“The Deer Hunter.” “Charade.” “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Over the last few weeks, it’s felt like a bit of an avalanche of titles have been arriving at my house from Universal, all on Blu-ray, all part of their 100th year celebration, and so far, my only question is why more studios don’t celebrate their legacies like this.
Universal has gone above and beyond with these releases. I know that some of the films, like “The Blues Brothers,” have already been out on Blu-ray, but most of them are new to the format, and the studio appears to be shelling out for some full-scale restorations. I have not yet seen “All Quiet On The Western Front,” but I’ve heard amazing things about the work they did on it, and I can vouch for the “Deer Hunter” transfer, which has never been better.
The sad truth about Hollywood is that as much as they pay lip service to legacy and nostalgia, they are very bad about taking care of their treasures. One only need look at the way the various movie palaces of Los Angeles have been treated over the years to see how little history means to most of these people. Maybe it’s because it’s a job where there is a high turnover rate and a near-constant game of executive square-dance going on. Maybe it’s because the people who work at studios now aren’t the ones who made those older films, so there’s no emotional attachment. Whatever the case, I’ve been frustrated by this attitude since I arrived in LA in 1990.
With this 100th Anniversary collection, I now have a pristine Blu-ray copy of “Sullivan’s Travels,” and I can finally show my wife a copy of “My Man Godfrey” that is actually worth looking at. And while some studios might put out a few films and then be done with it, Universal’s going to continue this all year. We’re finally getting “Jaws” on Blu-ray this year, thank god, and they’re even ponying up for a restoration of the 1931 Spanish-language production of “Dracula.” Not just the Lugosi film, but the cult-classic Spanish version, too. That’s amazing.
I’m going to review most of these titles individually on my new home video podcast that’s starting up soon (it’s different than anything we’ve tried before), but I wanted to point out how great their overall initiative has been today because I look at those titles stacking up on my desk, and I’m amazed by the choices they’re making for the Blu-ray treatment as well as how nicely they’ve handled each transfer so far.
I can get discouraged often, but the entire reason for a column like this is to point out when someone’s doing things right, because these are the moments that underscore why I love this industry and these films in the first place. There is something wonderful about putting on a William Powell film and laughing just as hard as audiences must have the first time around, and feeling connected to those audiences, as if time and space don’t matter. Film unites us across time, and these Blu-rays deserve to be singled out for just how right they’re doing it.
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