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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Coming Soon: The Ring of Power

No, we are not talking about yet another Tolkien extravaganza here...

What I'm on about today is perhaps one of the best, least-seen pieces of Canadian feature-film animation that ever got committed to celluloid. I'm talking, of course, about Nelvana Animation's classic film


(See Note #1 below to clear up the title confusion)

Being a DVD fanatic who has been told by friends that he needs a 12-step program ("In yer dreams!" sez I), I was intrigued (to say the least) when I came across a rumour that this movie would be coming out on DVD. A couple of years ago I had contacted Nelvana to inquire about this possibility (as the only copy I have is a VHS of a commercial-free[!] broadcast Bravo! did of it years ago), but they told me they had no plans to produce a DVD - which mostly revolved around issues of distribution.

Pause for an Evil Genius Digressionnot TM:

What in God's name is wrong with the film/TV industry in this country!!? Given that there is, in all likelihood, a lot of archival stuff (good, bad, or indifferent) kicking around, why are we not seeing it out on the market (and at reasonable prices)? The CBC is, by far, the worst offender in this regard. You would think that, given its mandate, it would be falling all over itself to put shows like The National Dream out on DVD. But no, the People's Network has yet to do this, although the CBC does claim to be "working on it" according to an e-mail I received last March from a CBC Sales Assistant named Carolyn McCarthy (in response to a polite inquiry - and if it ever does come out on DVD don't expect it to be at a reasonable price, if the DVD prices for Canada: A People's History and any of the NFB's productions are any indication).

And just try to get CTV (or 20th Century Fox) to admit that they even know about The Starlost! (I will grudgingly grant that The Starlost was not exactly the greatest series ever put on the air but, even in its quintessential cheesiness - it was cheesier than Doctor Who for heaven's sake - it's still yards above a lot of the dreck that makes it to air these days and deserves its rightful place on DVD).

Perhaps one day they'll get the hint.

End of Digression, and back to Rock & Rule...

Last November I came across an item (through a Google search, naturally) regarding Rock and Rule. It indicated that a small American company called Unearthed Films, which seems to specialise in releasing obscure Japanese slasher/horror films on an unsuspecting public, was seeking the rights to produce Rock and Rule on DVD. A check of their website confirmed that they had obtained the rights and that work was in progress. I signed up for their Rock and Rule newsletter to keep abreast of things.

This is where it stands at the moment (all info is from Unearthed's Rock & Rule Newsletter #4): There will be two DVD versions of Rock & Rule, with a projected release in February 2005: A single disc edition and the Double Deluxe Collector's Set (and just guess which one I'll be buying!).
Single Disc Edition (approx. $20 US)
Restored High Definition Anamorphic Transfer of the film in it's original aspect ratio in 5.1 Dolby, 2.0 Dolby and maybe in DTS or THX..1
The Devil and Daniel Mouse. (Depends on the Poll in the newsgroup).2
Intensive sketch gallery.
Commentary with Director Clive Smith and to be announced.
Single Disc Liner Note Booklet Written by Peter Roe
Double Deluxe Collector's Set (approx. $30 US)
Disc 1
Restored High Definition Anamorphic Transfer of the film in it's original aspect ratio in 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Digital.1
The Devil and Daniel Mouse.2
Commentary with Director Clive Smith and to be announced.
Still and production gallery
Double Disc Liner Note Booklet Written by Peter Roe

Disc 2
Alternate Version of Rock and Rule.3
"The Making of Rock and Rule" Featurette.4
"The Making of The Devil and Daniel Mouse" Featurette.5
PDF File of the script for Rock and Rule.6
Another sketch gallery
And anything else we can find or live video interviews we can scrounge up.
NOTES:
1) Nelvana has found (and provided) a better print of Rock and Rule (original working title was Drats) called Ring of Power. Same film as Rock and Rule, just a different title sequence. MGM decided to change the name so it has a broader appeal. Since this version of Rock and Rule really wasn't shown too often it's the best print possible.

2) The Devil and Daniel Mouse (Digital Betacam version). Nelvana's short animated 27 minute film that was the inspiration for Rock and Rule. The newsgroup poll is indicating (by a 2-1 margin, so far) that "The Making of Rock & Rule" Featurette (see note #4) will be on the Single Disc version instead of this item (which will be on the 2-disc set).

3) The CBC release alternate (aka Canadian) version of Rock and Rule with extra scenes and Omar voice by Greg Salata. ¾" Digi Beta version of Rock and Rule. This is the ONLY copy of this version left in existence. The master print was destroyed in a fire. Unearthed will be correcting the color, fixing the drop out and generally fixing this the best they can but since it came from a ¾" tape that was the norm back in the 70's and early 80's this is the best they can do.

4) "The Making of Rock and Rule" Featurette: 30 minute special with interviews with Iggy, Blondie, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick, Earth Wind and Fire, Clive Smith and a lot of the crew and animators who made R&R possible. Filled with the good stuff. It was shown on Leonard Nimoy's Lights, Camera, Action! on Nickelodeon back in the 80's.

5) "The Making of The Devil and Daniel Mouse" Featurette: This is a lovely surprise. This 27-minute special was sitting in Nelvana's vaults and it's apparently never been aired or shown before.

6) For those of you who can't wait I found an on-line version of the script (with small screen captures) here (and much kudos to Mr. Moore for putting the work into the page).
There were several "music videos" done by Nelvana for Rock and Rule, but they are apparently unavailable owing to copyright squabbles over the music rights (hello there, Heavy Metal!), and that's all I have on this (for the moment).