Glenn Erickson is a very experienced and talented film editor, but he's also known as the DVD Savant, in which capacity he reviews tons of DVDs for the excellent DVD Talk web site. This week he covered the recent release of the 1976 film Alice, Sweet Alice and expressed his serious reservations about the quality of the transfer by Hen's Tooth Video, calling it "a real disappointment, an unimpressive older transfer given an indifferent encoding. In the sad fate that befalls many independent films, it's likely that the title was offered for licensing as-is."

While some "oddball independent productions" are treated with respect and "beautifully re-mastered," Erickson says that "other deserving titles are stuck with rights holders that refuse to invest in film preservation or even transfer them properly." That reminded me of a brief discussion at Mobius Home Video Forum, where Lang Thompson posted that the Cinema Epoch DVD release of the 1937 Japanese film Street Angel displayed "much print damage," "numerous black frames" and "plenty of blotches." Another Cinema Epoch release, the 1948 Chinese film Spring in a Small Town, was reviewed by Andrew Chan at The House Next Door and Chan acknowledged the "fuzzy images" and "uneven soundtrack," not to mention that the English subtitles did not always match the Mandarin dialogue. Still, he felt the release deserved attention because "Western access to such films remains limited."

I don't mean to pick on tiny distributors who, it could be argued, are making available films that might not otherwise be seen. But shouldn't there be some kind of minimum standard for quality? Of course, that raises the question: who would enforce such a standard? Would that keep certain films from ever being seen because it wouldn't be financially feasible to recoup the cost of purchasing distribution rights? Should lower-quality releases be clearly labeled as such? What responsibility rests with the original rights holders? What do you think?
categories Cinematical