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Penn & Teller Get Killed finally available on DVD!

September 16 2009 at 7:19 AM
  (Login cafink)

 
Several months ago, Warner Bros. introduced their "Warner Archive" program, though which they sell smaller catalogue titles on DVD-R through their web site.

Thanks to this program, Penn & Teller Get Killed is finally available on DVD! It's unfortunate (but understandable) that it's not being released via more traditional means, but at least the film is finally easily available to those who want it.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Warner Archive release appears to be in widescreen. The nomenclature is kind of unclear--it's referred to as "widescreen" in one place but "16×9 full frame" in another. I guess that "16×9 full frame" means that it fills the 16×9 frame and is thus widescreen, but they could be a little clearer about that.

Anyway, if it is indeed widescreen, then I believe this is actually the first time Penn & Teller Get Killed has ever been available in its original aspect ratio. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken, but wasn't even the laserdisc release in 4:3?

Anyway, I'm happy that I can finally own this fine bit of cinema on DVD.

 
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(Login JoMadge)

Re: Penn & Teller Get Killed finally available on DVD!

September 16 2009, 4:59 PM 

A high-def, "widescreen" version was shown on cable TV a year, or so, ago. I put "widescreen" in quotes, because what they actually did was crop the top and bottom off the 4:3 version (example below). It was a much clearer picture, though.

No idea, of course, if this release is the same, or genuine 16:9. Either way, yay!

~JoMadge

[linked image]

 
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(Login cafink)

Re: Penn & Teller Get Killed finally available on DVD!

September 17 2009, 8:46 PM 

That's actually normal for widescreen movies whose aspect ratio is 1.85:1, like Penn & Teller Get Killed (wider 2.35:1 "scope" films are shot differently). Movies were historically shot in a 1.37 aspect ratio (about the same as that of a standard television) until the mid-1950s, when the introduction of television inspired studios to adopt the "widescreen" process as a gimmick to get people to watch movies in theaters instead of at home.

However, they didn't use special cameras or film stock to achieve the wider aspect ratio. Instead, they continued to capture a picture on the entirety of a standard 1.37 frame of film, but actually framed the shot for a smaller 1.85:1 area within that frame.

This practice continues today. The monitor that the director and cinematographer use to compose their shot typically has markings on it to indicate the 1.85:1 area that will be displayed in theaters, but there is extraneous picture information above and below that area that does find its way onto the film. When a movies is released in "full screen" on DVD or shown that way on television, the frame is usually just "opened up" to expose this additional area.

So the viewer will indeed see more picture information with the full screen version than with the widescreen one, but the important point is that only with the widescreen version will he see the image as it was composed by the director and his cinematographer.

Sometimes, "opening up" the frame can lead to revealing mistakes. A Fish Called Wanda features one of the most famous examples of this, wherein a supposedly naked John Cleese is shown to actually be wearing pants, which are hidden below the bottom of the frame in the properly-framed widescreen version. You can see a comparison of the two versions at The Letterbox & Widescreen Advocacy Page.

If you know a little bit about film history and the way films are shot, it's not surprising that the widescreen version of Penn & Teller Get Killed shows less of the image than the full screen version. But that's the way it was meant to be seen, so I'm quite glad that that's the version which is apparently being included on the DVD.

 
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(Login JoMadge)

Re: Penn & Teller Get Killed finally available on DVD!

September 20 2009, 10:23 PM 

Cool! I had no idea. Thanks for the lesson, Carl.

~JoMadge

 
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(Login HeyRed)

Re: Penn & Teller Get Killed finally available on DVD!

September 18 2009, 6:17 PM 

I saw the laserdisc at a used book store a couple of years ago. In hindsight I should of bought it for them to sign. It would be an odd collectable for me to have.

 
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(Login cafink)

Re: Penn & Teller Get Killed finally available on DVD!

September 29 2009, 6:57 AM 

Glad I could be of service, JoMadge. The various ways movies are shot and subsequently transferred to video is a surprisingly complicated topic.

HeyRed, that's actually a very cool idea. Even though I have the DVD now, I think I'll hold onto the laserdisc so I can bring it to be signed whenever I finally get out to see Penn & Teller in Las Vegas.

Anyway, the DVD arrived over the weekend. I haven't had a chance to sit down and watch it, but I skipped through it a bit. I'm no expert, but I think it looks pretty darn good. I imagine Warner just used the same master they'd created for that cable showing JoMadge mentioned. A posted a slightly more detailed write-up in my blog, below.


----
Carl
Insect Politics

 
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