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The Laserdisc FAQ

by Henrik "Leopold" Herranen

III) Software

Reprinted by Permission of Author (thanks Leopold!)

Please visit Leopold's homepage at

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This page is maintained by Henrik 'Leopold' Herranen.

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13.1 What is the Criterion Collection?

From Timm Doolen

The Criterion Collection is a line of laserdiscs from the Voyager company that insist on the highest quality for source material, transfers and supplementary material. Criterion has set the standard as to how great a laserdisc presentation of a movie can be. Only in the last year or two have other laserdisc labels started to bring out collector's editions that are as good as, or better, than the standards Criterion has set.

For more information, refer to Bob Niland's ( article LD#06 Introduction to the Criterion Collection. Criterion also has a WWW-page at

A very short list of popular titles Criterion has given the deluxe treatment to:

  • Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • Boyz N the Hood
  • Casablanca
  • Citizen Kane
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • The Fisher King
  • The Graduate
  • Halloween
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • King Kong
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Lord of the Flies (1963)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • The Player
  • Raging Bull
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Singin' In the Rain
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Spartacus
  • Taxi Driver
  • This is Spinal Tap

13.2 What are cutouts and are they OK to buy?

From Timm Doolen

Cutouts are laserdisc titles that have been reduced for sale, and have been physically defaced to separate them from the full-priced versions. The defacement usually takes the form of a small hole cut through the laserdisc jacket in one corner. Occasionally I have seen a cutout take the form of a shaved-off diagonal section of the lower right-hand side of the jacket, about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch. In either case, no damage is done to the discs themselves, and the packaging/contents are usually different.

It is definitely OK to buy cutouts, and stories abound about what great deals people have gotten by buying cutouts. With that said, some caution should be taken when digging through the cutout bin.

First, one of the reasons that laserdiscs are discounted, is that a new (and usually improved) version of the movie is about to be released. If a letterboxed, or digital-sound version of a movie is eminent, the distributor might want to quickly get rid of the pan-and-scan or analog sound-only versions of the movie. Or there may be a collector's edition eminent, etc. If you don't care about such things, then it's easy to find a lot of good buys in the cutout section.

Second, some stores may have policies of no returns on cutout specials. Keep in mind that discs that make there way into bargain bins can be many years old, maybe from before the time when the bugs were worked out of the pressing process. Just be aware of what the store's policy is before deciding whether to buy a cutout. You may not want to get stuck with a lemon, or maybe for $10, you'll take a chance.

Personally, the majority of my laserdisc collection is composed of cutout discs. I have found several great buys in the bargain bin sections, including several Criterion releases that retail normally for $90-$100 for under $20.

13.3 I've bought used VHS tapes that are unwatchable. Are used laserdiscs worth the money?

Excerpted from Bob Niland's ( LD#01: ..but it can't even record?

Used video tapes have an aura similar to that of used cars. In the worst-case scenario, a flaky tape can wreck the heads in your VCR. More typically, the retailer may sell it because it is damaged or worn out.

Used LDs, on the other hand, are like used CDs. Laser rot aside, if they physically look OK, they probably will play like new. The random access capability of LD makes it easy to skip through and QA a used disc in the store (which I routinely do).

If you seek used or "cutout" merchandise, make sure you and the dealer understand each other on the matter of defects, which are more likely on older pressings. Most dealers will accept the return of any disc they sell, regardless of what bin it came from. But in the case of older titles, the dealer may not be able to replace it with the same title. Find out what recourse is available to you in that case.

13.4 I'm in Canada. Are there any problems in using UPS?

From: anonymous

If a shipment is sent to Canada via UPS ground, the unsuspecting shipper pays a fairly low and innocuous rate. Unknown to the shipper, however, the recipient can be zapped with as much as a 54% surcharge!

They have three surcharges: entry prep fee, disbursement fee, and surcharge.

Entry Prep Fee:     Value of Shipment in CDN dollars
$ 5.25                  0.01-$ 40.00
$14.20               $ 40.01-$100.00
$16.80               $100.01-$200.00

Disbursement Fee  Surcharge  Value of Shipment in CDN dollars
$ 3.14               $3.00    0.01-$ 50.00
$ 4.15               $3.00  $50.00-$100.00
$ 8.15               $3.00 $100.00-$200.00


Now the Entry Prep Fee and Disbursement Fee are also subject to our GST (8%).

Thus, assume that you order a $40.01 laserdisc ($28.00 US, roughly). (Very few laserdiscs cost less than $28US.)

You pay $14.20 + $3.14 + $3.00 +$14.20*0.08 +$3.14*0.08 = $21.73

Since $21.73/$40.00 = 0.54, this is a 54% surcharge!

Admittedly, this is the worst case. But it's pretty bad. Note that you will also pay GST on the $40.01, but this is charged by Canada Post (on behalf of the govt) in any case. As mentioned in an earlier, post their handling fee is only $5.00.

In my case, I paid $21.77 UPS "brokerage" on a $48.39 CND shipment, only a 45% "surcharge". (Wow.)

If you had chosen UPS air, the brokerage fee is included in the cost, and let's assume that is the same as Federal Express. But the key here is that no shipper will send air freight unless you specify so and incur the fee (at least from US to Canada: I have seen US firms that ship via Fedex "free").

Again, this 54% surcharge occurs only when the shipper chooses UPS ground over US post, because it is apparently about the same cost to him and he probably thinks that because it is faster, he is doing you a favor.

