Thursday, December 31, 2009

“Are you packing?” “Yes, dear—I’m putting away this liquor…”

I’m sure you’ve well aware of this by now—and mayhap seen it mentioned on other classic movie blogs—but TCM will ring in 2010 this evening with a festival of films featuring the original eat-drink-and-be-merry couple, Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell, Myrna Loy). The festivities start at 8:00pm with The Thin Man (1934), followed by After the Thin Man (1936, 9:45pm), Another Thin Man (1939, 11:45pm), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941, 1:45am), The Thin Man Goes Home (1945, 3:30am) and Song of the Thin Man (1947, 5:15am). (You just knew I changed the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear banner for a reason, didn’t you?)

I’m certainly up for seeing as many of the Thin Man flicks as I can—I’m not certain as to what the ‘rents plan to do but I’m sure it won’t take much to convince them to spend the New Year’s with Nick and Nora. I’m scheduled to make an appearance there later this evening and while the menu was still being decided at press time, I’m sure there’ll be goodies galore (Mom was turning over the idea of hot wings and peel ‘n eat shrimp). As for recording any of the Nick & Nora films, I was blessed many Christmases ago with receiving the box set of all six movies as a gift.

The question remains, though—will the films being broadcast this evening be subject to recordability? I bring this up—not to scare anybody, I assure you—but to report that my good friend Hal Erickson mentioned earlier this week on Facebook that his attempt to record the John Barrymore version of Sherlock Holmes (1922) was stymied because apparently TCM is starting to “copy-guard” their movies. Again, I don’t want the vast TDOY audience to start running in panic, but Hal—who has a Samsung DVD recorder and receives TCM via AT&T U-verse—is certainly within his rights to raise this issue. He reports that AT&T has claimed it has nothing to do with protecting the signal, and goes on further to say that other cable services have reported this problem (Cox, for example). Speaking only for myself, I haven’t had any difficulties so maybe CharredHer hasn’t gotten on the bandwagon yet. A friend of mine mentioned to me that he is unable to record that Elvis Costello series on the Sundance Channel because of copy-guarding, and I’ve heard others testify that the same practice has occurred on many of the premium movie channels as well. (I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Hal’s choice of DVD recorder might have something to do with this; I have a Toshiba recorder that’s so sensitive that when I tried to record a recently purchased used VHS of The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend [1949] a voice emanated from the machine saying “Don’t even f***ing think about it!” in a tone that suggested said voice had spent a good deal of their spare time in Jersey.)

Assuming that TCM is starting to slowly phase this phenomena in, I suspect the other channels—FMC and AMC, to be sure—will no doubt follow suit; and I can hear the corporate suits defending the practice now: “We’re just protecting future sales of our own DVD collections.” I suppose that might be a legitimate offense if every single solitary movie shown on TCM were available on disc—but that is certainly not the case nor is it realistic to assume it ever will be. I shall certainly keep an eye on this and if it does take effect here at Rancho Yesteryear, rest assured that “TCM” will be a four-letter word around this household for many years to come.

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Laura said...

Is this possible recording problem only affecting DVD-R recorders, or VCRs as well? This is the first I've heard of it but there is a reference to the issue in this thread at the TCM Forum. It appears the problem started December 26th.

I DVR'd the SHERLOCK HOLMES movie (Verizon) and then transferred it to video. As far as I know, it worked fine...haven't watched it yet.

Best wishes,

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...


Hal did tell me that he didn't have any problem recording the Holmes movie to VHS. So it's possible the problem may concern DVD-R recorders--I know mine is extremely sensitive to that sort of thing.

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing what you know, Ivan. I'll be watching for more on this topic.

Best wishes,

Patrick Murtha said...

Surely this can't mean that no aspect of DVR technology -- including pausing while watching live -- will work with movies so encoded? The cable providers and cable channels would then be at complete cross-purposes, because the cable providers spend a fortune touting the convenience of DVR technology and make a fortune renting the boxes.

One dimension of all such changes that bugs me is that consumers never seem to be consulted. I wasn't asked what I thought about commercials on YouTube (admittedly, a free service), but all of a sudden, there they were. Will anything stop advertisers from ultimately beaming messages directly into my brain? My wishes won't, apparently, have anything to do with it.

Stacia said...

I've never been able to record anything off Sundance, but it's the only channel I've had problems with. I have yet to have a problem with TCM, and the Holmes films were recorded without a hitch. Since TCM tends to show marathons or movies when I'm nowhere near a TV, I have to record films or else I won't see them. If they DO start "protecting" their movies then I'll stop watching.

The Derelict said...

I have AT&T u-verse and as of December 26, I can't record anything off of TCM to my Toshiba DVD recorder.

I haven't contacted AT&T about this because I just figured it was their doing and it would be useless to complain. When I first got u-verse I asked if I would be able to record things to DVD and the guy I spoke to said that AT&T had made deals with the premium channels like HBO to block DVD recorders from working but that as far as he knew TCM had no such deal with AT&T. I wonder if that's now changed... (though you mentioned that AT&T claims they are not blocking anything, so, hmmm....)

I'm beyond annoyed about the whole thing, especially considering a lot of Paramount movies coming up on the schedule that I'd like to get on DVD.