Friday, October 01, 2010

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG #159

Ever since we began VIDEO WATCHDOG, I've wanted to devote an issue to the art and artists of movie dubbing. Our next issue's interviews with Ted Rusoff and Peter Fernandez finally realize that goal. Interior contents previewed here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE DEVILS: Spanish DVD Report

Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne in Ken Russell's THE DEVILS.

I finally received my copy of LOS DEMONIOS, Warner Home Video's Spanish DVD of Ken Russell's THE DEVILS (1971), from Starscafe last week and was able to screen it last night.

First the good news: it preserves the film in what appears to be its accurate 2.35:1 ratio for the first time in any video format, and it's the crispest, clearest copy of the film on video to date; I couldn't stop watching it though I intended only to do a quality check. The precise black lines around every white brick in the city of Loudun are as visible as they should be. Now the bad news: it's non-anamorphic -- so the slim Panavision image remained but a frustrating sliver set in the center of my large widescreen monitor -- and it's the recropped, censored US cut. The image quality could be slightly brighter, but it is impressive in its recovery of the minutiae of Derek Jarman's brilliant set design and Shirley Russell's ornate costume designs at the very least.
The disc includes audio tracks in Spanish and English with removable Spanish subtitles. There are no extras. The running time is 103:37 in 25 frames-per-second PAL Region 2, which works out to 108m 2s in 24 fps NTSC. However, running time is no indicator of completeness as the US cut made use of substituted footage to cover offending sights while keeping the soundtrack intact. This is particularly noticeable during the convent orgy sequence and the burning of Father Grandier (Oliver Reed) in the film's closing minutes. The fact that this official DVD release, though Spanish, contains the US cut of the film very likely foreshadows a problem consumers will contend with in the event of a US release: the British cut is definitive.

Warner's OOP British VHS release, though zoomboxed at 1.78:1, remains the one to see for content, if you can find it, but this one has its own value as the most vivid memento of David Watkin's tremendous cinematography. Some unedited screen grabs follow. Click to enlarge.

The onlooker with the long blonde hair to the left of actor Michael Gothard is actually the famous fashion model Twiggy, a guest on the set.