Astaire & Rogers Collection

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Jeff
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Astaire & Rogers Collection

#1 Post by Jeff » Wed May 04, 2005 8:15 pm

August 16, 2005.
Available separately priced at $19.97 SRP each or as part of the signature collection box set, priced at $59.92 SRP.

Shall We Dance - To keep musical-comedy star Linda Keene from retiring to marry, her manager Arthur Mille, suggests to the press that she's already married to Petrov, the ballet dancer. The two ultimately decide to marry so that they can have very public divorce and clear the air, but true love blossoms between them.

Features include:

* Commentary by Kevin Cole and Hugh Martin
* They Can't Take That Away from Me: The Music of Shall We Dance featurette
* Musical Short Sheik to Sheik and Classic Cartoon Toy Town Hall

Swing Time - It's Swing Time anytime Fred and Ginger slip on their dancing shoes. Here, Fred's a gambler with a fiancée back home...but one look at Ginger and all bets are off! He pursues, she resists, and it's all tied together by a series of breathtaking dances.

Features include:

* Commentary by John Mueller, Author of Astaire Dancing
* The Swing of Things: Swing Time Step by Step featurette
* Musical Short Hotel a la Swing and Classic Cartoon Bingo Crosbyana

Top Hat - Perhaps the best remembered of the 10 Astaire/Rogers musicals, Top Hat has it all: Art Deco elegance, a wonderfully addled storyline, loopy support from skilled farceurs and the incomparable chemistry of the two leads cheek-to-cheeking to Irving Berlin's finest film score.

Features include:

* Commentary by Fred Astaire's Daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie and Film Dance Historian Larry Billman
* On Top: Inside the Success of Top Hat featurette
* Comedy Short Watch the Birdie with Bob Hope, Classic Cartoon Page Miss Glory

Follow the Fleet - In the fifth of 10 Astaire/Rogers pairings, Fred trades his top hat for a sailor's cap, Randolph Scott gets the girl (pre-Nelson Harriet Hilliard), Ginger gets a tap solo and viewers get the unending delight of seven sparkling Irving Berlin numbers, including Let Yourself Go, We Saw the Sea, the Duo's zany I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket skit and their sublimely powerful Let's Face the Music and Dance.

Features include:

* Follow the Fleet: The Origins of Those Dancing Feet featurette
* Musical Short Melody Master: Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra and Classic Cartoon Let It Be Me

The Barkleys of Broadway - The last Astaire/Rogers movie, about a show-biz team divided by career ambitions, is also the duo's only color film.

Features include:

* Reunited at MGM: Astaire and Rogers Together featurette
* Vintage Short Annie Was a Wonder and Classic Droopy Cartoon Wags to Riches


Cover Art

buskeat
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#2 Post by buskeat » Wed May 04, 2005 9:39 pm

Oh, I have the biggest grin in my face right now.

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porquenegar
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#3 Post by porquenegar » Thu May 05, 2005 12:31 pm

*Swoon*

Finally Top Hat!

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david hare
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#4 Post by david hare » Tue May 10, 2005 3:10 am

I was hoping - foolishly of course - that all my fave Astaire/Rogers pics would be in box 1 (that would have included GAY DIVORCEE, ROBERTA and for reasons I can't explain FLYING DOWN TO RIO - maybe it's Dolores and the Copacabana Palace Hotel.

ANyhow being a party pooper I have to say I don't relish BARKELEYS OF BROADWAY - frankly it's a slow warming turkey, really labors under the plot and Fred is visibly already losing confidence (He still shows this in EASTER PARADE and isn't brought out of its bad karma until BAND WAGON.)
SHALL WE DANCE is an absolutely routine Mark Sandrich (and there seems to be much more clumsy cutting in the dance routines - again look at MInelli in BAND WAGOn for exemplary setups and blocking.)

FOLLOW THE FLEET is quite tiresome until the magic of the last number "Let's Face the Music and Dance" - the only thing with grace and gravity in the movie. (And anything like the RKO "sophistication" that purrs away knowingly through the other thirties pictures.)

Having said that of course I'm buying the box (one and a half duds out of six aint bad.) And we get the glorious RKO Polgase/Carroll Clark white sets and production design in expectedly gorgeous DVD transfers!

