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For Lombard fans, tomorrow is a 'Sacred' day

For the past few months, Dec. 20 has been a red-letter day for many Carole Lombard fans. Here's why:



It's the day that Kino International releases "Nothing Sacred," regarded by virtually all film historians as one of Carole's classics and a landmark in cynical screwball comedy, is released on DVD and -- for the first time -- the Blu-ray format.

So what's the big deal, you say, noting that "Nothing Sacred" is among Lombard's easiest films to find. Well, chances are you've never seen it like this before.

For years, "Nothing Sacred" was available only in cheap public domain copies, robbed of its visual (and, often aural) brilliance. The Kino version should be different, as it's from a print once owned by its producer, David O. Selznick, and now the property of George Eastman House, the fabled film archive and preservation/restoration site that we profiled last week (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/468761.html).

In fact, near the start of the print, you'll see a significant difference right away:



That "Technicolor" reference on the bottom is excised from most public domain versions, as they generally derive from prints struck in the 1940s that used the cheaper, and less vivid, Cinecolor process. Want more proof? Here are three images of Lombard taken directly from the Blu-ray version (from the DVDBeaver review (http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/blu-ray_reviews55/nothing_sacred_blu-ray.htm). I'm following the first two with virtually identical screengrabs from previous versions for comparison:









It's a quantum leap over versions available in recent years, albeit not perfect; remember, you are working from a source nearly three-quarters of a century old. As Gary Tooze wrote in his DVDBeaver review:

"The colors look so lifeless and funky with wild swings in skin tones but I don't point fingers at the 1080P transfer. It would surprise me if this is how this very early color film appeared in its day. It was great to see it via Blu-ray and the grain is impressive. You kind of relax about the skintone shifts once you get into the film. I appreciated the rich textures and there was very little in the way of noise. More due to the production or existing state of the source but there is some inconsistency in the visuals which can move from surprising clarity and color balance to cloudy haziness with less-tight color image quality. There are some frame-specific scratches but none that were too distracting. Actually, I wasn't expecting 'Nothing Sacred' to look as good as it does."

Glenn Erickson, writing at the TCM website (http://www.tcm.com/this-month/movie-news.html?id=461280&name=Carole-Lombard-Fredric-March-in-Nothing-Sacred), largely concurs:

"An actual Technicolor release print normally makes a poor source for a video transfer; previous video versions of this title have had terrible contrast problems. Those drawbacks have been minimized in Kino's new HD scan of the print, and the use of new digital tools. The film's color varies, as does its contrast and grain. Some scenes look quite good while others resemble colorized B&W. I've never seen an original Tech print to compare but this Blu-ray is intact and sharp. It also has excellent sound lacking in most copies for many years. Oscar Levant's original music score is no longer broken up by splices, pops and dropouts."

Unlike Criterion's stunning restoration of "My Man Godfrey" (which, believe it or not, came out about 10 1/2 years ago!), the only extras on "Nothing Sacred" are trailers for the film itself and two other recent Kino classic film reissues. "I'd have loved to hear some discussion on the film or possibly even a commentary -- but no such luck," Tooze wrote, and I agree.

Nevertheless, just seeing Lombard go at it with March, in probably the most accurate and vivid color portrayal most of us have ever seen, should be a treat. And if you don't have Blu-ray, it's also coming out in a regular DVD version too, also in high definition. Find out more at http://www.kino.com, or check your local store.

We celebrate the season with this week's header, from Pathe in the late '20s, as Santa Carole (or should we say Santa Carol, as Pathe spelled her first name in those days) looks over the work of elfin Jeanette Loff. Merry Christmas!
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