Tuesday, June 10, 2008

People are Still Colorizing Movies?

Did you know they were still colorizing black and white movies? I certainly didn't until this weekend.

I remember the furor back in the late 1980's and early 1990's about Ted Turner's crusade to colorize film history for fun and profit, leading to many opponents of the process to make their views known. Roger Ebert even wrote a famous piece decrying the desecration of Casablanca and for it time it seemed like very few movies from the golden age of Hollywood would be safe from the evils of colorization. And then it seemed with the coming of the internet age, well, the colorization debate seemed to disappear.

It turns out that because the process was so expensive, it became far less profitable than originally envisioned, and so, a lot of people got out of that particular industry. I gather many of those people may have went into graphic design or other aspects of the film industry with the growth of digital and CGI technology in the past two decades.

However, the DVD revolution somewhat rescued the colorization process and gave it a new lease on life, as distributors were able to put both the colorized version and the black and white original onto a single disc, saving a great deal on production costs and marketing, and new players have taken the lead in this industry.

Yes, modern colorization techniques are much better than the crude tools that were being employed in the 1980's, so the images seem to be much crisper and the colors a little more subtle and realistic. Yet, a substantial part of me still thinks the colorization is wrong.

Even when those involved in the making of the original film are involved, like Shirley Temple Black helping Legend Films colorize her own canon of films, or Ray Harryhausen supervising the process for colorizing Merian C. Cooper's 1935 spectacle She, a movie that the producer had originally wanted to film in Technicolor, but RKO wouldn't spring for the added costs of that process at the time, it just feels like people are messing with our cultural heritage and other people's artistry and craftsmanship.

So even though I am willing to concede that today's colorization methods and dual presentation methods are admirable, I have trouble supporting it.


Megan said...

I'm with you.

Megan said...

P.S. Congrats on getting the 42 thing. I knew you would.

Arjan said...

as long as the B&W versions are still kept around. But ..I'd rather see the original too.

MC said...

Megan: May you always have a towel.

Arjan: Yeah, black and white versions of the same programming seems to be the new strategy for these releases now.

Lee said...

It's just not necessary, it's a real shame that they feel it is.

MC said...

They are making a business decision... just like those jackholes that are remaking everything in sight.