SUPER 8 FILM REVIEW MAY 2003
“I THOUGHT IT WAS 35MM”! That was the unsolicited remark by one delighted visitor to the 45th BFCC. What he was referring to was one of the extracts in the Super 8 ‘Scope Show which he thought was on 35mm.. The extract in question was from “The Fall Of The Roman Empire”, without doubt one of the very best prints issued on Super 8, and rarely matched, even today. This particular one had the sound re-recorded from DVD just the day prior to the convention so it sounded almost as good as it looked. Another visitor who was also suitable impressed was Simon Mcconway who e-mailed this response: ‘just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed the BFCC – it was the first time I have attended : I was there to help out Warton Parfitt on his stand, however I realize just what I’ve been missing out on. Being used to ****** (ident deleted in the interest of modesty!) for many a year it was great to see so many different dealers. As for the film shows all I can say is “well done”! I must see if I can that quality out of my own GS1200!’. Thank you Simon, collectors like yourself are most welcome! I’ll return to this particular convention forthwith, but first I have an ‘intermission’ announcement to make.
Having past the 65-mile (year) mark in April (and not the 1st of the month as some might fondly imagine) and finding a seven day working week becoming a burden rather than a pleasure, I’ve decided to retire (don’t get excited Barry – read on!), well, sort of: I’ve decided that from now on I’m having Saturday and Sundays off! Welcome back those enjoyable weekend film shows – some hope with you lot out there!
LAST OF THE FEW – There they were, proud symbols of our past heritage – my last two Kodachrome Super 8 sound cartridges. Nosing around them was cheeky John Clancy telling me a tale of woe about having two Super 8 features with missing sections. Didn’t I have these gems on 35mm and couldn’t film them of the screen so that he could complete his features? Well I did film them for him and finished the cartridges off with captions for the 45th BFCC programmes. When I rang Clancy to tell him the footage was back from Kodak he explained he didn’t need them now since he bought spare reels from Derann’s sales list: if he had been living next door a swift kick up the projector would have followed. Still he does have his uses as you can read about in the next issue on our successful BFCC web site – www.bfcc.biz. This was held over from this issue due to the extraordinary amount of film review material that has been included. Also held over are articles by John Clancy, Colin Clarke and David Welford (for the same reason) on various aspects of video projection.
Those of you who have enjoyed our BFCC/SprocketHole White Box Specials on VHS might be pleased to learn they have been digitally remastered, and in some cases (such as ’A Lion In Your Lap’) extended. ‘Lion’ now comes with a pair of 3D glasses and the short 3D sequence we have assembled from left and right-hand prints of ‘The Mad Magician’ has outstanding 3D effect with superb depth that looks particularly good on video projection. One or two collectors have asked if the ‘Armchair Odeons’ series is to be re-released on DVD-R. Well, it’s up to you since it will involve a considerable amount of footage and matching to the existing masters. It most certainly will not be worth it for just a couple of copies sold at the BFCC. If you might be interested please let me know or leave an email message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our latest DVD-R ‘CinemaScope And Beyond’ was a sell out at the May BFCC event which celebrated the 50th anniversary of CinemaScope and as far as we are aware, this was the only event anywhere world-wide to dedicated to this subject (part II continues on October 25th with illustrated talks etc.). As part of the proceedings each programme was introduced by ano original 4-track magnetic music recording (copied onto CD) with accompanying commentary. All the music tracks were from early CinemaScope films. In addition to this 35mm shows incorporating original CinmaScope trailers and shorts (the latter with 4-track magnetic sound supplied by Ben Wales) culminating with the screening of some 70mm clips. The projection of these posed some problems, mostly of transportation and setting up of the 35/70mm projector – here’s Ben Wales’s report on the ‘big-shift’:
This is the third screening I have done for the BFCC with the Westrex 5000 dual 35mm & 70mm projector, in the past events has seen some 70mm screenings, but for 2003 to mark the 50th Anniversary of CinemaScope a special 35mm (Fox Hole) 4-trk Magnetic demonstration was planned with Keith Wilton, the event organizer.
