Get A Whole New Complexion
By Jim Bray
Remember colorizing? It was a brainchild of Ted Turner, back in the days before
when he could still innovate. It was a horrid process by which technicians would
go back to classic movies and put color into them, effectively painting a cheap
mustache onto the Mona Lisa.
It looked cheesy; I watched parts of a couple of those old colorized movies
and it was obvious what they’d done – which was to ruin some real
Well now, Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, part of the Sony empire, is
revisiting the colorizing issue with a new digital process they call ChromaChoice.
The company says their new process ups the technological ante over the old Turner
stuff by starting with new, 1080i high definition video transfers that feature
restored and remastered images to create the best quality available today.
But before that, each film is extensively researched and Columbia Tristar tries
to make use of as many original source elements as possible. They apparently
even go back to the Columbia Pictures archives to look at things such as whatever
original props and color swatches they can find to help ensure that, when they
do finally add the color, that the colors are as close to the originals as possible.
My initial reaction was one of horror at the thought of some black and white
classics being ruined, but having seen these first two releases I have to say
that Columbia Tristar has done a surprisingly good job.
Besides, since the first releases are a pair of Three Stooges compilations,
it isn’t as if they’re messing with real art. Okay, I’m putting
on my asbestos underwear! I used to watch the Stooges when I was a kid, but
after that I discovered Abbot and Costello and that turned me off the Stooges,
since A&C used a lot more wordplay than they did simple physical abuse,
and I found that appealing.
So how does the colorized version look? Actually, surprisingly good. Now, these
were low budget productions to begin with, and that fact still shows, but the
color looks consistent with the quality one might have found from such productions
if they’d been shot that way in the first place. So while they don’t
have the quality of “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Gone
with the Wind” or “The Wizard of Oz, it’s still quite eye
But what’s really great about these DVD’s is that Columbia Tristar
hasn’t forgotten about the purists. They’ve also included the original
black and white versions on the DVD, side by side with the colorized ones, and
not only can you choose which version you want to watch but you can switch between
them virtually instantaneously using your DVD player’s Angle control.
It’s pretty cool.
On my reference player the change from one version to the other isn’t
instantaneous, but it’s quick enough, and A/Bing them side by side was
what convinced me in the end that I actually preferred the color version. And
I never expected that would happen.
I’m not sure I’d feel the same way if the films were a little more
important, in the grand scheme of things, than the Three Stooges, but this ChromaChoice
feature may actually succeed in bringing Larry, Moe and Curly to new generations
of kids who may have never given them a chance before because they were in black
And that’s a good thing. I’ve been trying for years to get my kids
to watch classic movies that happen to be in black and white, but they’ve
never bitten. Perhaps this ChromaChoice method will succeed where Ted Turner
and parental nudging failed.
The DVD’s themselves are pretty good. They’re presented in their
original full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, so they aren’t 16x9 TV compatible
unless you stretch and/or zoom the picture to fill the 16x9 screen, but that’s
only to be expected from the original source material and I’d rather see
that than have the film artificially cropped into widescreen.
Audio is old and mono and unremarkable, but that also works okay for this material.
As a self-styled purist, I’m not a fan of changing an original beyond
the kind of restoration and remastering that brings it back to its original
glory, but I have to admit that I can live with CTHE’s ChromaChoice because
it lets you experience both versions and watch whichever one you prefer. And
if you just have to mess around with an original, this is the way to do it.
Here’s a quick look at the individual shorts on each disc, courtesy of
Goofs on the Loose
MEN IN BLACK (1934) Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard. Three
nitwits take medical malpractice to a whole new level in this Oscar-nominated
THE SITTER DOWNERS (1937) A sit-down strike not only wins three imbeciles the
girls of their dreams, but a prefabricated cottage complete with wifely ultimatum:
no house, no honeymoon! New to DVD!
PUNCH DRUNKS (1934) Whenever Curly hears "Pop Goes the Weasel," he
turns into a fighting madman, so Moe promotes him into the next heavyweight
champion of the world.
PLAYING THE PONIES (1937) You can lead a horse to water and make him drink if
you feed him chili pepperinos, as the Stooges do to a broken-down nag, turning
him into the thirstiest - and fastest - racehorse on the planet. New to DVD!
Stooged and Confoosed
VIOLENT IS THE WORD FOR CURLY (1938) Class is in session at the exclusive Mildew
College for women, where Professors Howard, Fine and Howard teach the shapely
student body their famous nonsense song, "Swinging the Alphabet."
YOU NAZTY SPY! (1940) The King of Moronica is overthrown, and three paperhangers
are chosen to take his place: Dictator Hailstone, Field Marshal Gallstone and
Minister of Propaganda Pebble. New to DVD!
NO CENSUS, NO FEELING (1940) Three gung-ho census-takers let nothing stand in
their way of an accurate count, whether it be crashing a fancy bridge party,
spiking drinks with Alum or invoking a riot at a professional football game.
New to DVD!
AN ACHE IN EVERY STAKE (1941) When three icemen agree to help Mrs. Lawrence
prepare a fancy birthday party, their particular specialty ? an exploding, gas-filled
cake-goes off with a bang. New to DVD!
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think