13.5 What is the 1-800 number for the Columbia House club?

Customer service: 1-800-457-0866
Orders: 1-800-262-2001
Laserdiscs: 1-800-538-2233


14.1 Can you go over widescreen, letterbox, etc. one more time?

One place to look for graphical information on letterboxing is This document is also available locally here at Laser Rot at

From Bob Niland's ( LD#01: ..but it can't even record?

The television screen's width-to-height (aspect) ratio is 1.33 to 1 (or 4:3). This is very close to "Academy Ratio" (1.37:1), which is how films were composed and photographed until the 1950s, when TV closely copied that ratio, became widespread, and became a threat to motion picture theaters, or so Hollywood thought.

    +---------------+         .=========.
    | Projected     |         :   TV    :
    | Widescreen    |         :  Frame  :
    | Movie Image   |         :         :
    +---------------+         `========='
    1.50:1 to 2.8:1            1.33:1


Largely to compete with TV, Hollywood made films in "widescreen" processes like Cinemascope, Techniscope, Vista-Vision, Todd-AO, Technirama, Cinerama, Panavision, etc. They are all slightly different, but share one attribute: They are "hard" widescreen formats and their projected-image aspect ratios exceed 1.33:1. Some are as wide as 2.8:1.

Many directors, particularly during the '50s and '60s, filled the entire wide frame with important action or other visual material; some still do. When transferring "hard" widescreen movies to 1.33:1, there are two choices:

    1.                                2.  .===============================.
                                          :           Black               :
    +--.==================.-------+       +-------------------------------+
    |  :                  :       |       |                               |
    |  :   Panned         :       |       |                               |
    |L :   and            :       |       |                               |
    |O :   Scanned        :  LOST |       |     Letterboxed TV Image      |
    |S :   (Cropped)      :       |       |                               |
    |T :   TV Image       :       |       |                               |
    |  :                  :       |       |                               |
    +--`=================='-------+       +-------------------------------+
                                          :           Black               :
       <- TV frame moves ->               `==============================='
       <-  back & forth  ->
  • 1. Crop-off or anamorphically "squeeze" some of the original frame.

    Cropping, often called "panning and scanning", and preserves detail at the expense of information. It is often done very sloppily. In early widescreen movies, two-character dialog ends up as "talking noses" at the edges of the TV screen. The scanning may lurch back and forth across the image, trying to stay with the "important" visual content (or simply with the currently more famous actor).

    Where the image cannot be cropped, it is anamorphically processed, which squashes the image left-to-right, but leaves the height unchanged.

  • 2. Put more of the original wide image on the TV screen, leaving blank/grey/black space at the top and/or bottom of the screen.

    This is called "letterboxing" (or "videoscoping" by Criterion), and preserves *information* at the expense of detail. Compared to standard VHS, LDs have detail to spare.

The most frequently encountered presentation on broadcast TV and VCR is cropped. The use of letterboxing on LD releases is growing rapidly. Often you have a choice of aspect ratios.

If you have not had a chance to compare a widescreen and a cropped version of the same film, you may literally not know what you are missing, except for a vague feeling of claustrophobia as you watch a "chopped and squashed" films. On the other hand, a letterboxed presentation like "BladeRunner" at 2.2:1 really requires at least a 25-inch TV with at least 350 lines of horizontal resolution.

However, not all theatrical widescreen formats are "hard" formats (where the letterboxed image borders are blank because there is nothing there on the print or negative). Some formats are "soft" widescreen:

    :    "protect for TV area"      :  <--Absent on "matted" LD
    |                               |
    |                               |
    |                               |
    |   Composed theatrical image   |
    |      (Matted LD image)        |
    |                               |
    |                               |
    :    "protect for TV area"      :  <--Absent on "matted" LD

Don't automatically assume that the film you saw theatrically at 1.85:1 six months ago has been cropped for home video. Video is now a bigger market than theatres for some material.

Many films are being shot "spherical soft matte" at 1:33:1 and are being *masked* (cropped) for theatrical presentation! When transferred to video, such works may be 1.33:1 full-frame, 1.33:1 zoomed-in, panned and scanned from the 1.7/1.85/2.4:1 compositions, or matted (leaving letterbox-like bands).

During principal photography, the masked-out areas are usually "protected" in that they are kept clear of microphones, cables, etc., but they contain nothing crucial to the composition. However, special effects for the film may only have been made to cover a 1.5:1, 1.66:1, 1.75:1, 1.85:1, 2.0:1 or 2.35:1 area.

Even when free of errors, inclusion of the image in the protection bands may diminish the impact of the composition, which is why some directors and LD producers mask it off (example: Criterion Collection The Princess Bride). Some VistaVision films were also photographed in soft-matte widescreen (although not in consideration of eventual TV use).

14.2 What are some of the terms I need to know when studying aspect ratios?

Excerpted from Wide Screen Film Processes, compiled by David Uy.

Glossary of Standard Terms used in this section:

  • Academy Aperture - The standard ratio of 1.33:1 which represents the image area of a normally photographed image on a 35mm print using spherical lenses.

  • Anamorphic - As used in this document, the anamorphic process is a distortion free compression process which squeezes the horizontal image information by some specified factor while leaving the vertical image information alone. A special set of lenses must be used to reverse the process.

  • Aspect Ratio - The normalized ratio of physical image width to physical image height after decompression (if required).

  • Cropping - Selective deleting of part of the image on the edges.

  • Hard Matte - The image is filmed with the aspect ratio mask used in the camera itself. There is no safe area in this process.

