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 Posted:   May 29, 2008 - 3:24 PM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

I got the new Criterion DVD of THIEF OF BAGDAD. Aside from the incredible film transfer, the isolated music & effects track is superb (although the main title on the M&E is a bit thin). This is the best chance we've had yet to hear Rozsa's score. It also gives you a chance to hear where the music was dialed in and out where cues were obviously extended on either or both ends.

But you certainly get a taste of what the original nitrate optical music tracks must have sounded like.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2008 - 6:18 PM   
 By:   estgrey   (Member)

I am looking forward to a more dedicated viewing this weekend, but I could not resist taking a peek, and the transfer is terrific . . . even stunning. (The one small downside, perhaps, is that the effects scenes of action in front of projection are more obvious than I recall from the grainy versions I was accustomed to seeing on tv.) The sound is good, monaural, but (as Ray Faiola suggests) a little thin.

(Oh, but the cover of the packaging is truly hideous.)

 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 4:53 AM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

(Oh, but the cover of the packaging is truly hideous.)

Yeah - like an old Kartes release!

 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 5:29 AM   
 By:   Dadid L   (Member)


the cover of the packaging is truly hideous.


I love it. False naïve persian style, like an old children book : perfect for the film.

Stangely, I found "negative" reviews elsewhere about the quality... too much expectations ?

 
 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 11:21 AM   
 By:   PFK   (Member)

Ray, does the music on the M&E tracks go up and down in volume? How bad are the sound effects? This still looks like a great DVd set. Peter

 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 11:33 AM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

Ray, does the music on the M&E tracks go up and down in volume? How bad are the sound effects? This still looks like a great DVd set. Peter

No, it doesn't dip. It's actually a composite M&E probably produced in the 60's for foreign release prints. Most of it is prime quality from music stems; several portions switch to what sounds like an older M&E with original foley; in a couple spots dialogue was left in when it was merely the shouting of a name ("Ahmed!" "Bazra!"). Also Rex Ingram's hearty laughs were left in, as was Miles Malleson's gasping scream when he is stabbed by the Blue Meanie. Probably the two sections where the effects are most prominent are the sea storm and the finale where Jaffar is killed. But the lion's share is almost pure music.

 
 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 12:20 PM   
 By:   PFK   (Member)

Thanks for the info Ray. This is a must-have for me! I first saw this film on TV in the mid 1950s, always enjoyed it. I saw a beautiful color print of it in a movie theatre in 1978! It was magnificent. This is the first Rozsa score I noticed and is I would have to say my favorite Rozsa score too. I don't care for the DVD cover, but who cares?

 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 12:32 PM   
 By:   Ed   (Member)

Oh, for a complete re-recording. In Moscow. With the Morgannastrom.

 
 
 Posted:   May 30, 2008 - 12:48 PM   
 By:   PFK   (Member)

I agree 100% with you Ed! ...... I wonder if "they" are reading this?

 
 
 Posted:   May 31, 2008 - 10:48 AM   
 By:   estgrey   (Member)

Dadid L.: I love it. False naïve persian style, like an old children book : perfect for the film.

Well, I suppose that may have been the intent, but I have certainly seen it much better done. Here, it looks simply like very poor drawing, and with none of the opulence of ornamentation that one might expect from the Persian style. But it is a matter of very little importance. I'm glad if you "love" it . . . mine will get replaced by something of my own making.

Stangely, I found "negative" reviews elsewhere about the quality... too much expectations ?

My guess is that this is about as good a quality as one is likely to get from a film made at this time and under these conditions. (And apparently my reference to action in front of projection isn't quite right. The film seems to have been an early use of blue screen, although the effect is essentially the same and the varying focus still true. I'm looking forward to the effects featurette tonight for clarification.) Someone else complained that the reds seemed slightly less dynamic than in the MGM DVD, but overall, the Criterion DVD is so much better than any version I have actually seen before that I am not about to start complaining.

I should perhaps note that I have a plain old 29-30 inch, tube-based, screen, so it may be less appealing on more elaborate equipment, but it sure looks good to my standard-issue eyes (and sounds pretty good to my standard-issue ears).

 
 
 Posted:   May 31, 2008 - 6:06 PM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

Dadid L.: I love it. False naïve persian style, like an old children book : perfect for the film.

