"Feed the birds and what have you got? Fat birds."
Nothing terribly exciting going on this week in DVDland other than the normal holiday buying frenzy. Everyone's pretty pumped about the new Return of the King 4 DVD set that came out yesterday. I'm planning to pick it up very soon and would suggest that if you're planning to get it, do it before the week's out as the price will be higher. I haven't seen the first two extended versions drop much below the $30 mark since they were released. You could wait for the inevitable next versions to come out, but it will probably be a while as Peter Jackson has a number of other things on his plate. And, the current versions are all I really need as the supplements are huge and the picture/sound is as good as we're going to get on the current DVD format. All I need, that is until the HD versions are relased; then I'll buy them again, but until then these are the way to go and, IMO a tremendous bargain.
As I mentioned the other day, I'd been curious to compare the new Mary Poppins DVD (DVD Savant has a good review of this disc here) with the "Archive Edition" laserdisc. I don't have the new DVD yet, but Shades and I watched it the other night so I thought I'd share a few thoughts.
First the picture: This LD looked quite good, even on a large screen with the usual lack of sharpness compared to a good DVD image with very low amounts of analog video noise. The color was perhaps a bit muted, but I can't say I know how this film is supposed to look. Needless to say it looks better than any previous version I've seen. The DVD is supposed to be an improvement, but some have said it is a bit too much "enhanced". The LD is a good approximation of what a theatrical print would look like (a good one). What I mean by this is that it doesn't look clinically clean, but it does have some dirt from the source element, which bothers some (not me, I accept it as part of the film experience). All in all, quite watchable even if the DVD probably betters it.
The sound: Good old uncompressed PCM! Even though I don't have the new DVD to compare, I have a hard time believing that it will beat the LD for sound. This track isn't flashy, doesn't have earth-shattering bass, or whizzy directional effects, but it does sound *right*. Right means the dialogue is clear, but not edgy or unbalanced. The music sounds really nice on this track with a fairly organic quality to it. There's plenty of detail in the mix but it doesn't call undue attention to itself and the high frequencies aren't screechy or fatiguing at all. There's some tape hiss present (pretty normal for 1964), but nothing big and perhaps there could have been more bass, but it sounds like this is what the film's track contains.
One of the interesting things I noticed while watching was how the sound of the actors' voice tracks changed between the spoken dialogue and the musical numbers. It does indeed sound like the voices were recorded on the set (this isn't done a lot these days--it's usually re-dubbed) and the songs done in a studio as you can hear a distinct difference when the track goes back and forth. It didn't bother me, but it does make me wonder if Disney took this LD soundtrack from multiple sources such as the session recordings for the music as opposed to a straight-off transfer from a film print.
So, I'll have to post again when I see the new disc, but I am quite glad to have this version to listen to. And one other thing I never noticed about the film: The bird woman in the "Feed the Birds" song was played by Jane Darwell (her last film) who won an Oscar in 1941 for her performance in The Grapes of Wrath.