  • Matting - As used in this document, this is the process designed by filmmakers to simulate the anamorphic process by taking a spherically filmed image and cropping the top and bottom, usually in equal amounts, to obtain a desired aspect ratio.

  • MagOptical soundtrack - A compromise soundtrack incorporating both magnetic stripes and the standard optical track both of which intrude into the image area. This allowed the prints to be played using monophonic equipment (optically based) and stereophonic equipment (magnetic/optical). The adoption of this soundtrack system fixed the CinemaScope ratio at 2.35:1. Because the magnetic striping was prone to damage, this system was eventually replaced by stereo variable area soundtracks. 70mm formats still use magnetic striping on film.

  • Print - Used to describe the collection of film footage which makes up a complete film.

  • Safe Area - The area on a spherically filmed image which is intended to be cropped in a matting process. This area is not intended to be seen by the audience and may contain shots of micro- phones and other equipment. A scene which includes the safe area may not appear as the close-up shot the director intended to show.

  • Soft Matte - A print which is created by matting an image filmed in a larger image size is soft matted. The safe area is available for use in this process.

    Spherical - Spherically processed films are those made with lenses which do not compress the image. This does not mean that the lenses do not cause distortion.

  • Three-Panel - A filming method using three synchronized cameras and projectors to create one very large image.

14.3 What are some of the popular widescreen film formats?

Excerpted from Wide Screen Film Processes, compiled by David Uy.

This section contains technical information on many of the common photographic processes used to make wide-screen, wide-frame and wide- gauge films.

The material in this section does not mention the laserdisc medium directly. This is because the definition of aspect ratio, with respect to this section, is in terms of the original source material; in this case photographic film. Understand that the original aspect ratio cannot be determined accurately either from a video source or from a theatrical projection because either can be improperly cropped.

A) 35mm format spherical aspect ratios
B) 35mm/55mm anamorphic formats
C) 70mm Formats
D) Bibliography

A) 35mm format spherical aspect ratios
         Standard aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (Academy Aperture)

         Eastern Block, Middle East, Far East standard: 1.37:1

         Matted format ratios: 1.66:1


         Industry adopted aspect ratio: 1.85:1

         Disney's adopted aspect ratio: 1.75:1

     Spherical Panavision

          Matted footage shot with Panavision cameras and/or Panavision
          spherical lenses.  Credits occasionally claim "Filmed in
          Panavision" or just "Panavision," but more often claim "Panaflex
          Cameras and Lenses by Panavision" or "Filmed with Panavision
          cameras and lenses."

B)  35mm/55mm anamorphic formats

     Panavision, CinemaScope, Delrama, Vistarama, Technovision, Todd-AO 35,
     AgaScope (Sweeden), Astravision, Cinepanoramic (France), Cinescope
     (Italy), Daieiscope (Japan), Dyaliscope (Europe), GrandScope (Japan),
     Hi-Fi Scope, J-D-C Scope (Joe Dunton Cameras, Ltd.), MegaScope (Britain),
     Nikkatsuscope (Japan), Regalscope (USA), Toeiscope (Japan), Tohoscope
     (Japan), Totalscope (Italy).

         2x1 Anamorphic compression ratio.

         35mm Anamorphic aspect ratios

         Initial aspect ratio: 2.66:1
         Aspect Ratio with the addition of MagOptical tracks: 2.55:1
         Final design aspect ratio: 2.35:1
         Aperture Aspect Ratio:                  1.175:1
         Release Print Aspect Ratio:             2.35:1

         16mm Anamorphic aspect ratio: 2.74:1
         8mm Anamorphic aspect ratio: 2.66:1

     CinemaScope 4x35 (CinemaScope 55)
         Negative size: 55mm
         Identical anamorphic 2x1 compression on larger film stock.
         Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

         Shot at 1.33:1 then masked equally on the top and bottom and
         anamorphically printed using a 2x1 compression.  The release
         print has an aspect ratio of 2:1.

 The film stock is exposed to the 2.35:1 aperture using spherical
 lenses (Hard Matte) and a 2-perforation pulldown, as opposed
 to a 4-perf pulldown in normal cameras, which halves the amount of
 film used in the cameras. The final version is anamorphically printed.
 One of the classic Techniscope features is Sergio Leone's The
 Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

         Aspect Ratio:                           2.35:1
         Release Print Aspect Ratio:             2.35:1

     Vista Vision

         The film in the camera passes horizontally to allow a wider frame.
         Frame size (without soundtrack stripe) is identical to the
         standard 35mm still camera people use to take pictures with.

         Frame ratio:                            1.50:1
         Release prints  Aspect Ratio (cropped): 1.66:1, 1.85:1
                                                    and 2x1
         Aspect Ratio (uncropped):               1.50:1 with squared

      Standard reduction format
         Aspect Ratio (cropped):                 1.66:1,1.85:1,
                                                   and 2:1
         Aspect Ratio (uncropped):               1.50:1 with rounded
      Anamorphic reduction format
         Aspect ratio:                           2:1 with squared corners
         Compression:                            1.5x1


         The film in the camera also passes horizontally for this process.
         The frame size is identical to a standard 35mm still camera people
         use to take pictures.  No soundtrack stripes were placed on the
         Technirama film area.  The difference between Technirama and
         VistaVision is the former uses an anamorphic compression during
         filming where the latter uses spherical lenses.

         Anamorphic Compression (horizontal):    1.5x1

         Release print aspect Ratio:             2.34:1

     Super Technirama 70

         The camera and negative process is identical to regular Technorama.
         The final release prints, however, are issued on 70mm stock.
         Because the negative is on 35mm stock and uses anamorphic
         compression, it is classified under the 35mm formats.