The Westrex 5000 was designed and built in the UK in the late 1960’s, but it was too late to see many of them installed as 70mm equipment. It was mainly independent cinemas that used Westrex at this time and only a handfull of complete 70mm Westrex 5000’s were ever installed, many were 35mm only. The machine I own was built up over some years and completed in 1997, so far (I believe) this is one of only two remaining complete 70mm Westrex 5000 in the UK.
To transport the projector, the base is mounted on a box section steel frame on castor wheels, the top and bottom spools arms are removed when in transit and any non- essential rollers etc are removed for transportation.. The Westrex 5000 is best described as ‘Transportable’ and weighs about 250kg without lamp house.
The Ealing screening needed a great deal of logistical planning and it needed almost a week prior of building and testing at home and the hire of a 3.5t van with a tail lift plus a assistant (Norman Warrick) helping with the moving and setting up on the day. The screenings required two 35mm picture ratio plates and correct lenses, one for 2.55:1 & 2.35:1 and for 70mm, also mono sound for the 2.35:1 and 4 & 6 channel magnetic sound for 35mm and 70mm.
At previous BFCC events I used a 700kw Xenon Orcon Lamp house, but this was in a smaller hall, this time Keith said whatever we used it had to be at least as bright as his 1kw used in his Chinese portable 35mm machine, normally used at the convention. In response to this we set up a Peerless Xenon Lamp house with a 2kw Xenon and a single phase Orcon XP16S Rectifier and the results were stunning, particularly on a 35mm ‘Scope Technicolor reel from ‘Zulu’! It was hard work but it showed up there on the screen made all the more enjoyable and the appreciative audience gathered round the projector during assembly and screenings throughout the day.
I have set up a news group on the web that has information and news on the Westrex 5000 and other Westrex equipment.
We had a bumper 8 shows at the 45th BFCC, four of them featuring Super 8, one of which was synchronized to DVD and Clancy’s THX system was a ‘thundering’ success. In total there were some 50 items screened throughout the day. To add that little special ‘something’ to the event I added the Super 8 captions I’d filmed which introducing all of the super 8 shows, these included many of the following items supplied by Derann Film Services and Classic Home Cinema. Classic’s output so far this year has been phenomenal, some 21 items released since Christmas. The number of reviews in this issue is comparable with those of some years ago – a bumper edition in fact including two features – who said Super 8 was dead?
MICKEY PLAYS SANTA CLAUS 1x200ft/5 minutes/B&W. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema. £24.99
At Christmastime, with the snow falling thick and fast, a dozen kittens or more are abandoned on Mickey and Minnie’s doorstep. Welcoming the abandoned waifs into their home, little do they realize the mayhem that is to ensue.
Extremely lively condensed version of the original with plenty of music that helps keep up the pace as the kittens playing relentlessly destroy all before them. Pretty good print and sound from Germany.
Print A/B Sound A/B. KW.
GONE NUTTY 200ft/Stereo Sound. £25.99. Distributed by Derann Films.
The star of this item appears to be the Squirrel-like creature from ‘Ice Age’, apparently called Scrat. Well we discover Scrat completing his hoard of acorns prior to the onset of winter. Pushing one too many acorns into a crevasse Scrat causes a rupture in the mountainside and mass earthquakes etc. He and his hoard of nuts are flung high into the sky where he is the first to discover skyboarding! He comes down to earth with an enormous bump only to find one last acorn streaking through the atmosphere like a returning space capsule aimed right for his most tender parts. Ouch.
This looked and sounded terrific at the BFCC show – the print is faultless and the stereo sound is absolutely first-class. Packed with laughs this is sure to entertain and comes very highly recommended.
Print A Sound A* KW.
MICKEY AND THE LILLIPUTIANS 1X100ft/5minutes/B&W. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema. £24.99
Shortened version of ‘Gulliver Mickey’ (1934) in which Mickey’s kids are playing at sailors and Mickey regales them with his ‘adventures’ when shipwrecked on a strange Lilliputian island where he is tied up just like Gulliver. In his tale he became a hero by defeated a giant spider menacing the Lilliputian’s town. His mock heroics are tested by one of the kids dangling a toy spider on a stick. Quite good B&W quality with clear sound. Nice Disney release that looked very good up on the big BFCC screen – even John Clancy liked this one.
