Buster Keaton on DVD

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Jonathan S
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#51 Post by Jonathan S » Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:26 pm

Forgotten Goldfish wrote:So I was wondering if anybody owns the Buster Keaton Chronicles R2 set. Are the transfers about the same as Kino?
Although Network's Buster Keaton Chronicles set can be picked up very cheaply, I'm afraid you get what you pay for. About half the films are the same transfers as Kino's but they look considerably softer. Most of the rest are terrible Raymond Rohauer prints with re-made intertitles and generally poor image quality (far inferior to the Rohauer prints that used to be shown on British TV). Worst of all is Steamboat Bill Jr which, if I recall correctly (I quickly sold this set!), is both cropped to widescreen and squeezed. One or two of the shorts are missing. The feature-length "documentary" is a waste of space (mainly just long clips of films also in the set).

The set does have Our Hospitality and The General in the Photoplay editions with Carl Davis scores but Kino is re-releasing the latter film, with the Davis score as one of the options, in November. The image quality will no doubt be much better - and there are already visually superior editions, albeit with other scores. Our Hospitality looks very soft - softer, in fact, than my off-air VHS of the same Photoplay version!

Tolmides
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#52 Post by Tolmides » Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:47 am

Oh dear. Thanks for the warning Jon. I guess I'll wait a while to see if any better sets come out. If it takes too long, I may end up buying the mammoth Kino set. It's a fair wad of cash though. :(

Jonathan S
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#53 Post by Jonathan S » Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:28 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:This is not really relating to Keaton on DVD, but is an advertisement for a Keaton Convention taking place next month in Michigan, promising two Keaton films not seen since their initial release. The way the advertisement is worded makes it sound more like alternate versions of two of Keaton's films, rather than any entirely new discoveries. Does anyone know anything about this?
According to one initial report on the Keaton Yahoo group, the silent feature discovery sounds like a disappointment after the months of teasing and speculation:
It was a 46-minute rough cut of "Our Hospitality," called "Hospitality," Buster's original (and, we suspect, preferred title). It wasn't a preview print, but a rough cut that seemed designed as a story outline, perhaps so Buster could see how his first feature-length narrative ran as a story, with less emphasis on gags. There is no new footage, but there are some notable difference in editing, both structure-wise and scene-wise. I'm sure some of the folks who have spent more time with the print will chime in later.

Cheers,

Jeremy (Mathews)
This is hard to reconcile with the Convention organisers' claim (prior to the event):
This film includes additional footage not seen publicly since it was originally shown more than 80 years ago

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nsps
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#54 Post by nsps » Sun Oct 12, 2008 3:33 pm

I wrote that previous description posted by Jonathan S, and there is indeed no unseen footage in the rough cut, so I think the convention folks got a bit carried away in their description. Keaton had apparently already selected all his takes at the time he completed this cut, which I believe was made to get a feel for how well the story flowed (this was, after all, his first single-narrative feature when you consider the structure of "Three Ages").

There are quite a few differences in editing (the prologue is a flashback, for example) and interesting details, however, as discussed further on the Yahoo Group. The varying nitrate decomp suggests that Keaton cut this by hand from various rushes, and indicates which shots came from which cameras, etc. Rough cuts from that era are extremely rare, so on that front this is indeed a find—just not as exciting as the promotional copy built it up to be (the copy almost suggested something that had been extensively reshot and altered).

I don't think that the print would have much value or generate much interest as a stand-alone DVD, but could definitely make for an interesting supplement on, say, a new, restored edition of "Our Hospitality," with the Carl Davis score. David B. Pearson (or someone else who has studied the print) could do a voice-over explaining some of the most interesting portions of the print.

Speaking of which, I'd love to get the Thames version of "Our Hospitality," but can't justify buying the whole "Keaton Chronicles" set to get it. Is available separately anywhere?

The second find featured at the convention was a 10-minute collection of gags that Keaton directed and starred in for a production of the play "Merton and the Movies." It was shown during a scene where the producers are watching rushes, so the film has no story line. It's just a collection of gags, including a very funny segment with ducks. Keaton shot the material on 16-mm with Eleanor operating the camera.

Since I started with all the Kino's before the MK2 set came out, this has been my recipe for the complete Keaton silent era:

1. Replaced my Cameraman/Spite Marriage Laserdisc with the triple-feature TCM disc.

2. Picked up the R2 Cinema Club Releases of "The General" and "Three Ages/Steamboat Bill Jr./College. I assume this is the equivalent of picking up the R4 release of those four films (minus the missing Israel score on the first Australian pressing). Does the Australian release have the second disc of "The General" extra features as well?

With all that, the French MK2 set seems unnecessary for the money, since although the encodes are better, it uses the same transfers as Kino for the remaining films. I suppose for the best picture possible, it's still the only game in town, though. My instinct is to wait in hope of new, improved transfers of "Sherlock, Jr.," "Our Hospitality," "Seven Chances," "The Navigator," etc. Hopefully one day we'll see these.