And - if it's still in print - rush out and buy Arlene Croce's "The Films of Astaire and Rogers" with the alternate page filp animations from two routines. The loveliest book ever written on this pairing, or dance, or movie musicals ever. No mean feat this!

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#5 Post by Narshty » Tue May 10, 2005 9:58 am

I wonder if the commentary on Swing Time is the same as the one on Criterion's original laserdisc, or whether they just brought John Mueller back for an encore?

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Gregory
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#6 Post by Gregory » Tue May 10, 2005 1:48 pm

And - if it's still in print - rush out and buy Arlene Croce's "The Films of Astaire and Rogers" with the alternate page filp animations from two routines. The loveliest book ever written on this pairing, or dance, or movie musicals ever. No mean feat this!
I have to add that those looking for astute criticism of these films should certainly consult Edward Gallafent's book Astaire and Rogers without delay.

rgross
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#7 Post by rgross » Sat May 14, 2005 5:47 am

I'll have to look for both the books mentioned.

Until now I've thought the best writing on Astaire-Rogers was in James Harvey's Romantic Comedy.

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Jeff
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#8 Post by Jeff » Tue Aug 30, 2005 11:15 pm

flixyflox wrote:I really wish we already had Box 2! Life without Gay Divorcee and Roberta is unimaginable right now.

Have only watched two but let's get any negatives out of the road first. PQ and print quality varies from title to title. Top Hat and Swingtime "sparkle like champagne", while the other titles are somewhat less pristine, but this is so marginal after decades of bad, undercontrasted overscanned TV prints.
Secondly the movies are obviously uneven in value - clearly Swingtime, Gay Divorcee Roberta and Top Hat are the jewels, but even minor titles like Follow the Fleet and Shall We Dance (with Sandrich's mechanical direction slowing down the pace and rhythm of the movies) are still transcended by the numbers.

Starting with Follow the Fleet, one of the weakest pictures in the cycle, go straight to the last number "Let's Face the Music and Dance". You feel you are living again as privileged sophisticated children to the genre of the huge soundstage, and Carroll Clark's Big White Set. The sheer immensity and style of the sets (and the new faster film stock which gave David Abel at RKO - and Sol Polito at Warner new freedom to film with deep contrast) are unparalleled in American movies. If you find the number itself - so poignant and sombre - familiar in its intensity it is - written by Dietz and Schwarz it has all the gravity of their sublime score for Band Wagon. Ginger wears a weighted gown with weighted arms, and this seems to transform the dance into a series of withheld impulses. The end is stunning: as the pair walk off to stage left - this became a signature finale for them - you count one to four and they simultaneously do a jerk/shrug back of the head with one knee raised , walking on to their fate. Absolutely astonishing.
Top Hat is entirely rapturous for the first hour (and the Piccolino number in the last third redeems the talkfest that has overtaken the movie at this point.) This movie has to be seen with Gay Divorcee which also contains the spellbinding "Continental" - and for once full tribute to Sandrich (and Hermes Pan) for the audacity of this number as well, just short of 50 couples in black or white, then black and white, then white and black or all black or all white, shot in a relentless 17 minute montage of Eisensteinian delirium.
(If only we had this title in Box 1 as well.)

This box is just life affirming for me, like the Freed Unit output. I just hope the current unfashionableness of the classic Hollywood musical doesn't result in poor sales and a reduced chance of ever seeing Box 2.
If for no other reason Fred (and Ginger) demonstrate totally that dancing was acting and acting - great acting - is so rooted in movement and a state of grace. Just Buy the box!!! And go to heaven!

Minor thing perhaps but the extras watched so far are terrific! On Fleet for instance they have included one of the Lewis Lunceford Vitaphone shorts - a complete killer which ends with the cokiest, fastest version of Nagasaki I have ever heard! And the cartoon is a devilish piece of post-code naughtiness about an unfaithful mother hen who has an illicit night of love with a Crosby-esque rooster and returns to the roost to repent the wages of sin, having given birth to a brood of chicks, one of whom sings like Crosby!

It doesn't get any better than this!!

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david hare
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#9 Post by david hare » Sat Sep 03, 2005 8:29 pm


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porquenegar
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#10 Post by porquenegar » Tue Sep 06, 2005 3:11 pm

flixyflox wrote:From John Rockwell at NY Times:


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/movies/02rock.html
Here's the text for the September 2nd article:

=======================

September 2, 2005
Escaping Depression? Just Dance Blues Away
By JOHN ROCKWELL

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made 10 musicals together, from "Flying Down to Rio" in 1933, when they didn't yet get star billing, to "The Barkleys of Broadway" in 1949, a full decade after the ninth and a kind of coda to the rest.