Print A/ Sound A/B. KW.
THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN 34x600ft/B&W. £285 Distributed by Classic Home Cinema.
“There’s a curse upon this village – the curse of Frankenstein!”: yes, you’ve guessed it, this is the prelude at the old town hall which leads to an angry ‘rent-a-mob’ setting out to destroy the castle in which dirty deeds are said to be carried out by Ludwig Frankenstein, M.D. When the mob arrives at the castle a gleeful Igor (Bela Lugosi) hurls masonry down from the battlements at them. In turn the enraged crowd blows up the castle with dynamite and unknowingly sets free the entombed monster within. “Your father was Frankenstein, but your mother was the light-e-ning” declares Igor to the monster sulphur encrusted (played by Lon Chaney Jnr), and we’re off on yet another merry chase down corridors and laboratories in which brains are exchanged almost as frequently and as cheerfully as operations on the NHS are cancelled.
The keen-eyed might just spot Lawrence Grant, Michael Mark and Lionel Belmore in the opening sequences – surprisingly all unbilled: not so surprising really since these were all killed off by the Monster in the previous outing, ‘Son of Frankenstein’! Also appearing briefly is Dwight Frye, making his fourth ‘appearance’ in the series, reduced to playing a bit-part, raving: “Destroy the castle!” Such is the fickleness of fame and fortune.
Printed on B&W stock the print has reasonable definition and sound. Typically of German imports the print is grainier and perhaps a little darker than those produced in the UK otherwise there is little to criticise. This slightly extra graininess and density of German prints is probably a combination of the acetate stock used and the method by which the masters are produced. It has the original English titles and soundtrack and apart from the occasional blemish and join in the master material, it is of respectable quality for it age and origination. It might be something of a pot-boiler, but enjoyable nevertheless! It can easily be recommended if you like these short Universal releases. What other recommendation can I give this other than on seeing the first reel, John ‘Special effects’ Clancy wanted to see more!
Print A/B Sound A/B. KW.
AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE PROMOTIONAL REEL, 1x50ft 'Scope £9.99 Available from Derann
Made to promote the American Film Institute's top 100 films this short is a compilation of clips from many great films. Too many to list but needless to say includes many of the greatest films in history. Fast moving entertainment which concludes with the immortal line from Jaws, “We’re gonna’ need a bigger boat!”. No home should be without it.
The release is in a 'Scope format but masked at the sides for an original 1:85.1 ratio but with the addition of the Super 8 frame is cropped to approximately 2:1.
Very good print, very good sound and a very good release. I’ll take two copies please.
Print A/A* Sound A JC
BOND PROMO 1x100ft/5 minutes. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema. £25.99
Tina Turner belts out the main theme song from ‘Goldeneye’ intercut with loads of clips from the film of the same name.
Pop promo for the film with Turner (in a very low cut revealing dress) in the 4x3 format and the film clips masked for widescreen. A good slice of Bond memorabilia.
Print A Sound A. K.W.
CINEMA ADVERTS NUMBER 25 1x200ft £25.99. Distributed by Derann Films.
Kicking off with Carlton Screen Advertising opening we are offered such delights as Nestles All Star chocolates, an anti Drink-Drive campaign, Walkers Doritas Dippas, Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society, Adui Cars (with Elvis hitch-hiker), Dairy Lea cheese, Eternity For Men, Renault Scenic (who Let The Dogs Out, etc), and Carlton Screen closing.
Very good picture and sound quality if ads are your thing. This stood up well on the big BFCC screen.
Print A Sound A. KW.
MR BEAN - THE EXAM 8 minutes. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema. £25.99
Mr. Bean sits an examination and devoid of any idea how to answer the exam questions, creates elaborate means of copying the answers from the person sharing the same desk.
As with the other Mr. Bean release, this has German titles etc and what little dialogue there is has been dubbed into German. This might put some potential purchasers off but this slight drawback is more than compensated for by seeing Mr Bean dubbed in German!
