Note: the archived thread can be retrieved from here:http://web.archive.org/web/20040215011648/...osts/23304.html
, including the followup postings in response to this Q&A session.
Bill Lustig Q&A Part I
Mobius Q&A Response from Anchor Bay DVD Producer William Lustig, Part 1
Posted by: Todd Harbour , 10/09/2001, 19:52:54
Mobius Q&A - 10/8/01
MOBIUS: Was the ALICE SWEET ALICE DVD transfer taken from the same transfer as the LaserDisc?
Lustig: Yes. I supervised the LD transfer along with the film’s director Alfred Sole.
A BETTER TOMORROW
There are many soundtrack issues and rumors concerning this title. Supposedly Anchor Bay was assured by Media Asia that the materials were correct for the initially-released soundtrack, which clearly contained modified soundtrack elements from other films.
Media Asia had nothing to do with this DVD. The first DVD release, with the Mandarin 5.1, had been produced for an Asian DVD company at Chace Productions – a sound facility we frequently use - but never paid for it. Chace graciously offered the soundtrack to us for free so we used it, never suspecting that there might be different music.
There were rumors that when Anchor Bay decided to re-master the soundtrack, the company tried to obtain a laser disc that had the mono soundtrack so they could port it over. But supposedly Media Asia wouldn't let Anchor Bay do so under threat of legal action, and Anchor Bay wound up with inferior source materials for the soundtrack re-master. Can you confirm that these rumors, especially about Anchor Bay looking for the A BETTER TOMORROW laserdisc and Media Asia's uncooperative nature, are legitimate?
As I said before, Media Asia had nothing to do with this DVD. To the best of my knowledge there was never any contact with anyone at Media Asia – let alone any legal threats. The film’s licensor Atlas International, as always, was extremely helpful and cooperative. For a couple of days we were desperate to find a replacement soundtrack so we did look for a LD to pull the soundtrack. But when Atlas confirmed that they could deliver us the Cantonese version we never bothered pursuing the LD idea. I don’t know where all these legal rumors come from. As I said before, Media Asia was neither cooperative nor uncooperative – they weren’t involved whatsoever.
There are also rumors that once Anchor Bay obtained the soundtrack for a re-master, a few additional problems were introduced that weren't present in the original release, most notably several audio dropouts on the Cantonese soundtrack, including a full 10-second audio dropout in the beginning of the movie. Does Anchor Bay have knowledge of such defects? Could you explain what circumstances led to the initial incorrect soundtrack being released, and if a definitive version will ever be available?
When we discovered our costly mistake in using the existing Mandarin 5.1 track - a good lesson that you can’t get something for nothing - we contacted Atlas who sent us via Hong Kong a DAT of the original Cantonese soundtrack. We checked the alleged 10-second dropout and discovered that there wasn’t a dropout in the supplied Cantonese soundtrack since other sounds are present – just a slightly different mix.
There are no plans to reissue this DVD.
ARMY OF DARKNESS
Many readers believe or hope that there are better materials on that director's cut than those that were used. One reader mentions that the European version contains some of the footage and is supposed to be in very good shape. Could you describe if the search for materials for AOD included overseas resources, and clarify if you believe better materials were and/or are available?
For several months, both StudioCanal and myself literally searched the world for Director’s Cut film elements. The best we could find was a Japanese D2 of the cut international version with the apocalyptic ending. So to create the ARMY Director’s cut, we assembled the best elements using Bruce’s personal ¾” tape – the only existing element in the world of Sam’s original cut.
FYI, there were 3 edits of this film – Sam’s original version, the cut international version with the apocalyptic ending and the Universal version. The original production company destroyed all the ARMY outtake footage when they went bankrupt.
CAT O' NINE TALES
CAT O'NINE TAILS was supposed to have, in addition to the original soundtrack, a 5.1 DD track, an Italian language track and English subtitles according to a previous online chat at Home Theater Forum. After asking Michael Felsher at the most recent chat, he simply said that was what was originally planned but it basically didn't pan out. Could you please provide additional details and clarification on this decision, such as whether the decision was based on financial or rights concerns?
