Monday, March 9, 2009

Forever Fiddling Friedkin

With all the flack that "Hurricane Billy" Friedkin is picking up for his new Blu-ray transfer of French Connection, from no less an authority than his own DP, Owen Roizman, it's worth taking another look at the Cruising DVD from 2007. The DVD transfer has a very strong blue hue throughout, while the original theatrical and VHS transfers had a much more neutral color palette.  In addition, Friedkin added a title card (scrolling across the screen as in a Rocky movie), subtracted the 1980 disclaimer meant to placate the mainstream gay community, and added several needless optical effects during scene transitions.

At the time of the Cruising re-release there was some discussion that the across-the-board color tampering may have been done to compensate for a badly faded negative.  In an Onion interview, Friedkin acknowledged that the Cruising negative had sustained damage, probably due to the fact that the film was produced by defunct mini-major Lorimar and its distribution rights had bounced around from UA to Warner over the years.  In any event, based on Friedkin's history of making changes to "his babies" for home video, going back to the Sorcerer laserdisc, it's safe to say that the new Cruising color scheme has as much to do with a damaged negative as it does with Friedkin's revisionist tendencies (see the aforementioned optical effects).  

I took out my Cruising dvd for the previous post and compared the film transfer to that of the included theatrical trailer.  The difference is astounding.  Aside from the trailer not being widescreen, I strongly prefer its look to that the of DVD:

I made a DVD recording from a 2006 IFC broadcast of Cruising in its original cut, complete with letterbox transfer and warmer color scheme, and, needless to say, I'll be hanging onto it.  I will probably eventually pick up the French Connection Blu-ray, but you can bet I won't be putting my original 2001 DVD set on eBay.  Here's a link to some attractive screen shots that Jeremy made over at Moon in the Gutter from the French Connection DVD. 

1 comment:

shadowdot said...

Great idea to compare with the trailer on the same DVD. I don't believe the story about color fading - what film of that period ever faded to blue?

Would it be possible to obtain a copy of the IFC broadcast recording? I've made a DVD of the VHS tape, but it's pretty degraded; it doesn't seem that IFC will ever show that version again, and the transfer never turned up anywhere else.