Mike Covered With Bugs

The Criterion grain monks of the Abbey of St.Martin have done it again. They’ve taken a splendidly captured black-and-white classic — in this case Robert Aldrich‘s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) — and made it look a little bit grainier and fuzzier in certain portions than it did on the last DVD version. And, paradoxically, sometimes a little better. And with a wider image. So it’s not bad, but it hasn’t given me one of those Bluray highs that I live for either.

All I know is that I was 100% delighted with the MGM Home Video DVD (which came out exactly ten years ago) and that I feel a bit mixed about the Criterion Bluray.

I don’t hate it, but I’m not that enamored either. It’s an overly purist monk job, and you know how I feel about those.

I’m not putting down Criterion’s Deadly disc entirely. I’m saying it’s an in-and-outer — at times thrilling and at other times dupey, at times radiant and sharp and looking like a real 1955 movie showing at the Brooklyn Paramount, at other times grainy and then suddenly razor-sharp knockout again. But too often it looks smothered with a billion digital mosquitoes. I’m sorry but I would have been happier if the Universal Home Video guys who slightly DNR’ed Psycho had gotten hold of this one. It looks okay, acceptable, pretty good, very good but also — too often — a little bit crappy.

What can I tell you? When I watched the 2001 Deadly DVD on my 36″ Sony flatscreen analog beast, it looked like a perfect dream — sharp, slick, satiny. Now it looks covered by a Biblical plague, a swarm of micro-sized Egyptian water bugs.

  • Robert Cashill

    “Certainly there is no need to compare to the non-anamorphic, boosted SD transfer that has more artefacts and a cropped frame. The Criterion 1080P image shows some occasionally impressive detail, sublime contrast and thick grain that mark it as a very film-like presentation. It is certainly not glossy and the image, while never looking pristine, brings back a wonderfully textured look to Kiss Me Deadly. Aside from a few scratches under the surface there is no damage to speak of and aside from some minor fluctuation the gritty presentation is consistent and should be very pleasing to Noir fans.”–DVD Beaver, http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/dvd_reviews51/kiss_me_deadly.htm

  • Jeffrey Wells

    DVD Beaver Bluray reviews are often too polite. They almost always go easy or sidestep the tough verdicts. They didn’t even touch the Barry Lyndon 1.78 vs. 1.66 aspect ratio scandal. “Thick grain” indeed! Criterion’s Deadly Bluray works in the sense that it’s almost appropriate (if you want to take that position) tat it should look like a movie playing at a second-run theatre in Brooklyn or Bakersfield or Winnetka or Worcester at the height of the Eisenhower administration.

  • chad_pole

    Jeff, I assume you realize that blu-ray has around 2.5 times the clarity of DVD… so naturally, grain will show up more prevalently. The fact that it wasn’t as dominant the DVD means nothing… the loss of resolution and probably some DNR made it less detectible. But Criterion knows what it’s doing, and transfer films faithfully from their negatives or best prints available.

    You know this.

    Just like wires that are suddenly now visible on The Wizard of Oz or very noticeable in War of the Worlds, grain will also show up more prominently. Because its there in the film.

  • Joe Gillis

    Chad, do not try to reason with him on this. Jeff knows everything you’re saying; he’s just baiting for page hits.

  • The Pope

    Wells,

    You’re an ego-maniacal, self-righteous, hypocritical blowhard. You foam at the mouth because the aspect ratio of Barry Lyndon is “changed”, but have no problem with Kiss Me Deadly which was shot 1.66 and is screened here at 1.77.

    You never spoke with Kubrick, you never met with Kubrick, you never worked with Kubrick, you never acted in any one of Kubrick’s films, and yet you know better than Leon Vitali who did all those things. And that’s not to mention either Jan Harlan who executive produced Kubrick’s last four films, or Christiana Kubrick who was married to the man for 41 years.

    I’ll say it again. You’re an ego-maniacal, self-righteous, hypocritical blowhard.

  • Bob Violence

    You foam at the mouth because the aspect ratio of Barry Lyndon is “changed”, but have no problem with Kiss Me Deadly which was shot 1.66 and is screened here at 1.77.

