Sunday, February 26, 2006

WB Home Video HTF Chat

The folks at the Home Theater Forum recently hosted a chat with Warner Home Video executives regarding upcoming DVD film releases in 2006 and beyond. Many exciting plans were discussed, there was not much news on pre-code titles. This is perhaps explained by the fact that very few of the chat attendees asked specifically about films from that period. What we do know:

* There is the potential for some early Norma Shearer pre-codes to be released, along with a few of her silent films.

* The original camera negative for the 1932 horror film "The Mask of Fu Manchu" has been found and the DVD release (most likely late in 2006) will be the uncensored version.

* The earliest surviving Charlie Chan film, "The Black Camel" (1931), will be released as part of a Chan box set containing the Monogram Films entries in the series.

* June 2006 brings us a Clark Gable Signature Collection, featuring his second film with Joan Crawford, 1933's "Dancing Lady." There will also be more box sets in 2006-2007 devoted to such pre-code stars as Crawford, Jean Harlow, and James Cagney.

* The Lon Chaney Collection, Volume II is on the way, featuring his only talkie, the 1930 version of "The Unholy Three," restored from the original camera negative.

Of course, this does not represent the studio's entire output for 2006-2007, and as always, plans could change.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood

Though there has been no official announcement, The Digital Bits is reporting news about Warner Home Video's plans to finally start releasing some of its pre-code films on DVD. For months, we have known that the newly restored, unedited "Baby Face" would be sold on DVD once it made its way through the theaters. At one point, it appeared there would be a big box set coming our way in 2006.

Now comes word that Warners will releasing a series of Pre-Code sets under its TCM Archives label. The "Forbidden Hollywood Collection" series will start with a bang with Volume 1 set to feature the aforementioned "Baby Face," along with Jean Harlow in "Red-Headed Woman" and the long unseen "Waterloo Bridge," directed by James Whale. This first collection will also include a new feature-length documentary. No release date has been announced, but it would most likely be in May at the earliest, since Warner Home Video's press releases are just now trumpeting May product.

The previous TCM Archives releases have mostly focused on silent film, but they have received high marks from reviewers. Time Warner owns the rights to some of the most well-known Pre-Code films, so even if they came out with new Forbidden Hollywood volumes every quarter, they would not run out of material for some time. They released at least 20 titles on VHS in the early 90s.

Though this is great news, I am a little disappointed we aren't getting a big box set this year with 10 titles over five discs, etc. But if sales are good for this first volume, surely Warner's will release many more.