Saturday, March 29, 2008

The lousy, lousy trailer

One of the things I like about TCM is how their upcoming movies are promoed through the use of vintage trailers that would have been shown to audiences back in the day. The trailers are often bombastic, puffing up the studios' stars to ridiculous dimensions that are good for a laugh. Also, the editing generally leaves something to be desired, with a doctrinaire use of wipes instead of cuts (especially for earlier movies).

However, what struck me last night is the physical quality of the trailers. Last night, TCM showed a trailer for A Ticklish Affair (March 31 at 3:00 PM ET), and I was surprised at the poorness of the print. The movie is in color, but the colors on this print were at best washed out. There was a slightly reddish tint to everything, but the actual reds in the scenes were faded to a dull, rusty hue. There also didn't seem to be much in the way of greens and blues, either.

It's not just Technicolor that suffers in the trailers. I've noticed that when trailers for older (1930s and 1940s) black and white movies are aired, the prints look as though they're almost bad, fuzzy public domain prints, and certainly nothing like the quality of the actual finished product.

I can think of two good reasons why trailers would have a lower visual quality than the full movies we see:

1. The studios wouldn't put as much effort into making a trailer as they would into making the finished product. I can't imagine the top directors going into the editing room and watching the creation of the advertising trailers the way they would with the daily rushes of the movies they were working on. Also, I would doubt that anywhere near as much time was spent on creating the promos as would be spent on making the equivalent amount of finished movie.

2. The studios would have had little need to preserve the trailers. It's fairly well known that studios have been remiss about preserving their actual feature movies, with movies being lost for a variety of reasons. Considering the cost of movie preservation, who would spend the money to preserve the trailers, too?

Does anybody older know whether the quality of the trailers was just as bad originally as what we see on TCM today?

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