Counting Blessings For What We've Got ...
|Priscilla Lane and James Cagney Listen In On A Future When Their Films|
Would Look As Rich As Stills They Posed For
It's Never Been Better Than Right Now
A friend who collected 16mm had got himself an "original" print of The Roaring Twenties which he said was so good "it looked like a still." That was thirty years back when fuzzy images were eternal bane of old pic watching, an era forgot since we've settled into luxury of Blu-Ray and HD streaming. How bad was it? Think back, be honest, then wish if you can for so-called glory days when we looked at favorites for a first time. Truth is, I'm seeing mine for a new first time on each occasion one debuts as High-Def disc or download. Happens almost daily now. This week it was Bombshell, Invisible Stripes, The Set-Up, all of which I'd known before and collected in some instances on 16mm. Each had been compromised by the smaller gauge or TV transmission. Since early-or-so 80's, most could be had on VHS, then viewed on analog sets at 25-inch max. Who'd now watch them in such degraded circumstance? Seems we're spoiled to expect crystal clarity for everything we watch, based on nit-picky reception got by discs that a couple decades ago would have awed us.
Here's an instance of how time and technology have spoiled us. Back in the early 90's (that now seems way back), someone turned up a 70mm roadshow print of The Alamo with all of footage missing from the hacked version we'd known for forty years. Fans bought the MGM/UA laser disc and called it a revelation. Quality seemed a best you could imagine, LD's representing "perfect vision" among serious cine-collectors. As far as home enthusiasts were concerned, the
I admit to sometimes counting threads on coats off Blu-Ray rack rather than see/listen to stories unfold, that result of ongoing disbelief that these things can look so good. If black-and-white had registered as well before as now, would general viewership have turned from it as they eventually did? What was once cloudy and gray registers sharp as woodcuts. Look at anything out on Blu-Ray. I played The Wolf Man to friends who'd seen it lots on tiny tube and owl terms, enough for know of dialogue by heart, but they went slack-jaw over a show reborn to point where for a first time after ten times (in my case, no telling) there was depth/detail unimaginable for home, or maybe even 1941 theatre, watching. Any download of HD is occasion for renewal --- yes, you've never really seen most classics until this.
The recent loss of several Classic era stars was, I think, more keenly felt than would have been case if they'd left say, ten years ago. Now, as opposed to then, we have High-Definition access to films Joan Fontaine did seventy years ago that no longer seem so old, thus remote, as they had for ... well, seventy years. To watch Rebecca, Jane Eyre, or Letter From An Unknown Woman on Blu-ray is to feel closer to each than was possible before, Joan Fontaine far less a distant figure than was case for lifetimes we saw her through Coke bottling that was analog TV and primitive cassette. Old star images have become so pin sharp as to make theirs seem like new faces, such detail long having been something we saw only in photos reproduced for coffee table books. Now that clarity is up on screens again, we can glean (sometimes surpass) what folks did when 35mm enjoyed silver nitrate edge. Assist toward that is home theatres like one vividly described by Stuart Galbraith IV at fascinating site that is World Cinema Paradise, "An Oasis Of Cinema Scholarship and Reviewing" that Greenbriar highly recommends. Galbraith and others have made dens into exhibition sites in many cases better than what we spent years paying admission to. The Golden Era of classic movie viewing is no longer a matter of Was, but happy reality of Right Now.