Monday, March 23, 2009

treasure island

(With apologies to Thrilling Days of Yesteryear-- I just realized you titled your piece on this topic Treasure Island as well. I didn't mean to swipe it from you, it didn't really see the title previously, as I was interested in what you wrote. It should however, reflect the similar attitude with both have towards this news.)

I have dreams. Oh, yes- I have dreams. When I was a kid, they used to be of the trapped-in-a-toy-store-with-endless-amounts-of-candy variety, but nowadays sometimes they tend to be more...pedestrian. I dream that I will come home from work one day and lawn has been raked and mowed, or a neighbor got one of my bills in their mailbox, but figured, "Oh what the heck. I'll pay it for him anyway." That's not to say I don't have some more fantastical dreams. Remember that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith and the books? Nagged and bothered anytime he chose to read, one day something happens and his city is wiped out- no people anywhere. He goes to the library and rejoices that now he finally has time to read anything he wants. Then his glasses break. My dream is like that, except without the city being wiped out, glasses or books. But it does involve black and white- My dream was that somewhere there is a place, an island maybe, where I could go and ALL of the classic movies would be there and I could just pick and choose what I wanted. No hoping for studios to but them out on DVD, no searching stores for titles, or trying to DVR or catch a lucky break and see it on TV. This dream was a dream of a true Treasure Island.

I say was, because, in a way, part of it has come true. In case you haven't heard, Warner Brothers has begun a new way to provide classic films to consumers. This morning, I began my stroll down my own proverbial Allen's Alley of The Shelf Community and got the scoop from the fantastic Laura from Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, and from our pal Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear (both of whom credit the blog Something Old, Something New for the news).
In short, Warner Brothers is providing a sort of "upon order" system on their website, where you can order titles from Warner Vault, all of which have never been previously released to DVD. Let me be clear- these are many titles (as of now about 150 are listed) from Warner's massive vault that have never made it, and never will make it to traditional, retail-ready DVD. And the titles are fantastic!

You can order a DVD copy of a title for $19.99 or a digital download for $14.99 of any of these classic titles, which range from the silent era and into the 80s. In the event of a DVD order, WB will then press the DVD of the title and send it to you in a DVD case with artwork and DVD label, just as if you had purchased it in the store. This is a phenomenal move, one that took me a while to truly process the historic nature of and what it means. Ronald Epstein at Home Theater Forum also announced this today and has more details, and there will be a live chat with George Feltenstein from Warner Brothers tonight at HTF, where the will discuss this and other projects in the works. Roger has also stated: "The quality of these DVDs (and I forgot to mention these are only DVDs) are as good as anything you would expect the studio to release. Theywill be in their proper aspect ratio, 16x9, and with the necessary audiocodecs. Nothing will suffer when it comes to presentation quality."

According to sources, WB plans to add to the Archive- about 20 additional titles a month. By end of the year, there may be around 300 titles available. A quick glance at the 145 or so available now have already got the heart pumping: Private Lives with Norma Shearer, Ah Wilderness, Carbine Williams with Jimmy Stewart, the great campy superhero flick Doc Savage: the Man of Bronze, Tugboat Annie with Marie Dressler, Edison the Man with Spencer Tracy and on and on. Like I said, it's my dream of a DVD Treasure Island come to life...except for the island part or the part where it's free. But I will take it! The only disappointment, and I rate this as somewhat minor- is the fact that there will be no extras, except for the occasional original trailer when available. I do enjoy the extras and commentaries, but I would rather have this if means it's a choice of having a great print of a film on DVD or none at all. Make no mistake, this is a counter move by WB brought on by several factors, not the least of which is the economy, the increasing move to Blu-Ray (and I personally think the real new format- download), and a way to satisfy consumer demand while still minimizing the chance that some titles won't sell.

More details are continuing to emerge (so stay tuned), but all indicators are that this is a welcome offering, and I think a historic turning point in the way the content is delivered. Sure, digital download has been around, but on a scale like this from a major studio is huge news and a massive undertaking. George Feltenstein in a article in the International Tribune states: "There are still thousands of movies that we own that consumers haven't been able to get. I expect that we'll be selling thousands of copies of every title over a period of time, and making a lot of people really happy." In another article in the L.A. Times, Feltenstein further states:
"My dream has always been to find a way to get everything to everybody who wants it... No matter how obscure or arcane, there is something in the library that somebody wants. But yet you have to hit a certain threshold of sales potential to justifying making a DVD the old-fashioned way. Just the cost of authoring, compression and menus, all of that kind of thing, can run into a great deal of money, and with shelf space at retail being diminished -- there is no more Tower Records, Music Plus. . . . [Now] We can make two DVDs or we can make 2,000 [of a title]."