It was never my intention to include English subtitles since there is a complete English soundtrack. Since I expect this question to be asked several times, let me explain my position. European films made at this period for international distribution do not have an original language version. In the case of CAT, during production both stars Franciscus and Malden spoke English while supporting players also spoke in their native languages. Every language version during this period was a dubbed version since the location sound was used for the most part as a scratch track. Therefore, unless the star is dubbed in English by another actor, like Franco Nero was in the English versions of DJANGO and TEXAS ADIOS, I choose not to include English subtitles for the alternate soundtracks. I will also include English subtitles for alternate languages when the English soundtrack is substantially incomplete, like DEEP RED or COMPANEROS. Except for these instances, the alternate languages are intended for non-English speaking viewers.
Originally I wanted to do a 5.1 but the licensor was unable to find the film’s music and effects (M&E) track, so all we had was an English mono comp optical track. So rather than do a compromised 5.1 as I had done on early titles like TENEBRE, I decided to do a good 2.0 surround track. It was a creative not economic or rights decision.
DAWN OF THE DEAD THEATRICAL CUT
The current release of this title is a mix between the "Cannes/Director's Cut" and the theatrical cut. How did this hybrid version come to be?
I was not involved with this project.
In interviews around the time of the film's release, Michele Soavi stated that Dario Argento re-cut THE CHURCH and removed some 20-minutes or so of footage from Soavi's director's cut of the film. Is there any chance you guys will get Soavi involved in perhaps restoring his cut of the film for your DVD release? Since it's been announced that you will be remixing in 5.1 EX anyway, it would be a great chance to do so, or at least offer these cut scenes as a supplement.
The film’s licensor is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy so I doubt they have any of this outtake footage, but I’ll ask. When I was in Rome recently I phoned Michele who is in production of his new movie. He’s unavailable until the end of November at which time we’ll discuss this subject as well as doing a commentary track – his English is perfect. We pushed back THE CHURCH and STAGEFRIGHT release dates to March 2002 in the hope that Michele will record the commentary tracks by the end of the year – keep your fingers crossed.
Why were the end credits of this title changed, and how was it done?
The only available end credits were in Italian. The Licensor lost the married English end credits and the textless background. However, I did have the English text. Therefore, I made the decision to freeze the frame just before the Italian credits rolled up to replace them with the English credits. In retrospect, it was a judgment error for which I’m solely responsible. I should have left the Italian credits intact and added the English credits after the fade out over black.
Was there any consideration of an English language-only DEEP RED that omitted the extra footage in addition to the version that was released?
Please explain why the print used is missing a short sequence near the beginning of the film. Additionally, the picture itself seems too soft and is not detailed enough to fully appreciate this landmark spaghetti western. Does the softness come from the original master (maybe 16mm print was used?), or is it simply added during the encoding stage in order to hide some artifacts? Also, the image seems over-matted a little (other prints I saw contain the 1.50:1 (approximate) aspect ratio, but the Anchor Bay version is at 1.66:1). Was the over-matting intentionally done, or does the print used have the matted images in this aspect ratio?
Admittedly, the old DJANGO DVD master sucked. Pursuant to my original license agreement, I only had access to an old analog PAL master. However, last year I re-licensed the film from the Italian sales company who controls the original negative. LVR, Roma digitally remastered the film 16x9/1.66:1 on a C-Reality from the original negative – which is in very poor condition. Then Mike Defusco of Crest National, Hollywood spent the past 4 months and a small fortune utilizing state-of-the-art technology from around the world in doing frame-by-frame picture restoration. Chace Productions painstakingly restored both the English and Italian soundtracks from their original optical soundtrack negatives removing most of the age related “ticks” and “bumps.”
I love this film and hope the new DVD which is scheduled to be released in March 2002 will be the definitive edition given the age and distressed condition of the existing elements. And yes, there will be full English subtitles for the Italian version.
Why was the director's cut not released, which is available in Holland from Thorn-EMI?
I am unaware of a director’s cut. We transferred the elements supplied by the film’s licensor. I tried to involve my friend Abel but he was not interested. The film’s producer only told of us of possible outtake footage but was unable to deliver it. I was never informed of a different version but I don’t doubt it might exist.
It seems that some of the early Hammer releases from Anchor Bay were over-matted --PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE REPTILE and SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA come to mind. What decisions go into the process of matting? And is a film ever matted to simply give it a "widescreen" promotion?
I disagree that these Hammer titles were “over-matted.” I personally checked the aspect ratio of every title – including the above-referenced Hammers. They were transferred in their correct aspect ratios.
