I’ve learned three or four things since posting last Saturday’s story about that uttterly ridiculous fade-to-black mistake contained within the overture sequence in the forthcoming West Side Story Bluray, which will street on 11.15. The error was spotted last week in the British Bluray, which came out on 10.17. It was discussed at length on Home Theatre Forum starting last Friday or thereabouts.
Here’s what I’ve been told so far:
1. Fox Home Video is the distributor of the West Side Story Bluray but it had nothing to do with this recent high-def mastering of this 1961 film. That was the responsibility of MGM Home Entertainment, which owns the rights and handled the mastering and authoring, etc. Update: I’ve since been told that the compression & authoring of the Bluray/DVD was done by Fox Home Video.
2. I’m told that Fox Home Video knows about the issue but will not recall the title. it will instead implement what’s being called a “running fix.” This means that if anyone wants to send their West Side Story Bluray back Fox Home Video will accept it and send them a corrected disc down the road. “We are looking to fix the issue on future discs,” is what I was told.
3. MGM Home Entertainment senior vp publicity Michael Brown declined to respond to calls and emails, but one person at that company who is at least partially responsible for the error is Yvonne Medrano, vp technical services. She also declined to respond to calls and emails. I explained to her and to Brown what I understood to be the history of the situation and asked if they could illuminate further or explain any errors or misunderstandings. Silencio.
4. As I understand it, the high-def scanning of West Side Story was done by HTV Illuminate CEO Jim Hardy. Update: In the comments section restoration guru Robert Harris has stated a belief that the fade-to-black problem happened during the high-def scanning phase, indicating that Hardy is the likely culprit. Here are some recent comments that Harris posted on HTF.
5. Mistakes happen, of course, but it’s mind-blowing to consider that each and every MGM Home Entertainment staffer who was involved in the delivery of the West Side Story Bluray didn’t catch the error. It was a matter of simple ignorance, and not just on the part of Ms. Medrano. No one who looked at it before sending to the duplication plant knew that the overture isn’t supposed to fade to black at any point…ever.
This is what happens when you let monkeys run the factory.
Here’s how HTF member Adrian Turner described the problem last weekend. “There is a complete fade-to-black [during the overture] just before the pull-out to reveal the main title,” he writes.
“The overture plays from the start as it should do and the Bluray image is very sharp. At the climax of the overture, the moment when the music changes tempo and the color should switch to blue and the zoom-out, there is a quick fade to black.
“And then we get the final section of the music and the blue image. This image is very fuzzy indeed and then it clears and becomes sharp with the zoom-out to reveal the title WEST SIDE STORY. The dissolve from the Saul Bass design to the live shot of New York is just as it should be.
“I don’t know why [the parties responsible] have chosen to alter the film and have ruined this most dramatic moment. It’s a total travesty.”
Bluray.com’s Josh Katz ran a linked summary of these developments on 10.26.