Did you catch the "everything" in that statement kiddies? Least you think I am still dreaming, my professional role model, Glenn Erickson, AKA The DVD Savant, wrote a piece about this news at his site, in which he received a further statement from Feltenstein himself, to wit:
"The goal is to eventually make EVERYTHING available, but obviously that will take a lot of time, and a lot of money. I set out some ground rules. Everything HAS to be Original Aspect Ratio, and 16x9 if widescreen. No 4x3 Letterbox. No Pan 'n' Scan. I also wanted consumers to be able to preview the master before the buy, so they'd understand what they were buying." See, Feltenstein told Glenn the goal is to make EVERYTHING available.

So let's show WB our support, classic film fans, by doing your consumer thang, as it were. Who knows- maybe your hard-to-find dream flick is only a few months away from being on the list. You can check out the WB Archive site here:, and a FAQ about the discs here. Laura and several other sources are also stating that television series may be available in this fashion as well. One question I had was if Netflix or other rental sites would be making a connection here, to provide fans the opportunity to rent any of these films, to which we will have to wait and see. However the good news is that ClassicFlix online DVD rental site has already put up and shut up if you will, and have stated that they are purchasing the WB titles and they will be available thru their service.

If anyone has more news to add, or hears of any further details, please contribute your comments in the comments section or email us at Stay tuned...

Monday evening update: Please be sure to read the comments section folks- and add your own as well. Please note Ivan's comments (TDYY) about other studios falling suit. I agree with him; and like I said earlier- this is historic folks. I truly believe that. The beginning of a massive move. Now it may not be as historic or earth-shattering as previous breakthroughs, but I think it is rather fitting that the studio that changed the Hollywood and banked on sound films is now taking another turn to the future.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Oh, for ten toes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

quick dvd news

Just wanted to interrupt the corned beef and cabbage for a moment and note that Fox Home Entertainment has listed two films for development on their Fox Classics page, under coming soon: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Stars and Stripes Forever (1952 bio of John Philip Sousa starring Clifton Webb). I know several Shelfers and classic film fans have been looking forward to Brooklyn for sure- let's hope they continue to do the great transfer jobs they've been doing lately on their classics. You can go to Fox Classics webpage to see the Coming Soon listing for yourself. It also includes several re-releases and the soon to be released special edition of The Robe. We just received a review copy and we will be posting that review soon. You can also read a transcript of the interesting chat with Fox restorationist Schawn Belston that was held at the Home Theater Forum, courtesy of The Digital Bits.
Stay tuned.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

For childhood, Saturday - free from school - is the most changeless of institutions - whether it is in city or village, or main street, or in those vital, teeming streets which were the Brooklyn of a few decades ago.

a wee bit of irish...

Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all!
First off a clip from that great movie, The Quiet Man, just to put us in the right spirit:

Also we present two great performances:
Allison Krauss and The Cheiftains perfoming Molly Ban:

The Coors and The Cheiftains live- get yer dancin' shoes out lassie!


Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Then, a toast: May their days be long and full of happiness; may their children be many and full of health; and may they live in peace... and freedom.

Friday, March 13, 2009

weekend tv

With the non-stop presence of cable television, DVDs and streaming internet, no one should be starved for entertainment or their favorite television shows. Just because it's say, a rainy Saturday afternoon, no kid should be sighing that there is nothing to do. To say that kids are over-indulged today is perhaps an understatement. I'm guilty of it and so are many other parents. In many ways it's just a result of technology and the times in which we live. However, the burden lies on the parent. Turn off the game console, the internet or TV and kick them outside and introduce them to the light. Television and such is great, especially enjoyed in moderation. That being said, I remember my childhood days - the weekends were great, at least Saturday. The regimen was simple: get up early, break out the sugary cereal, watch hours of cartoons, then after a quick lunch, hit the door running for playtime outside.

Yeah- I said hours of cartoons. Many moons ago, it wasn't very often that you got a chance to watch a cartoon. Maybe a weekday afternoon, or during the holidays, perhaps an evening special on TV. But for the most part, Saturday was the high holy day of animation for kids. But what about Sunday? Sure Sunday was church for a lot of families, perhaps even visiting even more family, but for the most part it was the kids last ticking hours until school on Monday. And there wasn't much that could releive the stress from that impending doom on television either. Except....

Well, when I was a kid Sunday late afternoon meant two things: Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney (or what ever titled incarnation thereof). Two shows I very much looked forward to. And then on occasion, during the holidays, we got to stay up to watch whatever primetime holiday special that was being aired on television. It was fun and exciting. Partly because it was the chance to watch cartoons or wild animals on TV, but also because of the fact that it wasn't an everyday, available at your fingertips existence. I sometimes lament that my own children don't have that same excitement when it comes to holiday specials. After all, we have them on DVD- they could watch Christmas specials in July if they wanted.