Matting for me is not a gimmick or promotion. As a film buff and filmmaker, I want to watch films at home exactly as they were composed for theatrical projection.
THE HEARTBREAK KID
Please explain the decision to release it full-frame. Will the updated version mentioned on Anchor Bay's web site be matted, and what extras are planned for the disc?
The film is being released 16x9/1.85:1, the way we always intended. We contacted all the key talent to participate with this DVD release. Without exception, they all refused. I suspect that this project is not beloved by them for some unknown reason.
The film is missing a 2-minute sequence at 40:26. How was the missing sequence overlooked during the disc's production, and what is the status of the DVD's re-mastering?
The original telecine, audio restoration and DVD was personally supervised and approved on a daily basis by the film’s director, Monte Hellman.
The revised DVD has been completely re-mastered, including the missing 2 minutes. As a bonus, we have included a newly filmed interview with the film’s star Fabio Testi. I don’t know when ABE intends to release it but I suspect soon.
I feel that ABE acquisition executive Jay Douglas’ decision to redo the title was incredibly brave for an admittedly small title that will likely lose money for the company. I know Monte is grateful.
Is a print with burned in subtitles really the only one you could find? It's hard to believe that Argos would only have an English subtitled master. Can you explain the decision behind the DVD's aspect ratio? Previous versions were matted on the bottom and left the upper portion of the frame open. This worked much better and the over-cropping of the AB version distracts from the enjoyment of the film.
Argos Films supplied the master we used. I agree that it’s a marginal master. In hindsight, we should have retransferred the film.
What is the source for the director's cut? Any specifics and details you can provide about the source material would be greatly appreciated. There are rumors that the director's cut was mastered from a tape of a full-frame cable TV broadcast (whose ratio was modified to 4:3 by truncating the sides of the frame) and further matted to give it a widescreen aspect ratio. Is this rumor correct? What was Mann's involvement with the DVD's production, if any?
The source of the Director’s cut was Michael Mann’s personal 1” master. The tape was 4x3 but not modified since the film was shot in Super 35 not anamorphic. The film’s theatrical composition is 2.35:1 which is extractable from a 4x3 Super 35 image by matting and repositioning the picture slightly downward. As with ARMY OF DARKNESS, StudioCanal, Michael Mann’s people and myself searched the world for film elements. And again like ARMY, the film was victim to the production company’s bankruptcy.
Mr. Mann expressed an interest in doing a commentary track but only for the Director’s cut and only if ABE agreed not to release any other version of the picture but his director’s cut. His argument was that content is more important than quality. We decided that although we wanted Mr. Mann’s involvement, for commercial consideration we could not be limited in releasing a technically substandard version only --even though it’s Mr. Mann’s preferred version.
And the "theatrical version" apparently isn't the initially released theatrical version. Where did this version come from?
The interpositive came from 2 sources: StudioCanal, Paris and Technicolor, LA. The IP contained scenes (but no audio) that were not in any version. So since the IP was longer than any version excluding the Director’s cut and it was created from the original negative we never suspected that a few seconds of dialogue might be missing. I’ve concluded that there must have been multiple theatrical versions distributed worldwide.
MARK OF THE DEVIL
This title is missing a small amount of violence. It also seems to be the American version of the film, without end credits and the transfer has much to be desired, including its incorrect aspect ratio. Can you explain the decision to not release a full uncut version of the film with end credits and possibly the long-lost "return from the dead" ending used or as an extra, and will this be changed in the future?
I was not involved with this project.
From Michael Felsher: “Currently this DVD has been discontinued, and we don’t have plans to re-master it”
Could you explain the decision to release this title in full-frame only, without any special features, such as commentary?
I was not involved with this project.
From Michael Felsher: “The full frame master is what was supplied to us, and it was the only option available, though it was a fully re-mastered transfer.”
Could you clarify why the Italian dubbing wasn't included? The English dub is very unsatisfying and the Italian track would have been a welcome addition on this title, more so than the many other Anchor Bay titles that do include both Italian and English audio.
The OPERA licensor Cecchi-Gori is a DVD pioneer in Italy. They refused me access to the Italian soundtrack for this film and THE CHURCH for the legitimate concern of U.S. imports into their territory.
Why are the subtitles on OPERA only accessible via closed captioning and not standard DVD subtitles?
(See CAT O’NINE TAILS response)
What involvement, if any, did Dario Argento have in the DVD's production beyond his participation in the documentary?
