate score tracks, either on LD or DVD, I'm just taking a wild guess that it won't happen.

2) I enjoyed the ALIEN DVD, although I was harshly critical of the movie's soundtrack. Like you, all I initially had was Pro-Logic, and the sound mix was pinched and very hissy -- a far cry from the rather strangely dynamic sound of that French langauge track.

Now that I have the benefit of Dolby Digital, I can hear the separation and clarity of the 5.1 mix, and it's almost as good as the basic 2-channel sound of the old, CAV laserdisc set. Still, for some reason, the French language track simply has more kick and bass....very odd indeed. In terms of how Goldsmith's score worked, it was one of that DVD's finest achievements that it included a pair of score tracks, making for fascinating viewing and listening.

It's a real shame that Fox isn't including a similar Goldsmith score track on their OMEN DVD, since the 20th Anniversary laserdisc release included a dynamic, isolated score track, in full stereo with plenty of extra cues that weren't used in the movie. The scene with Damien on the tricycle, ramming into Lee Remick, is one example of a scene without music that Goldsmith had scored -- and with the flick of a switch on LD, you can hear the music by itself, as it originally would have worked. Great stuff, and a big disappointment that the DVD won't offer viewers that opportunity to explore and interact with the film.

3) I love BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and still feel that it's the best show on TV, though I guess that if I had younger children, I could I see myself objecting to some of the show's adult-content. Yes, it's on at 9pm, and no, it has never claimed to be "family entertainment," but there have been times when it is a little adult-oriented for pre-teens...but since I'm not of that demographic anymore (and don't have kids), it doesn't much matter to me. CREEK, meanwhile, remains a guilty, giggle-inducing pleasure, even as it progresses further into 90210 territory -- which isn't necessarily a terrible thing since the show has needed to lighten up for a good, long while!


From Kyle Shold <kyles@humongous.com>

    Andy,

    I'm hoping that you could clear up something that I've been curious about. Does a DVD with DTS sound work in a player with out DTS capabilities? What I mean is, will I still get Dolby Digital quality sound or will it just not work? The reason I'm asking is because I have two DVD players one of which has DTS capabilities and the other doesn't. However, I have a stereo receiver that does not have DTS decoding capability. I guess what I'm Trying to ask is can I buy DTS movies and still play them? Because eventually I will have the right stereo equipment but in the mean time I don't want to be re-buying a disc in the future just for the DTS. I hope that wasn't too confusing. Great column today (7-11-00). The Aisle Seat is my favorite FSD.

Thanks Kyle! I certainly do appreciate the kind words.

This is a good question. As far as I know, if you DON'T have DTS capability, you can't access a DTS track unless there's a separate, Dolby Digital or Dolby Pro-Logic (5.1 or 2.0) mix ALSO included on the DVD. You cannot down-convert a DTS mix the way that you can listen to a 5.1 mix on a DVD without the benefit of having Dolby Digital (5.1 Dolby Digital CAN be down-converted to 2-channel or Pro-Logic through the benefit of DVD technology, though in such instances the sound becomes particularly pinched and unimpressive).

In the case of the JAWS DTS release, there IS a separate, 2.0 Dolby Pro-Logic mix contained on the DVD (curious, since the Dolby Digital JAWS DVD only contains a 5.1 mix!), so in that instance, you CAN hear the soundtrack even without DTS. I'm not sure how it generally works on other DTS DVDs, however -- you'll just have to check each release yourself, but DTS, by and large, is certainly worth investing in.

The DTS sound, in my experience, simply is clearer, a bit stronger, and features appreciably better separation than Dolby Digital. Most listeners may not be able to tell the difference between the two, but for audio-philes, DTS is the format of choice for home theater sound.


From Michael Karoly <karoly.1@osu.edu>

    I've noticed that some company, Euro-something or other, has been Coming out with these "double-feature" DVDs....recently, they did THE 39 STEPS And THE LADY VANISHES with newsreels and cartoons included in the overall program. Have you seen any of these discs? If so, how are the transfers and sound? Only 18 more days to APES!!!

Hi Michael. Sounds to me like these DVDs have originated from some public domain source, so you never know what the print is going to look like. Has anyone checked these out? I know Anchor Bay received less-than-stellar praise for some of their recent Hitchcock attempts, culled from the ABC library vaults.


NEXT TIME... HENRY V, TITUS (what a cracked film!), and RIDE WITH THE DEVIL on DVD. Until then, email me at dursina@att.net and have a good one. Excelsior!


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