For July 1997
I was checking out the upcoming attractions on DVD. I particularly noticed that Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was not on the list. Could there be a misprint? Could there be an error somewhere in the executive offices at Universal Studios? I would like to see Dragon on DVD. Is there anything I can do to let the production of Dragon begin? I am a BIG Bruce Lee fan as you can tell. I would buy up all of Bruce Lee's movies if they were available on DVD.
Please help me find a solution. Thank you.
(Well, it seems as if you want a copy of Dragon, eh? Universal only just announced that they would begin putting out DVDs in a few months, and they've only announced their initial titles. I'd say your best bet right now is to be patient and see what comes up. You could also visit their website and send off an e-mail message with you DVD suggestions. In the meantime, I will add Dragon to the DVD Wish List and pass on your suggestion...)
WOW! What a wonderful site! You've done an especially great job on the movie reviews. Very impressive. I look forward to future issues. Thank you!
(Thanks much, and you're very welcome!)
I got this advice from a friend this morning - to go and have a look at your site, as we're both definite fans of LDs & DVDs...
Y O O H O O
What a site -- and, believe it or not, I can appreciate the amount of work, as I've been in the computer industry for about 10 years (I'm a computer artist, and, yes, I work on an Amiga 1200 with Dpaint to make my mappings!).
Keep up the excellent work! I'll give your address to the rest of the world who didn't know about it!
-- Just a question -- Do you think any LD or DVD re-release of The Color of Money is scheduled? Because the only LD I know is old and P&S (Argh). What about The Hustler and The Baltimore Bullet? Basically, any Pool movie!!!
(Thanks for the letter! Running the site is an awful amount of work, but it's letters like this that make it worthwhile -- and besides, for some bizarre reason I think it's fun! As for Amigas, I'm on my third one -- an A4000 -- and I'll never let a PC system into my household. But I'm a partial traitor -- most of the website is now being run off of a Macintosh PowerBook 1400C I recently picked up. While my Amiga can do everything as good or better than the other systems, the website authoring programs are just crappy. I should also mention the portability of the PowerBook is a big plus. But as soon as a decent Amiga authoring shows up, not to mention a laptop, the PowerBook goes the way of the abacus...
Anyway, enough of my babbling and back to your questions. As for DVD, none of the films you asked about have been announced, mainly because neither Disney or Fox are releasing DVDs. Nothing has been mentioned about laserdisc reissues, either. However, a good letterboxed edition of The Hustler has been available here for several years...)
Thanks a lot for all the work you do. I recently found your web site and have tried to visit as much as possible. I am an avid laser disc fan and can't wait to purchase a DVD machine. I just read your column about people trashing DVD and how you buy a medium because of the content not just the features. I loved your opinion on Blade Runner. I feel the same...I love Pink Floyd the Wall and will purchase a new DVD machine when and if an AC-3 version comes out on DVD. Hell I spent $2250 on the Yamaha 3090 integ rated amp and another grand for a Sunfire subwoofer just to enjoy the great sound tracks on Laser discs!!!
Well keep up the good work, can't wait to read the reviews on Jerry Maguire. Its Blockbuster titles like these that will keep DVD afloat not Total Recall and The Arrival.
(Hey Jim...you'd better start saving those pennies for your DVD player...MGM/UA has announced that a DVD version of Pink Floyd: The Wall is forthcoming on DVD...)
I am going to buy a DVD player, but I still have following doubts before I can make up my mind:
1) Can the DVD player purchased in the USA (i.e. the Panasonic A300 brand) play DVD titles published/issued in Japan and China respectively? If I can only play the titles published and sold in USA, it will much discourage me to go for the DVD, I rather prefer the LD format which are compatible in all these three regions.
2) Can I get any Karaoka DVD discs in the USA with both English songs? How about Chinese and Japanese songs? are they available now in the USA? will they be available? Again, Whether I can play discs bought outside the USA or not?
3) Can the DVD player available now in the market can play DVD titles issued in PAL system? Is there a system format in the DVD player?
I would much obliged if you can answer me the above questions.
(Okay, let's see what I can do here...