When will the non-defective OPERA re-release be available on the market and shipped out to those who made exchange notifications at Anchor Bay's web site?
I don’t know but I suspect very soon.
From Michael Felsher: “We expect to have replacements out in 1 to 2 weeks.”
Were there any attempts made to secure a commentary by director Andy Anderson or star Stephanie Rascoe?
RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD
This title is missing a phenomenal amount of violent footage. Can you explain why the DVD was released without this footage, and will it be re-released in the future with the missing material restored?
I was not involved with this project.
From Michael Felsher: “Currently we don’t have plans to re-issue this title.”
SEASON OF THE WITCH
When compared to the UK VHS release, the Anchor Bay VHS audio track sounds inferior. Could you explain the circumstances behind the soundtrack selection and mastering on this title? Will this title eventually be released to DVD, and if so, will the soundtrack quality be reevaluated?
I was not involved with this project.
From Michael Felsher “We do have interest in releasing this to DVD, however we are holding off until suitable elements can be utilized for such a release.”
EMANUELLE IN AMERICA
I understand that Anchor Bay Entertainment (ABE) intends to release the full, extended version of Emanuelle in America (i.e., the French version) - as distinguished from the 2476-metre integral version (i.e., the Italian version). Is this going to be released uncut…can it even be released uncut? (Although if Tom Green can do it in FREDDY GOT FINGERED, maybe it isn’t that big a deal).
I don’t know what the big deal is. We have a beautiful uncut master, which will be released along with 3 Sylvia Kristel EMMANUELLEs. Besides, horses have feelings too.
From Michael Felsher: “The Emanuelle films are not on the schedule yet, though don’t expect them any earlier than early 2003.”
I just have a final brief thing to ask about the upcoming EVIL DEAD release set for early next year. There's been a lot of talk about the aspect ratio. That it was shot 1.33:1 but it was shown in some theaters in 1.85:1. I know that this will be a problem if it's released in only one of the forms. If there is one true correct OAR then fine but I think it would be very smart to have a brief explanatory note either on the back or in the booklet somewhere. The recent release of BLACK CHRISTMAS took this route. It'd been previously released on Laserdisc in the widescreen format but in 1.33:1 on the new DVD. It explained in detail, from the filmmakers, why this was the case. You can't argue with that.
Having just projected a new EVIL DEAD print with Sam Raimi, this film plays great in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Most non-anamorphic American films are shot full-academy (1.33:1) for TV but composed 1.85:1 for theatrical. Video matting (or blanking) simply presents the film in the aspect ratio that it was intended to be watched theatrically.
Why was this title released in a slightly cut full-frame presentation? Could it be upgraded?
I was not involved with this project.
From Michael Felsher: “This DVD has been discontinued, and is not planned for re-release.”
Mobius Q&A Response from Anchor Bay DVD Producer William Lustig, Part 2
Posted by: Todd Harbour , 10/09/2001, 20:01:14
Mobius Q&A, continued - 10/8/01
MOBIUS: SUSPIRIA — Many readers have asked about the soundtrack on this title. Specifically, can you explain the decision to not include 4.0 track?
Lustig: The 4.0 soundtrack I used for the Magnum master – which I supervised over a decade ago - had major technical problems which we tried to correct back then. The main problems were the dialogue imaging and the overloaded/distorted music in the surrounds, which were way out of specs for today’s home systems.
I knew that to correct the inherent track problems, I needed access to the stereo dialogue, music and effects stems. These are the elements from which all the SUSPIRIA soundtracks were derived from. They also accurately reflect Dario’s vision since they are the primary elements in which he supervised their creation. All the other versions were done subsequent to the stems, which versions may or may not have been supervised by Dario. It’s not uncommon for directors not to supervise foreign or remixed versions. However, it’s uncommon for directors not to supervise the creation of the source sound elements.
Let me explain my audio remixing philosophy. In the early days of LD 5.1s, I would “enhance” the tracks by adding new sound effects and foley. This was, in my opinion, a well-intended but misguided procedure. ZOMBIE, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, TENEBRE, PHENOMENA, DEMONS, DEMONS 2 and NOSFERATU represent what I call the pioneers of this folly. I then began doing 5.1s, only this time sourcing the audio enhancements from within the films and not adding any outside sound effects. Although the sound was more consistent, I still felt we were tampering too much with the original soundtrack. In both cases, I felt we were re-directing the audio in an effort to impress consumers with the 5.1 soundtrack.
