OLLIE: 'A lot of weather we've been having lately.'
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The original Babes in colour
We have just received, directly from the USA, the long-expected and already heavily discussed DVD containing the newly colourized version of Babes in Toyland. This is a Legend Films/Genius Entertainment release. As we can safely assume that the Blotto readers know the film’s storyline, we will only be discussing the contents and technical side of this release.
Both the restored black and white version and the recently colourized version bear the full original opening credits, including the title card that reads ‘Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland’. Although the film is being sold under its reissue title March of the Wooden Soldiers, this 1950 version is not to be found on this DVD, something for which we are very grateful!
The film, derived from an original 35mm copy, has been beautifully restored and easily beats the KirchGruppe version, available on the Kinowelt DVD entitled ‘Rache ist süss’. The German release also has the original opening credits, but the transfer is a bit too hard, resulting in rather pale faces and dark backgrounds. Of course we are still dealing with source material from 1934, so fluctuation in image brightness and some print damage remain visible, adding to the nostalgic feeling. The original end title, absent on the KirchGruppe version, is intact here, although oddly, the black and white version contains the ‘Samuel Goldwyn’ copyright notice from 1991 (also found on the first colour version, still available on the GoodTimes DVD). The source print was probably missing the original title, so the older one was substituted. The new colour version’s end title bears a recent copyright notice.
The colourized version is based on the restored black and white print and is a major improvement over the previous 1991 colourization. This time, the colours look much more natural, with only a few exceptions (crocodiles do not have green skins), but at the same time less saturated that they appeared on the previous version. This makes the film look rather like an early Technicolor film from the mid-30s, when colours were being consciously suppressed a bit because bright colours were considered to be too much of a strain for an audience still used to black and white. Moreover, the new colour version displays the same fluctuations in image brightness that are found in the black and white version, which make the colours appear to be really in the film, instead of superimposed on it. Because this is a Hal Roach production and overall bright lighting was employed to mask any wrinkels in the boys’ faces, the faces occasionally look a bit pale in the colour version as well.
The few minor remarks above do not detract from the fact that the new colour version is a triumph, both technically and artistically, and has become our favourite version of this Laurel & Hardy classic. It’s a joy to finally see Stan with red hear and blue eyes.
There are scene selections for both film version, but only for the colour version can these be accessed through the menu. There are no subtitles.
The bonus materials are remarkably abundant:
- First, we are treated to two trailers for this film: the 1934 original and a new one from 2006, specially created to promote the colour version. There are also trailers of other Christmas-related films;
- A ‘rare Laurel & Hardy film’: this is the shortened version of The Tree in a Test Tube from 1941 (containing only the Laurel & Hardy material). It seems that some of the colours have been digitally enhanced, such as the boys’ faces, the car, and Stan’s socks;
- Also on the disc: two cartoons (including one featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), three Christmas-themed shorts, produced by Castle Films, and old toy commercials: all of them ideal to watch on a cold winter evening by a fireplace (fireplace not included). The Christmas package is completed with a message from Santa himself, a karaoke version of ‘Jingle Bells’, and, last but not least, ‘Merry Christmas’ sung by Our Gang (The Little Rascals), including Spanky, Darla and the unique vocal talent of the unsurpassed Alfalfa.
Thank you, Legend Films and in particular Mr. Barry Sandrew, for your kind cooperation and the quality treatment you have given this film. Other companies can learn something from this. Warmly recommended!
The DVD can be ordered through various online webshops, e.g. here.
Technical remark: this release is encoded for region 1, so you need a region-free DVD player to watch it in Europe.Read less...