Saturday, 24 October 2009

One step forwards, two steps back

My incurable obsession with the film Things to Come dictates that I regularly (i.e. pretty much every day!) check eBay for related items, so it was with some surprise that in doing so I recently found the DVD release seen here.

From the cover it was clear that this was a UK release of the American Legend Films "colorized" version that came out in 2006. Things to Come was for many years in the public domain in the United States, and whilst it and other non-American films were supposed to have their copyright reinstated in 1996 under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the situation has still not been legally settled for sure. Many distributors continue to release such films as "public domain," and this includes the Legend Films DVD, bolstered by their claim that their colorisation makes it a new work of which they own the copyright!

Regardless of the situation in the United States, though, the film remains in copyright in the United Kingdom, and will remain so - for reasons too complicated to detail - until at least the end of 2027. The current owners of the film are ITV Global (previously Granada Ventures), and the only licensed DVD UK releases are those put out by DD Home Entertainment in 2006, and the Network DVD special edition that came out in mid 2007.

My first reaction on seeing this new release was that it was a bootleg, with faked British Board of Film Classification certificates, but a quick search of their database showed that it had actually been classified by them in April this year. More surprising was that the publisher was listed as E1 Entertainment, the new guise of the large and established Contender Group. Acquiring a copy of the new release showed that the only copyright information on the disc or the packaging is to Legend Films, with ITV Global mentioned nowhere. Whoops!

The whole issue of colourising films is, of course, a contentious one. Some people regard it as a way of giving new life to films that were made in monocrhome; others - including myself - consider it vandalism of the highest order. Regardless of either position, Legend Films hasn't exactly helped itself, since as noted in my webpage on various releases of the film, the print they used for their effort is an exceptionally poor one. On the right is a comparison of the Network DVD in originaly monochrome, the Legend colourisation, and - as an interesting counterpoint - the faux coloured American lobby card of the same scene. As can be seen, the definition on the Legend print is very poor compared to the one used by Network. If that were not bad enough, it's not even complete, since beyond the four sequences reinstated in the Network DVD release, there are other seemingly timing cuts, for example in the opening Christmas Eve montage. Overall, the film on the new release runs to just 88m, rather than the 89m of the "standard" print, and the 92m 38s of the Network Special Edition.

As the title of this post says....