Shame Persists

Early last May I ran a complaint piece about Paramount Home Video’s failure to punch out a Shane Bluray. It’s my responsibility, I feel, to bitch about this until they finally give in and agree to fund the proper restoring and remastering of George Stevens1953 classic. An off-the-lot source says it’ll be a moderately expensive project, which is mainly why Paramount has been stalling for so long. Except Shane is one of the respected jewels in the studio crown, and what monarch would allow one of its legacy symbols to lose its shine?

Shane is one of the most beautiful color films shot during the big-studio era, but if you pop the current DVD version into a Bluray player and watch it on a 50″ plasma, it just looks okay…and it should make your eyes pop out of their sockets.

The Shane elements need to be upgraded, but Paramount doesn’t want to spring for this. The applicable term is “bad parenting.” A father doesn’t refuse to send a talented child with great potential to college because tuition is too costly, or because there’s not enough of a back-end profit motive. A person who’s doing well in life doesn’t allow a member of his/her family to live in declining circumstances if he/she is able to help. A son or daughter doesn’t keep an aging parent in a musty, second-rate assisted living facility when a first-rate one is affordable.

Other DVD/Bluray sites should make an annual rite of shaming Paramount into doing the right thing, but most of them won’t, I’m guessing, because they don’t want to risk alienating a big advertiser.

Last year’s posting: It feels mildly irksome that Paramount Home Video has never to my knowledge stated an intention to issue a Bluray of George StevensShane. Wouldn’t this fit almost anyone’s definition of a no-brainer? It’s all but de rigueur for major studios to give their classic titles Bluray upgrades, so it seems odd that one as beautiful-looking as Shane would be sitting on the sidelines.

It’s been almost seven years since Paramount Home Video’s Shane DVD, which was fine for what it was. But it’s time to step up and do this film proud and give a nice angel erection to George Stevens, who no doubt has been wondering from whatever realm or region why Paramount hasn’t yet bit the bullet on this thing.

The Bluray format (coupled with an exacting, first-rate remastering, of course) would dramatically enhance if not do wonders for Loyal Griggs‘ legendary capturings of this iconic 1953 western. To my eyes Griggs’ richly-hued color lensings — he shot The Buccaneer, The Ten Commandments, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, White Christmas — were on the level of Jack Cardiff‘s.

This morning I asked Paramount restoration/remastering guy Ron Smith (who supervised the superb work on Paramount’s recently-released African Queen Bluray) if a Shane Bluray was at least in the planning stages. Guys like Smith are told to never say “boo” to guys like me without corporate publicity’s approval, but I wanted to at least put this on the table.

  • JLC

    While you’re at it, get on them about Pal’s War of the Worlds. I think it was already remastered around the time Spielberg’s version came out. Just erase the wires and put it out on Bluray already!

  • Rashad

    Do a complaint for no Scandal Sheet yet either.

    At least Once Upon a Time in the West is coming out in May

  • MickTravisMcGee

    But of equal importance is the question:

    How many times do they say the word Shane in the movie “Shane” ?

    Give youtube three minutes and it’ll tell you:

    (spoiler alert)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9piQu2TDvEA

  • Bob Hightower

    The best Western ever made — and I say this as a great admirer of John Ford.

    The name “Shane” is derived from the Irish and means “beautiful” by the way, which befits the film and Alan Ladd in it.

  • Adam Tyner

    “Other DVD/Bluray sites should make an annual rite of shaming Paramount into doing the right thing, but most of them won’t, I’m guessing, because they don’t want to risk alienating a big advertiser.”

    A lot of the DVD and Blu-ray sites I read (and have written for) are very critical of what studios are doing (or not doing). It’s just that there’s such an overwhelming number of movies that haven’t made their way to Blu-ray yet that I don’t see specific titles like ‘Shane’ singled out all that often. The complaints I hear about Paramount (and Disney) more than any other studio are that they’re terrified of their back catalogs in general…not “why isn’t ________ on Blu-ray?” so much as “why aren’t you doing ANYTHING with your library on Blu-ray?”