         Compression (horizontal):               1.5x1
         Release print Aspect ratio:             2.21:1 without soundtrack
         Projected aspect ratio:                 2.05:1

C) 70mm Formats
     MGM Camera 65 and Ultra Panavision 70

         MGM Camera 65 used variable compression from 1.25x1 to 1.33x1.
         Ultra Panavision 70 used a fixed compression of 1.25x1.


         Compression:                            Variable from
                                                 1.25x1 to
                                                 1.33x1 (see above)
         Release Print Aspect Ratio:             2.94:1 without
         Projected Aspect Ratio:                 2.76:1

     Panavision 70

         Original anamorphic 35mm negatives are printed to 70mm film.  The
         process is called a 70mm Blowup.  Use of the Panavision 70 name was
         discontinued in the middle 1970's and advertised as 70mm films.
         Some films were incorrectly advertised as Super Panavision 70
         (Most notably Close Encounters of the Third Kind).  Spherical
         format films were often blown up to ratios of 1.66:1, 1.75:1 or

     Todd-AO, Super Panavision 70, Superpanorama 70, Sovscope 70,
     Hi Fi Stereo 70mm

       Release Print Aspect Ratio:              2.21:1 without soundtrack
       Projected aspect ratio:                  2.05:1

         Note for Super Panavision 70
         Aspect Ratios: 2.35:1 for 4 channel sound 35mm prints
                        2.05:1 for 6 channel sound 70mm prints

         Official 35mm reduction of Todd-AO format:
         65mm original running at 30 fps with an aspect ratio of 1.5:1

     Note Todd-AO prints were filmed using spherical optics.  The reduction
     to 35mm format was made using a 1.5x1 anamorphic compression to maintain
     the 2.05x1 aspect ratio of the original 70mm print.


         Aspect Ratio:                           1.338x1

       Release Print Aspect Ratio:               1.432:1

D) Bibliography

     Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger and Kirstin Thompson.  "The Classical
        Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960."  New
        York: Columbia University Press: 1985.  506p.  PN1993.5.U6B655 1985
        ISBN: 0-231-06054-8.
        Of interest in this book is a non-technical history of the processes
        which can be found in Chapter 29.

     Carr, Robert, E. and R.M. Hayes.  "Wide Screen Movies: a History and
        Filmography of Wide Gauge Filmmaking."  Jefferson, NC: McFarland
        & Company, 1988.  502p.  TR855.C37 1988  ISBN: 0-89950-242-3.
        One of the more thorough books written on the subject.  This book
        includes lists of many of the relavent widescreen processes, and a
        listing of films and their associated processes.

     Wheeler, Leslie J..  "Principles of Cinematography: A Handbook of Motion
        Picture Technology."  London: Fountain Press Limited, 1969.  440p.
        TR850.W49 1969  ISBN: 0 852 42080 3.
        This covers, briefly, the widescreen processes.

14.4) I heard that if a film is shot "flat" then you actually lose screen information when it is letterboxed. Is this true?

From Timm Doolen

This is actually a trickier question than it would appear. Many modern movies are shot on 35mm film, which has an aspect ratio of roughly 1.33:1 and are "matted" to appear 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 in the theater. This is also referred to as shooting the film "flat". Usually the matte is a soft matte, which means the print is 1.33:1 but an aperture plate is used in the theater to mask off the top and bottom portions of the picture.

The filmmaker often shoots the movie as if the extra top and bottom of the frame is not there, even though it will end up on the raw film (and often the prints of the film too.) Because of this, occasionally boom mikes or other cinema equipment will creep into these shots. Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a notorious example of this.

In any given shot, the extra information at the top and bottom of the frame can be:

  • interesting (it allows you to see more than you could in the theater, without being distracting)
  • extraneous (e.g. more sky above and sea below, but nothing much changes)
  • distracting (the composition is thrown off)
  • not-intended-for-viewing (boom-mikes, etc.)

At best, the unmasked portion of the screen that you get to see is not important to the composition of the shot. At worst, you can see microphones and other movie-making magic, or the composition of the shot is thrown off.

On top of that is another problem. Often special effects scenes are often composed in the aspect ratio that the final movie will be in. When these portions of the movie are transferred to a P&S, they are zoomed in and cropped. So even if you get all the side information (and extra top and bottom information) in an unmasked transfer, if there are a lot of special effects in the movie, you will not get to see all of the image in those scenes. One example of this is the full-frame version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Without special effects, safe areas are included. When cartoons are in the frame, it's panned and scanned.

Of course since the '60s filmmakers have realized that their films might end up on television someday. With the advent of the home rental market in the '80s this became an even more important concern. So now many filmmakers have started shooting their films knowing that the top and bottom of the portions of the frame will eventually be visible.

James Cameron (director of Aliens, Terminator 2 and The Abyss), has even publicly stated that he prefers the full-frame versions of his movies on television, and shoots the movies with the eventual move to television in mind.

Many other people prefer the full-frame, or unmatted, versions of movies because they get more frame information. Some people really don't like the black bands at the top and bottom of the screen, and an unmatted film is definitely better than a cropped film, in most people's opinions.