Well, I suppose that may have been the intent, but I have certainly seen it much better done. Here, it looks simply like very poor drawing, and with none of the opulence of ornamentation that one might expect from the Persian style. But it is a matter of very little importance. I'm glad if you "love" it . . . mine will get replaced by something of my own making.

Stangely, I found "negative" reviews elsewhere about the quality... too much expectations ?

My guess is that this is about as good a quality as one is likely to get from a film made at this time and under these conditions. (And apparently my reference to action in front of projection isn't quite right. The film seems to have been an early use of blue screen, although the effect is essentially the same and the varying focus still true. I'm looking forward to the effects featurette tonight for clarification.) Someone else complained that the reds seemed slightly less dynamic than in the MGM DVD, but overall, the Criterion DVD is so much better than any version I have actually seen before that I am not about to start complaining.

I should perhaps note that I have a plain old 29-30 inch, tube-based, screen, so it may be less appealing on more elaborate equipment, but it sure looks good to my standard-issue eyes (and sounds pretty good to my standard-issue ears).


You are making a lot of statements, but the one thing that is the problem here is that you haven't seen the MGM/UA disc. While the Criterion is sharper and maybe a little cleaner, it most certainly has inferior color to the MGM/UA, which is excellent.

 
 
 Posted:   May 31, 2008 - 7:18 PM   
 By:   estgrey   (Member)

Haineshisway: You are making a lot of statements, but the one thing that is the problem here is that you haven't seen the MGM/UA disc. While the Criterion is sharper and maybe a little cleaner, it most certainly has inferior color to the MGM/UA, which is excellent.

Which is why I mentioned the complaint of someone else, to be fair, but did not mean to imply that the Criterion DVD was specifically better than the MGM DVD, which I had not seen. (And on that point I see that I was indeed not clear, and thus your correction is well taken.) I merely commented on the quality of the Criterion DVD on its own terms, in relation to what I have seen (which I should perhaps have qualified as being on TV and one rather unimpressive DVD someone loaned me), and it looks very good. I have no quibbles about the brightness of the colors, although it may be that they are brighter on the MGM DVD, and I might prefer that brightness if I saw it . . . or I might not. Still, even you seem to admit that there are trade-offs in regard to quality, so I'm not sure my "statement" is particularly out of line.

 
 
 Posted:   May 31, 2008 - 11:52 PM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

Nothing out of line at all. And I'm not talking about brightness of colors, but accuracy of colors - they're really saturated and lovely on the MGM/UA and they are much blander on the Criterion, but, yes, tradeoff is sharpness. I suppose one needs both smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 14, 2008 - 8:58 PM   
 By:   RonBurbella   (Member)

I have to second Ray Faiola's praise for Criterion's new remastered release of the 1940 masterpiece fantasy THE THIEF OF BAGDAD. The audio option for an ISOLATED MUSIC AND EFFECTS TRACK for Miklos Rozsa's magnificently colorful score is a dream come true.

While I recognize BEN-HUR is Rozsa's masterpiece, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD has always been (at least emotionally) my personal favorite
Rozsa score. We have been tantalized with numerous recordings over the years, from the RCA mono suite (with narration), then the United Artists reissue (without the narration), then Elmer Bernstein's Filmmusic Collection recording, then Rozsa conducting his suite on Polydor, then subsequent VHS/Laserdisc/DVD releases of the film. A determined fan of the score (such as I) could cobble together a reasonable "soundtrack" from all these sources.

Now there is the score (with effects), nicely cleaned up for hiss. Oh, there are a few imperfections with some choppy cue endings (like at the end of "The Flight of the Djinn" - my favorite cue), but these are small potatoes to complain about.

If you have not picked up this DVD and love the music of Miklos Rozsa, RUN to get this one.

It's a "must have."

Ron Burbella

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 15, 2008 - 8:10 AM   
 By:   TomD   (Member)

Nothing out of line at all. And I'm not talking about brightness of colors, but accuracy of colors - they're really saturated and lovely on the MGM/UA and they are much blander on the Criterion, but, yes, tradeoff is sharpness. I suppose one needs both smile

I can't agree that the MGM/UA had better color. The spots where it colors are more saturated just look oversaturated to me. The new Criterion might be a little cooler by comparison, but it is no bother to me.