A most amusing short with quite good picture quality (slightly grainy etc) and excellent sound.
Print/Sound A/B. K.W.
THE FLAME AND THE ARROW 5x600ft/88 minutes. £299. Available from Classic Home Cinema.
In medieval Italy, a peasant, Dardo, (Burt Lancaster) is outlawed and becomes a rebel leader seeking to destroy a Hessian tyrant who has taken his young son hostage.
This Technicolored tale received generally good reviews on its release in 1950 and has stood the test of time. It has a strong cast that besides Lancaster also features Virginia Mayo, Robert Douglas and Nick Cravat. It also has a rousing score by Max Steiner and several accomplished action scenes concluding with a spectacular attack on a the villains castle.
Warner’s pushed ‘The Flame and the Arrow’ hard – perhaps a bit too hard describing the film as ‘Two breathless hours of the most far-flung excitement ever within theatre walls’! A bit strange that considering the running time was a modest out-of-breath 88 minutes!
Burt Lancaster first tried to get ‘The Flame and the Arrow’ made at Fox where he had agreed to star in ‘Twelve 0’Clock High’ (fortunately made with Gregory Peck instead in a Oscar-winning role), but the deal fell through so Lancaster tried Columbia, but they wanted Lancaster to make a gangster film, not a run-of-the mill period romp. Jack Warner approved the Waldo Salt screenplay but insisted the budget be kept to $1.6 million with costumes and sets to be used from ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ and ‘The Adventures of Don Juan’. The director was Jacques Tourneur who handled the action scenes with great flair –just as well since like many similar productions the plot is secondary to the action, and in that ‘The Flame and the Arrow’ excels.
This acetate print, produced in Germany, has an English track but German opening and closing credits. Taken from a 35mm Technicolor print it is certainly the best I’ve seen from Classic so far from this vintage, The colour is very good, better than most of the German imports and the grain is not quite as noticeable as usual. Projected on machine with a good light output it stands up very well indeed. Highly recommended.
Print A Sound A. KW.
ICE AGE TRAILER 3 minutes/’Scope. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema. £16.50
The theme of this trailer could briefly be described as a squirrel-type creature, the acorn and the avalanche. Skilfully animated it is amusing and being in ‘Scope is an alternative supporting item to ‘Scope shows that don’t always want violent-action-packed trailers that are increasingly difficult to differentiate from – not that Ice Age is not fast and furious – it most certainly is!
A most respectable print with good sound, slightly masked to around the 2-1 ratio.
Print A Sound A. KW.
CLASSIC SCOPE 9 - 'STAR TREK NEMESIS' & 'THE CORE' 1x200ft 'Scope Available from Classic Home Cinema
An excellent 'Scope reel opening with a 'Prevue of Coming Attractions' black and white dayset followed by the theatrical trailer for episode 10 in the Star Trek series. A great trailer with some wonderful scenes from the feature including the amazing shot where the Enterprise rams into the villains ship. The whole trailer begs to be watched time and time again as does the feature if you have been lucky enough to see it - came and went in a couple of weeks in the West End. Strange given that it is one of the best Star Trek’s ever released to the cinema. Who knows, perhaps we’ll be lucky enough for another full length Star Trek release on Super 8; Generations being the only other to make it onto the gauge.
'The Core' at the time of writing has not been released in the UK and will no doubt satiate the desire of many collectors who wish to have up to date material to show. It is also a very good trailer and looks to be based around the "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" Jules Verne theme. Something akin to a Thunderbirds "Mole" is required to drill into the earth's core to detonate a nuclear explosion in the hope of saving the world.
An excellent release from Classic which boasts outstanding sound. Print is a bit dupy but given the fast moving nature of the reel should not be a consideration when purchasing.
Print A/B Sound A* JC
Great trailers just keep coming at the moment. This one is ‘Scope and excellent print and sound again. Even if you don't care for the film you'll love the trailer with plenty of action, stunts and explosions to keep everyone happy!
