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Jolson, Pontecorvo, Ruben

More odds and ends this week, with a look at an unusually (uniquely?) high quality release from the Warner Archive Collection, Michael Curtiz’s 1930 Al Jolson vehicle “Mammy” (now with its Technicolor sequences refurbished); Gillo Pontecorvo’s problematic Holocaust film, “Kapo,” in a new edition from Criterion; and the Blu-ray reissue of a favorite entertainment from the 1980s, Joseph Ruben’s pioneering special-effects adventure “Dreamscape.” Reviews here in the New York Times.

89 comments to Jolson, Pontecorvo, Ruben

  • Joseph McBride

    There’s a fascinating story claiming that the uncut Cukor STAR IS BORN exists,
    but that there are problems between the collector and WB:

    Obviously, it’s frustrating for those of us who love this great
    film that it can’t be seen (even as WB prepares to
    release a new Blu-Ray edition based on the Ron
    Haver partial restoration, but with some “improvements”). It occurs to me that an article
    in the NY Times investigating this situation and calling wide attention to it might get some action going.
    I wonder if our esteemed leader Dave K. might get
    involved in such a move.

  • Joseph McBride

    There are, as you probably know, a myriad of legal and financial
    issues surrounding the Welles oeuvre, not the least of which
    involve his litigious youngest daughter, Beatrice. I tried to summarize these problems
    INTO FEAR is reportedly in the process of being restored thanks to
    the discovery of a variant print in Europe. I don’t exactly know what’s
    holding up AMBERSONS. Surely not finding missing material (yet). Roger
    Ryan’s fascinating “restoration” of the film (using stills, actors to
    read missing lines, and Herrmann’s missing music, etc.) shows
    how radically different Welles’s version was from the bastardized RKO release version. WB has shown interest
    in having Roger redo his restoration with more stills and so forth. I hope
    that winds up being one of the extras.

  • Would love to see all the “missing” Welles films. THE DREAMERS is supposed to be very good. Favorite Welles: THE IMMORTAL STORY. But nearly all his works are fascinating, and at a very high level.

    Enjoyed the “stills restoration” of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (Tod Browning). Am less sure about the stills version of GREED.

    Have been watching Avant Garde 3 DVDs, which Dave Kehr recommended last winter. RIEN QUE LES HEURES (Cavalcanti) is a beautiful time capsule, showing a whole way of life in old Paris. Not that that life wasn’t full of terrible problems for the poor, documented in the film. Heard Cavalcanti speak in 1972, a treasured memory.

    Really like DREAMSCAPE (Joseph Ruben). Ruben made lots of interesting films. DREAMSCAPE is especially inventive.

  • Rick K.

    Wow, what a fascinating article about A STAR IS BORN, and in particular, studio vs. collector politics. It really makes you wonder how many “lost” films are really still out there somewhere. I remember hearing stories about a film collector named Raymond Rohauer hoarding prints and not acknowledging he had them until he could, in some way, manage to distribute them himself, usually by acquiring underlying story rights or whatever. But I guess most of that inventory was catalogued in the years after he passed away. And I’ve always wondered if all the stuff that Alex Gordon uncovered at Fox when he rescued so many nitrates from near-oblivion (including a huge block of Ford titles) might have included a few which ended up solely among collectors. Gordon was incredibly passionate about saving as much as possible from that situation, AND he was a film collector himself. With only a certain amount of funding available to save the most important or marketable titles (with so much deteriorating in such a short space of time), a few quick reversal or reduction prints to the collector contingent seems more than likely … whether there were any more Fords among them would be open to conjecture.

    Joseph, I know you were involved in the Ford at Fox project to a certain extent, but do you know why some of the titles which are known to exist, were excluded from that collection? BLACK WATCH, THE BRAT, MEN WITHOUT WOMEN (there’s a hybrid sound/silent print), SALUTE, SUBMARINE PATROL, and a few other lesser silents. It seemed to me that, by creating such an elaborate set, at such high cost to the consumer, that the most complete collection possible should have been represented. Especially since most of the previously released material was not remastered but simply recycled (an annoyance for those of us who had ALREADY bought much of the material included in the box, necessitating a lot of double-dipping). Despite that, the set remains invaluable for what it DOES include, and I lament that Fox discontinued the initiative after its Murnau/Borzage followup.