What is the answer to the question? Well, it is true that you lose information if a "flat" film is matted. However, this can throw of the frame composition, or even expose things not meant to be seen. Let's take an example: Spaceballs. In the full-frame video version, you can see the Mr. Coffee sign before it's supposed to be seen, which kind of ruins the joke. In the widescreen version the sign is shown as a punchline. Near the end of the film, in the full-frame version, you can see the metallic stand that guides the singing alien, which you of course are not supposed to see, and which you don't see in the matted widescreen edition.

So like most things in life, it's one of those things you'll have to decide for yourself. Some people prefer the full-frame, others prefer to see the movie as it was intended to be seen in theaters.


15.1 Popular titles never released on LD in USA

Aguirre, the Wrath of God   (Carl Shapiro -
Art of Noise:Visible Silence  (Bobby Tribble -
Bad Timing/A Sensual Obsessions (Carl Shapiro -
Becky Sharp (restored version) (
The Bedsitting Room     (David Johansson -
The Black Cauldron
Brothers Karamosov     (Stephanie
Cannery Row        (Carl Shapiro -
Charade         (Mark Hurt -
Colossus: The Forbin Project  (Carl Shapiro -
Day For Night       (Carl Shapiro -
Desperate Living      (Christopher Elam -
The Devils (Ken Russell)   (David Johansson -
Eureka         (Carl Shapiro -
Fantastic Planet      (Carl Shapiro -
The Final Cut (Pink Floyd)   (Torc -
Fitzcarraldo       (Carl Shapiro -
The Fox and the Hound    (Stephanie
Foxes (Jodie Foster)
Fritz the Cat       (Torc -
The Girl Can't Help It    (Michael Gebert -
The Green Room       (Carl Shapiro -
The Long Good Friday     (Norbert White -
The Hill         (Carl Shapiro -
Hiroshima, Mon Amour     (Carl Shapiro -
The Illustrated Man     (Carl Shapiro -
Invitation au Voyage     (Carl Shapiro -
Joshua Then and Now     (Carl Shapiro -
Kill, Baby, Kill      (Lon Huber -
The Leopard (Visconti)    (John R. Holmes -
Little Murders       (Carl Shapiro -
Lucas          (Stephanie
Mamma Roma        (Zachary
The Man in the Glass Booth   (Carl Shapiro -
The Man with One Red Shoe   (Christopher Elam -
Modern Girls       (Stephanie
The Navigator       (Toonces T. Cat -
Nosferatu the Vampyre    (Carl Shapiro -
O Lucky Man!       (Carl Shapiro -
The Offence        (Carl Shapiro -
101 Dalmatians
One on One        (Stephanie
Orb's Adventures Beyond Ultraw. (Bobby Tribble -
Our Man In Havanna     (Chuck Kahn -
Patterns         (Carl Shapiro -
Pink Flamingos       (Christopher Elam -
Portrait of Jennie     (Chuck Kahn -
Powaqqatsi        (Torc -
The Rains Came       (Chuck Kahn -
Red Sorghum
Rosalie Goes Shopping    (Christopher Elam -
The Shadow Box       (Carl Shapiro -
Snow White and the Three Stoog. (Stephanie Schiff)
Soldier of Orange      (Carl Shapiro -
Song of the South
Success (Jeff Bridges)    (Stephanie
Sunrise         (Michael Gebert -
Tales from the Gimli Hospital  (Bill Chase -
The Tenant        (Carl Shapiro -
A Thousand Clowns      (Carl Shapiro -
Three Musketeers (1974)    (Stephanie
Trouble In Paradise     (Michael Gebert -
Weekend         (Zachary
Who'll Stop the Rain     (Carl Shapiro -
Who's Life is it Anyway    (Stephanie
The Wild Seed       (Mark Hurt -
Woman in the Dunes     (Tom Winstead -
Written on the Wind     (Chuck Kahn -

15.2 Popular titles now out of print on LD in USA

Alien SE         (Ron Pritchett -
Aliens SE        (Leopold -
The Black Hole
Eating Raoul       (Stephanie
Gorky Park        (Hoon Shin -
It's a Gift        (Michael Gebert -
La Dolce Vita       (
Love At Large       (Hoon Shin -
Meatballs        (Crandall
Planet of the Apes + sequels  (Keith Thatcher -
Ran [lbx] (Kurosawa)     (Tom Winstead -
To Live and Die in L.A.
Two for the Road      (Jeff Shirazi - 71564.1307@CompuServe.COM)
Yellow Submarine

