"The Black Pirate" (1926) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

WOW! Come on, me hearties it's time to buckle your swash!

Cast your mind back:

It's 1926, and Douglas Fairbanks, then 42 and owner of his own studio, has decided he wants to get away from the more, light-comedy, action roles he's recently been playing and make a full-on, all-action movie.

About pirates!

AND he wants to do it in full color!

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"The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian Nights Fantasy" (1924) on Blu-ray. They Just Don't Make 'em Like THIS Anymore!

Wow!  THIS is why we watch restored classic films!

Douglas Fairbanks' fantasy epic is presented here in a new digital restoration; the first output from the Cohen Media Group's acquisition of the famed Rohauer Film Collection in 2011.  This is a new, 2K scan made from two, separate, acetate dup negatives, struck from original nitrate prints in the 50s.  The scan has been treated to extensive digital restoration, and digital tinting matching the original print instructions.  And the results are flat out terrific!

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"It" (1927) on SD-DVD -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

How much is a word worth?  In the case of "It", the answer is $50,000, and that in 1920s dollars!  That's how much Paramount Studios paid to "Madame" Elinor Glyn, to use her clever idea of giving polite society a way to talk about sex appeal: By assigning it an innocuous name!

Glyn, described in the Film Historian's Commentary track as, "A hack writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine", also got a cameo appearance out of the deal; portraying herself in the film.  Cosmo also got some "product placement" in the film -- before that concept had even been invented!

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"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

In the early 20s, Carl Laemmle, Senior's, Universal Pictures was a DISTINCTLY 2nd tier studio.  "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" would change all that, but not without a struggle!

It was Lon Chaney, himself, who pushed for the picture to be made; only to run into road blocks and indifference.  The general consensus was, Hollywood Studios of the time were incapable of producing such a massively staged, period piece.

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"It Happened One Night" (1934) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

What is widely considered the first ever "screwball comedy" -- and still one of the best -- was made by Frank Capra for Harry Cohn's "Poverty Row" studio, Columbia Pictures.

MGM had loaned Clark Gable for the film -- pocketing a neat $500/week profit over his contract salary of $2,000/week.  When several actresses turned down the female lead (partly due to the script at the time making the character less sympathetic), Cohn suggested Claudette Colbert.  Colbert had made a previous film with Capra which turned out poorly.  And besides she had a long planned vacation scheduled to start -- just weeks away.  So she told Cohn and Capra she'd only take the part if they paid DOUBLE her normal salary *AND* could complete her shooting in just 4 weeks .  NOT a 4 week shoot beginning some time in the future, but 4 weeks from THAT VERY DAY!  Keep in mind this was at a point when costumes and sets had yet to be created!

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"The Big Sleep" (1946) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

Sometimes it's truly weird how Hollywood cranks out a hit.  Howard Hawks' film adaptation of the notoriously convoluted and confusing Raymond Chandler novel was actually completed, and in the can in 1945. But then Warner suddenly realized, with the war coming to an end, they had to rush all their WAR themed movies out the door RIGHT NOW while there was still a market for them!  So "The Big Sleep" was put on the shelf.

And THAT gave Lauren Bacall's agent a chance to lobby with Jack Warner.  To wit: The film should be reshot and reedited to give Bacall more screen time with Bogart, along with new dialog geared at reprising their fiery chemistry from, "To Have and Have Not" (1944).  The result is truly amazing of course; even iconic.  It probably helped that the Bacall/Bogart affair going on during the 1945 shoot had turned into the Bacall/Bogart marriage by 1946!

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"A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1935) on SD-DVD -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

By 1934, Jack Warner was badly in need of some class.

Oh, his distinctly blue-collar studio was cranking out detective films and other such low-brow stuff, but what he REALLY needed was a Prestige project which would show Warner Bros. could hold its head up with the big boys!

What followed is the stuff of Hollywood legend -- one which should probably bear the title, "The Comedy of Errors"!

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"Dracula" (1931) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

For his 21st birthday in 1929, Carl Laemmle, Jr., received an unusual birthday gift.  His Dad gave him Universal Studios.

The guy everyone THOUGHT was the heir apparent to Carl Laemmle, Sr., got relegated to doing B-grade pictures, as Junior jumped in with both feet and took complete control.  And he knew precisely what he wanted to make; a short list which included "Dracula".  Junior really got a kick out of horror tales.

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Does This Aspect Ratio Make Me Look Fat? (SD Video Edition!)

People are often surprised when I tell them Standard Definition (SD) Video can look gorgeous in their Home Theater.  The sad truth, alas, is that MOST people have never ever seen SD Video "done right"!  The problem is, at these resolutions (and data rates), there is NO margin for error.  ANY mistake in the content creation or video processing -- any corner cut in the setup at any stage -- WILL produce image defects that viewers can not ignore.  And such defects, once introduced, can NOT be corrected by any sort of subsequent image enhancement processing.  The critical information has been permanently lost.  At best you can blur such defects to make them less annoying.

This post discusses the technical details of image "Aspect Ratio", as found on traditional, SD-DVD movie discs, with tips for avoiding some common mistakes which will reduce your SD viewing quality.

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