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Print quality of "Swing Hi, Swing Low"


Gary_Mack

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My goodness! It's on right now and the terrible print looks like either a VHS or Beta U-Matic tape of a very poor quality video transfer. Also, a lot of the picture area on all four sides is cropped out of view. Is this the best TCM or anyone else can do with this Paramount classic? Is this the only existing print? What's the story behind the apparent unavailability of better source material?

 

GM

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No full-length 35mm print exists for this film, which is in the public domain. The original negative was loaned to Fox in 1948 when it did a musical remake, "When My Baby Smiles At Me," and has since been lost. Current prints are largely derived from the 16mm print owned by director Mitchell Leisen.

 

All this is rather ironic, as "Swing High, Swing Low" was Paramount's top-grossing film for all of 1937.

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We should be thankful that 16mm is an alternative format. There are many lost forever movies, mostly silents that don't even have a 16mm version available.

 

The lower quality fall back is better then nothing at all We can only hope that a private collector has the missing films. A like to add that a couple of nights ago on Starz, they suppose to show "Spiderman 3" but due to a mixup, showed an alternative movie. I don't have the slightest clue what the movie was but it was a dirty, heavily repaired 16mm print.

 

They should have saved that one for April 1st.

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I completely agree with you hamradio. I think that with all the wonderful things they can do restoring films today, we tend to get spoiled when something that doesn't meet those standards gets shown.

 

A lot of us grew up in an era when every tv station ran movies and other programs on 16mm films. We never gave a second thought to seeing scratches or splices or cue marks. Film started giving way to video tape in the late 1970's so there's a whole generation of film fans who have never experienced that. Today ,of course, no TV channel actually runs movies on film. It's all video tape or some other form of digital media.

 

Keep up the good work TCM, If you show something that's not up to what we've come to expect, I'll trust that it's the best copy you could get. I'd rather see a poor copy of a rarely seen movie than not having a chance to see it at all.

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I agree too. I don't mind watching a poor quality film because I know once it was new and I'm happy it's still around to be seen.

 

I would like it if TCM showed more letterbox and less slop and crop. With slop and crop I'm always left wonder what is happening that I can't see.

 

I would love to see Moby Dick and Captains Courageous in letterbox. And Treasure Island and... oh heck I wish they would start a new TCM channel with nothing but letterbox format.

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I taped it and just took a quick look based on these comments. Couldn't be more right. I watched "Hands Across The Table" last week with the same stars and enjoyed it and thought this would be a good follow up. Lombard is always a treat but it is always good to discover MacMurray in another fun role.

 

Now if we could only get "The Gilded Lily."

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I think you are a little confused. The films you mentioned were made before the advent of widescreen in what's known as standard 1:33-1 ratio. That's the same proportions as a standard tv screen. When they are shown fullscreen that's the proper way and there is no pan and scan involved.

To show them in an artificial letterbox format would require masking of the top and bottom of each frame and that would be as bad as pan and scan.

 

You can be assured that with rare exceptions, like the distributor sending the wrong version, TCM always shows films in the proper format whether it's fullscreen or letterbox.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the info, but I must add that a major problem with TCM's version is that the film-to-tape transfer was done very poorly with sub-standard equipment. Can't someone re-transfer that 16mm print, or find another one just as good or better? With such a popular film at the time, there must be other prints somewhere.

 

GM

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