All the Luddites and dead-sea-scrollers who were arguing yesterday in favor of keeping the flying monkey and Scarecrow wires visible in Warner Home Video’s forthcoming The Wizard of Oz Blu-ray (or at least keeping some kind of visible-wires edition of the film in a vault somewhere) can fold up their tents and go home. I spoke yesterday with WHV senior vp George Feltenstein and he confirmed what Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny passed along yesterday in the HE comments section, which is that the wires have been digitally erased.
(l.) Warner Home Video senior vp George Feltenstein; witch-and-monkey castle scene from The Wizard of Oz‘s third act; (r.) restoration expert Robert Harris.
Before making the final call, Felstenstein said he went to resoration guru Robert Harris for advice, and that Harris’s basic mantra was that “if 1939 audiences didn’t see the wires when they saw the film in theatres, then present-day audiences shouldn’t see them on the Blu-ray.”
And 1939 audiences didn’t see the wires due to the state of projection technology and the three-strip Technicolor alignment process being what they were some 70 years ago, along with the general coarseness of 1939-era film stock.
“To be precise,” Harris explained this morning, “what matters is to recreate the look and texture of the original film, as seen by 1939 audiences. While by scanning original negatives we do get an image of slightly higher resolution, it’s important to make certain that the extra detail doesn’t expose things that were never meant to be seen.”
The Oz Blu-ray will be out on Tuesday, 9.29, following a series of special promotional screenings across the country including a special New York Film Festival showing on Saturday, 9.,26.
I asked Feltenstein why Warner Home Video’s “Murderer’s Row” trio — The Wizard of Oz, North by Northwest and Gone With the Wind (the last two of which will be available by mid November) — were scanned in 8K when 4K is considered to be as good if not better than 35mm film resolution-wise. “For the future,” Feltenstein said. “We want to be ready for the next expansion or upgrade in high-def viewing, so we won’t have to go back and re-scan them again.”
We both agreed that (a) it’s an essential thing for all large-format films to find their way onto Blu-ray sooner rather than later (a no-brainer), (b) it would be a welcome thing for Paramount Home Video to one day re-master Byron Haskin‘s War of the Worlds (1953) with the wires holding up the Martian space ships digitally erased (ditto), and (c) that it’ll be great when other Alfred Hitchcock films (like Vertigo especially, having been filmed in large-format VistaVision) get the Blu-ray treatment also.
Feltenstein — gracious, highly spirited, obviously super-bright– said he’s a daily HE reader, and that I should feel free to get in touch any time. Great!