  • Joseph McBride

    Rick, interesting post, good questions. I don’t know exactly what caused the
    specific decisions about what to include in FORD AT FOX, though I was told
    that my advocacy of PILGRIMAGE caused Fox to include it (that film I consider
    Ford’s first great film). Since Ford directed an astonishing total of 52 films for Fox (some of which are lost), it probably would
    have been beyond expectation for all his extant work for the studio to be included, since the box
    was a remarkable innovation, and remarkably large, as it is. I miss
    some silent gems such as KENTUCKY PRIDE and RILEY THE COP. The others
    you mention have their merits as well. BORN RECKLESS Is included,
    for some reason — I consider that the worst film I’ve seen with
    Ford’s name attached as director, though it’s one of those hybrids
    on which he had “help” imposed. I regret that the haunting original Movietone
    soundtrack for FOUR SONS was dropped in favor of a new score — the
    first line of dialogue in a Ford film was also dropped as a result. But
    all in all, it’s a splendid collection with some fine prints. WEE WILLIE
    WINKIE is one of my favorite underappreciated Ford films. I say on
    the documentary BECOMING JOHN FORD that if there were any
    justice in Hollywood, Ford would have won an Oscar for directing

  • Rick K.

    Joseph, great call on PILGRIMAGE … it would have been sacrilege not to include it in the set (along with the excellent commentary!). In a way, I can understand the exclusion of some of the silent material, in part because scoring those films would have been a significant cost factor. But as you say, the RE-scoring of FOUR SONS (without even providing an option for the Movietone track) was totally unnecessary … in fact, I feel the original music is as essential to FOUR SONS as the score which accompanies Murnau’s SUNRISE … in both cases they simply belong together. And it just seemed odd that they would include an 8-page photo spread on MEN WITHOUT WOMEN in the accompanying book, and not bother to include the film as well. I guess my favorite underappreciated Ford is PRISONER OR SHARK ISLAND (assuming one considers it underappreciated … perhaps just “not a major Ford”), which I had only seen in soft and poor contrasty prints prior to the DVD, so the pristine copy was, for me, a joy to behold. Oh well, I suppose there’s always the Fox Movie Channel (which I don’t get in my area) as a potential outlet for the other rarities.

  • BORN RECKLESS has few defenders: Andrew Sarris hated it, in his Ford book, Tag Gallagher is indifferent…
    But I found BORN RECKLESS really fascinating, and a key to much later Ford. All the crime elements in STAGECOACH, for example, have ancestors in BORN RECKLESS. It is also interesting to see Ford with crime film material. There can be too much emphasis on “Ford as a director of Westerns”. He made films in a wide variety of genres. Many show sides of Ford that don’t come out in his Westerns, good as they are.

    Among Ford’s silents, 3 BAD MEN and HANGMAN”S HOUSE also seem like great films. And i really like FOUR SONS and THE BLUE EAGLE. Am trying to catch up with many of the others.

  • Joseph McBride

    Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna this summer (June 26-July 3) will be showing
    a complete retrospective of the existing Ford silents (including fragments)
    and a selection of his early sound films, culminating in PILGRIMAGE. I’ll
    be involved in helping present these films on the big screen and will also present a lecture with clips on Ford. This is a rare
    opportunity for anyone to catch up on the early Ford, the period of his career that has long been so elusive.

  • This Bologna retrospective sounds fascinating.
    Maybe they will put out some DVDs!
    Before Michael Curtiz disappears:
    How good is Mammy? Its always fascinating to see a two-color Technicolor film.
    But otherwise, is Mammy a Good Movie?