For almost 2 years now, my approach to 5.1s is to leave the film alone. We add nothing. All we do is clean the age-related noises, utilize DTS and DD to enhance the dynamic range of what is there and correct objective technical problems. For better or worse, we restrain ourselves from tampering with any creative issues. My thinking is that the film is beloved by many fans or we wouldn’t be doing all this expensive audio work – why fuck with it.
Specifically in the case of SUSPIRIA, I knew that this would be a title that was going to be examined under a microscope by its fans. Fans were going to not sit back and enjoy the film but examine each frame for “imperfections.” So I personally supervised every phase of the transfer process including the audio.
As I stated earlier, we had the primary SUSPIRIA stereo sound elements. At the start of each reel is a tone that the mixer uses as a reference to ensure that each track is in sonic unity. Once that’s set, we then are hearing the mix from the 3 tracks the way it was originally intended. For SUSPIRIA, the challenge was not to re-adjust levels but to re-image the dialogue track correctly and to bring the overloaded surround music channel into contemporary Dolby specs. That’s it.
What may sound simple took 6 10-hour days to achieve because we honored Dario’s original creative decision to image the on-screen dialogue which is not done in today’s films. Further complicating the situation is that at the time he did the original mix 25+ years ago, there wasn’t the digital sound technology and automated mixing consoles we take for granted today to allow him to perfectly achieve what was his ambitious audio design. Therefore, we had to tediously mix the dialogue scene by scene because often the dialogue and its reverb were not coming from the same direction but “pulling” in opposite directions. There were scenes with 2 actors talking on opposite sides of the screen with their dialogue coming from the appropriate directions. Then one actor crosses the room changing screen position, and their dialogue continues to emanate from the direction of their original position. To the best of our ability we tried to fix these issues, which wasn’t easy or quick.
- There is a marked difference between the DTS and DD 5.1 mixes as far as music and dialogue/effects levels. Is this a result of the DTS encoding or has the DTS track been mixed differently?
I read this complaint and immediately compared the DTS and DD soundtracks on my home system, which is kept in THX spec. I could not detect a “marked” or dramatic difference in the 2 tracks except for the normal DTS/DD dynamic range differences. The DD soundtrack is a down conversion of the DTS soundtrack. So since the DD track is derived from the DTS track the mixes are identical.
-Are you satisfied with the English Dolby Digital Surround EX mix?
Given the available source elements and their inherent problems, I think all the DVD audio tracks are a miracle. Yes, I’m very pleased with the DD track.
-Is the final result of the DD mix as planned/expected during mixing, or has the final Dolby Digital mastering altered it? The end result has quite a few discrepancies compared to earlier English language releases and compared to the Italian and French tracks (both on the Anchor Bay DVD and other releases). The most apparent difference is that the music is mixed much lower (especially compared to the old Image LD), but there are also others like missing sound effects and dialogue, an example being the thunderclap when Joan Bennett drinks from the goblet near the end of the film.
As I stated above, film and audio are not perfect. There will always be variances in pre-digital audio mixes because the technology did not exist to repeat exact audio each time a version was mixed. Back then, it was crudely done by the mixers maneuvering the console faders, which can and did change for each pass. As an example, for my film MANIAC we did English stereo and mono versions, which I supervised. I can hear the differences of music ins and outs and effect levels even though I sat through each English mix. When I’ve listened to foreign MANIAC versions, which I didn’t supervise, I can hear music and effects differences especially when a sound effect was married to production dialogue, which needed to be replaced by another language.
Also, you can’t compare mixes that were done for optical tracks vs. mixes done for magnetic playback. Because of the heavy noise floor of pre-Dolby analog optical tracks, subtle music and effects levels were raised to be heard. The beauty of today’s digital audio is not just how “big” the audio can be but how quiet.
In the case of SUSPIRIA, we neither added nor removed any sound effects or dialogue. For better or worse, we used the original 1976 stereo stems, which were created in Rome under Dario’s supervision, which I consider to be as definitive a version that there can be. That doesn’t mean that there are no variances in other versions, including the English 4-track stereo comp and English mono.
Also, non-soundtrack questions:
-Why are the subtitles on SUSPIRIA only accessible via closed captioning and not standard DVD subtitles?
