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Customer Review

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant movie, nice package, so-so transfer, 4 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The Uninvited [1944] [DVD] (DVD)
Although I would enthusiastically recommend purchasing this item (the movie is a genuine classic, available for the first time on DVD), I must confess that I was somewhat disappointed by the much-hyped "restored" material used for the actual transfer. It's a 35mm print of THE UNINVITED to be sure, with all the strength and focus of a first generation print... but right off the bat, that happens to be below current state-of-the-art home video standards. The great DVD/Blu-ray transfers nowadays are scanned directly from the original negative (whether we're talking FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE or Criterion's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), rather than an IP (a brand new first generation print made from that negative), and the difference in quality can be startling. Because this new DVD employs a physical print instead of a "generation ahead" direct scan, the grey tones are fine but less "creamy," there are minor white specks and dirt marks here and there, reel change cue marks haven't been removed (so much for this being a "restoration"!), and most annoyingly, there are flickering masses of grain that inhabit most of the shadows and mid-tones, a genuine irritant in a spooky story like this. Some scenes are almost rendered unwatchable by this factor: Rick, Pam and Lizzie walking up the stairs as the candles flicker, or a contented Stella watching the sunrise with her ghost mother. These darkly-lit scenes would be problematic even with a negative scan; with a print, they amount to a grainy flicker-fest. Bottom line? BUY THIS DVD, by all means; the movie's great, it IS original 35mm material, the booklet's pretty enjoyable, the radio show extras are fun for comparative study, and it is the film's first DVD release, making this "Special Edition" totally collectible. But I believe we haven't seen the ultimate release of this wonderful ghost thriller. I'd like to think, for an American Blu-ray edition (hopefully licensed by Criterion), the original negative will indeed be scanned and THE UNINVITED will look as preternaturally perfect as, say, CASABLANCA, with no grainy snowstorms or minor physical flaws to interfere with the viewer's enjoyment.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Nov 2012 13:22:56 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Nov 2012 15:39:59 GMT
croaksnooze says:
I agree with you that the DVD is highly recommendable, but if I may say so, I think that your use of the term 'restored' is mistaken. The box plainly states 'remastered' (i.e. newly-prepared for DVD - in its simplest sense, a lossless transfer), whereas the term you've employed would mean that there'd been a complete physical and digital facelift. I'm glad that there hasn't! Of course it'd be pointless to argue over personal taste, but I happen to prefer warm, natural originals to cold, artificial versions which have been unrealistically tweaked and doctored. Like many viewers, I don't object to a few inevitable speckles and scratches in an old film and find that they definitely add character and enhance atmosphere. It's certainly an exaggeration to claim, as you've done, that some scenes are 'almost unwatchable'. It seems unlikely that a better release than the current one will appear in the short (or, for all we know, long) term - I'm taking account of the entire package, not just of the film itself - so I'd say: live now, relax and just dig it!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2012 17:35:35 GMT
This is the same transfer, taken from a print, that's been in circulation for over fifteen years; the implication from the packaging is that we're getting something new and special. We are not. Moreover, I'm certainly not pushing for an "unrealistically tweaked and doctored" version of the film, just a scan from the original negative, which will produce superior picture quality. If the original neg doesn't exist anyone, then it will take a serious restoration -- not just a perfunctory polish -- to do justice to THE UNINVITED's subtle tones of gray and black. It's been reported that TCM's current version of the film is a step up from this old, grain-flickering transfer, so a superior incarnation may already have arrived.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2012 18:30:41 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Nov 2012 19:07:42 GMT
croaksnooze says:
Interesting, but I gather that as Universal has approved this one, it's unlikely that another'll be hot on its heels. The good news is that most viewers aren't technicians who live in a laboratory: we watch films with our imagination and are very grateful to the dedicated little releasing companies which take the trouble to save these intriguing titles from oblivion.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2012 19:37:06 GMT
Hate to burst your bubble, but I'm not a technician living in a laboratory; I'm a screenwriter (Stan Winston's PUMPKINHEAD) with several non-fiction books about film and film history to his credit (TOP 100 HORROR MOVIES among them; THE UNINVITED is naturally on the list!). As I am called upon to review films and analyze their making and impact, I'd like to think I approach my work with the right balance of a fan's enthusiasm and a professional critic's sensitivity and intelligence. Of course I watch films "with my imagination," and of course I'm grateful that small companies like Twilight Time and Olive are releasing titles that might not be available elsewhere. That's why I heartily recommended this Special Edition. But a conscientious reviewer cannot help but note that this "remastered" transfer was in truth mastered some fifteen years ago (a lot has happened in the techno-digital home entertainment market since then), and that while the 35mm print element used is crisp and strong, it is nevertheless assaulted by flickering grain in half-tone areas, a real problem in a ghost story where our eyes are trained on evocative shadows and dark compositional areas. Croaksnooze, what can I tell you? Everybody's entitled to their opinion, and everybody's eyes see what they see. I can go up to the screen with a pointer and say, "See? Right over here... And here. And here. All these tiny particles that are flickering in and out? That's not a ghostly manifestation... it's pronounced grain, and it happens to be distracting us from fully enjoying the movie. What's that, you say? You can't see it? Or, if you can, you're so darned pleased that this release exists to begin with that it doesn't seem to bother you? Fine." I'm pleased that this release exists as well, as I've said in my review. But, in my opinion, a true film buff wants his favorite movies to look as good as possible, and settling for less because of abstract "you're not grateful!" emotionalism is hardly a step in the right direction. If you champion inferiority, then that's all you'll wind up getting. A movie like THE UNINVITED deserves better, and hopefully will be treated to a fresh, state-of-the-art, 21st Century master from a superior source for its inevitable U.S. release (Criterion, are you listening?).