    A very tiny starter list of common subjects in Michael Curtiz films:

    Communities under dictatorial control, and people who rebel (Captain Blood, Robin Hood, Dodge City, Casablanca) related (corrupt household: The Unsuspected)

    Doctors as community leaders, rebels (Captain Blood, Dodge City)
    Women business owners (auto factory: Female, restaurant chain: Mildred Pierce)
    Working women (reporter: Dodge City, radio director: The Unsuspected)
    Kept, upper crust acting men (executives: Female, Zachary Scott: Mildred Pierce)
    Gay friends in love with the hero (Tex: Dodge City, police chief: Casablanca)

    Political songs in public performances (Marching Through Georgia: Dodge City, La Marseillaise: Casablanca, Grand Old Flag, Over There: Yankee Doodle Dandy)
    Media enterprises (newspaper: Dodge City, play production: Yankee Doodle Dandy, radio show: The Unsuspected)
    Commercial artists with fine art aspirations (young auto designer: Female, hero: The Man in the Net)

    Eateries and saloons (hamburger stand: Female, saloon: Dodge City, Rick’s place: Casablanca, restaurants: Mildred Pierce)
    Financial planning (factory: Female, taxes: Dodge City, deeding royalties to parents: Yankee Doodle Dandy, raising money for business: Mildred Pierce)

    Technology improvisation (using car lights for Over There: Yankee Doodle Dandy, records as alibis: The Unsuspected)

    Concern over drinking (Hale takes pledge: Dodge City, Hurd Hatfield: The Unsuspected, hero’s wife: The Man in the Net) related (alcohol linked to seduction: Female)
    Murders framed against innocent party (Dodge City, The Unsuspected, The Man in the Net)

  • david hare

    Joe, many thanks for the link to such a great read! One point that had me confused – you refer to a “complete” cut of Lose that Long Face – do you mean the short one that’s now in the exntended Haver version is not complete? It seems to be….

    Most interesting to me is not only the disdain with which the collectors held Haver’s work, but their antipathy towards Feltenstein. As one who was forever grateful for his stewardship of the Classic catalogue during the Laser and early DVD days, the worm seems to have completely turned, since Warner basically aabandoned DVD releasing last year. His disparaging comments on various forums (including HTF) about “ungrateful” and “whining” customers who are lesss than entracned by the WB Archive program’s cost and frequent weaknesses leavs a bitter taste in the mouth. Despite wondering aloud here and elsewhere if Warner would have the sense to provide the earlier 154 minute studio cut in the BluRay as an extra, at least, I assume it will again be the now mandatory “official” Haver version.

  • Joseph McBride

    David, that piece was not by me, so I don’t know any more about it. I love the
    movie, so I hope that if the original cut actually exists, a way could
    be find to get it out. It would seem crazy not to do so. I was a friend of
    Ron Haver and deeply admired his dedicated (nay, obsessed) work in
    rescuing what he could from the vaults and elsewhere to give us more of
    a sense of what A STAR IS BORN originally was. So I am not sure what
    the article is talking about in regard to Ron. I recommend his book
    on the film and its restoration — I read it again recently with pleasure.
    Ron’s big unrequited dream was to be a Hollywood producer. He wanted
    to remake THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS with Welles’s script (plus the concluding
    sequence in the boarding house, which wasn’t in the original shooting script). A company
    later claimed they were remaking the film with Welles’s script, but didn’t; that was just hype (I am referring to the unspeakably lousy cable-TV version).

    Ron Haver did a glorious book on David O. Selznick, and in an earlier era more
    hospitable to a gentlemanly fellow such as Ron, he would have been
    a producing colleague of DOS. Ron appears in a cameo in the restored version
    of A STAR IS BORN briefly doubling for James Mason (from the back, only his arm visible) in the still shot with Garland’s landlady.

  • nicolas saada

    Mike, I am not sure about “themes” in Hollywood studio directors films of the classic era. it’sa s if we said that Leonardo Da Vinci had an obsession with biblical themes simply because it was the source of a lot of his work. Curtiz had before all a very strong visual style, a sort of sweeping energy that made the best of most of what he directed. I wonder how much you can narrow themes for a director without repeating motifs that exist for other directors and yet do not define their work. It’s not criticism, rather a question.
    Joseph and david, as much as I like the idea of seeing films the way they were originally intended by directors, this whole new school of “reconstruction” that has started over the past ten years with the dvd strikes me as often very frustrating. Not mentioning the 1:85 framing of TOUCH OF EVIL. Joseph I read in a magazine that the “widescreen” version of THE SEARCHERS could also be questioned, as there are no real Vistavision Projectors available. Do you think that the 1:85 standard used on the warner dv and Blu-Ray does justice to Ford’s framing ?