(See CAT O’NINE TAILS response)
-There are rumors of an unannounced Anchor Bay special edition of 10,000 units (with a small sticker added on) floating around in stores with an additional poster stuck in the second half of the Amaray case. Is there any truth to this rumor?
I know that ABE produced a special 10,000 limited edition for Canada. However, I did not hear of any bonus poster. I kind of doubt it.
From Michael Felsher: “This is just a Canada run of the LE, the contents are identical to the US LE.”
-What involvement, if any, did Dario Argento have in the DVD's production beyond his participation in the documentary?
It has been explained that omissions in the print are due to print damage. Were the same scenes damaged in all three source prints, or were the best reels from each print used, thus causing the loss of some scenes?
Thomas Rostock adds: "I have to point out that the Danish Film Museum in Copenhagen is the owner of a lovely undamaged 35mm positive print of TENEBRE complete with red Italian 'intermezzo'-title cards. If ever William Lustig and Anchor Bay feels the need or urge to right past wrongs I'll be more than willing to act as intermediate messenger to the DFI (Danish Film Museum) and their film-vault coordinator Aase Malmkjaer. In my capacity as union member of Danish Film Directors and drawing on past relationship with the Danish Film Museum I could be instrumental in setting up a new telecine transfer in order to both satisfy AB's technical standards and accommodate their earliest possible convenience."
To the best of my knowledge, there are 2 moments (I can’t call them scenes) missing: the end of the scene where Nicolodi and Franciosa enter his hotel room and a quick insert shot of a stab -under 10 seconds in total. The source elements I had available were a beautiful but cut 35mm low-contrast print supplied by the licensor and a fair condition uncut archival release print which I borrowed from a collector in Italy.
In the hotel room scene, the dialogue was complete in the cut print but missing a moment following the dialogue when either Nicolodi or Franciosa (I forget) walks across the room. This scene falls at the end of a theatrical reel. Consequently, the poor condition of that brief moment in the uncut print, in my opinion, out-weighed the value of including it since we would have had to replace the entire shot with beat up footage only to gain a few seconds which neither advanced the plot or character development. Given the elements I had available at the time, I feel I made the correct decision. The missing stab was simply an oversight. I guess we got confused since this was one of several stabs in rapid succession.
Aside from these missing moments, I know of no other issues and feel this matter has been blown way out of proportion.
Many viewers have noted the differences from the more familiar version, namely that this variant is missing the opening lecture in the college, with the audio from the professor's lecture dubbed over the credits, and a new title card. What exactly happened with the beginning of this film? Is this a change made by Anchor Bay or is this simply a variant that is less familiar? And, if the latter, what is the source for this print?
The TORSO transfer was done at LVR, Rome from the original negative. I highly doubt there is a different version showing the professor on-camera giving the lecture heard over the opening credits. Creatively, juxtaposing the college lecture over the porno shoot is what makes the scene ironic. Besides, I can’t image the Italians doing remixed versions for such a moment.
Two related questions:
-This version is missing 29 seconds of blood/violence, footage that was obviously censored at one point in the film's history. This DVD is presented with the following cover text: "Transferred from the original negative, VAMPYRES is now presented uncut and uncensored with all its notorious sex and violence fully restored." Since the statement isn't exactly right, does this mean that the DVD is combined by different film elements or was "the original negative" incomplete?
-We understand that the print used for this was provided by Brian Smedley-Aston and was a new 35mm print supposedly struck from the original negative. I have no reason to disbelieve that this is what you were told but this obviously can't be true because the last reel is cut. This is a real shame because other than this the AB DVD is a wonderful disc with a great audio commentary and the matted letterbox presentation greatly improves the framing of this film. Did you ever receive and explanation as to why the print provided to Anchor Bay was incomplete? And why was a comparison not performed to make sure it was complete?
VAMPYRES was transferred from a new 35mm low-contrast print made from the original camera negative at Deluxe, London. The only elements in Deluxe’s vault were a cut CRI and original camera negative. Following the transfer we recorded the commentary track with the film’s Producer and Director. If you listen to the commentary track, both repeat enthusiastically how they’re watching their original uncensored version. Given these facts, why would I suspect it might be cut? I suspect, like WICKER MAN, there might have existed an early print with some additional footage that was soon after cut from the original negative – this is just a guess.
Why are the subtitles on WICKER MAN only accessible via closed captioning and not standard DVD subtitles?
