Corrected ‘West Side Story’ Blu-ray Still Incorrect

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.


  1. Yeah, a high-schooler could probably fix that in about 20 minutes on a PC. The differences in color is also dramatic. I am still planing on picking this movie up, though, but as I will most likely be buying form Amazon, I will take whatever they send me. I’ve truthfully never seen the movie – this will be a blind buy for me, and so I never would have even known there was anything wrong if it wasn’t for the HDD blog.

  2. Random Commenter

    What a crock of shit. If I had known they didn’t bother fully correcting it, I wouldn’t have bothered sending my discs in. Thanks for letting others know, Josh. I have the digibook, also, and they instructed me to send only the discs, since it’s an exclusive version.

  3. August Lehe

    Even when I saw Westside as an usher in a Fort Lee N.J. first-run theater, I was less than overwhelmed. Frankly, I found the New York locations depressing, although the Leonard Bernstein score and Jerome Robbins’ choreography compensated somewhat. Plus, I knew Robert Wise had never directed a big-budget bomb.
    What’s the word on the 50th Anniversary Disc coming out in a month or two?

  4. Mr. Green

    It should be more of a cross fade from the one color to the next, with no green in between. (Take a look at the laserdisc version, available on YouTube.) The green was never present until the DVD, and now a bunch of fans who call themsleves purists are angry at MGM for not repeating the mistake on the Blu-ray! The corrected Blu-ray, although not perfect, is closer to being correct than the DVD.

    • Huh, here is yet another version from HDNet:

      This looks closer to the “corrected” Blu-Ray release.

      So this brings up a really weird question – with all these very different versions, what is correct? Not just the fade, but what is the actual color supposed to be (red or orange and light or dark blue)? This means that most (or all) of the releases are not properly color corrected.

  5. Technology limitations aside, it boggles my mind that this kind of thing still happens today. The studio should be able to easily defend it’s decision by explaining which overture affect is the official one from the films negatives. Negatives which should have been kept safe in, well, a safe. There should also be notes from when the movie was made explaining the original overture and how it progresses (maybe).

    Unfortunately there are so many people in power today creating blu-rays and remastering films that apparently have no respect for the history of the films they are tinkering/remastering. The first rule of remastering a film to Video should be to respect the heritage of the original product and attempt to recreate that movie theater experience on DVD or Blu or whatever. Making any changes should be so hard as to be impossible unless there is a very VERY good reason. These high school hacks shouldn’t be able to change anything unless they can prove it was the director’s intent, or that previous versions got it wrong. If they can explain that this is the way it was when the movie was originally shown in theaters in the 60’s nobody would call foul.

    Blu-Ray’s are not cheap, and special edition Blu-Rays even more so. The rights owners on these films should learn to be way more respectful and make sure that if changes are made they are communicated to the people who are going to buy these products. In this day and age it’s so easy to add a website to your already running website, include a video explaining the differences between versions and your reasoning as to why the FIXED version looks the way it does (Would be a good damned idea to know why they screwed it up in the first place as well).

    People are very wary of changes to movies they consider beloved, it’s the entire reason a huge portion of George Lucas’s audience has completely turned on him and considers him now to be a complete sellout.

    The film purists aren’t wrong if the studio is screwing around with these movies, you may not care about it now, but every time studios screw around with a movie you love there is a chance that you’ll never get to see the right version of a movie ever again.

  6. David Moss

    My deceased friend Lin Dunn did this work in the technical sense. The elements composition have not been handling as the integral part of the sensory bridge to the film as devised. He was meticulous and always proud to highlight this in his life’s work which spanned King Kong to Star Trek. Help encourage the original structure before it gets lost in the future.