At their peak, between 1935 and 1937, they were America's beloved couple. Their musicals offered the purest form of escape from the woes of the Depression, a fantasy of the 1920's seen through the darker prism of the 30's. They provided the opportunity to commission and inspire the country's great songwriters - Berlin, Kern, Gershwin. These films, these actors/singers/dancers, have since also inspired a small library of critical commentary, of which Arlene Croce's "Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book," now lamentably out of print, remains the classiest.

Still, any excuse to write about Astaire and Rogers is always welcome, and Warner Home Video has provided a dandy excuse. In Volume 1 of the "Astaire & Rogers Collection," we have five DVDs of five Astaire-Rogers movies. Since there are five more, and this is billed as Volume 1, we can safely assume a Volume 2 is in the works, though Warner Brothers coyly won't confirm that.

Still, these DVDs, in their crisp, vivid transfers with sometimes illuminating, sometimes tedious extras, include three of the films generally considered to be the best of their best: "Top Hat" (1935), "Swing Time" (1936) and "Shall We Dance" (1937), along with "Follow the Fleet" (1936). "Fleet" has its improbabilities (Astaire as a gum-chewing swab), but also "Let's Face the Music and Dance," which floats blissfully free of the plot and may count as their greatest self-contained dance drama. The Warner set is rounded out by "The Barkleys of Broadway," their only one in color and their only one not for RKO, in which the magic is pretty much gone but which is still full of craft and nostalgia and a plausibly witty mirroring of the popular image of their collaboration (onstage harmony, backstage dissonance).

What made the Astaire-Rogers team great was talent, synergy and context. Rogers was already a budding movie star when Astaire did his first film in 1933. But he was long-established in vaudeville and on Broadway. When the Astaire-Rogers collaboration took off, Astaire and his dance master, Hermes Pan, laboriously worked out the dance numbers for the next film while Rogers was off making something else. Then Pan taught Rogers the moves, Astaire and Rogers danced, and America swooned.

Astaire's sister, Adele, was widely considered his "best" partner, before her retirement into marriage, but Rogers clicked with the broader public through film, a simultaneously intimate and populist medium. It has been widely, endlessly repeated that, in terms of their images, Astaire brought her class and she brought him sex. She also brought him emotion and romance. Astaire was never an actor with a wide range; he looked like the Joker in "Batman" and always played the dapper sophisticate, nervously skimming the surface of feeling.

Rogers, in turn, was never a classic screen beauty. But she glowed in the best of these Astaire-Rogers films. Partly that has to do with a seemingly unstoppable parade of gorgeous costumes, like those (ostrich? chicken?) feathers in "Cheek to Cheek." But her glow had even more to do with their chemistry.

She could act; some of her reaction shots are really moving. But together, in their dancing (and his singing, thin-voiced but consummately stylish), they made a new kind of acting - dancing that was acting all by itself. Their dancing (meaning his choreography and their execution of it) was formal and reserved, like him. It was ballroom dancing mixed with swing and jazz and tap. But though some of the virtuosity remains remarkable, it was never vulgar and flashy like ballroom dancing today, at least as epitomized by reality TV shows like "Dancing With the Stars."

The mid-30's was the era, after all, in which the Motion Picture Production Code had cracked down, to the point of prudery, on the more salacious excesses of Hollywood in the 20's and early 30's. There was never anything covert in the sexual play of Astaire and Rogers. Their dancing together was sex; it was romance. "Of course, Ginger was able to accomplish sex through dance," Astaire once said. "We told more through our movements instead of the big clinch. We did it all in dance."

For me, the magic in their relationship had as much or more to do with the lead-ins as with the dance itself; more with foreplay than consummation. Often the song itself, sung by one or the other or both, precedes the dance, as in "Cheek to Cheek" from "Top Hat." In "Let's Face the Music and Dance," there is a risible yet moving mime scene in which both are about to commit suicide before they find each other. It is the slow, rocking synchronicity of their initial dance movements, swaying and walking before the actual ballroom steps kick in, that seems particularly moving.