  • nicolas, I think Erich Von Stroheim’s adaptation of Frank Norris’s MCTEAGUE, GREED (1924), is a great example of what this new school of “reconstruction” can achieve. This mutated masterpiece had been initially edited down from nine to two hours and thirty minutes (10 reels) by editor Junie Mathis under the supervision of Irvin Thalberg. Erich von Stroheim actually said “I consider I have made only one real picture in my life and nobody ever saw that. The poor mangled, mutilated remains were shown as Greed.”

    There had been many attempts to better understand the world von Stroheim was trying to create through analysis and reconstruction. Herman Weinberg photographically attempts to reconstruct the film in the book “The Complete Greed of Erich von Stroheim” (1973), and more recently Rick Schmidlin cinematographically extends GREED into a 4-hour reconstruction through the use of von Stroheim’s recently discovered working-script and archival material.

    These additions to the original work stand out as they provide GREED with more breath and depth. They are also relics of contemporary film-history revisionism as individuals, and collectives, place a mark to better understand and promote Erich von Stroheim whose films have had a lasting influence that could be seen in John Houston’s THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE (1948), Paul Thomas Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007), and the films of Billy Wilder and Jean Renoir.

  • Nathan

    Are there any legal issues involved with the Greed restoration? Its artistic/historical importance being taken for granted, it seems to me that a package with the two versions (unrestored and partially restored) would be a truly great edition of a classic film that would be sure to get loads of attention from all film magazines/columns, and therefore (hopefully) sales. Even from a market perspective, I just don’t get why it hasn’t been done yet.

  • Nicolas,
    You raise some key issues.
    I’m not going to defend-to-the-death the Curtiz subjects. I’ve only seen a small number of his films; statistically, the common subjects cited could be coincidences.
    But my web-books on Joseph H. Lewis, Raoul Walsh and Vincente Minnelli document huge numbers of common subjects themes and techniques, often occurring in dozens of their films. These can’t be just coincidences.

    What concerns me is the widespread belief today that films are created by the Genius of the System. Because of this, people seem to Know in Advance that there can’t be any meaningful links between a director’s films. They don’t seem to look for such links at all.

    But what if the links are actually there? It’s really easy to find them in Joseph H. Lewis, for example.
    Many of the links seem personal, rather than standard Hollywood subjects. Lewis films regularly contain “duels with strange weapons and rules”. Think of the circus contest that causes the hero and heroine to fall in love in GUN CRAZY. The harpoon duel at the end of TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN. The old-fashioned dueling pistol conflict that ends DUEL OF HONOR. In POMPEY, a DANIEL BOONE episode, escaped slave Pompey (Brock Peters) has a big fight with a Native American warrior. Pompey uses his slave manacles, which are still chained to his wrist.
    This doesn’t sound like a Hollywood standard trope. Where are the duels with strange weapons in Hawks or Hitchcock? John Ford doesn’t have harpoon duels.

    Even in Curtiz, the prominence of “financial planning” scenes seems atypical of Hollywood. In YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, much is made of the hero deeding the royalties of his plays to his parents to provide for their old age. In FEMALE, the woman factory owner has a big meeting about raising capital for the plant. In MILDRED PIERCE, we see Joan Crawford planning her business, often with the help of accountant Jack Carson. As I say, this could be just coincidence. But I’m going to keep my eyes peeled, when I see MAMMY. Once again, would a search through the works of Hitchcock and Hawks, Sirk and Minnelli reveal such scenes? I don’t know…

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Mike –

    Your “thematic” lists are frequently interesting, and I too think the “genius of the system” argument flawed. I also am fond of many Curtiz films. But I’ve seen 85 of them, and I agree that it is hard to find many common threads beyond his studio connections and/or popular genres of the time.

    Without seeing his Hungarian and German films (when he might have initiated more of his projects), I’m not sure most of this stuff is anything more than normal random selection.

