IMHO: 8 October 2005
There yet may be hope for The Avengers.
It is curious to see the flurry of recent news releases concerning the "recent discovery" of "Hot Snow." It's not as if it was discovered yesterday—indeed, it was the summer of 2002 when it was unearthed from the UCLA archives, along with the marvelous "Girl on the Trapeze."
Don't get me wrong—it's all very good for the show and its fans. It may in fact help cure the foot-dragging that's been going on at A&E, who have been threatening to complete the series on R1 DVD for well over a year now. Consider that, for all of their earlier missteps in handling the series (seriously faulty masters, subscription-only discs, etc.), Canal+ has at last "done good" with their massive new all-season release this month.
Bear in mind that, as far as I am aware, it does not include the 2.3 surviving David Keel episodes, which is a curious omission given the comprehensiveness of this new offering and the timing of its release—apparently coinciding with the "first episode discovery" press announcements and public screenings. Also, there will no doubt be some fans who will complain about the packaging, but regulars here know my opinion on that topic.
The overarching point is that it represents movement in a positive direction. It is my fervent hope that this plus the media buzz around "Hot Snow" will lead to greater things. VCI (a division of 2|entertain) have already acquired the rights to The Avengers from Canal+ and are planning an all-new R2 DVD series. Although this essentially represents duplicate products previously released by Contender, rumors abound that they are working on high-quality releases that may include a number of heretofore unavailable extras. And of course it is almost certain they will not be saddled with the well-known mastering faults Contender got stuck with by Canal+. However, the emphasis here is on the term "rumors," for very little concrete information has leaked out from these quarters of late.
Of course, this has not addressed one root concern: mastering. Most DVD releases so far are based on the Lumiere masters made in the early 90s. These are not the greatest sources, to be sure: the original negatives are in dreadful condition, and Lumiere did virtually no restoration work—worse, they made editing errors that resulted in mixed-up credits. In my opinion, proper restoration would require a substantial effort—and therefore a substantial capital investment. Will this ever happen?
At the end of the day, though, I would be happy with lower-quality masters if it meant being able to see the entire series. Up until the new French release, no single market had access to every episode. And North America has gotten the short end of the stick with regards to extras such as the full-length version of "The Strange Case of the Missing Corpse."
So, kudos to Canal+ for their bold new product release. Let us hope A&E and VCI are inspired to follow suit. Just one little thing... a few press releases from distributors on planned product offerings would go a long way to generating the revenue needed to keep giving us more of what we want. Rumors are no substitute for real information, which has historically been more rare then hen's teeth, to the great disappointment of paying customers.
Just as an example, Canal's official Avengers website does not mention their new products—instead they still list Contender as the distributor! Meanwhile, A&E's official Avengers website last saw an update back when the first season of The New Avengers made it to DVD. Is it all left up to the fan sites to keep people up to date? Worse, A&E have never contacted me directly about new releases—I always hear about things third-hand from site visitors. This is not the best way to generate sales! Keep the fans in the loop, and they will keep buying. Basic Marketing 101.
And that's my humble opinion.
David K. Smith, 8 October 2005
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