So, what got me to thinking about all that "excitement"? Well, I read this neat article, A Tribute to Discontinued Cereals, and wanted to share it with all the Shelfers out there, which I did by hotlinking the title. Go on check it out- I'll wait. Do da de, da dum.....Oh, back already? Ok, good. Well seeing some of those boxes (like the one above, which said picture came from said article), I also got to think about those Sunday afternoons as well. So I thought I would bring a little of the past for all of us to enjoy- well, at least those of us who grew up with this stuff. And as a bonus- since it is close to another holiday- I had to include some of those ubiquitous classic commercials that were always shown during these shows. So I present to you the classic Sunday one-two punch (or at least the openings, plus a bonus):

First up: Marlon Perkins in Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom:

Commercial Break!

Next the Wonderful World of Disney:

Commercial Break!

Finally, I always got excited when the Wonderful World of Disney had a Donald Duck cartoon- especially if it was one with the Bee or my favorite, Humphrey Bear. So let's take a look at one that was on the show many times: Rugged Bear!

Well I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. Perhaps we can turn off the television now and then, not only to get the kids out into the sunshine or into a book, but to also make the entertainment that much more special. Have a great weekend!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

People like to think their world is somehow more grown up than Papa's was.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

when you wish upon a star...

This week sees the 70th Anniversary release of the DVD Platinum edition of Walt Disney's follow up to Snow White: Pinocchio. If you have the previous incarnations of this film on VHS or DVD, you might think- Why bother? If you are a Disney-phile, you are thinking: I hope they did it right this time, and where can I pick it up. The one thing that Disney has understood for many years is the value of it's history and the endless recycling of it's product. From rereleasing it's films in theaters on a rotating basis to the creation of the mysterious "Disney Vault", fans have had many opportunities to see these films. In recent years with the refinement of DVD, the internet and Blu-Ray more Disney films have been including more features and behind the scenes material, etc. And this newest re-release of Pinocchio is no exception.

Whether you are merely a fan of the parks, or maybe the animation or even like me - an all-around Disney fan, you probably have a collection of DVDs or books and are interested in the various aspects of Walt Disney's imagination come to life.(I recently finished a recent book on the creation and building of Walt Disney World called Realityland, which I do recommend for a well balanced portrait of the realities of running WDW) I love reading everything on the parks, the animation, live action films and especially the man himself. However the Disney corporate office itself has had a mixed history in understanding the heritage and the love that fans have for it and Walt's legacy. I have found that that has changed in recent years, at least in the support of the archival output- everything from the Walt Disney Treasures series on DVD to now some material showing up on the web.

So when I found this Disney run site, D23, I was somewhat skeptical but encouraged that there would be some good stuff. Billing itself as "The Official Community for Disney Fans", D23 is a website, a quarterly publication and fan community. Why "D23"? It references the founding year of Disney's studio: 1923. The focus seems to be on the dedicated fan looking for archival information, behind the scenes look and nostalgic material. The is even a print edition that will be available every quarter (including at Barnes and Noble stores). The site seems to be is available to everyone, but there is a charter membership available, but you can check that out on the site yourself. My favorite aspect so far is the Archive page with historic material and articles, but also a daily page of old Disney comic strips including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck (my fave) and Scamp (Lady and the Tramp). The scans aren't the greatest quality, but hopefully will improve. Also fun is the link to clips and videos of classic cartoons and behind the scenes videos. All in all it's a cool site and gives a Disney-phile like myself more material to enjoy. Check it out- it's being added to the Shelf Links list, and you might want to put it on your favorites as well. Oh- and don't forget to pick up Pinocchio if you haven't already.

Also: Here is an article from Jim Hill Media about the launch of D23- honestly, I didn't realize that the launch was a big media event. Apparently there was and while some critics are complaining that this is yet another Disney method to wring money out of fans, the website has the backing of everyone from Bob Iger and corporate to the actually dyed in the wool Disney Legends like Dave Smith (legendary historian and archivist - who knew they could be legendary) to Marty Sklar (legendary Imagineer) and John Lasseter (head of Disney and Pixar animation studios). Hmmm- am I out of the loop or ahead of the curve? Who cares? Check it out.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I'm not interested in pleasing the critics. I'll take my chances pleasing the audiences.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

tcm pick for march 4th with original trailer

Here is a great pick for today, starting TCM's star of the month Ronald Reagan and Pricilla Lane: Brother Rat!
Check out the trailer and be sure to see it, tonight at 8pm est.

Brother Rat (1938) Original Trailer:

This is the film where Reagan met his first wife, Jane Wyman and is Eddie Albert's film debut.
Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Does this happen all the time when a girl doesn't wear glasses?

Monday, March 02, 2009

happy birthday, dr. seuss!

In honor of the birthday of Dr. Seuss we offer the following special presentation. If you were a kid in the 70s, you will remember this TV special: The Cat in the Hat!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I am indeed a cat, and this, indeed, is a HAT.


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