Thursday, February 19, 2009

5.1 Fetish

In the text, we note that The Godfather (1972) provides only a 5.1 sound track mix despite the fact that the film was originally released in mono. Here is a screen grab of the audio menu:



I have no objection per se to remixing and cleaning up sound tracks for release on DVDs, just as I have no objection per se to pan-and-scan versions or to colorization, for that matter—so long as the altered version does not make the "original" version inaccessible. Those original sound track mixes are often of great historical interest and, among other things, we lose a lot of lose information about how film makers thought about sound when a sound track is remixed according to today's standards.

I much prefer it when DVDs provide an option for the "original" theatrical sound track, as for instance, this one for Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).



Yet even when given the appearance of a choice we must be careful. Here is a shot of the menu of the sixth installment of the series Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991).



The claim that the "stereo" mix represents the theatrical release is misleading inasmuch as the original theatrical release was in Dolby Stereo (actually Dolby SR), which in fact carried four channel (left, center, right, surround) stereo. Here, the 5.1 mix might in fact come closer to the theatrical SR mix than does the two-channel stereo. Yet this stereo mix is no doubt of historical interest itself since it most likely reproduces the two-channel stereo of the original VHS release.

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