My feeling about the Vertigo Bluray is that it’s mildly problematic but generally not too bad, and in many ways quite tasty and delicious. It gets a pass. Restoration guru Robert Harris, who photo-chemically restored Vertigo into 70mm elements back in ’96, has also seen the Vertigo Bluray. His remarks, posted today at Home Theatre Forum, make it plain that he is not altogether delighted. But at the same time he’s giving it a reasonably good grade — a 4 out of 5 on image, and a 4.5 out of 5 on audio.
Key quote: “The bottom line here is that almost all of the film looks and sounds terrific.”
Harris says that I will be pleased as James Stewart‘s suit “is properly brown, and not aubergine.” I respectfully but firmly disagree. As I wrote yesterday, Stewart wears a “mood suit that sometimes drifts into faint aubergine brown, depending on the source of light. The suit is solid brown in sunlight or shaded-sunlight scenes and aubergine-tinted when he’s indoors.”
“What most of you want to know is if there are major problems,” Harris writes. “Is the Bluray of Vertigo perfect? No. Is it horribly problematic? Absolutely not.
“Toward full transparency, I will offer than I’ve been pleased to have been consulted on the project, and I firmly believe that within financial parameters, Universal has taken the project as far as it can go. The technical execs at Universal very much want this, and the rest of the Hitchcock Bluray collection to be as perfect as possible. But in the corporate world, things aren’t always as easy as just doing it. Budgets, and financial realities must come to the fore.
“Generally, any sequences that are fully exposed have been dealt with via digital color, and the final results are superb. That accounts for probably 90% of the film.
“The problems are in dupes — the shot in the museum, going from Kim Novak‘s hair to the portrait — the color of which is incorrect, and, without further technical support, uncorrectable. And in faded shots. Several shots of Mr. Stewart and the police officer on the rooftop in the opening don’t answer back color-wise, and could have. A thin sequence in Barbara Bel Geddes‘ car needs help.
“A single problematic shot of Mr. Stewart at Carlotta’s grave after his release from the hospital, exhibits extreme fade at the top of the frame. For our version, without digital tools, we were forced to go to separations, which ran out of register.
“The ride to the mission at the end of the film, has problems with black levels and skin tones, and as handled, there is no way it could not.
“Probably the most problematic are the final interior shots in the mission tower, again with poor black levels and improper flesh tones. Apparent fade across the center of the negative, also yields an unpleasant transparency to the sequence.
“I was considering posting frames to show what the Bluray should look like as opposed to what it does, but I see neither the need nor anything positive coming out of it. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Universal tried very hard to make this right. They agreed to take suggestions until after the end, and I have nothing but respect for the final result.”