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2012 20:44:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Nov 2012 21:43:06 GMT
croaksnooze says:
Mr Gerani, rather than prolong this obviously fruitless exchange, and despite your evident anxiety to justify your position, I'd like to suggest that you read the reviews of the film in question at www.theartsshelf.com/reviews/movies/dvd-sd/the-uninvited/ and www.mondo-digital.com/uninvited.html - both of which, I believe, have put the case far more eloquently and pertinently than either of us has done!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 00:54:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 01:06:51 GMT
No embarrassment intended, but you've strongly recommended a review (The Art Shelf) that gushes over the quality of the U.K.'s "brilliantly restored edition" after you've declared (in your first statement above, line 1) that there is no restoration involved in this edition. Who are we to believe... you or the review you recommend? Reality check, folks: This is not a restored version of THE UNINVITED, or even a re-mastered edition, and that's the whole point. It's the same sub-par 35mm master we've been looking at for the past fifteen years, which looks fine in well-lit scenes, but is blasted by flickering grain patches in mid-tone or dark sequences. The original neg needs to be located; if it no longer exists (many '40s Paramount movies exist only as fine-grain positives these days, because of the studio's famous deal with MCA back in the '50s), a legitimate restoration should be done to replace an aging, below-current-standards master. And that's that. I can't imagine any film buff disagreeing with this common sense conclusion. As mentioned before, getting frustrated that some fans are apparently "ungrateful" or "too demanding" has absolutely nothing to do with the real issue, and actually works against our common goal. Fortunately, there are reports that TCM ran an improved version of THE UNINVITED just a few weeks ago, which means a better incarnation may have already been found. Many collectors hoped that the much-hyped U.K. edition would reflect this long-awaited upgrade, and were understandably disappointed when they got the same old version in an otherwise charming set. We can only hope that when the movie is finally released in America, whether by Universal or Criterion, in Blu-ray or standard DVD, it will be mastered from a superior source. That's all, Croaksnooze... no "anxiety to justify a position" here, just a collection of facts and hopes. Thank you sir, and good night.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 08:43:47 GMT
croaksnooze says:
Alas, have you still not understood? There you go with more irrelevant technical ranting, reminding me of some kind of latter-day Don Quixote armed with a keyboard instead of a lance. Those of us who don't have a hobbyhorse to ride find the websites to which I directed you most illuminating; sincerely appreciative reviews are infinitely preferable to miserable griping about hypothetical versions of films. If you're compelled to gainsay all viewpoints other than your own, then the labour's lost: let's bandy words no more.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 08:51:58 GMT
No more word-bandying, agreed! And no hard feelings...

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Nov 2012 01:24:40 GMT
What a bitch fight this is.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Nov 2012 01:30:11 GMT
Was. We've declared a truce.
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