3. Right now I'm still living off the shorts on the Kinos and the Arbuckle-Keaton set, with a couple VHS supplements, but I will probably import the MoC collection in the future if it is a notable improvement over them, as seems to be the consensus. What say you all?

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nsps
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#55 Post by nsps » Tue Oct 14, 2008 5:40 pm

Also, can anyone comment on the picture/sound quality of the LooserThanLoose Educational set?
Last edited by nsps on Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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nsps
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#56 Post by nsps » Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:57 pm

Jessica from Kino posted on NitrateVille:
As most of you know I do not really watch DVDs except for work and I don't even own a DVD player but even I was impressed by the newly resmastered copy of THE GENERAL ( ok I just watched it in bits while getting stuff in the back room but it looks AMAZING). They have now put up a little trailer on the web site if you want to see it http://www.kino.com/video/item.php?film_id=936
( scroll to bottom to play trailer)
Street date is Nov. 11 but you can order now and they will ship about a week before street
This will definitely be the best US release, with three different scores including a new 5.1 mix of the beloved Carl Davis accompaniment. Whether the picture tops the MK2 edition, we'll have to wait and see.

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Kino's The General

#57 Post by gordonovitch » Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:00 am

I sampled the first twenty minutes of Kino's new release of The General and was astonished. They weren't kidding about the original negative business--clarity and resolution like this could only come from original elements. Unbelievably gorgeous--tinting, too, is very well done, e.g. night scenes don't go too dark. The Carl Davis score, very nicely recorded, makes the eye moist.

Gordon Thomas

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nsps
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Re: Kino's The General

#58 Post by nsps » Sat Oct 25, 2008 2:36 am

gordonovitch wrote:I sampled the first twenty minutes of Kino's new release of The General and was astonished. They weren't kidding about the original negative business--clarity and resolution like this could only come from original elements. Unbelievably gorgeous--tinting, too, is very well done, e.g. night scenes don't go too dark. The Carl Davis score, very nicely recorded, makes the eye moist.
Yeah, the MK2 edition isn't tinted, so regardless of which edition wins out, it'll be nice to have a high quality tinted edition to go next to the black-and-white version. Plus the Davis score. I'm excited!

Is Kino shipping already?

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Caligula
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#59 Post by Caligula » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:04 am

The MK2 set appears to have gone out of print. Anyone know anything about this new set?

Tim
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#60 Post by Tim » Fri Oct 31, 2008 7:06 am

It's the same set. Note the MK2 logo on both images. In fact, I believe the set has always had the cover shown on your second link. Certainly that's what I received some time ago.

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#61 Post by nsps » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:52 pm

Yeah, looks the same to me. If you're looking for cheaper alternatives, be sure to check out the English and Australian releases mentioned earlier as well.

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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#62 Post by nsps » Wed Nov 05, 2008 4:56 pm

I'll do a more thorough review shortly, but my initial reaction to the Kino release is that the picture isn't quite as clean as the MK2 restoration. That doesn't mean it isn't a quality release, as it looks to be the best available tinted release, and the best NTSC edition.

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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#63 Post by denti alligator » Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:07 pm

nsps wrote:I'll do a more thorough review shortly, but my initial reaction to the Kino release is that the picture isn't quite as clean as the MK2 restoration. That doesn't mean it isn't a quality release, as it looks to be the best available tinted release, and the best NTSC edition.
Comparison caps would be nice, if possible.

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#64 Post by nsps » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:21 pm

Disc is out today. Bruce at Nitrateville posted a link to this review from Digitally Obsessed.

I can't take stills from the MK2 because my computer isn't hacked for region-free, but I did get some grabs from the Kino that match the scenes from DVDBeaver. As I said, the issues are more with decay and a lack of frame-by-frame cleanup than actual transfer quality, so it won't really come through in stills.

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#65 Post by nsps » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:35 pm

I'll see what I can do. The two main issues, to my eyes, are that a lot of the detail has been lost in the nighttime tinting (although the sepia tone looks marvelous) and that Kino didn't spend the same time on frame-by-frame cleanup that MK2 did. However, anyone in the US who imported the MK2 edition will want to own this one as well, and anyone who didn't will find this to be the best release they've seen.

Disc is out today. Bruce at Nitrateville posted a link to this review from Digitally Obsessed.

I can't take stills from the MK2 because my computer isn't hacked for region-free, but I did get some grabs from the Kino that match the scenes from DVDBeaver. As I said, the issues are more with decay and a lack of frame-by-frame cleanup than actual transfer quality, so it won't really come through in stills.

I sat in on DVDTalk's Silent DVD column this week and wrote a detailed comparison to the MK2 edition for my blog

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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#66 Post by denti alligator » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:05 pm

nsps wrote:I sat in on DVDTalk's Silent DVD column this week and wrote a detailed comparison to the MK2 edition for my blog
.
Excellent, thank you, but I still want screen captures!

Does Gary not care about this at all over at the Beaver?

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#67 Post by nsps » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:48 pm

OK, OK!