1) USA DVD players are manufactured to play only USA Region 1 discs, and will generally not play DVDs from Japan (Region 2) or China (Region 6). The DVDs themselves are encoded with this "region code" to prevent them from being imported/exported to other countries. However, some DVDs are "region free," which means that you can play them in any machine in any country. In the US, most of the Lumivision titles, in addition to the Simitar and upcoming LaserDisc Entertainment adult titles do not have any regional coding, and anyone can play them. Some discs already released in Japan are the same way (but they are mostly music and special interest titles at this time).
2) There are no Karaoke discs released or announced thus far in the U.S. See #1 above - Japan has released numerous Karaoke DVDs, but I am not sure of the regional coding as of this time. You might want to check with an importer who hopefully can find this information out...
3) U.S. DVD players CANNOT play PAL discs at all. They do not contain the appropriate circuitry inside. However, it is my understanding that most -- if not all -- of the PAL players will play NTSC discs just fine, but I may be mistaken. So far, there are only 3 or 4 PAL titles available, and I've heard that the quality is sub-standard (look like a videotape or worse). Additionally, three of these titles are from Germany, and all of them contain only a German-dubbed version of the film (i.e, Twelve Monkeys, which does not have an English soundtrack or subtitles).
Thanks a lot for your prompt replies to my questions, as I was so eager to try out the new machine, I bought the Panasonic A300 last weekend, I had some findings which I would like to tell you so that you can inform other people of my findings:
1) I now understood pretty well about the region/number theory with the machine, and understood all un-coded discs can be played without any problem on any machine. Thanks for your advice.
2) The Panasonic A300 is able to play VCD discs which is now very popular in Aisa especially in China, but there no store (except stores in Chinatown/New York) are selling the machines and discs in the US. Although the quality of pictures and sound are not comparable with that of DVD discs, but for me I suddenly had so aboundant disc sources available to me including the Karaoke VCD discs.
3) One thing looks strange to me, you said the DVD players in USA CANNOT play PAL discs at all, but all the VCD discs I have now and those I was playing are PAL system which were published in Hongkong and China, But I can play them with Panasonic A-300 perfectly. For your ref. I am using a Multi-system TV set (Can that be a reason?). I still cannot figure out the reason as I understood that the circuit of the Panasonic are still solely NTSC, how it can identify the PAL system-datas? although I am certainly happy about that finding.
Once again thank you very much for your attention and time.
(VCD discs are different from the DVD titles. Most players that can play VCD discs can play both NTSC and PAL titles, because that capability is built into them -- however, for those PAL DVD titles played, the Panasonic models cut off 48 lines of resolution (17% of your image) off the bottom. But this does not mean that PAL DVDs will play -- none of the U.S. players out right now will play PAL DVD discs. Also, I don't think your set has anything to do with it - your player has to be able to understand the discs and coding themselves...) [This info comes from the very detailed DVD FAQ available online.]
I really enjoy your web site...very well layed out, more informative than anything on the web....keep up the good work...I've mentioned it to everyone I know.....thx again.....
(Thanks much for your comments -- I do appreciate them! Glad you like the site and find it useful!)
Great looking website, dude. I'm impressed! I even bookmarked you.
(Yow! Thanks for the compliment Steph! It's appreciated! And no, I'm not just printing your letter because you're a friend -- speaking of which, where's that long, glowing, ego-boosting letter I've been waiting for from Cory...?)
I love your site, but it's too heavy on graphics & large text. It would be better if it looked more like the Laserviews web site, although LaserRot has much better content.
(Glad you like our site! However, the graphics and text arrangement is a big part of who we are and what we present (not to mention part of our copyright), and there are absolutely no plans to change that look at this time.
I also can't agree with you that it would "be better" if it looked more like the Laserviews website. Although their content is fine (actually, it's very good!), I unfortunately find that the "design" or "look" is too limited, and it's too horribly simplified for my liking. I honestly would rather close down my site than castrate it so it would look like a simple text file. Blecch! Shudder! The horror! Whoops, sorry, got carried away there a bit ...)
Thanks for posting my movie requests, and for your out of this world DVD/laserdisc site -- LaserRot...
(My pleasure Pat...thanks for the submissions and thanks for the nice letter!)
I recently purchases a DVD player in the hopes of having the ability to play good software on it. I visited the local dealer who sells DVD disks to purchase a few more movies. I was surprised to see that TriStar only put widescreen versions on the disk, no pan and scan. This seem very limiting to me since other distributors have pan and scan on one side and wide screen on the other. What's up? Is this a short cut to save money?
