Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys DVD Collection

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peachtreegal

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Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys DVD Collection

PostWed Mar 10, 2010 9:45 pm

I just picked up Timeless Media's new Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys set, which Timeless is advertising with the following:

• 20 Feature Films, Many in Color
• Licensed by the Roy Rogers Family Trust
• Compiled with the assistance of Roy "Dusty" Rogers, Jr. and Jeffrey Kramer
• Digitally Remastered for the Best in Audio and Video Quality
• Movies introduced by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
• Bonus Features: A special look at Roy's Sidekicks, Roy Rogers Biography and a Tour of the Roy Rogers Museum, Hosted by Roy "Dusty" Rogers

So, I thought, this set sounds pretty good. However..

While I didn't expect the "digitally remastered" movies to look like something Warner Bros. had put through an Ultra-Resolution restoration, I had hopes they'd be half decent. Alas. The black and white films vary from VHS quality to not bad, but the color films are all in very bad shape, with The Golden Stallion the worst of all. Not only are the color films extremely soft and lacking in detail, but they're terribly faded. The Golden Stallion has been reduced to two colors: tea-brown and aqua green.

My question is: what shape are the original elements in? Has anyone here handled Roy Rogers' films? Does something need to be done quickly to save them before they all disintegrate entirely?

I remember reading that interview with Quentin Tarantino in the New York Times back in 2000 where he speaks at length about director William Witney and watched a print of The Golden Stallion with the reporter. I hope his print was in better shape than the material used for this DVD. :(

Here's a link to the article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/15/movies/whoa-trigger-auteur-alert.html?pagewanted=1
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silentfilm

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PostWed Mar 10, 2010 10:51 pm

A lot of the Roy Rogers films are public domain and are easily found in 16mm. The color films are harder to find (especially in low-fade color), but some of these are even PD. I suspect that all the Roy Rogers estate has are 16mm prints, and not 35mm originals, which may be controlled by Paramount, who took over Republic.
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moviepas

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Roy Rogers

PostThu Mar 11, 2010 1:12 am

Thaks for posting that Roy Rogers story. I have earlier releases that came out from Roy Rogers interests which are OK and have a good 60mins clip used at moviehouse showing in color in the 1940s. A lot of collectors have told me that Rogers is too childish to collect but I don't think that way.

TMG are an iffy company and their DVD of the TV movie YUMA(1970?) is rather poor and washout color. The idea is that they get rights from Universa for TV shows or movies and have to find their own copies. Sounds funny to me but there has been a number of blogs against their copies of stuff.

Recently in Australia a DVD publisher who gets rights from Universal, Fox and others that those companies don't want to release themselves in our market, issued the TV series The Virginian Series 1, in color, and one complete set. Never been known in color as we had no color TV during the first run of this series. The color is superb.

Now TMG are releasing the series in USA in two parts for Series 1. The only difference in content appears that the TMG has interviews added to both sets. The question is how is the color on the TMG sets???

The Roy Rogers color films were made on a modern 2-strip color process like Cinecolor or Trucolor which handicaps them for a start. Paramount and Columbia also sometimes used these processes in the late 1940s. Doesn't always look too bad but that is Paramount or Universal doing the reissuing on DVD, though.
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Marr&Colton

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PostThu Mar 11, 2010 6:48 am

Over the years in collecting old films on DVD, I've learned to never buy any releases other than by the mainstream distributors. (There are exceptions from time to time) I always wait for a review on DVD Savant.

A good case in point is the recent Little Rascals set, which were terrible quality.

I've never seen any 35mm transfers of Roy Rogers titles (if anyone can point any out, I'd like to see them) Most if not all are 16mm, either from Hollywood Television Service (Republic's TV distribution department), old rental prints or outright dupes that were common in the 1970s.

I'm sure there must be 35mm prints in collectors hands--too bad those few can't be transferred for DVD release.