    Disney has done a terrific job with their animated titles but has avoided doing much of anything with live-action. Although the original ‘Tron’ is admittedly right around the corner, Disney hasn’t had a live-action catalog release, period, since ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Tombstone’ last April. They’ve started farming out their live-action catalog to the bargain-bin houses for lazy and almost certainly lackluster reissues of old DVD-era masters. They don’t care.

    Paramount sticks almost entirely to day-and-date releases, and they’ve largely avoided catalog titles more than 10-15 years old. Before ‘The Ten Commandments’ this week, their last pre-1980 catalog release was a sloppy, overly processed presentation of ‘True Grit’ in December. Before that…? ‘White Christmas’ in October. Before that…? ‘The African Queen’ a year ago! Yikes. Paramount does have a nice volley coming at the end of May, but still, for a studio with gorgeous masters of so many of their films, they sure are reluctant to do anything with them. In the documentary on ‘The Ten Commandments’, some of the folks at Paramount talk about how the new regime is more interested in preserving their heritage, and if that’s true, maybe ‘Shane’ is in their sights somewhere. It’d be pretty high on my list too.

    I think part of the problem is that the majority of classic films with any marquee value are already on DVD, and there’s a very, very, very widespread misbelief that “old” movies don’t really gain much from being released on Blu-ray. The market that’s there is a niche of a niche. Warner seems to be the only major studio that’s particularly interested in serving it.

  • bluefugue

    Singin’ in the Rain, Lawrence of Arabia… the list goes on

  • Robert Cashill

    The SCANDAL SHEET that’s not on DVD but is? Would you buy it in a box set of Blu-rays? :) Anyway it’s Columbia, not Paramount.

    “Consumer acceptance of classics on Blu-ray is painfully limited. That breaks my heart. We’ve put out a lot of great titles that have not performed particularly well. Nobody wants to hear the scenario is tough within the retail marketplace. All of our releases have been profitable but it takes a lot longer to get there. One of the biggest retailers just cut their space for catalogue titles by 30 percent. The fact is, we have to be accountable for profitability. We have a very robust schedule for classics. We thought we’d have some Marx Brothers titles [on Blu-ray] by now, but they still need work.”–George Feltenstein, Warner Archive last week.

  • Terry McCarty

    Adam Tyner wrote:

    Paramount sticks almost entirely to day-and-date releases, and they’ve largely avoided catalog titles more than 10-15 years old.

    Paramount has offloaded some of their 50s/60s back catalog to Olive Films. For example, I have a DVD of Olive’s recent issue of William Dieterle’s DARK CITY with Charlton Heston and Lizabeth Scott.

    Regarding SHANE, it should be a Criterion Blu-Ray–not something done in-house by Paramount.

  • the sordid sentinel

    Shane would be most welcome. I can’t believe Paramount doesn’t have a Chinatown blu ray on shelves yet, either. They need to get on that.

  • bmcintire

    A number of big studio titles (at Paramount, especially) got snagged in C-Reality/Millennium-platform Hi-Def transfers in the early to mid-2000s. These were costly ventures that have been rendered unusable for Blu-Ray release (but can still be broadcast in 1080i HD without problem). Many studios are balking at re-starting the $50K+ process from scratch solely for a format that may not have as long a shelf-life as hoped. It sucks, but there it is.

  • Cadavra

    LAWRENCE turns 50 next year. Jes’ sayin’.

  • Bob Violence

    Singin’ in the Rain, Lawrence of Arabia… the list goes on

    Singin’ in the Rain has been confirmed for next year. There’s no official word yet on a Lawrence BD, but Sony is currently working on an 8K scan and a new negative, so a 2012 release (probably following a limited theatrical run) seems inevitable.

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