I chose a DVD system because of two particular features that were advertised: choice of pan and scan or wide screen picture, and the ability to change movie ratings. I have yet to find a movie where the rating can be changed, and now many movies are only available in wide screen! I am very disappointed in the shortcuts that many distributors seem to be doing. I refuse to buy disks in wide screen -- you lost the sale of four movies yesterday. I would like very much to hear your comments.
(Hi Jerry...I'm going to try to answer this as best I can, but you'll likely not agree with most of what I'll have to say. Please don't take any offense at any of this -- I'm not trying to be nasty or anything, but the following comments do reflect the general opinions of most filmmakers and most of the LD and DVD-buying public (well, at least those I've talked to and read letters and articles by).
Personally, I refuse to buy any titles - laserdisc or DVDs - that aren't letterboxed. I come from a film background (production, reviews, etc.), and for me, I only want to see a film the way the director intended it to be shown. When a title is panned & scanned, it is almost never done by the director, and the decision of what is "important" is left up to some video technician who usually could care less what the director's intention was. When an anamorphic Panavision title is panned & scanned, approximately 40% of the original picture information is now missing. All the director's carefully composed shots are destroyed, long shots become close-ups, and close-ups become horrifyingly extreme close-ups. Ghostbusters is a good example -- in the original letterboxed version you can see all four Ghostbusters onscreen at the same time -- in the panned & scanned version, you see two Ghostbusters and a couple of noses on the edges of the frame. Sorry, but I honestly can't agree with you on this matter. I myself would rather have every film transferred in its original format, instead of the hack job that most pan & scan transfers are. Don't get me wrong...I can understand why you enjoy watching pan & scan films over letterboxed films (especially is you have a small set), but I honestly just can't agree with the process. It's sort of like saying you're too big to sit in a certain chair, so you'll have to cut off both your arms first. Even for VHS tape releases, studios are now releasing letterboxed versions which are generally doing much better than the pan & scan versions.
Some films, however, are transferred in a full-frame process. With this, the director composes his shots for the wide theatrical screen, but makes some allowances so that the shots will not loose much on home video. With the full-frame process, the films usually lose a little information off the sides, but there is more information at the top and bottom of the frame so that your entire TV set is filled (i.e., no black bars). Unfortunately, you are usually not meant to see some of this "dead space" that was "matted out" for theatrical release, since boom mikes, cables and other things may be present. For example, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure on LD (many of you know what I'm abut to say...) is a full-frame transfer, but the extra picture information at the bottom ruins many jokes in the film, since you can now see how some "effects" and gags were done. Bad, bad, bad.
Additionally, some companies -- like Columbia TriStar --- shy away from placing both letterboxed and pan & scan versions on a DVD, just the same way that most companies now will not release pan & scan laserdiscs. It is much, much cheaper to simply transfer the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio than to pay somebody to sit there for days trying to decide which part of the film frame is the most important to be shown, and which part to remove. Also, the majority of laserdisc fans have already spoken out against the pan & scan process, and the studios have listened. For those few laserdisc titles that are still released in both letterboxed and pan & scan version, retailers who sell one pan & scan disc might sell 30 or 40 letterboxed discs of the same title instead. The same is happening with DVD -- the titles that appear in pan & scan only versions are not selling and remain sitting and rotting on the store shelves (and no folks, I'm not making this up...these are the numbers I've been given by several very reputable sources).
Also, don't expect to see many discs that allow you to choose the rating. Very few of these are expected to appear, if any. It's along the same lines as the pan & scan / widescreen controversy -- most director's want their films to appear exactly the way they made them. So far, every director that has been asked about recutting their films for a DVD "multiple ratings" options has condemned the idea and strongly stated that they would never agree to any such process (the feel as strongly about this as they did about the colorization of their black & white films - they will never agree to such a destructive process, and they will make a severe stink if it is done). The only films that might feasbly appear on DVD with different ratings encoded might be Saturday Night Fever and Excalibur -- both of these titles were released theatrically in "R" and "PG" versions. The only other variation of this that might show up is for a standard version of a film and the later uncut "Director's Cut" editions - for example, here's the regular theatrical release version of Scream and with a flip of a button, here's the unrated, full director's cut version instead with the 20 seconds of additonal footage.
