As reported on MSN Videodrone here, “ghosting” issues in a run of discs from the MGM Limited Edition Collection, a line of MOD (manufacture-on-demand) discs, were discovered a few weeks ago. Allied Vaughn traced the problem back to a faulty transcoder in the replication process and replaced it. The issue has been solved for all discs going forth and Fox Home Video promised that all faulty copies would be replaced through the vendors from which they were purchased.
Unfortunately, there has been some confusion with some of the vendors, who remained unaware of the issues with the discs and the promise from Fox, so Allied Vaughn has taken steps to honor replacements of affected discs directly.
How I Won the War (MGM Limited Edition Collection)
John Lennon’s familiar face, unsmiling behind a pair of yellow-tinted glasses, stares out from the cover of the this release of Richard Lester’s 1967 anti-war farce How I Won the War. And though second billed in the credits, Mr. Lennon is not so much co-star as an impish member of the company, an ensemble of oddballs goofing behind the ineffectual strutting of Lt. Goodbody (Michael Crawford, from Lester’s earlier film The Knack… and How to Get It and later to star in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom Of The Opera”) spouting his memoirs to the sympathetic German officer that has taken him prisoner. Peace signs and psychedelic suggestion of the cover aside, this sixties satire is neither a Beatles-esque romp nor a counterculture blast, but a mix of British music hall lampoon, “Goon Show” whimsy and absurdity, gallows humor and grim anti-war imagery (some of it actual battle footage edited into the comically chaotic recreation of warfare).
The film shifts back and forth through Goodbody’s confused service with the sweetly stupid and misguidedly cocky upper-class twit of a college boy, promoted to officer by virtue of class rather than any talent, intelligence or aptitude for leadership, periodically turning to the audience to spin a narrative that has little to do with the incompetence and tomfoolery onscreen. His mission—to build a proper cricket pitch in North Africa—stands in for the absurdity of war as the men die in often brutally violent fashion for this misguided misadventure.
How I Won the War is a well-meaning misfire of curious bits and pieces awkwardly pieced together in an unbalanced mosaic. Lennon, who had worked with Lester on A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, is no comic genius but his good-natured goofing and mugging as Musketeer Gripweed adds a scruffily vulnerable touch to the more focused character comedy of Jack MacGowran (as the unit con man and self-appointed entertainment director) and Roy Kinnear. The gruesome and the goofy mix it up in scene after scene, but Lester’s grand plan of using farce for political commentary is sabotaged by his uncharacteristically clumsy handling of it all. It’s like a military burlesque with everyone too busy with their own act to notice that there’s a story here. Or there should be one, at least.
A batch of discs from the MGM Limited Edition Collection, a MOD (manufacture-on-demand) line of releases sold exclusively via the web, was manufactured with errors in the image. In particular scenes with dark objects or hard lines set against a bright or neutral backgrounds, a halo effect, or ghosting, can be seen in the radiating out from the image (see frame captures below for an example). The problem, which has since corrected by Allied Vaughn (the company partnering with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment in the enterprise), was the result of a faulty transcoder used in the replication process, according to a spokesperson from Fox.
The problems appear to be limited to discs replicated during a particular window of time—the discs where I noticed the issue all arrived in early April—and a particular machine. And they are most apparent on black-and-white films, though the Africa scenes of How I Won The War, with soldiers set against the desert or the clear sky, are also quite noticeable, especially on high definition widescreen monitors.