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The bird with the bungled audio


As you may know, Dario Argento’s first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, gets its high definition debut in just under a week’s time, courtesy of Blue Underground’s upcoming Blu-ray release. Screen captures and a review have now appeared at DVD Beaver, and I’m afraid it’s a case of good news and bad news.

On the plus side, the screenshots (which are, admittedly, somewhat over-compressed as is the DVD Beaver standard and therefore not a 100% accurate representation of the final product) suggest a very fine video transfer with the natural grain structure intact and a pleasing amount of detail. The DVD was so filtered that it always felt as if you were watching the film through a misty window, so it is a pleasure to see these captures looking so crisp and defined. All of the extras from the previous 2-disc DVD release have also been ported over.

On the downside, what hasn’t been ported over is an audio mix that is in any way representative of Argento’s intentions. Gone are the 2.0 mono English and Italian tracks that were on the DVD. In their place, as with The Stendhal Syndrome, are an array of redundant encodes of the same surround remix. Note to Blue Underground: if you are going to include a DTS-HD Master Audio track, you do not need to also include separate Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital tracks of the same mix. It’s pointless, a waste of space and only causes you to have to pay more in licensing fees. It really sticks in my craw that the original mono tracks were discarded in favour of these space-hoggers, particularly given the twaddle Blue Underground spewed about not having enough space left for the original audio.

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 7:41 PM | Comments: 8
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli



"what hasn't been ported over is an audio mix that is in any way representative of Argento's intentions."

I see this a lot in reviews of Euro Cult DVDs.

How do you know what Dario's intentions were over 30 years ago?

Posted by: Vincent, February 19, 2009 8:58 PM


Well, when you put it that way, I suppose I have no way of knowing what his intentions were, but I’m willing to bet that the original mono mix is somewhat closer than any remix created by a technician in the 21st century, artificially pumping out of up to seven channels audio elements that were created with the assumption that they would be heard monaurally.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, February 19, 2009 10:18 PM


I hate that many catalog Blu-rays (specifically Fox) print out that the discs have the master track in 5.1 but wouldn't a true master track be in lossless 1.0 or 2.0?

Posted by: Sound Designer Dan, February 20, 2009 1:03 AM


DVD Beaver says "NOTE: There is no 'flat' track for purists."

How subtly disparaging. Is he hoping that calling mono a 'flat track' is going to catch on as a technical term?

Posted by: , February 20, 2009 5:44 AM


I pre-ordered after seeing the screenshots on DVD Beaver (seem good) and didn't pay that much attention to the sound.

In an ideal world, we should be given the option a mono (or stereo) option for these old films, alas for whatever reason we aren't. It isn't quite a deal-breaker to me, but it is a shame.

However, BU's policy of putting out not only a 7.1 mix - ludicrous when you consider how many very recent films only get 5.1 mixes - but two of them (why?!) is lunacy, especially when they can then (probably rightly) claim there isn't room!

Posted by: Danno, February 20, 2009 9:51 AM


Sorry, meant to add to the above comment that "there isn't room for a mono track". Baffling...

Posted by: Danno, February 20, 2009 9:54 AM


Yeah, simply saying there is no room for lossless mono or stereo tracks for both the English and Italian audio is ridiculous when they use up so much space for so many different surround mixes. What a crock.

I thought hi-def was supposed to be about getting as close to the theatrical experience as possible. This includes film-like visuals (which a lot of companies goof up on with their DNR and so forth) and original sound mixes in the highest quality possible--and if a movie was originally in surround, the surround mixes ought to as closely represent the original mixes as possible. I don't like the whole 5.1 and 7.1 remix option where everything is done completely different in the vision of whoever is doing the job.

Such a disappointment that BU continues with this bizarre standard. Thankfully Criterion look to be supplying lossless mono and stereo tracks for their BDs, and I assume their picture quality is quite good as well.

Posted by: Christopher D. Jacobson, February 20, 2009 7:17 PM


Some important things to note: The English opening and closing credits are used, though the commentators make a note of pointing out the 1969 copyright and "Cromoscope" credit. They were obviously watching the Italian closing credits as the English credits do not have what they are referencing.

There are also many English cut-ins that are missing, such as the computer printout at the police station. These scenes were shot in multiple languages, but they were left in Italian on this release. Why?!?!

I was very happy with the picture quality, and the sound might technically be 7.1 but you'd be hard pressed to detect it if there is any separation at all between the 4 rear channels.

I wonder why they never put out lossless 1.0 mono tracks? Just crazy... I have so many mono Laserdiscs with uncompressed PCM mono and they sound full-bodied and quite clear. Then the DVD/Blu-ray versions arrived with cramped dynamic range, hiss-reduction, and shrillness.

Posted by: Chuck Pennington, February 26, 2009 3:56 PM

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