Hitchcock Restoration Sharpens Image, Botches Copy-Editing

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 13 2012 4:39 PM

New Hitchcock Restoration Dials T for Typos

A certain meme last month reminded us all that restorations don’t always make things better. Still, the average DVD or Blu-ray viewer probably doesn’t give much thought to the kind of decisions that go into readying their favorite films for a video disc. DVD review sites and movie bloggers and archivists debate the proper aspect ratios and levels of brightness and grain for new reissues week after week, but you’re unlikely to see such discussions in any Blockbuster or Netflix review.

Over at Enthusiasm.org, though, blogger Nick Wrigley has caught a subtle restoration error that anyone can see: typos. Wrigley shares Brow Beat’s passion for demanding proper style and punctuation from Hollywood’s latest releases, and he has taken a similarly stringent eye to the new Blu-ray restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.

The new Blu-rays of the 1972 thriller have re-rendered the opening titles with several small but significant errors. The images below were taken from the U.K. release, but Wrigley told me that “someone in the U.S. caught Frenzy on a U.S. HD TV channel the other day” and it, too, had “the same bad, new credits.” It’s not exactly Han shooting first, but in some ways it’s the typographical equivalent.

Hitchock_Frenzy_typos
“Do a few misspellings really matter that much?” – Yes they do. “Nobody would really notice would they?” – That’s not the point. Think how insulting it is to these crew members, their families, descendants. This HD master of FRENZY will now become the master that everyone will see for decades on TV, on iTunes, in DCP, and on this bad disc.
We’re not seeing the film as released in 1972 and signed off by Hitchcock, we’re seeing an approximation of the opening titles, the text of which looks like a PS3 videogame, completely static, with digital fades between each piece of text. All done in a vain attempt to make the opening credits look a little better than they probably do, and to save cleaning up the original.
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So while these errors may seem small, they’re a clear reminder that when dealing with cinematic history and the preservation of our favorite movies, we need our restorers to be a bit smarter than these apostrophes.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.