I want to address a specific issue concerning Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight", which is arguably the jewel in the crown of Criterion's "The Golden Age of Television" DVD set.
One of the problems with digital technology is that some people can't resist trying to "fix" older film and television resources. The overuse of clean-up software is a good example: When applied injudiciously, characters waving their arms or walking quickly will have their hands or feet virtually disappear. Over-correction can be worse than none at all, since new errors are introduced and the material is compromised.
Criterion apparently thought that the soundtrack on "Requiem" was too noisy, so they applied a noise-gate. The result is that when a character stops talking, low-level sounds like background conversations or the music score are abruptly cut off or, worse, sputter in and out, sounding like someone jiggling a loose speaker wire. Sometimes even the dialogue is affected. This is too bad, especially since it was unnecessary.
Criterion's source for the kinescopes was the early-'eighties program "The Golden Age of Television". Rhino Records released some of these same episodes ("Requiem", "Patterns", and "The Comedian") on VHS in 1993. I did a direct comparison between Rhino's VHS and Criterion's DVD, and saw that they appeared to derive from the same source: Both pictures are slightly dark on the left-hand side and lack contrast on the right-hand side, for example. But Criterion apparently tried to boost the contrast, which aggravated the left-to-right disparity. So, although Rhino's version has the inherent characteristics of VHS, their picture is more consistent.
But the real problem with Criterion's "Requiem", as I said, is the soundtrack: The sound on the Rhino release is fine, but that on the Criterion version is painful to listen to. It's bad. It would be acceptable if there were no other choice, but, judging by the far-superior sound on Rhino's tape, there was no reason to tamper with it. I had them playing side by side for this comparison; every time I heard a particularly bad passage on the Criterion disk, I listened to the same passage on the Rhino tape, and Rhino's sound was always clear, with no drop-outs.
What a shame! Rod Serling's first-produced television plays, "Patterns" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight", are two of the greatest live TV dramas ever, and to have the first and only DVD release of "Requiem" mishandled so badly is a grave disappointment.