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.