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swo17
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#68 Post by swo17 » Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:04 pm

nsps wrote:OK, OK!
Those images weren't working for me. (Were they working for anyone?) I think these should though:

SCREEN CAPS FROM KINO'S NEW RELEASE OF THE GENERAL

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#69 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:34 pm

Swo, does it say on the back of the box or anywhere in the package where the restoration came from-- and who is the material copyrighted to? (Ignore the "special contents of this edition")? Do you get the sense that it's a native original transfer or that they licensed the material from elsewhere.

I ask because Kino's originally-produced silent material has been consistently impressive.. Griffiths, Edison, Fairbanks, all the silent comedy and on and on with the rest of it all... this vs European silents which of course come from the PAL standard and thus have predictable conversion issues.. same issues European co's had when releasing US silents. Unless they were sourced from US prints/disc-producers (a la Shepard).

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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#70 Post by swo17 » Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:51 pm

I just reposted the caps that nsps tried to post yesterday. I'll leave him to answer your questions. I don't actually have the release in hand.

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#71 Post by nsps » Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:54 pm

Thanks for reposting those, Swo. Curiously enough, the images show up for me, so I don't know if no one else could see them, or what the deal is.
HerrSchreck wrote:Swo, does it say on the back of the box or anywhere in the package where the restoration came from-- and who is the material copyrighted to? (Ignore the "special contents of this edition")? Do you get the sense that it's a native original transfer or that they licensed the material from elsewhere.

I ask because Kino's originally-produced silent material has been consistently impressive.. Griffiths, Edison, Fairbanks, all the silent comedy and on and on with the rest of it all... this vs European silents which of course come from the PAL standard and thus have predictable conversion issues.. same issues European co's had when releasing US silents. Unless they were sourced from US prints/disc-producers (a la Shepard).
To the best of my knowledge, Kino handled the whole process—the only imported elements are the scores. Digital Restoration copyright 2008 Kino Internation Corp. Also, the DVD was made from an HD transfer (as was the MK2 edition), which helps avoid the usual conversion problems. As I said, this is a great looking disc, especially for those who prefer the tinted print. And of course, some prefer less cleanup of scratches/decomp/etc. to better represent the surviving document.

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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#72 Post by denti alligator » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:34 pm

These are definitely superior to the Mk2, which look great. This is exciting news! One of the releases of the year, for sure!

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#73 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:27 pm

Wonderful. Hopefully the Griffith's to-come will look equally as good. I know they're handling the elements & transfers there too-- some of it with MoMa I believe (and look at the glorious results of the last collab between those two-- EDISON).

Don't bother wasting time with the Beev, dent. I don't even trust his caps with the Letze Mann release. The transfer source is the same, all releases of this title are interlaced... but all of a sudden Kino releases the title it's OMG IT'S SICKENING INTERLACING I'M DONE W THIS CO!!!! with the most rancid looking possible caps grabbed from only the most heavily interlaced frames via who knows what player setting (what happened to upscaling?). I'm distrustful even viz the source of the chroma, the axegrinding is so severe.

If he has problems getting simple sound film transfers from MoC-- for whom he has the softest possible touch-- at standard progressive frame rates to appear as faithful representations of what's on the disc, frankly his occasional dabble into the world of silent film is to be taken with a grain of salt.

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#74 Post by nsps » Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:37 pm

denti alligator wrote:These are definitely superior to the Mk2, which look great. This is exciting news! One of the releases of the year, for sure!
From my perspective, MK2 still has the edge for viewing in motion rather than stills, but only in regards to dirt and decay. (I'm also slightly biased to the b&w version.) Like I said, Kino's is also an excellent, high-quality release that most Keaton fans will want to grab.

Also, if Gary wants to throw these caps up on the Beaver, he's free to.

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nsps
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Re: Buster Keaton on DVD

#75 Post by nsps » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:08 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Wonderful. Hopefully the Griffith's to-come will look equally as good. I know they're handling the elements & transfers there too-- some of it with MoMa I believe (and look at the glorious results of the last collab between those two-- EDISON).

Don't bother wasting time with the Beev, dent. I don't even trust his caps with the Letze Mann release. The transfer source is the same, all releases of this title are interlaced... but all of a sudden Kino releases the title it's OMG IT'S SICKENING INTERLACING I'M DONE W THIS CO!!!! with the most rancid looking possible caps grabbed from only the most heavily interlaced frames via who knows what player setting (what happened to upscaling?). I'm distrustful even viz the source of the chroma, the axegrinding is so severe.
One thing I always wondered is how viable progressive 24fps is as a frame rate for films that were projected at other rates. It seems that in many cases, you're going to be stuck with certain frames duplicated and might end up with a stutter. I'm not a fan of interlacing, mind you, but I suspect that 30i might work better with some frame rates than 24p.

Also, pull-down detection and removal that assumes a 24p source probably doesn't help interlaced footage of, say, 18p sources and might emphasize problems more than regular viewing. This is all just speculation on my part, but I'd be interested to hear from those with first-hand experience. Then again, this probably belongs in another thread...

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