Theo Kalomirakis: Warner Archive Instant Keeps Getting Better and Better
I continue to be fascinated by the variety of classic movies at Warner Archive Instant that are available for the first time in HD. Busby Berkeley musicals (Footlight Parade, Dames), pre-code melodramas (Purchase Price, Baby Face), early-’50s B musicals (Athena, Give a Girl a Break), and on and on can be now savored in sharpness that comes close to film projection.
The source of most of these movies are pristine copies from Warner’s vaults with no artificial enhancement whatsoever. You look, for example, at Footlight Parade and what impresses you the most is the film grain inherent in the original stock. A large number of titles in Warner Archive’s catalog originate from prints that seem to be just one generation away from the camera negative. That’s not always the case with a number of classics from other services, including those from Criterion. For example, last night I checked Kurosawa’s masterpiece The Seven Samurai on Hulu Plus. Although the transfer is perfectly acceptable, there was no sight of any grain on the image, usually a dead giveaway that the print was a few of generations away from the original source. That’s life I suppose. Over decades, the original source of classics of the stature of The Seven Samurai must have disappeared among foreign rights moving from one distributor to another, studios changing hands, or catastrophic fires that have devoured entire vaults.
Therefore, to return where I started, one has to be grateful to Warner Bros. for having taken care of its classic treasures so diligently over the years, and even more grateful to George Feldstein and Warner Archive, who are making these treasure available to us through streaming, and for he very first time in HD. That’s a cause for celebration among movie buffs, and I have been in a celebratory mood ever since Warner Archive became available in my indispensable Roku 3 device.
Not in a million years would I have imagined I would ever see my favorite comic duo from the ’30s, Wheeler and Woolsey, in HD. I was dead wrong. Sure enough, one of their best comedies, Kentucky Kernels, showed up recently at Warner Archive in glorious HD. In celebration of this memorable–probably just to me!—occasion I’ve republished my earlier blog about the “boys.” Enjoy!