The fatal flaw of the MGM/UA DVD is its wretched sound. The entire soundtrack is weak and distorted, impossible for me to enjoy. The Criterion DVD has fabulous sound accompanying the film, and the separate M&E tracks sound almost as good. So: Color difference - subtle. Sound difference - no contest.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 15, 2008 - 9:40 AM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

Nothing out of line at all. And I'm not talking about brightness of colors, but accuracy of colors - they're really saturated and lovely on the MGM/UA and they are much blander on the Criterion, but, yes, tradeoff is sharpness. I suppose one needs both smile

I can't agree that the MGM/UA had better color. The spots where it colors are more saturated just look oversaturated to me. The new Criterion might be a little cooler by comparison, but it is no bother to me.

The fatal flaw of the MGM/UA DVD is its wretched sound. The entire soundtrack is weak and distorted, impossible for me to enjoy. The Criterion DVD has fabulous sound accompanying the film, and the separate M&E tracks sound almost as good. So: Color difference - subtle. Sound difference - no contest.


I'm thrilled that it is no bother to you and that you find the MGM/UA saturated. All that means is that you have no idea what the colors of this film should like like - just like 90% of the other people buying DVDs. Doesn't make it right, I'm afraid. Having seen 35mm IB Tech prints, and having owned a 16mm IB Tech print I'm afraid to tell you that I do know what they should look like. I find colors that are off to be as disturbing as sound being off, or the original sound mix not being included or a film not being in its proper ratio.

 
 Posted:   Jun 15, 2008 - 3:42 PM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

Years ago a good friend of mine who is an entertainer told me he was doing a show with Mel Torme. I told him Mel was a big 16mm collector. Well, this friend of mine wanted to impress Mel so he asked if there were anything in particular he was looking for and maybe I could find it for him. So Mel says, "yeah, see if he's got a dye-transfer print of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD"! So my friend asks me and I tell him Mel was pulling your leg - that's practically the holy grail of all collectors. Turns out a couple of years after Torme passed away I finally got a Tech print. As great as the DVD is, there's nothing like watching a dye transfer print of the film, even in 16. But I think the Criterion is mighty nice nevertheless.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 17, 2008 - 4:50 PM   
 By:   PFK   (Member)

I agree with your comments Ron. I first saw the film in the mid 1950s on TV, before Ben Hur was even written! It is my favorite Rozsa too along with Jungle Book which I saw in the 1950s also. Along with Ben Hur that's my three top Rozsa. I'm really happy with this DVD set and the M&E tracks are nearly just straight music!

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 23, 2008 - 7:22 PM   
 By:   TomD   (Member)

Nothing out of line at all. And I'm not talking about brightness of colors, but accuracy of colors - they're really saturated and lovely on the MGM/UA and they are much blander on the Criterion, but, yes, tradeoff is sharpness. I suppose one needs both smile

I can't agree that the MGM/UA had better color. The spots where it colors are more saturated just look oversaturated to me. The new Criterion might be a little cooler by comparison, but it is no bother to me.

The fatal flaw of the MGM/UA DVD is its wretched sound. The entire soundtrack is weak and distorted, impossible for me to enjoy. The Criterion DVD has fabulous sound accompanying the film, and the separate M&E tracks sound almost as good. So: Color difference - subtle. Sound difference - no contest.


I'm thrilled that it is no bother to you and that you find the MGM/UA saturated. All that means is that you have no idea what the colors of this film should like like - just like 90% of the other people buying DVDs. Doesn't make it right, I'm afraid. Having seen 35mm IB Tech prints, and having owned a 16mm IB Tech print I'm afraid to tell you that I do know what they should look like. I find colors that are off to be as disturbing as sound being off, or the original sound mix not being included or a film not being in its proper ratio.


Please note that I wrote "oversaturated" -- a technical flaw causing loss of detail in the brightest colors, not saturated. I simply do not see the Criterion DVD as being blander than the MGM/UA. I think that the 2 DVDs are very close in their color renditions. Any comparison to the legendary quality of IB Technicolor prints is a completely different issue, of which there was no mention in the post to which I was responding.

 
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