(See CAT O’NINE TAILS response)
Can you explain the details behind the re-master release of this title being canceled?
I made an access deal with the Italian company who controls the original negative elements. Just as the deal was about to close, someone in the company declared that the film was never licensed to America! Therefore, despite producing a signed 1980 U.S./Canada License Agreement they decided to become uncooperative unless I denounced this valid Agreement and signed a new Agreement with their company, which is an absurd position for them to have taken. Needless to say, the deal fell apart.
What does a dvd producer do, anyway? What does your work on a typical title entail?
My role as a DVD Producer is to assess the attributes of each title then to orchestrate my available resources to achieve the best final product. I try to approach each title with respect and integrity because I believe that each title we do is someone’s favorite film – whether or not it’s true. I also use my almost 30 years of film post-production experience to find the most cost-effective means to navigate through this very costly process.
PRODUCTION SCHEDULE: How is it that titles are already scheduled for 2003? When does a title go into production relative to its release date? What is the limiting factor on the number of titles that Anchor Bay can release at a given time?
The average turnaround time is 9 months. My office averages 8 titles per month.
QUALITY CONTROL: Please provide a detailed description of Anchor Bay's quality control and assurance procedures. How have they changed over time, and more specifically, were they modified after THE BLACK HOLE DVD was released with a defective soundtrack? How and where did these procedures fail by permitting the release of defective discs such as OPERA and THE BLACK HOLE to market? How do you foresee them changing in the future given the recent OPERA issues?
I was not involved with THE BLACK HOLE.
As far as OPERA, this was a manufacturing flaw caused by a new lacquer the replicator Crest National started using on one of their lines. It was not a DLT or production issue. No one is madder about the OPERA situation than myself. There was nothing ABE or myself could have foreseen.
The good news: Crest has agreed to set-up a customer service 800 phone number to address any DVD issues. This long overdue procedure will hopefully address customer issues and eliminate the current runaround I understand customers have been getting.
On the production side, we QC each DVD on 50 sample players to check playability. We will redo a DLT as many times as it takes to get it to pass on all the major players. However, we still have frequent problems with DVD-ROMs, low-end and older players we can’t always fix.
FUTURE RELEASES: Are the licensing rights 100%-secured for titles announced on Anchor Bay's Future Releases page? It seems some titles initially listed this page have disappeared without a trace -- three that immediately spring to mind are CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, ZOMBI 3, and SOLANGE. Also, several titles mentioned in interviews and public appearances never materialize or are eventually released from other companies (EL TOPO, BURIAL GROUND, ZOMBI HOLOCAUST, etc). How far along into the acquisition of a title are you before the company feels it's acceptable to post on the Anchor Bay web page or to "leak" out information to the internet community? (Along similar lines, RAN was announced in an HTF chat, then retracted. Any info on that title?)
There are many reasons like the ZOMBIE example, when you think you have a deal then something falls apart. Sometimes we have fans who hear something at our office or rumors then publish it on the internet. The SUSPIRIA acquisition was published 3 months before the deal was actually signed which made me a nervous wreck.
There’s an old saying that if you want to keep a secret between 2 people you must kill the other person.
From Michael Felsher: “On this subject I must shoulder some responsibility since I have been in charge of any title listings that go on the AB website. I have recently changed my procedures in this regard and only titles that are 100% ours will I be posting on the website. This was never an attempt to dissuade other studios from acquiring certain titles or any other such motivation. I simply jumped the gun a few times when I shouldn’t have. This will not happen again.”
VHS ONLY TITLES: Several VHS titles have never made the jump to DVD (THE CRAZIES, SEASON OF THE WITCH, several biker films, etc). Is there a licensing issue behind this, or was it due to lack of sales, or is there some other reason?
This is not my area.
From Michael Felsher: “There are often rights issues or element/material problems that prevent some titles from travelling to DVD.”
COVER ART: How is cover art determined? Many customers have expressed dissatisfaction concerning certain covers, most notably DEEP RED. Has Anchor Bay considered providing two-sided covers for future releases to follow the lead of competitors like Redemption, Synapse and VCI?
Again, this is not my area.
From Michael Felsher: “We are considering several options for cover art (including two-sided covers). Cover art is determined by in-house designers and staff, along with approvals from the licensors and sometimes key talent. With cover art, you can seemingly never please everybody, but we will always endeavor to give the best presentations possible.”