The villain in this piece cannot sleep so he has to live his dreams. Looks like he's up to no good so it's up to Bond to save the day. Fans of Halle Berry will not be disappointed as she displays her assets well throughout. The Aston Martin features quite heavily and Pierce Brosnan gives plenty of cheeky grins just to remind us this is another in the long running James Bond series. I haven’t yet seen the feature but this trailer is a mouth-watering incentive. Highly recommended and just about the best print of all the current ‘Scope releases (although they’re all pretty damned good!).
Print A/A* Sound A. JC.
HARRY POTTER & THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS £13.99 Available from Derann
Flat trailer to the Harry Potter Sequel. Opens with a fabulous scene of a Ford Anglia flying alongside a railway line. Like many of the big release trailers gives a very good indication of the full-length feature. But I will say that the young lad playing Harry Potter already looks too old for the role; by the time they finish the third installment he'll look like a grown man!
Amazingly good print and sound on our review copy and I’d just like to add that the latest couple of batches of new releases from Derann have, from a consistency perspective, offered the best print and sound they have ever achieved. Although it must be taken into consideration these are trailers etc. taken from prints and even on 35mm are rarely up to the quality of features. These points considered they have got things absolutely spot-on recently.
Print A* Sound A/A* JC
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS £16.49 Distributed by Derann Films
This comes with excellent picture and very good sound (again!). About 75ft of film on this reel making it a good souvenir to all fans of the film and those who like modern cinema and trailers. Very repeatable and has just about the best sound Derann have put on a release for many years. There’s quite a good competition going on here if you are lucky enough to have any of the recent releases from Classic as their sound too has been first class.
Print A*/A Sound A*/A JC
MR. BEAN – THE FILM PREMIER 8 minutes. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema. £25.99
This very amusing film orientated short, complete with 20th Century Fox fanfare has Mr. Bean, attending a Royal premier, complete with coat hanger still inside his suit and attempting to finish his ablutions while waiting in line to meet, supposedly the late Queen Mother, who he succeeds in head butting – oh dear!
This is an import, with brief German sub-titles and narration just at the very start otherwise it is devoid of dialogue and relies solely on the antics of Rowan Atkinson. The print is of pretty good quality for an import and can be readily recommended to all Mr. Bean fans.
Print/Sound A/B. K.W.
THE HOSTAGE 1x400ft/13 minutes. £29.95. Distributed by Classic Home Cinema.
A crack-team hunt down a maniac whose female hostage will die if his demands are not met – but as it turns out, all is not what it seems.
Directed by John Woo this cinema short sponsored by BMW might be just up your street is you are an admirer of the directors work. It has action-filled car chases, drama and somewhere there is a plot to unravel. Apparently this short has had rave reviews on the internet and in film publications.
It’s another German import so the print is a bit grainy and with subdued colour – our review copy had good sound. No one can say that this film is spun out – just 13 minutes to tell the tale and fit in the action. Could just be the one you’re looking for.
Print A/B Sound A. KW.
A STAR IS BORED 1x200ft colour sound Available from Classic Home Cinema £25.99
This one is a bit special. I watched it alone and laughed aloud several times at the antics of Daffy Duck. How he gets done over in this one by Bugs Bunny really makes you cringe at times.
Bugs is a big movie star while poor old Daffy, a duck of his talents, is left with little more to do than sweep up the studio. He’s had enough and is sick of Bugs getting all the attention. So decides to burst in on the head of the studio just in time to hear a telephone conversation confirming that a stunt double is required for Bugs. Daffy is just the duck for the job.
His first task in his new, ill-fitting rabbit outfit is to replace Bugs for a scene in which the rabbit gets his head blown off. After the rifle is fired in his face at point blank range and the smoke clears we are left with a bald, burned duck with no beak calling for “MAKE-UP!!!”. I think he makes the same call a further three times before he is given his own leading role in a film. Sadly the script for the film has been written by Bugs... and it’s about duck hunting.
Has the original British censor card on the start with James Ferman’s signature - always makes a release a bit special as it is something you only tend to see on genuine film. The print is good, just a tad dark leaving the colours a bit muted, but sharp. The sound again is very good. Worthy of a place in any collection.
Print A Sound A. JC.
