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Q4 Event Season Kicks Off With a Bang

20 Oct, 2005 By: Stephanie Prange

Warner execs (L-R, back) Jeff Baker, Ron Sanders, Jim Cardwell and George Feltenstein, with original The Wizard of Oz Munchkins Margaret Pellegrini and Clarence Swensen.

It was a night to remember for the DVD industry, full of music and Munchkins.

Oct. 19 marked three parties celebrating DVD properties — Apple Corps./Rhino Entertainment's The Concert for Bangladesh, Warner Home Video's The Wizard of Oz special edition and Sundance Channel's “Iconoclasts” series — took place in the Los Angeles area.

Beatle Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Dhani Harrison (Beatle George Harrison's son) and many members of Harrison's former bands participated in a jam session on the Warner Bros. lot to celebrate the DVD and CD release of Concert for Bangladesh. The concert, a precursor to such charity concerts as Live Aid and Farm Aid, was a groundbreaking event staged by Harrison in Madison Square Garden in 1971 to help children caught in that war and disaster plagued area of India.

Harrison's wife, Olivia, and friends such as Eric Idle talked about Harrison and his concert's impact on the music industry and its involvement in philanthropy. Harrison began pulling together the elements of the concert footage and other materials for a DVD in the summer of 2001 on the 30th anniversary of the event, said Olivia Harrison, but already in the late stages of cancer (he would die Dec. 1 that year), it became clear to him he would be unable to finish the project.

“For all of us it has become crucial to see the completion of something that was so important to George,” she said.

The film of that historic concert is coming to DVD for the first time Oct. 25 from Rhino Entertainment, newly restored with original sound tapes remixed in 5.1 in two editions, a standard two-disc edition for $29.99 and a limited edition for $49.95. The limited edition includes packaging that replicates the original album cover, collector postcards and a 64-page commemorative booklet. Both editions include a 45-minute documentary that features interviews with Harrison, Starr, Preston, Eric Clapton and others talking about their experiences at the concert.

All artist royalties from the sale of the DVD will go to the newly established The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

Meanwhile, Warner Home Video danced to a different tune for the restored special edition release of The Wizard of Oz, also due Oct. 25.

Five surviving players who were part of the Munchkin ensemble in the 66-year-old film showed up — some in costume — to offer anecdotes and insight.

“They were so popular tonight,” said Oz expert John Fricke. “The munchkins took longer to walk the red carpet than the yellow brick road.”

Munchkin player Margaret Pellegrini recalled a special Christmas with Judy Garland during shooting in which she autographed pictures for each and every one of the 100-plus Munchkin cast members.

Meinhardt Raabe — at 90, the oldest living Munchkin — recited the famous line in which he proclaimed the witch dead. Clarence Swensen reenacted the munchkin march. Karl Slover sang “Off to See the Wizard.” And Mickey Carroll recalled Garland from her vaudeville days as Frances Gumm.

Joking about it being hard to follow the Munchkins, Rob Hummel, SVP of production technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations, explained Warner's proprietary restoration process, Ultra-Resolution, which uses a computer program to sharpen the picture on worn film.

In a nod to the growing importance of TV DVD, the Sundance Channel celebrated the impending kickoff of its new series “Iconoclasts,” which debuts on the cabler Nov. 17, runs through the end of December and will hit DVD next year. The first episode of the documentary series that dives into the lives and legends of today's cultural icons features actor Samuel L. Jackson interviewing sports legend Bill Russell. Other installments will feature Robert Redford talking to Paul Newman and Renee Zelleweger sitting down with CNN reporter extraordinaire Christiane Amanapour.

Sundance teamed up with Grey Goose vodka to turn a Santa Monica airport hanger into a pop-culture party zone, complete with elaborate displays themed to the documentary subjects, plenty of screens teasing moments from the upcoming series, and a performance from hard-rocking L.A. band Camp Freddy, which includes members of Alice in Chains, The Cult, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Velvet Revolver and more. Contestants from the recent “INXS Rock Star” TV show also joined the group onstage.

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