COSTS: How much does it typically cost to produce a DVD? Or, if there's no simple answer, what are some typical budgets? And has Anchor Bay had to walk away from any titles that they wanted to release because the costs outstripped the likely sales?
The mastering/DVD production costs range from $60,000 to $250,000 per title.
SOUNDTRACK POLICY: Why has Anchor Bay not included the original soundtrack that accompanied a film's initial release in addition to Dolby Digital/DTS multi-channel remixes on many of its titles?
Soundtracks are a separate deal, which often is controlled by a different licensor than the film. Also, the film element music is cut and mixed for the film and is not listen-able by itself.
SUBTITLE POLICY: Why has Anchor Bay only included closed captioning instead of standard DVD subtitles for many of its titles?
Again, who needs English subtitles to watch an English language film?
RELEASING TITLES AS "UNCUT" WHEN FOOTAGE IS MISSING: Many titles billed as uncut have been released with missing footage (as noted above). Collectors who already own an uncut version apparently are able to easily spot these faults, so it is surprising that no one at Anchor Bay noticed them. What type of research and control do you do to assure that the titles you release are complete? Does Anchor Bay have plans to modify these procedures in this department so that such misrepresentations won't happen in the future?
Admittedly, there have been a few instances where I’ve hopefully explained how and why they happened. We’re not perfect. However, what you guys don’t know is how many more times we’ve caught these problems. I don’t consider this to be a widespread problem in need of reevaluating our procedures. By the way, I resent referring to innocent mistakes as “misrepresentations.”
ENGAGING THE INTERNET COMMUNITY: Have you ever considered using Mobius or other internet resources for assistance in gathering extras for titles, making decisions on cover art, soliciting questions for special feature interviews, etc.?
We do. Many contributors to Mobius have done work for us.
DVD DEGENERATIVE FAILURES: Over the past 12 months or so, reports and rumors have been circulating about degenerative failures randomly afflicting some Anchor Bay titles (AGUIRRE: WRATH OF GOD and DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING come to mind, amongst others). The recent recall of OPERA has brought this issue to the fore, since the widespread symptoms this disc was displaying within a few days of release seem to correlate to the failures previously reported on a lesser scale with other titles. Do you (or anyone else at Anchor Bay) or the replicating facilities under contract with Anchor Bay have specific knowledge of DVDs physically "degenerating" over time because of error in the manufacturing process or environmental conditions? Or are defective discs already defective before being shipped to market because of physical or DVD encoding software problems and/or incompatibilities? And are "stains," or surface discolorations, that some readers have noticed on the back of their disc correlated, or merely a coincidence?
I refer to above answer. ABE had a replicator problem, which has been corrected.
Are you aware of any potential manufacturing problem that stretches further back than the OPERA pressing? If not, do you have an explanation for the problem users have encountered with titles like AGUIRRE and DUCKLING, where a once-operating title ceases to function? What is the nature of the manufacturing flaw on the OPERA disc? Will you continue to use the same manufacturer following this incident? If a problem did arise in the future, would Anchor Bay endeavor to replace damaged or degenerating discs, even those that are months or even years old? What can international customers expect?
I’ve been told that some recent DVDs were affected.
TECHINICALITIES: In general terms, what technical stages do you go through to make a new transfer for a movie like CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD or THE BEYOND? Are processes like digital frame repair, color correction or other similar post-production techniques applied to every transfer, or just on a title by title basis?
We do video restoration for every title in need of this work.
Comparisons of the Anchor Bay NEW YORK RIPPER disc with the European EC Entertainment release show that the EC disc has more picture information available on various sides of the frame. Another online thread mentioned that Anchor Bay's BEYOND disc had a slightly different aspect ratio compared to the Japanese LaserDisc. Are these variances an inevitable result of different telecine processes?
No two telecines are identical.
2-PERF: DVD Review posted a story a few months back that certain ABE titles were being newly transferred from 2-perf(?) negative materials. The titles mentioned here were COMPANEROS, CAT O' 9 TAILS and perhaps one or two others. Could you discuss benefits of this sort of transfer (and whatever subsequent difficulties you may have encountered doing them) in more depth?
The benefit of 2-perf transfers is that the telecine is directly from the original negative bypassing the often dirty, grainy 4-perf optical negative. I’ve found the results to be breathtaking in its clarity. It’s an expensive process but well worth it. I wish more companies would do this.
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