15.3 Popular titles not released in letterbox format yet in USA

Adventures in Babysitting   (Hoon Shin -
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai  (Lee Geller -
Altered States       (Michael Gebert -
Animal House       (Torc -
Around the World in 80 Days  (John R. Holmes -
Atlantic City       (Michael Gebert -
Barton Fink        (Bill Chase -
Beetlejuice        (Chuck Kahn -
Better Off Dead      (Elbert Dah-Shiun Yen
The Birds
Blazing Saddles      (Christopher Elam -
The Blues Brothers     (Torc -
Body Heat        (Terry Morgan -
The Breakfast Club     (Elbert Dah-Shiun Yen
Caddyshack        (Torc -
Capricorn One       (RESRVORDOG -
Catch-22         (John R. Holmes -
Chariots of Fire      (Hal McMillan -
China Gate        (John R. Holmes -
Class          (Elbert Dah-Shiun Yen
The Company of Wolves    (Tom Winstead -
The Conformist       (John R. Holmes -
Contempt         (Zachary
The Conversation      (Chuck Kahn -
The Crazies        (Neil Dorsett -
Crimewave        (Neil Dorsett -
Don't Look Now       (Tom Winstead -
Drowning by the Numbers    (Bill Chase -
Duck You Sucker! (Leone)   (John R. Holmes -
Dune          (Chuck Kahn -
Edward Scissorhands     (Christopher Elam -
Elephant Man       (John R. Holmes -
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn   (Neil Dorsett -
Equinox         (Hoon Shin -
The Exorcist       (Keith Thatcher -
Fast Times at Ridgemont High  (Elbert Dah-Shiun Yen
Frantic         (Hoon Shin - 
Fried Green Tomatoes     (Jeff Shirazi - 71564.1307@CompuServe.COM)
Full Metal Jacket      (Zachary
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken   (RESRVORDOG -
The Godfather       (Michael Gebert -
The Godfather Part II    (Michael Gebert - 
The Godfather Part III    (Gregory Steven Vaughn -
Grease         (John R. Holmes -
The Grifters       (Christopher Elam -
Hell on High Water     (John R. Holmes -
The High and the Mighty (1954) (Brent W. Moll -
House of Bamboo      (John R. Holmes -
In Cold Blood       (John R. Holmes -
Jacob's Ladder       (Lee Geller -
Jeremiah Johnson      (
Juliet of the Spirits    ( 
The Key         (Chuck Kahn -
Knightriders       (Neil Dorsett -
Lady and the Tramp
The Last Man on Earth    (RESRVORDOG -
The Magic Christian     (Torc -
The Man Who Knew Too Much ('56) (John R. Holmes -
Martin         (Neil Dorsett -
Miller's Crossing      (Bill Chase -
Mister Roberts       (Moe Hardy -
Monty Python's Meaning of Life (John R. Holmes -
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
My Girl         (Gregory Steven Vaughn -
Nashville        (Chuck Kahn -
No Way Out        (Terry Morgan -
Parallax View       (John R. Holmes -
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Christopher Elam -
Out of Africa       (Chuck Kahn - + (
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure    (Chuck Kahn -
Popeye         (David Johansson -
Prince of Darkness     (RESRVORDOG -
Prospero's Books      (Bill Chase -
Real Genius        (Gary Silvers -
Repo Man         (Ken Wald -
Rosemary's Baby      (John R. Holmes -
Season of the Witch     (Neil Dorsett -
The Shining        (Christopher Elam -
Sleeping Beauty
Somewhere in Time      (Richard Ruffner -
Spider Baby        (RESRVORDOG -
Some Kind of Wonderful    (Elbert Dah-Shiun Yen
St. Elmo's Fire      (Elbert Dah-Shiun Yen
A Star Is Born (1954)    (
Star Trek:The Motion Picture-SE (Christopher Elam -
That's Life!       (SerendRec
They Live        (RESRVORDOG -
To Catch a Thief      (John R. Holmes -
To Kill a Mockingbird    (Mark Hurt -
To Live and Die in LA    (Wolfgang Demmel -
The Trouble with Harry    (John R. Holmes -
Twins          (Terry Morgan -
Urban Cowboy       (
Vengeance Is Mine      (Zachary
Vertigo         (John R. Holmes -
Wings of Desire      (Paul Siu -
Witches of Eastwick     (Christopher Elam -
Yellow Submarine      (Torc -

15.4 What animated Disney movies are available?

Here is a short list of Disney animated films that are available at this moment:

  • Cinderella
  • The Lion King
  • Dumbo
  • The Sword in the Stone
  • Aladdin
  • Snow White
  • Fantasia (out of print, but easily available)
  • Bambi
  • Pinocchio


16.1 Explanations of different versions

16.1.1 Blade Runner

From Jeremy Bond Shepherd (

There have been SIX distinct cuts of Blade Runner exhibited theatrically. THREE of these cuts have been released on laserdisc in the US. Following are descriptions of the four laserdisc editions of those three cuts:

  • Nelson #13806 - Analog Stereo Surround, no CX, CLV, 114 minutes, Pan-and-Scan, $34.98
    This is the same as the US domestic theatrical release (the version exhibited in movie theatres in the US in 1982.) The jacket art claims that this is the unrated international cut, but this was a misprint. A remastered issue with CX noise reduction was released in 1987. Both Nelson versions may be out of print.

  • Voyager #CC1169L - Digital Stereo Surround, CX, CLV, 116 minutes 59 seconds, Widescreen, $49.95
    This is the unrated international cut, containing extra scenes of violence which were present in the European and Japanese theatrical presentations.

  • Voyager #CC1120L - Digital Stereo Surround, CX, CAV, 116 minutes 59 seconds, Widescreen, $89.95
    This is the same transfer of the international cut as #CC1169L, but presented in the CAV format, and with supplemental materials, including:
    • "The Syd Mead Gallery", artwork by Syd Mead, the film's "Visual Futurist".
    • "A Fan's Notes", containing detailed scene-by-scene analysis.
    • "The Blade Runner Trivia Test" (answers at the end of the disc)
    • Blade Runner bibliography.

    Some LV enthusiasts have commented that the quality and scope of the supplemental materials are not up to present (1995) standards for a movie with this interest and complexity.

  • Warner #12682 - Digital Stereo Surround, CX, CAV, 115 minutes 33 seconds, Widescreen, $49.95
    This is the 1992 "Director's Cut", prepared by Warner Brothers in co-operation with director Ridley Scott. This version is very similar to the domestic theatrical (1982) release, with the following modifications:
    • Deckard's voice-over narration is omitted
    • The "upbeat" ending of the previous versions is omitted. This version ends with Deckard and Rachel entering the elevator outside Deckard's apartment.
    • A very brief shot is added of Deckard imagining a Unicorn galloping through a misty forest.
    • The soundtrack was digitally remastered for this version.