For an American, it is the Americanness of Astaire (from Omaha, Neb.) and Rogers (from Independence, Mo.) that shines through. Most of these films have formulaic plots straight out of 19th-century French farce and aspire to a faux-European, Hollywoodized idea of elegance (Ms. Croce described the Venice of "Top Hat" as a "celestial powder room"). Astaire, especially, is prized as a last bastion of elegance by those who resent rock 'n' roll and the seemingly anarchic social eruptions in American life since the 1960's. But he helped presage that rebellion.

The relation to black dance and dancers in these films looks awkward today, especially the happy blacks in the steamship boiler room of "Slap That Bass" from "Shall We Dance" or the black-faced "Bojangles of Harlem" number in "Swing Time," a supposed homage to the great black tap dancer Bill Robinson. Astaire and Rogers were Caucasians in a society still dominated by Caucasian mores; whites assumed they were Americans.

Yet these musicals did much to democratize dance (high culture is presumed to be pompous, as in the clumsy ballet parodies in "Shall We Dance"), and to help crack open the bland gentility of white America with the livelier energies of black America. Astaire and Rogers took that racial and social fermentation and made it into art.

Social and historical contextualization is all well and good, but these movies are not just of their time; they're timeless. That is because the tension and release, the hostility and amorous ecstasy of their dance resist aging.

Some of the musical shorts these DVDs offer as extras look appallingly quaint. When Astaire and Rogers sing and dance together, their feature films escape time. They are popular art as elevated as any high art ever made.

The "Astaire & Rogers Collection (Volume 1)" from Warner Home Video consists of five DVDs. The collection carries a list price of $59.92; the individual titles are $19.97.

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david hare
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#11 Post by david hare » Wed Sep 07, 2005 11:19 pm

John Rockwell's very fine, affectionate piece raises the welcome subject of the music and indeed the movies' relationship to black music. Among the volumes of things one could/would like to say about the Astaire Rogers cycle - the music remains central.

For a start Astaire, and his crucial back-of-scenes collaborators Hal Bourne and Hermes Pan brought with them the whole tradition of musical theatre to the movies right up with the first movie in the cycle, Flying Down to Rio, although the most noteworthy hit in that delirious, perfectly modest and lovely picture is probably the first of the mega production numbers, The Carioca, - followed by the sublime Continental in Gay Divorcee and the Piccolino in Top Hat: all three of these were intended to and indeed did inspire dance crazes. Centrally, the performers and artists working on the movies brought the current American popular music to the biggest audiences in history, at least as big as radio and usually even before the radio. Thus old and newly written music by Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Schwarz and Dietz, Cole Porter and lately, in Shall we Dance a largely purpose written score by George and Ira Gershwin were channelled through these movies in a specific formative way to a mass audience. It goes without saying that the music is at the very highest level of inspiration and expression. The movies take it even further, for instance introducing real syncopation, and effectively insinuating the far more rhythmically interesting black music of the period into what would eventually become swing. Thus at some point in, say, The Piccolino by Berlin, Ginger sings a third arrhythmic "hot" chorus of the lyrics, and these hot/syncopations of material often function as intros or leadins to the dance routine. Some newer viewers might find Astaire's hommage to Bill Robinson in the Bojangles of Harlem number from Swingtime embarrassing today, given the blackface elements etc but there is no point denying the genuine debt to Bill by Fred, and his and Pan's absorption and reinterpretation of serious black music and dance into a real , vital style of American popular music which , by the late thirties has become so powerful a form there is simply never again any excuse for drawing divisions between "serious" and popular music at this stratospheric level of artistry.

Fasincatingly the second last movie from the thirties, Shall we Dance in this box (for me one of the least magnificent of the cycle if I can put it that way) plays with the notion of both indulging "high art" via Balanchine and Gershwin, while poking fun at it. But the movies themselves are already beyond any rationale for "joking". And what begins as a rather unsuccessful and clumsy scenario about hoity-toits and down at homers just slides upwards and upwards into a celestial musical picture (alas his very last) by Gershwin. Examples - the wordless Walking the Dog sequence for which Gershwin does the usual studio (normally Hal Bourne, or Roger Edens at Freed/MGM) leadin music. THe three minute leadin is nothing less than a masterpiece of high syncopation and chromatic harmony for fourteen instruments and it segues into perhaps Gershwin's most technically "difficult" and breathtaking songs -"They all Laughed". If only he had lived to write more movie music!!