THE BIRDS (Promo Reel) 1x200ft colour sound available from Classic Home Cinema £25.99
This one is a bit of a novelty. Made to promote Hitchcock’s then forthcoming thriller and features the man himself talking to camera and producing loads of props depicting mans relationship with birds from the earliest times. The inference here is that we’ve always treated them badly and it is no wonder they are about to turn on us.
The reel concludes with a very short scene from the feature with just the words, “They’re coming!” accompanied by the sounds of squawking crows which grows and grows. Finally some animated birds flying at camera. This is intercut with German titles so it is obvious to see where this little gem was sourced.
Will appeal to all fans of Hitchcock and would make a great addition if spliced in before the trailer of even the 400ft extract available years ago.
Given the age of the master material the print is very good - just a bit of wear near the beginning and end and one or two splices but is sharp and has pretty good colour,. The sound is clear and well up to the standard of the recent releases despite the odd bump on the track near the beginning.
Print A Sound A. JC
UNDER THE CORAL SEA 1x400ft (approximately 300ft on reel) colour sound Available from Classic Home Cinema £35
One of those cartoons designed to make you go “AAAAAAhhhhhhh” and not my cup of tea at all. Nevertheless I have to admit it is not without its charm and having watched it twice thanks to being interrupted by that man Wilton during the first viewing (he was demanding to know why the reviews were late!!!) it does grow on you. Classic’s sales literature states this is a 1940 German cartoon with the title of “Wedding in the Coral Sea”. Perhaps it goes by two names as the box has the title “Under the Coral Sea” or possibly something was lost in the translation. The fact that it is a 1940 German release rather explains it’s reason for existing as the war prevented Germany distributing output from all the US producers of cartoons.
The whole piece is played to music with the odd sound effect. Oysters juggle with pearls until a sneaky fish comes along and passes the pearls onto a cord (I never realized pearls came ready drilled until now). A turtle chases some sort of glow fish, catches it in a lantern and takes it to a shipwreck whereupon the lamp is placed in a bedroom and the pearls are adorned onto a pretty fish waking up in what looks like a wedding dress. It transpires the fish who nicked the pearls is her intended but he doesn’t have an easy time of it as a dastardly octopus (we know he’s dastardly as he has a patch over one eye and is generally dressed as a pirate) also fancies his chances. He kidnaps her and tries to woo her by showing his prowess as an entertainer. All manner of fish come to the rescue before the couple to be wed make off together.
The review print has what appear to be printer marks but given the age of the master material, which is reportedly an original 35mm colour nitrate, could be wear on the master. Colours are a bit dull but no doubt deliberately so by the makers as it’s pretty hazy in the coral sea you know. The sound is well-rounded and clear. If you are a collector of musicals or cartoons or just into a bit of cinematic history this could well be worth a look.
Print A/B Sound A. J.C.
FIRST LOOKS by John Clancy
The following three reviews are for recent releases where we have only been able to look at a single reel from the feature releases. We can only review what we are given and considering the rarity value of these felt we should take up the offer to at least give collectors an idea of the quality if contemplating a purchase.
THE MUMMY 6x400ft colour ‘Scope Available from Classic Home Cinema
For those that are not familiar with this version it takes its inspiration from the Indiana Jones films with Brendan Fraser given the lead role as the swashbuckler. The plot summary given prior to the single title ‘The Mummy’ outlines how the Egyption Pharoah, Seti, of 3000 years ago caught his high Priest Imhotep having an affair with his wife. Pharoah is slain and Imhotep cursed and buried alive. Should he ever arise from his tomb he will have powers over all of mankind. A prospect so frightening the descendants of Seti’s bodyguards guard Haminuptra, the resting place of Imhotep. Needless to say he doesn’t stay buried for long and there are some pretty good computer generated images throughout, particularly the Mummy itself which is a hideous concoction.
We were loaned reel 1 for review and turned out to be a bit of a pleasant surprise. The print quality is actually rather good, not the best we have ever seen for a ‘Scope release, just a bit grainy with colours slightly muted but still good nevertheless. Sound had not been recorded but as the stripes were present pulse sync’ was pressed into service so that we may show a short sequence at the convention. Would make a good addition to any collection from what we have seen and stood up quite well to its public showing on the 24ft ‘Scope screen (the sound on that occasion had been recorded in stereo from DVD at the Sprocket-Hole).