    Claude Rains’ character in Casablanca was gay? That’s interesting – had never occurred to me after multiple viewings.

  • To complicate the argument:
    Even when a director uses a common Hollywood trope, it is perhaps worth pointing out, if it is a standard feature of their style.

    Raoul Walsh loved maps (frequent in Hollywood) and scale models (less common). They are in 23 of the roughly 50 Walsh films i’ve managed to see.
    Joseph H. Lewis loved signs. They are in 40 of his films, often prominent parts of the story telling. Admittedly, signs are everywhere in Hollywood. And you can indeed find them in Hawks and Hitchcock.
    But still. Lewis really uses them a lot. The central character of his RIFLEMAN mystery episode SUSPICION is a sign-painter.

  • On Claude Rains and Casablanca:
    Deciding whether any character in an old movie is “quietly gay” is full of pitfalls.
    Still, the Rains character drops not-so-subtle clues, saying things like “If I were a woman, I’d be in love with Rick”. So his alleged gayness has become a cliche in Queer Studies.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Warner Bros alone probably had 40 films a years with female professionals as lead characters. If you could fine that Curtiz didn’t have any, then maybe you’d have a story.

    Curtiz likely didn’t have a clue what Marching Through Georgia signified when it was included in Dodge City; that almost certainly was suggested by the writers or the producer (if in a John Ford film with his knowledge of the Civil War, then I could buy it). La Marseillaise in Casablanca, that sounds like the writers. Any biopic of George M Cohan by definition will have politically pointed use of songs, particularly when made in 1942

    Curtiz authorship has more to do with his emphasis on elements, on relationships between characters. Chasing down plot elements for him in the era he worked, sorry, it seems substantially unrelated to any authorial analysis in his case

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘I read in a magazine that the “widescreen” version of THE SEARCHERS could also be questioned, as there are no real Vistavision Projectors available. Do you think that the 1:85 standard used on the warner dv and Blu-Ray does justice to Ford’s framing ?’

    Nico;as, I have seen 16 mm print of THE SEARCHERS and top of frame in interior scenes is sometimes showing edge of set. It must be 1:66 or 1:85, but not open frame.

  • Steve Elworth

    Vista Vision was a non anamorphic wide screen process that gave some latitude to the projectionist to go beyond 1:85 but 1:85 looks quite good and having seen it in a vista Vision print the deep space of the Edwards’s house and Monument Valley is very, very important to the meaning of this masterpiece.

  • Joseph McBride

    I’ve never had a chance to see a VistaVision print of THE SEARCHERS. Where did you see it, Steve? Martin Scorsese saw the film in VistaVision in New York on its first run in 1956 (I didn’t see the film as a boy, but caught up with it only in the late sixties, in an original 35mm Technicolor print screened at the Clark Theater in Chicago). In a documentary accompanying a DVD edition of the film, Scorsese says, “I cannot tell you what that VistaVision looked like projected — there’s nothing today that can equal that. . . . I’ve never seen figures in a landscape that wide to have such an emotional resonance, and the poetry in his language, the visual language.”

  • Joseph McBride

    Ford has fun with Stepin Fetchit playing “Marching Through
    Georgia” in JUDGE PRIEST and again with him chastising Elzie Emanuel
    for doing the same in THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (Emanuel
    says he picked up the tune from working at the GAR Hall,
    and Stepin Fetchit tells him to play “Dixie” instead, since
    they are at a Confederate veterans’ meeting).

  • Nathan, On the subject of a released disc of GREED, A RESTORATION, I spoke to Rick Schmidlin who did the reconstruction of the film after a screening of GREED at the Cinematheque Quebecoise. I got the impression that he is currently touring with the film and he said that there is an intention to release the film on video. I am not sure if there would be a package with the two cuts, but he mentioned that the Montreal programming was the only series that had both the original and his reconstruction.

  • Joseph McBride

    There must be something holding up the GREED restoration from
    coming to DVD. It’s been a long time. I have copies of
    the VHS (a two-tape set) that were given to the press, which are now very expensive as
    collectors’ items. Too bad.

