Yesterday I received an e-mail from Charles Tabesh, head of programming at Turner Classic Movies, in response to my "Horrors of the National Film Museum" blog. In short, Mr. Tabesh shares our concerns about the National Film Museum and their questionable "restorations" and vows to sever TCM's ties with the company.
TCM has other NFM titles scheduled in the near future, some of which can't be helped at this late stage (including a replay of THE VAMPIRE BAT at 7:30a.m. on October 31), but in some instances substitute copies will be sought and aired instead. Viewers should also be cautioned in advance that TCM's showing of the 1964 Italian film CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (scheduled for 3:30 a.m. on October 31) -- first announced by TCM as a widescreen broadcast -- is indeed a pan&scanned National Film Museum title, and we're told it looks pretty bad.
I also spoke on the phone yesterday to TCM's Steve Iverson, a longtime VW reader who brought Video WatchBlog to Mr. Tabesh's attention. Steve was interested to read my comments about TCM's current copy of THE MANSTER, a crummy NFM dupe, and was able to offer a sound explanation of how MGM's picture-perfect master got lost in the shuffle. Apparently the TCM film archive has been around so long that it now exists on several different tape formats. The MGM master of THE MANSTER has been around for so long, it's on one-inch tape, the oldest of these formats. TCM's current broadcast standard is Digi-Beta, and they are currently in the process of remastering select titles in the next format, High Definition. As Steve surmised, "Since the MGM MANSTER was on an old one-inch, when National Film Museum sent us the title on Digi-Beta, we probably assumed it represented an upgrade, which it obviously wasn't." Now that TCM knows it's just an ugly cousin copy, they are going to check into the possibility of transferring the one-inch master to Digi-Beta for future broadcasts. Let's hope it works out.
And let's hear it for TCM for taking this matter so seriously! How many other stations would bother listening to viewers complaining about the quality of their copies of THE VAMPIRE BAT and THE MANSTER, much less take decisive action about it?