Print A JC
TOMORROW NEVER DIES 6x400ft colour ‘Scope Available from Classic Home Cinema
In my opinion the best of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond’s. Reel 2 was given to us for the purpose of a first look. No sound stripe on this one but that is obviously not the case on the release prints.
An interesting reel which gave a pretty good summary of the entire plot. Elliot Carver wants to take over the world (where have we heard this one before?). The twist on this theme is Carver is a combination of Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates i.e. a media mogul who also markets a leading PC operating system with “enough bugs included to force users to upgrade for years” - being in the IT industry that sounds awfully familiar! James Bond teams with a Chinese agent to investigate Carver’s empire and bring about plenty of mayhem in the process.
The reel we had for review was pretty good. A bit grainy and colours a bit muted but if you’re a James Bond fan is worthy enough to justify a purchase. Run this in sync’ with the Dolby Digital tracks of the DVD and you’re in for a treat.
Print A/B JC.
THE MASK OF ZORRO 7x400ft colour sound Available from Classic Home Cinema
Reel 2 of this 1997 release was offered for review this time. This one is a real surprise as the print is very good indeed. Not quite up there with the best ever achieved on Super 8 (after all, it is sourced from a 35mm print) but not too far off. Colour is good and the print is sharp. Given the teaser of this reel it does make the prospect of the complete feature very tempting.
This reel had been rejected due to faulty sound and I had the same problem when first viewing. Fortunately on my other GS-1200 the sound was fine so it was one of those strange phenomena’s where some projectors like the reel but others do not.
Print A Sound A JC
in the latest SprocketHole Spectacular
By Peter Haigh
A feature of Keith’s latest Film Collectors Convention was, as reported elsewhere in this section of the magazine, a commemoration of Fox’s launching of CinemaScope
fifty years ago by means of screenings in that format. This celebration was complemented by the sale of his latest bi-annual video (also available in a DVD-R version) giving an illustrated history of the format and called, appropriately, ‘CinemaScope and Beyond’. Any readers who didn’t attend the Convention can easily purchase a copy of either from sources mentioned at the end of this article but, to whet one’s appetite, here are a few comments on it.
Wide screen movies are so commonplace nowadays that people not born when they were introduced can hardly imagine what an impression they made on the cinema-going public. To see a film roughly twice the width of anything they’d ever seen before was quite an eye-opener. For a time the shape of the new screen was jokingly referred to as ‘letterbox’ (a term adopted in the early days of laser discs to distinguish their Scope pictures from full screen versions) and the old Academy ratio screens were called ‘postage stamp’ in an exaggeration of their comparative size.
An early ‘Scope memory of mine was seeing such films at ABC’s Commodore in Hammersmith, London, when just before the film, while the tabs were closed, a fellow would climb onto the stage, disappear round the proscenium arch and manually crank the side masking into a Scope ratio, judging from the fact that the we had a wider screen when the tabs opened. I also remember one or two ‘Scope screens that had regular vertical seams running all the way down them, maybe about eight – presumably some method of making rigid the curve responding to the projectors’ lenses, but very distracting nevertheless.
As Ken Locke, narrator of the video, informs us, ‘The Robe’ was not the first anamorphic film in cinema history since a Frenchman called Professor Henri Chretien had invented such a lens in the late 1920s and used it on a film called ‘To Start A Fire’. His system was named Hypergonar. It seems to have languished. Ironically, among the film companies that turned it down was Fox, who were to adapt it as CinemaScope some quarter of a century later when the industry was looking for exciting new ways of presenting films to audiences being won over by television and not having responded whole-heartedly to 3-D. (I seem to remember having read that Fox did actually experiment with a production combining both CinemaScope and 3-D. Maybe it was ‘Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef’ starring Robert Wagner which they produced in 1953, the same year they made their first two big Scope hits, ‘The Robe’ and ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’. ‘Twelve-Mile Reef’ was released ‘flat’ and was no great shakes. This video has definite news of a Warner production shot in both CinemaScope and 3-D, a western called ‘The Command’, but it was released in Scope only).