  • jbryant

    I’d be more persuaded by some of Mike’s lists if there were records indicating that Curtiz had taken the scripts handed to him by the front office and had them rewritten to include “media enterprises,” “financial planning,” “technology improvisation,” etc. (or turned down scripts that didn’t contain these things) If this proof doesn’t exist, I’ve no problem consigning much of it to coincidence.

    I mean, DODGE CITY, ROBIN HOOD and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY all have horses in them. ‘Cause, you know, the first is a Western, the second is based on history and the title song of the third is about a jockey. Is this evidence that Curtiz was interested in a horse “theme”? (Hey, maybe so–“Bring on the empty horses!” is a fave Curtiz quote.)

  • jbryant,
    I’ll say again: the tiny starter Curtiz list is not where I’m taking a stand.
    But the bigger lists on my web site – and some are very large – have a lot of material that seems too systematic to be coincidence.
    Unfortunately, we know very little about how most films were put together. I can’t offer documentary proof of anything in film history.

  • Here’s Raoul Walsh’s track record on Heights and Vertical environments:

    boat-side and ropes, fire escape, clothes lines: Regeneration,
    city and palace: The Thief of Bagdad,
    Shanghai Mabel’s upstairs porch and stairs: What Price Glory?,
    heroine’s window, dock stairs, gangway: Sadie Thompson,
    high hill: In Old Arizona,
    hauling wagons over cliffs: The Big Trail,
    apartment ledge: Big Brown Eyes,
    falling down skyscraper opening, arbor, balcony, musical finale: Artists and Models,
    balconies, pergola, Ben Blue runs up wall: College Swing,
    foxhole, church steps: The Roaring Twenties,
    balcony, cliff with wagon: Dark Command,
    road cliffs: They Drive by Night,
    cliff: High Sierra,
    back porch, climbing over fence, staircase at construction site: The Strawberry Blonde,
    power lines: Manpower,
    heroine’s balcony: They Died with Their Boots On,
    bridges, Munster roof: Desperate Journey,
    balcony over boxing ring: Gentleman Jim,
    submarine tower, mountain path, avalanche, ski jumps, POW guard tower, mine platform: Northern Pursuit,
    parachuting: Objective, Burma!,
    skyscraper side at finale: The Horn Blows at Midnight,
    mountains: Cheyenne,
    cliffs: Pursued,
    balcony, mountain pass, downhill ride, outdoor staircases at mine: Silver River,
    cliff: Colorado Territory,
    oil storage tanks, motor on prison ceiling, prison guard platforms, body pushed down stairs: White Heat,
    buildings at opening: The Enforcer,
    rowing by cliffs, cliff-like village: Captain Horatio Hornblower,
    fort wall: Distant Drums,
    zigzag steps leading down outside to dungeon: The World in His Arms,
    ship’s side: Blackbeard, the Pirate,
    mountains, ravine: Gun Fury,
    mountains: Saskatchewan,
    hauling wagons over cliffs: The Tall Men,
    the hill-top: The Revolt of Mamie Stover,
    rocks, horse ride down hill, platforms in ruins: The King and Four Queens,
    mezzanine: Band of Angels,
    mountain, look-out ladder: The Naked and the Dead,
    cliffs: The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

  • Tom Brueggemann

    The Walsh list is interesting – but, he was among other things an action director, who mastered the art of filming acting sequences in silent days. It wouldn’t be surprising to me in later films he returned to that as a visual element.

    Frankly, I suspect if I went through Ang Lee’s films I could find the same sort of things to cite.

  • Steve Elworth

    Joseph, I saw it in NY in the mid 70’s. But what you wrote has me in doubt and maybe it was an original Technicolor print but everything Scorsese wrote does jibe with my memory. The 35 MM print I saw several years later did not have the effect that pronounced.

  • Joseph McBride

    The original Technicolor print I saw (from the WB exchange in Chicago) had
    a great sense of depth. But it wasn’t VistaVision projection. I am guessing you
    didn’t see an actual full-scale VistaVision print but rather a regular Technicolor print. But the film’s photographic quality owes a lot to that VistaVision process. Recent 35mm prints are much inferior to the original print I saw, unfortunately. Part of the color has faded. And the most recent prints I’ve seen screw up the original plan for the elaborate day-for-night
    sequence near the end. It’s not the film it used to be.