    This is the only laserdisc issue which DOES NOT contain the narration and upbeat ending, and which DOES include the Unicorn dream. The extra violence seen in the international cut is NOT present in this edition. It is believed that Scott wanted these scenes to be included in the Director's Cut, but suitable elements could not be located in time for its September 1992 release. There are some known soundtrack flaws present in all releases of Blade Runner which have NOT been corrected in this Director's Cut. Many enthusiasts feel that the side breaks on this edition were chosen particularly poorly, especially when compared to those on Voyager's CAV edition. There are NO supplementary materials on this issue.

There are three version of Blade Runner which have been exhibited theatrically but have never been available on laserdisc:

  • The San Diego Preview Cut (115 minutes)
    Shown to a sneak-preview audience in San Diego, California. Same as the domestic theatrical release with additions: a sequence in which Batty places a "VidPhon" call to Chew, and a shot of Deckard reloading his gun during the climactic battle sequence.

  • The Workprint Cut (112 minutes)
    An uncompleted cut exhibited in 1991 in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Its success inspired Warners to contract with Scott to assemble the official Director's Cut. An artifact of the film's genesis, this cut is substantially different from any other release.

  • The Fairfax Cut (115 minutes [?])
    Originally exhibited as one of
    Blade Runner's sneak-previews, this cut was also exhibited in 1990 and 1991 in Los Angeles. It was the same as the Director's Cut, but minus the unicorn shot and a few other brief shots.

16.1.2 Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

From Andrew Hall (

  • RCA/Columbia: (probably $25 US, out of print?) Non-letterboxed (slightly cropped), Analog sound (and terrible sound).

  • Criterion/Voyager: $99 US; CAV; digital sound, excellent film-to-video transfer, "multiple-aspect ratio" transfer (actually just a complete open matte transfer), some average supplements.

  • Columbia/Tri-star: (about $35 US) The most recent release; CLV; Apparently the same film and sound transfer as the Voyager version

16.1.3 Lawrence of Arabia

From Bob Morris (, Bill Vermillion (alfred!bilver!

  • 1983 RCA Columbia Lawrence of Arabia CLV cream colored cover pan & scan, reversed reel, much missing material (about 187 min) out of print

  • 1989 RCA Columbia Lawrence of Arabia, letterbox, Director's Cut 218 min CLV, CC ($49.95?) blue cover

  • 1989 Criterion Lawrence of Arabia, letterbox, Director's Cut CLV 218 min featurette Wind Sand and Star, 1962 New York premiere B&W footage, 1989 New York premiere color footage, silent B&W footage of making of film. ($59.95?) Restoration notes (blue duofold cover) no closed captions. Last side of this set (w/Wind Sand and Star) was available for CAV version owners for an additional $20 in a plain white cover.

  • 1989 Criterion Lawrence of Arabia, letterbox, Director's Cut CAV 218 min misc still suppl material ($125??) Restoration notes (gold cover boxed set) no closed captions

  • 1994 Columbia Tristar Lawrence of Arabia, letterbox, Director's Cut CLV, 218 min CC $49.95 featurette Wind Sand and Star,"phony" 1963 trailer reconstruction, assorted stills shown while overture is played. Cover designs matches that of famous book on making of film :-)

16.1.4 The Terminator

The Terminator is, has always been, and most likely will always be a mono film. The new THX version is superior to all previous versions both visually and aurally.

There has been a fake-stereoided VHS version of The Terminator, but it's not real stereo, just phase error stereo like the "Spatial Stereo" button in cheap boomboxes.

16.1.5 Terminator 2: Judgment Day

There are at least 6 versions of this movie out (and more are coming):

  • Original, non-director's cut letterbox ($40)

  • Original, non-director's cut pan-and-scan ($40)

  • Original CAV boxed set ($100)
    • includes a short making-of feature
    • this is the only release of the film in an entirely CAV format

  • Special Edition (director's cut), pan-and-scan ($50)
    • approximately 16 minutes of footage re-edited into the film
    • no other supplementals besides the additional footage

  • Special Edition (director's cut), letterbox ($50)
    • just like the previous one, but letterboxed

  • THX CLV/CAV Boxed Set, Special Edition, letterbox ($100)
    • the THX boxed set has the re-edited director's cut of the film
    • contains the following supplementals
      • audio commentary by director James Cameron and 25 cast/crew members
      • production clips, stills
      • interviews with filmmaker and actors
      • trailers (teaser, original, other)
      • alternate ending, deleted scene (these two scenes are not re-edited into the movie, but are presented seperately in the suppl. section)
      • Guns 'n' Roses music video

16.1.6 Bram Stoker's Dracula

  • $40 Columbia release with no extras, Side 3 is CAV.

  • $50 Columbia release with side 3 CLV, but includes the teaser trailer, the theatrical trailer, and the full 30-minute HBO behind-the-scenes look at the movie.

  • $125 Criterion release with all 6 sides CAV. It includes the teaser trailer, but not the theatrical trailer, and a nine-minute edit of the HBO behind-the-scenes look at the movie. It also includes storyboards, a look at the costumes, an "editing workshop" in which raw footage can be programmed or edited together by you, a visual demonstration of how Coppola used modern video technology to make rough cuts of his movie during the filming of his movie, an isolated music and effects track, the story of Dracula in history and on film, clips from movies that visually inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula, and audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola, visual effects editor/second unit director Roman Coppola (Francis' son) and the Oscar-winning makeup artist.


