In U.S., subtitling wins out in debate over dubbing

To dub or not to dub?

There’s a continuous industry debate over dubbing in the U.S. – with fierce advocates and intense detractors. One faction contends that since World War II, Americans exposed to foreign cultures simply won’t accept re-voicing pictures from other cultures.

But dubbing certainly didn’t hurt Italian musclemen pictures such as “Hercules” in the 1950s or spaghetti Westerns and Hong Kong chopsockies in later decades.

High-brow foreign fare like “La Dolce Vita,” “A Man and a Woman” and “Z” only crossed into the mainstream when flat American accents replaced accented originals.

In the past decade though, few have even tried to dub their way to success. Oscar-winner “Das Boot” and “My Life as a Dog” attempted to broaden their niche appeal with dubbed versions. And while both made inroads, subtitled dates continued to play with significantly better results.

Supporters say the true test of dubbing’s viability will come when top performers are employed, as in France, and time and care are devoted to creating an English dub that’s easy on the ear.

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