  • Steve Elworth

    Joseph, I agree with you. The print I saw was an original IB Print which had some of the effects that Scorsese wrote of.

  • Joseph McBride

    Robert Harris told me some years ago, “It’s gone.” We’re dealing
    with a perishable art form. Hitchcock said, “In a hundred years
    it’ll all be cornflakes in a can.”

  • Blake Lucas

    “…it’s gone.”

    Yet that may not be true–I am assured that the Academy no less has an actual VistaVision IB print. I know someone that saw a clip from it in some show or other but I haven’t heard of the complete film being projected in this print. I can’t verify this but if it’s true, isn’t this a source for restoration with the present technology?

    I don’t think THE SEARCHERS ever had much VistaVision projection as I don’t believe there were so many theaters equipped for it. The original studio print was IB and looked beautiful when it was first being shown but was treated badly and later on seemed to be just about falling apart–it’s as if everyone showing it took an attitude “As long as I get to see it, I don’t really care what happens to the print after that.” Collectors treat their prints better (and I’m guessing there are some good privately owned prints of it).

    I strongly agree that later prints don’t really do it justice, though feel a sincere effort is being made. In any event, the day for night problem Joseph mentioned was fixed for the last version that I saw in blu-ray.

  • Joseph McBride

    Blake, I am glad to know you think the day-for-night problem was fixed in Blu-ray (I am holding
    out on buying yet another machine to go with my stack and all its complicated wiring). Harris
    was referring to the negative problems. If the Academy has an actual VistaVision print, that’s good,
    but unfortunately, they showed it in digital the last time it was “restored,” so I am informed. We
    would have to talk with Harris or some other expert to find out how much can be done with
    a good print to restore a film that’s otherwise faded.

  • Blake Lucas

    Yes, I know they showed it digital for that Academy screening, and I didn’t go for that reason. If they had that original print I’ve heard about, I don’t know why they wouldn’t show it. It seemed like that should have been the time (wasn’t that a 50th anniversary screening?) I can only say sincerely I wish I knew more about this–it’s a mystery.
    I have partly mentioned it in hopes someone with Academy connections might know more.

    I guess no one can dispute that Harris is the “expert” you say he is, but I hope he isn’t involved in a restoration of this or any more of my favorite films. I’m still bitter over what he did to VERTIGO and especially its soundtrack. Is there some satanic force that motivates people who get a reputation for restoration to become creative and second-guess the film that was originally made?

    Just do everything you can to make the restoration as close as possible to the original. When I hear someone say “It will look better than it EVER did…” I always worry.

  • Mike Grost> In my opinion, Mummy is not a good movie, it is no more than a vehicle for Al Jolson. Thus, I’ve only seen a B&W footage.

    Otherwise, I am part of those who like Born reckless. The mix of genres is well done, the community is shown in an inhabitual way (it is bad) and I liked the “Sunrise-like” end in the swamp. I don’t understand the very harsh judgement of Joseph McBride in his biography (a really great book by the way, thanks Mr McBride).

  • On the topic of film restorations, I just got this interesting press release.


    Seldom has the rediscovery of a cache of lost footage ignited widespread
    curiosity as did the announcement, in July 2008, that an essentially
    complete copy of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS had been found. This prompted an
    incredible year-long restoration project, the results of which will be
    unveiled for the first time in Quebec this summer, at Fantasia. Featuring
    over 25 minutes of new material (1,257 shots, including entire new
    sequences), the complete METROPOLIS will be screened as a special gala event
    at the 3000-seat Wilfred Pelletier theatre in Place des Arts on July 28. For
    this special night, internationally renowned silent film composer Gabriel
    Thibaudeau is writing a new score for the feature, which he will perform
    with a 13-piece orchestra live at the screening. It will be a fantastically
    historical night in every sense of the word!

  • I’m planning on mailing this petition to Michael Arick, in case he does have a complete print of “A Star Is Born.” Anyone have a confirmed mailing address?

    Please sign, post the link widely, and email it to all interested parties and email lists!