Irate About Something Other Than Politics

Now this is just low. And stupidly low as well.

As any DVD or film aficionado will tell you, pan-and-scan transfers (or “full frame,” as the revisionist marketing geniuses would call them) suck. An artistic bastardization of a director’s (and cinematographer’s) creation. Now, for a long time, in the days of movies-on-television, this was excusable — large-screen televisions were rare, and most folks didn’t really know the difference. After all, if you were already cutting up a movie to put commercials in and edit out objectionable content, who really cared if you also cut out up to half of the picture image?

When home video first emerged on the scene, it took a while for people to realize that the “they’ve already cut it up so much” argument didn’t really exist anymore. Still, with the substandard resolution of VHS tape, it wasn’t something (for most people) to get upset about. Still, I for one always picked up a widescreen transfer when it was available, but those were usually reserved for the laserdisc set.

But with the proliferation of DVD and the increased size of the average television set, there’s really no excuse anymore. As much as the Wal-Mart yokels may want to fight it, we’ve moved into a widescreen world.

Here’s where it gets nasty. It appears that MGM, rather than transferring their library of widescreen films to widescreen DVD format, decided to just lop off the top and bottom of the existing pan-and-scan transfers. In other words, instead of opening up the image so you can see the full original screen, they actually chopped more off of the film image. And then, to add insult to injury, they had the gall to market these as widescreen films!

Well, they’ve finally been called on it. And thanks to a class-action lawsuit, they’re going to have to pay for it. As is the nature of class-action suits, the actual amount won’t even pay for the costs of replacing the discs — assuming they even produce corrected versions — but it’s something.

Just taking a look at the eligible discs list, I can see several in my collection. The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, 1984, The Terminator, Y Tu Mamá También, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dr. No, A Fish Called Wanda, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hoosiers, Much Ado About Nothing, The Princess Bride, Rocky, This Is Spinal Tap, and Twelve Angry Men. And that’s just at first glance.

I cannot encourage you strongly enough — if you bought an MGM DVD between December 1, 1998, and September 8, 2003, or even think you might have — to check out the list for yourself. You’ve only got until the end of March to file a claim and show these bastards that pan-and-scan may be bad enough, but throwing out something worse than pan-and-scan and claiming it’s better is called good old-fashioned fraud.


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