So much more to say about these movies - and all praise to the bros Warner. A request to them however - how nice it would be to include the 1939 Vitaphone short of Artie Shaw's totally magnificent "Symphony of Swing" in the next box set. This fifteen minute miracle is the final polished, sparkling densely conceived expression of "Swing" at its peak. The final crystallization of much that Astaire and Hal Bourne and RKO took and made into gold.

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#12 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Oct 09, 2005 7:22 pm

Swing Time: I love this film. I've watched the DVD twice, once with the very enjoyable commentary. In the sequence when the four of them go to the countryside on a snowy day, when Astaire and Rogers first sit down on the bench inside the open-air shelter, the picture wobbles for about at least 30 seconds. Did anyone else encounter this problem?

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david hare
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#13 Post by david hare » Sun Oct 09, 2005 9:12 pm

Yes I did - there are several minor print distractions during the movie, this being one. I actually wonder if Warner used two different prints to put the DVD together. Have you noticed the rather different B&W tonality from scene to scene, for instance prior to the Bojangles in Harlem number the shots look like most of the movie - i.e. nicely graded gray scale, grain etc. Then the films stock itself in the Bojangles number seems quite different - darker, more contrasted, quite different tonally. Of course the sequence is full of optical effects requiring mattes or multiple exposures etc so this may be the reason.

Anyhow I think it and Top Hat are the best of the transfers. (And the others aint half bad.)

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#14 Post by artfilmfan » Mon Oct 10, 2005 11:46 am

Yes, I did notice the unevenness in the picture quality of Swing Time. Top Hat (the only other DVD from this collection that I bought) also has occasional glitches in the picture. I wish WB had done a better job with these releases.

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htdm
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#15 Post by htdm » Sat Jun 24, 2006 7:44 pm

No official announcement from Warner's yet, but here is the box art. Look on the side of the box and you'll see very tiny cover art for: Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Carefree, and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle.

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Jeff
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#16 Post by Jeff » Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:46 pm

From Davis DVD:
Warner Home Video will release The Astaire & Rogers Collection vol. 2 on October 17th. The five-disc set will include the films Carefree, Flying Down To Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Each title will include newly remastered fullscreen transfers, along with audio commentaries, featurettes, vintage musical shorts and cartoons. Retail will be $59.92 for the set, or $19.97 per title individually.

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htdm
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#17 Post by htdm » Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:25 am

More details on extras for each disc at DVD Times.

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Matt
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#18 Post by Matt » Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:47 am

Also announced at DVD Times is news that there will also be a 12-disc (!) set of all the films, a new documentary, and a 10-song CD. It will also have the usual collector's junk. What's extra cool is that there will be a partial set released for those who have the first set.

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htdm
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#19 Post by htdm » Tue Jul 11, 2006 1:22 am

I'm hoping that the "empty sleeves" in the 12-disc boxset for the five films released last year means ThinPacks.

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Derek Estes
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#20 Post by Derek Estes » Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:16 am

dmkb wrote:I'm hoping that the "empty sleeves" in the 12-disc boxset for the five films released last year means ThinPacks.
Me too. I'm in the process right now of converting my keep-case discs into slim cases, and I would love it if they would just do it for me.

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Jeff
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#21 Post by Jeff » Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:10 pm

DVD Times has all of the artwork up. It looks like they're going with regular keepcases for the Volume 2 set, but it's hard to tell if they're using thinpacks for the massive 12 disc set. Either way, everything looks very nice.

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htdm
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#22 Post by htdm » Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:27 pm

Wow. and yum. That photo of the large set looks like ThinPacks to me.

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#23 Post by filmnoir1 » Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:23 pm

Does anyone know the exact date that the gift set is to be released? The second volume is due on October 17th, is it possible that the gift set will be out on the same day or will this be a Christmas season release?

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htdm
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#24 Post by htdm » Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:55 pm

My reading of the announcement is that both vol 2 and the Ulitimate 12-disc set will be available on the same day, making it possible for Warner's to make good its promise to those who already bought volume 1 to pick up the Ultimate set for a reduced price.

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Gigi M.
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#25 Post by Gigi M. » Fri Aug 04, 2006 11:17 am

Still no word of the promise set for those of us who already picked vol 1.

Amazon pre-order:


Ultimate Collection


Vol 2.

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