    Criterion’s Kiss Me Deadly is unquestionably 1.66:1, I don’t know where you’re getting 1.77:1 from

  • The Pope

    Bob Violence,

    According to the amazon link Wells has given, it says that the aspect ratio is 1.77. I have not seen Criterion’s DVD, but Wells has and he himself says “And with a wider image.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Kiss-Me-Deadly-Criterion-Collection/dp/B004S801YK/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1308346107&sr=1-1

    Yet, he accepts this while turning rabid on Barry Lyndon.

  • Bob Violence

    Amazon is complete garbage for aspect ratio information and a lot of information generally

    I have the Criterion disc and it’s undeniably 1.66:1, if you don’t believe me then just look at the DVD Beaver caps

  • Bob Violence

    other recent examples of Amazon AR ignorance

    The Makioka Sisters (listed as 1.77:1, it’s 1.85:1)

    Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (listed as 1.85:1, it’s actually 2.35)

    Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (listed as 1.85:1, they’re 2.39:1)

    also at one point they listed Spartacus as a 1.66:1 disc

  • The Pope

    Bob,

    I’m not taking issue with what you are clearly listing as facts. I am taking issue with Wells who, even in his own words, admits that Criterion Collection issue of Kiss Me Deadly has “a wider image.”

    I haven’t seen the Criterion issue but given that Wells accepts it as being wider and spits blood about how the Kubricks have ruined the transfer Barry Lyndon, I know him to be a blowhard hypoctite.

    The way he carries on, you’d swear he owns certain films.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to The Pope: Amazon got it wrong…again. The Kiss Me Deadly Bluray definitely offers a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio. There are slender vertical black bars on either side of my TV screen’s 16 x 9 image.

    Wells to The Pope: No — you’re the ego-maniacal, self-righteous blowhard. And your medication has led you into an absurd rationale. I had to have known or worked with Stanley Kubrick, you’re saying, to know what I’m talking about regarding the Barry Lyndon aspect ratio?

    As I stated/referenced in one of my articles, Kubrick himself approved the 1.66 aspect ratio on a Barry Lyndon laser disc and a ’99 DVD when he was alive. This didn’t sink in before so let’s be sure you’re getting this. Kubrick approved the 1.66 to 1 Barry Lyndon aspect ratio when he was alive. It says so on the laser disc jacket (which came out, as I recall, in ’95 or thereabouts), and the DVD that came out in ’99. (He died in March ’99 and the DVD came out later that year, but there’s no reason to suspect or presume that Warner Home Video didn’t mask the film according to his wishes.)

    In fact, AFTER KUBRICK’S DEATH Vitali himself, the keeper of the flame, went with a 1.66 aspect ratio on the DVD that came out in 2001. So according to your logic (and to Vitali’s revisionist thinking, which was reflected in the Kubrick coffee-table book that Glenn Kenny spoke of), Kubrick wanted the film to be seen at a 1.77 to 1 aspect ratio all those years (and may well have resigned himself to a 1.77 or 1.85 a.r. when it was shown in U.S. theatres during its initial theatrical run in ’75) and yet he was (let’s be imaginative) forced to accept a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio for the mid ’90s Lyndon laser disc and the ’99 DVD version by gremlin terrorists who slipped into his home and twisted his arms and held a gun to his head and said, “1.66 or you die”?

    And it was only when the Kubrick coffee-table book came out and particularly when the Bluray came out that Vitali saw the light, realized his ethical responsibility to his former employer and declared that the 1.66 aspect ratio presentations of the past were somehow misguided, despite the fact that they emanated from Kubrick’s own wishes and specifications? Kubrick was a believer in higher, boxier a.r.’s and in presenting the film the way he saw it through the viewfinder. Vitali explained this at length in that DVD Talk interview I quoted. I will never believe Leon Vitali on this issue — NEVER. Because there’s NO LOGICAL REASON TO DO SO.