All three versions are matted to 1.85:1 and are superb in both sight and sound, though the Columbia and Criterion versions differ slightly. (Leopold's comment: I've seen the Columbia CLV version, and it had excessive amounts of chroma noise and crosstalk between chrominance and luminance. Didn't like it).

The transfer for both Columbia versions is from the orignal interpositive and was supervised by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. The Criterion version was transferred digitally from a low contrast interpositive, was supervised by visual effects editor/second unit director Roman Coppola, and given final director's approval from Francis Ford Coppola.

The audio for the Columbia version comes from a Dolby Surround Spectral Recording (SR), whereas the Criterion audio was taken from the Dolby Stereo Digital (DSD) master. For the most part they are the same soundtrack, though the surround sound on the Criterion/DSD version is more distinct.

16.1.7 2001 - A Space Odyssey

There are six versions of this film (in chronological order of release):

  • MGM/UA analog pan and scan version. $29.95 (no supplements)

  • MGM/UA analog with CX pan and scan version. $29.95 (no supplements)

  • Criterion Collection CAV $124.95 (2.16:1; 6 sides CAV)
    • Interview with Arthur Clarke
    • Production notes, stills
    • Excerpts from making of documentary
    • NASA computer-animated films
    • History on making of the film
    • Comparison between the film and
    • Pre-production notes, stills
    • NASA footage

  • Criterion Collection CLV $59.95

  • MGM/UA letterbox edition (from 70MM) was $29.95/$39.95 (CLV, incl. trailer)

  • 25th Anniversary MGM/UA CAV (from 70MM) $59.95 (2.20:1; 5 CAV/1 CLV)
    • Production stills
    • Seminar with Arthur Clarke
    • Trailer

The first two pan-and-scan versions are not worth bothering with, as 2001 was shot in SuperPanavision 70, which should have an aspect ratio of about 2.20:1.

The two Criterions are apparently the same transfer, and both are approved by director Stanley Kubrick.

The two MGM letterboxes are both taken from 70mm sources, but they are different transfers. From everything I've read, the 25th Anniversary box is a much better video transfer than the MGM CLV version, and even slightly better than the Criterion transfer.

The aspect ratio on the MGM CAV version is apparently more accurate than the Criterion transfer.

16.1.8 Star Trek movies

Star Trek 1-7 have been released in both pan-and-scan and letterbox for each. Star Trek:TMP has the additional 12 minutes in the pan-and-scan version only. I believe none of the laserdisc releases of any of the movies have chapter stops, which is a major complaint about the laserdisc series. None of them include trailers or any other supplemental materials, except a version of Star Trek IV mentioned below.

There is a "director's series" version of Star Trek IV which includes 15 minutes with Leonard Nimoy discussing the movie. The cut of the film is the same as the non-"director's series" version. The main complaint about this special version is that the 15 minutes are BEFORE the movie starts, and there are no chapter stops, which means you must scan forward or program in the time to skip it. It also forces a second and unnecessary side break in the movie.

There was a box set of the first 5 movies in widescreen that was released, but is now out of print. There is a recent box of all 7 movies.

16.1.9 Babylon 5

Babylon 5 is shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio, with the exception of the pilot episode, which was shot in 4:3. The existing four seasons of the show have been shown in the USA panned-and-scanned to 4:3.

No episodes are available on laserdisc in the USA - at least yet. The pilot episode and the 1st season double episode "A Voice in the Wilderness" have been printed in Japan with Japanese subtitles. Both are the 4:3 versions with Japanese subtitles.

The first two seasons of B5 has been published on PAL videotapes in Europe. They are now publishing the third season. The episodes are in 4:3.

The producer of the show Joe Straczynski (JMS) has stated that he wishes the show sometime to be published on LD as a letterbox edition. Lately there has been some talk about publishing B5 episodes on DVD. However, Warner is unwilling to publish discs or tapes of any TV series in the United States.

16.1.10 Roger Rabbit discs

Contrary to many rumors, the Who Framed Roger Rabbit CAV Widescreen disc has never be censored. I bought mine from Ken Crane's in November -96, and all the scenes rumoured missing are intact:

  • 1:7370..7400: Baby Herman lifts a woman's skirt, pushes his middle finger between her legs and grins devilishly.

  • 2:7810..7820: One of the ACME Squeaking Shoes kicks a police office in the groin (the same one that is executed later)

  • 3:32485: A sign written in a toilet wall: FOR A GOOD TIME CALL ALLYSON "WONDERLAND" / THE BEST IS YET TO BE.

  • 4:2170..2173: For four frames, it appears that you can see between Jessica's legs, her being without knickers. However, if you watch carefully, you can see that this is most probably a painting error: just a few frames before (4:2165..2166) the knickers can be seen. Also, in the last of these four frames, if you watch carefully, you can see that the corner of the knickers still visible is painted white. And, just in case you thought paint errors like this are unusual, have a look at two very adjacent coloring errors in frames 4:2280 (Jessica's right leg) and 4:2297 (Jessica's right arm).

The Best of Roger Rabbit disc is a different case. It has several offensive frames (offensive to someone at least), and after it was published in summer -96, Disney quickly recalled all discs because of "glue problems". The disc has not been repressed, and it's probably already the most expensive 16 minute disc in the collector's market.

In the new VHS tapes and Japanese LDs the offensive portions have been airbrushed away.

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Originally Created: 04/16/97

Last Updated: 06/01/97