I wish I had some good news to tell you, but frankly if you remain on the pan & scan only bandwagon, you're missing out on some terrific films. I know that if you only watch pan & scan versions, the black letterboxing bands take some getting used to -- I've had several friends who used to swear by pan & scan. But once they sat down and started viewing the letterboxed transfer, they didn't know how they could have every watched anything else. Also, judging from the way the public's perception of video has been changing, the pan & scan process is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, and you may very well find yourself with fewer and fewer pan & scan transfers in the future.
I know these weren't the answers you were looking for, but I hope you found them useful just the same.)
Great site first of all! I've been a longtime Laserdisc owner and I've got a few questions and comments. First of all I think this whole upset about flipping disc sides is idiotic. Even long movies on VHS need TWO tapes. That to me is more annoying than just flipping a CD over. Come on people, chill out!
Second of all, I've got a question. Universal has said that they ARE going to release DVDs but they don't know when yet. They're arguing over how to encode DTS onto their discs without having to release a whole new generation of players. DO the currect first generation DVD players really HAVE the capability to be upgraded?
Third, one more question, I've noticed that some movies on DVD don't have the great sound range that LDs do and I was wondering if this was a product of the audio compression? Thanks for your time and keep up the great work.
(Hi Joshua -- as you might imagine, I completely agree with you on the first paragraph.
As for Universal's plans, I think you've probably got your answer to that already. However, it's still a mystery as to whether first generation DVD players will play DTS discs, whether they can be upgraded, or whether you'll have to get a new machine.
Lastly, while the picture on DVDs is superior to laserdiscs (when transferred properly, of course), the audio is a slightly different story. DVDs containing a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix are superior to their laserdisc counterparts; however, standard Dolby Digital 2-channel mixes usually sound a little bit muted in comparison. This is supposedly partially due to the audio compression, and is supposed to be more noticeable to people with higher-end systems who don't have Dolby Digital decoders, where the player is mixing the Dolby Digital tracks down into a standard Dolby Pro-Logic mix. Something about this was just added into the DVD FAQ, so you should take a look there for more info...)
Dropped by the site today as a new LD owner in the UK, and a new reader of alt.video.laserdisc (which is where I saw you mentioned).
I had a quick browse of the 'Wish list' and there were a few discs on there I was surprised to hear about. For example, Subway is available over here on PAL. Not sure about whether it's widescreen, dubbed, whatever. The Indiana Jones box set is also widely available - widescreen, three movies, plus a 'Making of Raiders' documentary. I'm surprised you can't get something similar in the US.
Something that did depress me was your wish-list entry on Superman: The Movie. This is one of my all-time favourites and I was really looking forward to getting that movie on disc; from your entry it looks like the version available is sub-standard. I'm not even sure what version my video is, but it isn't even widescreen. Right now there isn't a PAL release of Superman - any chance of a better low-down on the NTSC version? My player can take NTSC discs but I don't want to invest in a copy of the movie if it's different from my video version, or not in widescreen. Ideally, I'd love a Special Edition just like you. Perhaps when Tim Burton's movie finally moves into production..?
Overall, I liked the site, and I'm sure I'll browse around for a while.
Keep it up!
(Many of us are pretty jealous over some of the titles you have available on PAL, but unfortunately, although most players over there play both PAL and NTSC discs, all our U.S. player are strictly NTSC. As to why the studios don't release certain films, who can really say -- maybe it's a rights problem or maybe the film is a dog and only ten people care about it...
Superman:The Movie is available on a letterboxed NTSC edition. We did write a full review of the title several years back, and it will appear online sometime in the near future. As a quick summary, the disc is a widescreen version of the standard theatrical release, and it is far, far better than the regular pan & scan edition. While it looks generally nice visually, a lot of the effects shots seemed unnecessarily grainy and the film look like it could use a little restoration work. What most of us here in the U.S. are hoping for is not only a version restored in quality, but in quantity -- the U.S. television broadcasts of the film add over an hour of additional footage to the film. Some of the extra footage is terrific, and some of it really, really stinks and deserved to be cut. But we still want the entire thing...)
Thank you for your level headed commentary on the different mediums available today. Today is the key word.
I am 40 years old and just now putting together my first "Home Theater". I never got into Laser Disk mostly because of the price (per disk price). I do own an S-VHS VCR because the price of VHS tapes had finally started coming down to a reasonable cost (around $20.00 and under). Because of my concerns with Laser Disk I see DVD as a natural improvement for my small VHS collection. I think DVD's success will be based on the price of the Disk. If they can keep the price at $20.00 or lower and the holdouts get of the pot and start producing, DVD can't loose. The driving factor is the price of the movie. I have not seen this aspect discussed anywhere?
