It should be a welcome development when a major home video studio owns up to a mistake it made on a Blu-ray title and moves quickly to implement a correction and exchange program. I don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything, but maybe it might have been a good idea to actually fix the error while doing so. Just a suggestion.
When MGM (and distributor Fox) released the classic musical ‘West Side Story‘ on Blu-ray back in November, fans of the movie (including film restoration expert Robert Harris) raised a ruckus about a mistake in the footage for the Saul Bass opening titles sequence. What should have been a dissolve transition between two images was replaced instead with a fade-out/fade-in.
This may sound like a minor error, and viewers unfamiliar with the movie might not even realize that anything was wrong, but those who know it well were quite upset. Responding with uncharacteristic quickness, MGM and Fox announced that a corrected replacement copy would be available soon, and set up a disc exchange program for those who’d already bought the old version. The new discs have already made their way into viewers’ hands and… well, they’re still wrong – just slightly less so.
The following comparison video was put together by forum member Xylon. The problem occurs 32 seconds in.
As you can see, the previous video version of the sequence dissolved from a red (or orange) still image, to green, and finally to blue. (As one of our commenters below points out, even this is incorrect. The green section of the montage was never supposed to be there.) In the first Blu-ray, the green section is gone, but was replaced with a fade to black and then a fade back up to blue, rather than a proper dissolve from red to blue. In the new “fixed” version, the red still fades about halfway to black, freezes, and then dissolves directly to a darkened version of the blue frame. After a second, the blue comes back up to regular brightness and the sequence resumes normally.
Of course, you can also see that the DVD editions of the movie opened this sequence with an orange still, which is now red in the Blu-rays. I’m not familiar enough with this movie to judge which of those is more accurate. The silhouette of the city skyline looks more defined on the DVD shots as well, but that may have something to do with the resizing and compressing of the video for this comparison clip.
I’m left to assume that whatever film elements MGM used for the Blu-ray transfer are missing the section of the footage with the original dissolve, and the studio tried to disguise this with the fade-to-black. When consumers complained, rather than search for another source of the dissolve, MGM digitally manipulated what it had on hand and gave us this half-assed “fix.”
This is a static still frame of a simple image. How hard could it be to sample the red and blue frames, digitally recreate the dissolve effect, and insert it in the middle? I feel like a clever fan could probably do this at home on a laptop. Yet a major Hollywood studio can’t? I find this very bizarre.
Personally, I don’t think that it’s even worth the effort to go through with the disc exchange for this. If you have the original Blu-ray and want to swap it out anyway, you can start by filling out the form on this page. Be warned that some owners have also run into confusion about whether Fox wants you to return just the disc itself or the entire Blu-ray package. If it were me, I’d just send the disc. The odds of getting the whole kit-and-kaboodle back seem slim to me.
If you haven’t bought ‘West Side Story’ on Blu-ray yet but were planning to, you can identify the “corrected” version by the UPC number. The box set has a UPC of 88390424521681, while the standard edition is 88390424523082. I’m not sure whether a replacement for the Digibook edition (the one I own) has been issued yet.