Saturday, February 04, 2012

Four Strikes on CRT Grit

For some time now, my friend Michael MacKenzie and I have been trying to work out why the majority of Italian film transfers look, for lack of a better word, "noisy". The best theory that he, his brother David and myself have come to over the years is that this is all a byproduct of dated CRT based film scanners - something I've gone over at length, and more than once at that.

Just as a point of reference, I wanted to show off some of Michael's caps for the recently completed Dario Argento 'Animal Trilogy'. I want you to keep in mind that all of these films were shot using the same Techniscope production methods from 1970 to 1971, and that the HD transfers themselves all date back to no earlier than 2009...

 The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970, 2009 Blue Underground Blu-ray [OOP])
Please note: The Arrow Blu-ray is a completely different, CROPPED HD master.

 The Cat O' Nine Tails (1970, 2011 Blue Underground Blu-ray)

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971, 2012 Shameless Blu-ray [UK Import])

Remember, these were all films shot using the exact same Techniscope "two-perf" process, something of an Italian predecessor to Super35, and yet only one of them has a light, granular, organic looking texture that I'd consider describing as looking anything like film. Another thing to keep in mind is that, by far, the worst looking title here was a transfer struck at least two years later, despite the gap between their eventual High Definition release! For the first time since Italian genre features started getting their Blu-Due, I can finally point at a single goddamn HD transfer and say "Basically? This. This is what I expect these sorts of low-budget 40 year old Italian films should look like."

Now keep in mind that I'm talking strictly about the sort of 'texture' of the film negative itself; things like focus, color timing and proper damage removal are variables that are relative to each individual title, and as such not all Techniscope films will by default look as good (or as bad) as any other Techniscope film. The point is that much like Tenebrae, we finally have a sample that doesn't come from the usual garish, harsh CRT scanners we've so far relied on for basically all of our EuroCult needs.

Michael has plenty to say about the Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray on his site - if in doubt, check Land of Whimsy out. I've already bought the other two films in the trilogy and roughly $26 shipped ain't bad for any import, but... well, as with everything surrounding this film's history, it's complicated. The short version is roughly a minute was sourced from SD material (seamlessly branched in as the "Complete" Version), and Shameless made a really, really stupid call in trying to "fix" a horizontal scratch over the end credits. Still, compared to the completely screwed up audio on the prior Mya DVD - an experience a friend once compared to having a rat fuck your ear for two hours - this might as well be the disc of your gialli themed dreams.