(Actually, the lower price is definitely a marketing aspect of DVDs, and that was one of the initial selling points to consumers -- besides having a razor-sharp image and a movie on a CD-sized disc, it was affordable to everyone. I think it had something to do with that magical "$24.95" price or less, which is the point at which consumers will purchase a movie they like rather than renting it. I've noticed that when the price is knocked down even further (say, on sale for "$19.95"), folks will actually buy films they haven't actually seen but were interested in just the same... With laserdiscs running an average of $39.95 and up, many people just won't buy such a "spur of the moment" title...)
Hope you are feeling better and I wish you a speedy recovery. I can't tell you how much I enjoy your site. I can't get enough of it. I tried to pre-order some titles on laserdisc you have listed on your "Coming Distractions", and I was told by the mail order place they had no listing yet on the titles!!! You seem to know quicker than the retailers!! I have a question on DVDs that I hope you might be able to answer. In the last e-mail I sent you I told you that I am going to purchase the DVL-700. It is still on back order. Waiting is HELL!!! I wanted to know if you think that once the pressing plants manufacturing DVDs get the hang of dual-layered discs, do you think they will re-issue the current titles available that you have to flip? I would hate to buy a disc over 135 minutes now and have to flip it only to be told 6 months to a year that it is now "new and improved" in dual-layered format! You know this happens with laserdisc as they keep remastering in digital sound, THX, letterboxed, etc. Flipping laserdiscs doesn't annoy me, but one of the things I'm looking forward to with DVD is to not have to. I've been reading in various magazines that people who have invested in the format already are pretty annoyed with this when the were basically promised they wouldn't have to. I'll be checking your web site to see if you had time to respond to me. I wish you continued success with your site!
(Hi Chris...Just wanted to say thanks for the letter and for the recovery wishes. My rib problem still hurts like hell, and I get to visit the doctor again soon since this thing isn't get any better - but at least I've somehow managed to get my rear up into the computer chair and get the site updated a little bit in the meantime. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoy the site, and the overall response I've been getting really makes it worthwhile for me to continue doing so for a very, very long time to come.
As for title listings, I pride myself in making sure that I have the most in-depth listings around. As for why you can't pre-order some titles from your local retailer yet, quite a few of the titles listed on the DVD pages haven't really been officially announced yet. In fact, we have also been getting more in contact with the various studio personnel as well as the actual multimedia companies in charge of putting some of these DVD titles together - the result of this is that we are now beginning to get information on titles currently going into production (such as The Best Years of Our Lives and Tom Jones from HBO, The Island of Dr. Moreau and Lawnmower Man from New Line, and Rocky II and IV from MGM).
With regard to reissuing of 2-sided discs as dual-layered discs, I truthfully haven't got the slightest idea. But as you mentioned, this does happen quite often with the "remastered" laserdisc syndrome, and I really wouldn't be surprised to see this happen with DVDs as well (it happens with tapes, laserdiscs and CDs - why should the studios stop this practice with DVDs?).
As for having to flip the discs, while this really, really annoys some people, I honestly haven't thought of it much one way or the other. I supposed that having been involved with laserdiscs for many, many years, I am already used to flipping discs multiple times. While I would love to not have to worry about ever flipping a DVD, the few titles that have been spread over two sides don't bother me that much, and I can live with flipping the disc once until the studios and the pressing plants get the dual-layered technology issue worked out completely (apparently there is a little more work that needs to be done to get those longer titles working correctly on a single dual-layered side).)
I really appreciate the amount of work that goes into your site. I recently bought a DVD player and I check your site regulary as it is the best place to plan what DVD's I will be buying. The current battle between Laser Disc and DVD is pretty funny. I've never owned a Laser Disc player and have never been involved in any discussions regarding them. Your remarks in June's column were a refreshing change from the current "war" being waged. Personally, I never considered getting a Laser Disc player, but for some reason the DVD format was attractive. Maybe because it is also a computer storage medium that has the potential to dominate the industry just as CD's have done. Whatever the reason, I know many people who are interested in DVD. That is what will drive the market, not all of this fighting on the net.
Originally Created: 07/01/97