If you want to see beautiful 35mm transfers of B-Westerns, check out the Gene Autry series released by Image Entertainment. All are restorations, with most footage from 35mm, although some 16mm may be used to fill gaps in continuity to replace decomposed 35mm footage.

Autry must have saved prints of all his pictures, while Rogers must not have been a film preservationist.
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Jim Reid

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PostThu Mar 11, 2010 8:37 am

Marr&Colton wrote:A good case in point is the recent Little Rascals set, which were terrible quality.


Why would you consider them terrible? I agree that it was a disappointment that they weren't the same elements or transfers as the fantastic Cabin Fever laserdiscs, and using the Blackhawk 16mm prints was kind of lame, but I don't think the actual quality was bad at all.
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peachtreegal

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PostThu Mar 11, 2010 12:49 pm

I have bought other items from Timeless and have been satisfied with them. I don't expect reference quality from them and I didn't get it with my other purchases, but they were certainly watchable.

However, the info that the Rogers family was involved and the DVDs were digitally remastered had me thinking these movies would look halfway decent. Again, the black and white ones aren't all that bad (they vary) -- it's the color ones that are in terrible shape, especially The Golden Stallion.

That said, there are some really enjoyable extras on the set. I thoroughly enjoy the "Happy Trails Theatre" segments that bookend each film. :) And despite the faded quality of The Golden Stallion, I have to admit I loved it all over again. Forgive me for the crudity of the expression, but that film is major horse porn. :)
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Richard M Roberts

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Re: Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys DVD Collection

PostThu Mar 11, 2010 3:42 pm

peachtreegal wrote:I just picked up Timeless Media's new Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys set, which Timeless is advertising with the following:

• 20 Feature Films, Many in Color
• Licensed by the Roy Rogers Family Trust
• Compiled with the assistance of Roy "Dusty" Rogers, Jr. and Jeffrey Kramer
• Digitally Remastered for the Best in Audio and Video Quality
• Movies introduced by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
• Bonus Features: A special look at Roy's Sidekicks, Roy Rogers Biography and a Tour of the Roy Rogers Museum, Hosted by Roy "Dusty" Rogers

So, I thought, this set sounds pretty good. However..

While I didn't expect the "digitally remastered" movies to look like something Warner Bros. had put through an Ultra-Resolution restoration, I had hopes they'd be half decent. Alas. The black and white films vary from VHS quality to not bad, but the color films are all in very bad shape, with The Golden Stallion the worst of all. Not only are the color films extremely soft and lacking in detail, but they're terribly faded. The Golden Stallion has been reduced to two colors: tea-brown and aqua green.

My question is: what shape are the original elements in? Has anyone here handled Roy Rogers' films? Does something need to be done quickly to save them before they all disintegrate entirely?

I remember reading that interview with Quentin Tarantino in the New York Times back in 2000 where he speaks at length about director William Witney and watched a print of The Golden Stallion with the reporter. I hope his print was in better shape than the material used for this DVD. :(

Here's a link to the article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/15/movies/whoa-trigger-auteur-alert.html?pagewanted=1



You do have to remember that the color Roy Rogers films were done in Republic Trucolor, originally a lamer version of Cinecolor with red/green primary colors and it did fade over time. Most original Trucolor prints do not look particularly spectacular, then or now. I doubt Timeless would spring for elaborate restoration on those titles, and if they have intros by Roy and Dale, it sounds likr they're going from old video masters from previous VHS or television releases.