    Wells to chad pole: Exactly — Bluray offers much more specific information and will capture the actual state of the film much more vividly and precisely. So if the actual final celluloid image is smothered in micro-grain mosquitoes, the Bluray will capture that and present that to us. And that’s a good thing? I don’t think so. It’s all about the quality of the materials when the Bluray mastering begins. I didn’t see this level of grain on Criterion’s Sweet Smell of Success Bluray, which I highly approve of. There is grain on Criterion’s Repulsion Bluray but the grain levels are nowhere near as obnoxious and/or problematic as they sometimes are on the Kiss Me Deadly Bluray. I WORSHIP the crystal clear, non-grainy look of MGM’s Some Like It Hot Bluray and Warner Home Video’s Casablanca and Treasure of the Sierra Madre Blurays. I concurrently also prefer the slightly DNR’ed look of Universal’s Psycho Bluray. Why? Because it looks great — better, in fact, than it looked to Hitchcock as he saw the final cut in a Paramount screening room. The bottom line is that the Kiss Me Deadly Bluray is an in-and-out affair, as I explained above, and when it’s not looking good and looking sandstormed it’s not what anyone would call a pleasurable viewing experience.

    Oh, and Chad? The monkey wires are NOT visible on the Wizard of Oz Bluray. They were digitally erased. George Feltenstein asked Robert Harris what to do and Harris’s answer was, “If 1939 audiences saw the wires, leave them in. But if they didn’t see the wires and in fact weren’t intended to see them, which was the case, take them out.”

  • Bob Violence

    @chad

    I am taking issue with Wells who, even in his own words, admits that Criterion Collection issue of Kiss Me Deadly has “a wider image.”

    it has a wider image because the MGM version was cropped on the sides — again, go look at the DVD Beaver caps

    The bottom line is that the Kiss Me Deadly Bluray is an in-and-out affair, as I explained above, and when it’s not looking good and looking sandstormed it’s not what anyone would call a pleasurable viewing experience.

    what is “not looking good”

    I think grain looks great, grain 4ever

  • Bob Violence

    ^second part of that post was @ Wells, not Chad

  • Bob Violence

    …and the first part was for The Pope, not Chad

    damn all-nighters

  • The Pope

    Wells,

    Still doesn’t explain why you vented your spleen about Lyndon while you accept Deadly being stretched.

  • Bob Violence

    how on earth are you concluding it’s “stretched,” the MGM disc was 1.64:1 (not 1.66:1) and there is actual honest to god extra information on the sides of the Criterion version

    honestly of all the things to call Wells out on

  • Jeffrey Wells

    The visual information shown on the Kiss Me Deadly Bluray seems to cover a wider field of vision. There’s more to see within the frame. It’s not stretched.

  • Mr. Palmer

    Wells is off the mailing list, clearly. funny to think that my name has been on the mailing list for new releases since I worked there before DVDs were even around. Guess I stayed in their good graces. Shame Wells can’t play ball.

  • Baron Munchausen-by-Proxy

    On behalf of the rest of the commentariat, “Pope”: please stop. You’re just another of the angry walking-banished, returned to torment JW – and you grabbed at an illusory brass ring this time and failed famously. So you’ve humiliated yourself enough for the weekend, at least, dontchathink?

  • The Pope

    Baron,

    Certainly, enough for the weekend. So, thanks I will stop. Error made and criticism accepted.

    Contritely,

    The Pope (men in pointy hats are not above atonement)

  • chad_pole

    But you cant compare Kiss me Deadly to Sweet Smell of Success, or Night of the Hunter, or any other film, because EVERY FILM IS SHOT UNDER DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES, WITH DIFFERENT FILM STOCKS, LIGHTING, LENSES, ETC. No two films ever look exactly alike, so why should all blu-ray’s look like the same cow?

    Bottom line is that this film looks how it should, and that’s all we can ask for. Not a scrubbed waxy mess of DNR, just so it looks smooth and pretty.

    Even Robert Harris would agree with me.

  • chad_pole

    I love this line from the blu-ray.com review:

    “The soft, often blurry scenes from the old non-anamorphic MGM R1 SDVD release of the film now look crisp and vibrant.”

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    I had a put up a couple of very droll comments but they were “accidentally” erased by Jeff. I’m sure that my saying that if the grain monks ever got together with the 1.85 fascists they could make Jeff feel sufficiently oppressed to write his own “Darkness At Noon.”