Movie colorization

I just noticed that three of the DVD’s I’ve bought because of my 30′s movies marathon, She, Things to Come and My Man Godfrey, contain both a black & white and a colorized version of the movie. In other words, movie colorization is back.

What a great idea. I know – colorization has a bad reputation. But it’s undeserved. These movies look great. There’s nothing wrong with the quality. That is, Things to Come both looks and sounds bad, but so does the black & white version.

I don’t see any good reasons not to colorize old movies, now that the technology is good enough. The last stand of the purists is that “they weren’t meant to be in color”, which is a stupid thing to say. Of course they were meant to be in color. They just didn’t have the money. Color technology existed in the 30′s, but it was expensive. Few directors would have said no if they’d had the option.

There are movies that would look worse in color. Black & white is a tool, and some directors knew how to use it. But most black & white movies are just .. colorless. To oppose all colorization is to give blind obedience to accident, (this movie got the budget, that movie didn’t).

One critic of colorization is George Lucas, (yes, George Lucas, the man who changed Star Wars!), who is afraid that old comedies may be less funny in color. If so, the problem is hardly the color, is it?

5 thoughts on “Movie colorization

  1. Dr.N.A.S

    Hello Sir, It’s really good ideas to see our lovely movies again in color..I’m a phd researcher and I already have made a movie colorization project one year ago, I ‘ll be pleased to contact with you.
    Please visit my site and contact me.

  2. Pingback: 40’s movies marathon – part 88 « Bjørn Stærk's Max 256 Blog

  3. Adam Lounsbery

    I don’t care for movie colorization. It’s not because I think black & white movies weren’t “meant” to be in color, but simply because they weren’t. It’s the same as new, stereo mixes of old movie soundtracks or LPs that were originally mono. It’s easy to say what directors and producers might have done if they were able to, but the fact is that they didn’t. I much prefer a beautiful, crisp restoration of a black & white movie than a colorized print, no matter how lifelike it is.

    On the other hand, if people prefer a colorized version, I’m not going to try and stop them from watching it that way. DVDs like you mention, with both versions available, seems sensible to me. George Romero discussed colorization in an interview. He said he didn’t mind it that much, and that he thought it was much more brutal to edit films for television and cut in commercials. On the other hand, he said colorization ruined the surprise at the beginning of his “Night of the Living Dead,” since the guy stumbling around the graveyard now had green skin, so it was immediately clear that he wasn’t just some drunk shambling around.

  4. Bjørn Stærk

    My view is that color just looks better – which is why most filmmakers have wanted to use it ever since it was invented. So the question is if you can colorize it without destroying something of what made the movie good in the first place. With film noir it would be a really bad idea, but with an adventure movie like She, or a drama like It’s a Wonderful Life, it just makes the visuals richer, in my view.

    Btw, a nice touch in It’s a Wonderful Life, (which you can see here): Photographs in the background are still in black and white.

    1. Adam Lounsbery

      That is a nice touch, and I’m sure the people who computer-colorized the film did a lot of hard work. I still think it looks like crap. It’s all muted earth tones and unnatural skin colors. I like the contrast of blacks, whites, and shades of gray in the original, and colorization always makes everything so brown. Film noir doesn’t have a monopoly on carefully lit black & white cinematography. Every colorized movie I’ve seen has destroyed a lot of the cinematographer’s hard work. They knew, after all, that they were making a black & white film, and lit it accordingly.

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