Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Quiet Man on Laserdisc

As I've discussed before, I like The Quiet Man. It's well documented on the Internet that all of the consumer releases of the film, in a word, stink. This is because the various rights holders saw fit to use the same dirty, degraded film source to produce all of the various VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD releases of the film. The result is that the worst release is actually the most recent, the "Collector's Edition" DVD from 2002. This makes sense, since the origianl source material has been degrading all this time and has never been properly remastered. But which release is the best?

To answer this question, I took a gamble a few weeks ago. I decided to purchase the only version I don't already own: the 1992 40th Anniversary Laserdisc. I tracked down a new sealed copy for about $10 shipped. But I had no Laserdisc player to play the discs, so I had to find one somewhere. After a week of searching, I found someone on Craigslist willing to part with a basic one for $15. Perfect. For a $25 investment, I was going to put my theory of Laserdisc supremacy to the test.

To test it out, I loaded up both the DVD and Laserdisc, hit play, and switched back and forth on my receiver. Sure enough, after a few minutes of scrutiny, it became clear that the Laserdisc had a better picture. The colors were more natural and not washed out like the DVD. There were no compression artifacts on the LD due to the fact that the video is not compressed like on the DVD. There is also notably less film dirt and damage, probably due to the fact that the transfer happened a decade earlier. I didn't compare the sound, but we're talking about a mono source here, and mostly just dialogue thoughout, so nothing really to scream about to begin with. The audio on the LD was fine, though.

If you want the best version of The Quiet Man that is commercially available, get the Laserdisc. New copies can still be had on the cheap. Even if you don't have a player, chances are someone in your neighborhood has one that they'd part with for a song. After all, it's a dead format.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My New Toy: X-Men Vs. Street Fighter Arcade Cabinet

On Saturday, a friend and I went to the PA Farm Show Complex to attend an Arcade Auction organized by a company called Auction Game Sales. This company travels the east coast of the US, auctioning off coin-op games, jukeboxes, and the like. I had attended a similar event in December, but left empty handed. Leading up to Saturday, I had chosen 3 types of arcade cabinets that I was in the market for: a Neo Geo, a Capcom "big blue" fighter cab, or a Ms. Pacman cabinet. This time, I wouldn't be denied.

We got there at 9am to discover that there would also be a "South Eastern Beef Classic" (read: cattle sale) going on at the same time. Which made for a really wonderful mix of people and smells. Lots of morbid obesity, dirty overalls, braided rat-tails, and mullets, all with the odor of unwashed cattle wofting through the air. Anyway, the auction didn't start until 10:30a. This gave me time to inspect the machines I was interested in, numbering 6 or so. After the auction started, I could see it was going to be a long day. By some cruel twist of fate, they didn't auction off ANY of the 6 machines I wanted until 2:30pm, so we were waiting around that whole time. I felt bad for my buddy, who was an innocent bystander to all this mess.

So around 3:30pm, my moment came. After having been outbid for a piece of crap Capcom cab the I shouldn't have bought anyway, it was time for them to auction off an X-Men Vs. Street Fighter "big blue" cabinet. This was the one cabinet that I HAD to have, if I was going to leave with anything. I won the auction at a very reasonable price considering age and condition. I was elated. My friend and I both had places to be that night, so we had to go. Plus, I couldn't afford another cab. We couldn't leave until 5:30p though, due to congestion and lines that seemed to never end. We did make it out in one piece, though, with our prize intact. A very long and tiring day it was.

Regarding my score: X-Men Vs. Street Fighter is one of my favorite fighting games. I played it a lot in high school. The cabinet itself is in great shape. Everything works. It's fully playable. It does need some minor work though. The monitor's colors needs adjusting, the joysticks and buttons need to be replaced, I need locks for the coin doors, the stereo amp for sound is missing (mono sound only at the moment), and an overall cleaning is in order. It currently resides in another friend's garage until this summer, when I hopefully move into a bigger living space, and that's OK. I can wait. Hell, I've waited my whole life for my own full-size arcade cabinet, but now I have one.

The architecture of the Capcom Play System 2, of which this game is included, allows me to swap out similar games with this one very easily, meaning I can collect other Capcom arcade games from the 90's and simply open up the back and pop in a different game. Fun stuff. All in all, I'm thrilled with my new purchase. When it's fully restored and in place this summer, I'll post an update.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Request for Blu-ray: The Quiet Man (1952)

UPDATE: It's finally happened. Purchase the film on Blu-ray here.

An Open Letter to the Executives at Paramount Pictures:

It is my understanding that the UCLA Film and Television Archive is in possession of the master (or best available print) of John Ford's 1952 masterpiece The Quiet Man. As this is the month of March and St. Patrick's Day is upon us, it would be a great gift to not only Irish Americans and John Wayne fans, but to film lovers the world over to know that Paramount/UCLA are dedicated to working to release a proper high-definition Blu-ray transfer of this magnificent and beautiful film. Fans of the movie, such as myself, have been limited to watching sub-standard and hastily-transferred DVD and VHS editions of this movie since its initial home release about 30 years ago. Washed out colors, dirt spots, and a host of other issues plauge just about every release of the film, regardless of medium. Other John Wayne pictures of the period have received beautiful restorations and been released on Blu-ray to be enjoyed in their original glory, yet "The Quiet Man" remains just that. Of all the older films that would benefit from a restoration, "The Quiet Man" would arguably have the most to gain. The lush, green, rolling hills of the Irish countryside deserve to been seen as Ford saw and captured them. Please give the film the respect and treatment it deserves, and help to release it in HD. If another commercial release of the movie is impossible for whatever reason, might I suggest releasing an unmodified digital print of the film to a site like so that fans of the film with professional video editing tools and experience can perform the necessary restoration tasks and share the results with the world.

Regardless of whether or not my request is feasible, perhaps a special screening of the film at UCLA is in order. March 17, 2011 appears free on their calendar as of now.

On behalf of all lovers of this wonderful film, please seriously consider this request for an HD transfer, restoration, and release of "The Quiet Man."