RICHARD M ROBERTS
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bri-dal

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Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys DVD Collection

PostThu Mar 11, 2010 10:01 pm

I have not yet viewed this collection, but there is another issue that should be considered. Are these movies full length and uncut? Much too many Roy Rogers DVDs out there have the cut versions of the movies. They come from film prints that were used when the movies were put on TV to fit into a 1 hour format. They would mostly have a lot of the musical numbers removed and end up at around 55 minutes. Also, I very much enjoy the Happy Trails Theatre interviews that are included in a set such as this. But, if they add the interview time that goes with each movie, to a cut movie length, it becomes confusing to the buyers as to what they are actually getting. Personally, I would enjoy getting a full length and uncut movie of the best possible quality. That is what I am hoping for in this particular set. So, it would be nice to see what the actual running time for each movie is in this set, excluding any interview time that might be added.
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Ed Hulse

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PostThu Mar 11, 2010 10:51 pm

The good news is that all of Roy's starring Westerns exist. The bad news is that very few of them exist in their original release form.

When MCA bought the Rogers films from Republic in the early '50s, they mutilated the original 35mm elements to make 16mm printing negatives for TV syndication prints, which initially had a standard running time of 53:30. (Later they were cut to 51:30.) In most cases, the original camera negative was chopped up. Since the editing involved the addition of fades and dissolves to create transitions, various shots were duped. The dupe negative was integrated with the camera negative, a new 35mm fine grain was struck, and printing negatives made from that. Until 1942, all but a few of Roy's pictures were short six-reelers (originally running 55 minutes or so), so the cutting was generally unobtrusive. In late '42, after Gene Autry entered the service, Republic gave Roy a big publicity buildup -- that's when he was dubbed "King of the Cowboys" -- and gradually increased the budgets on his films, which were lengthened to seven and eight reels. The cutting of these mid-'40s films for TV thus resulted in the loss of up to 20 minutes per movie.

I've come across isolated TV prints of some Rogers films that appear to be optical reduction prints from the original 35mm negatives, physically trimmed to the 53:30 length. I suspect these prints were struck very early in the game -- possibly to service a single broadcast market before the new printing negatives could be manufactured. The MCA prints were almost exclusively printed on Kodak stock, but a 1953 print of Roy's second film, BILLY THE KID RETURNS, looks vastly different than a 1958 print.

Some years ago UCLA restored Roy's first film, UNDER WESTERN STARS, which was released at seven reels and originally ran 66 minutes or thereabouts. The archivists found that the original 35mm negative had been cut and reconfigured, so they were forced to replace the excised footage with dupe negative blown up from the only existing 16mm printdown of the complete version, struck in 1948 for the film's director, Joe Kane.

When Dusty Rogers and his partners created HAPPY TRAILS THEATRE for the Nashville Network, they relied on old 16mm TV prints sourced from private collectors. Nostalgia Merchant marketed 16mm prints of some color Rogers films, but those prints -- on unstable Eastman color stock -- have faded badly in the 30-plus years since NM struck them. Since most of the copyrights to Roy's pictures lapsed after MCA lost the right to market them to TV, public-domain outfits like Timeless Video have kept them in circulation, almost always mastering cut TV prints of variable quality.

Hope this answers some of the questions.
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Marr&Colton

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Little Rascals set?

PostFri Mar 12, 2010 7:08 am

In answer to a previous comment from Jim in Dallas, I compared the new Little Rascals DVD set to the older Cabin Fever DVD set, which were virtually all excellent quality, derived from 35mm Library of Congress material.

I understand the reason there is so little original negative material on Laurel & Hardy shorts is the very same reason Ed Hulse cited for the Rogers titles:
TV distributors back in the 50s either damaged or lost original 35mm negatives while making TV prints.
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peachtreegal

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PostFri Mar 12, 2010 8:33 am

Thanks everyone, especially Ed. I guess this Timeless set is as good as it's going to get, unless someone forks out a lot of money for restorations. I don't see that happening though I'd sure love to be wrong.
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Ed Hulse

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PostFri Mar 12, 2010 9:39 am

One thing I should have mentioned: SOME of Roy's mid-'40s films survive in long version because Republic's non-theatrical distribution division made uncut 16mm prints available to rental libraries. Some of these prints are still around, although the ones I've seen all came from composite-dupe negatives and their image quality leaves something to be desired.

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