To avoid confusion with 3-D, CinemaScope films were heavily advertised as not requiring glasses for viewing. However, this initially caused some people to believe that no glasses at all were required, assuming they could leave their ordinary spectacles at home, and when such people complained of finding CinemaScope films blurred, the advertising was amended to ‘you see it without special glasses’.
We learn that Fox were shooting ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ at the same time they were making ‘The Robe’ and that, while ‘Millionaire’ was completed first, the other was chosen to introduce the new medium to the public. Actually, ‘The Robe’ was in production as a standard 4:3 Technicolor film before Fox decided to go ahead with CinemaScope. It was completed before shooting started on the Scope version, and as proof that there are two distinct versions we are shown the same scene from each with obvious differences. Apparently they had the 4:3 version as a standby in case CinemaScope turned out to be just a short-lived craze.
A few months before ‘The Robe’ was premiered in Britain, Fox had held a late-night demonstration of the new medium for the industry and press at the Odeon, Tottenham Court Road. To introduce a personal note, I was fortunate enough to attend (by sneaking in, I must admit), and can still remember I considered the screen a bit too wide in relation to its depth. Presumably it was either 2.65:1 or 2.55:1. The demonstration was led by Greek-born Spyros Skouras, then president of 20th Century-Fox, who kept referring to CinemaScope as CinemaScop, missing off the final ‘e’.
The demo reels shown on this momentous occasion included a shot of British pageantry at the time of the Coronation that had only recently taken place, and the ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ sequence from ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. This was somewhat misleading in that the film was never shot in Scope, just the old 4:3 – presumably this sequence had been especially filmed in a Scope version to show off the potential of the new medium to the industry. That the film was merely shot in the old Academy ratio led to confusion when a Scope version of the ‘Diamonds’ number was issued a few years ago as a short on Super 8. This resulted in a correspondence in FFTC when the full 4:3 movie was released in that gauge. The explanation seemed to be that it had been taken from a posthumous documentary on the life of Marilyn Monroe (appropriately called ‘Marilyn’) and that the clip featured was simply cropped and squeezed, as with ‘SuperScope’.
Included in the video is a ‘Scope film Monroe did make, ‘The Seven-Year Itch’, in which the shooting of the famous skirt-blowing sequence is discussed. It took six hours to film while a special effects man had the enviable task of being positioned down under the street grille directing the cooling breeze up at Monroe’s nether regions.
Fox, very proud of the exciting new dimension they had added to cinemagoing, initially announced that all their future films would be in colour with stereophonic sound. They charged $25,000 rental fees for other studios to use their anamorphic lenses to make productions in the CinemaScope process. Eventually studios rebelled against this, and there was also rebellion among cinema-owners who were not happy with the high cost of installing the necessary equipment, especially the larger screens. Also resented was Fox’s insistence that each cinema should install stereophonic sound equipment.
Warners tried avoiding using Fox’s lenses by using a Zeiss lens on their first Scope release, ‘The Command’ mentioned earlier, but liked it so little that they used the Fox lenses thereafter. We see a sequence from their second Scope film, ‘Lucky Me’, in which Doris Day walks singing down a street, and have pointed out to us that a cinema she passes carries a poster for ‘The Command’. Another little known fact is that the opening sequence of Warners ‘A Star is Born’ (Garland version), some of which we see, was secretly shot by them at the Hollywood premiere of Fox’s ‘The Robe’, and to prove it our attention is drawn to a poster for the film outside the cinema.
But Fox were not allowed to rest on their laurels for long. Other producers started using 70mm for better clarity of image. A leading one was Mike Todd who in 1955 introduced Todd-AO, a format using striped six-track magnetic sound. His first such film was ‘Oklahoma!’ which was shown in Britain in 35mm only, but we did experience the great clarity and sound of Todd-AO when his second production , the star-packed ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, was unveiled in London. (General release prints would have been in 35mm). One wonders what other spectacular movies Todd would have gone on to make, but he died two years later in a plane crash when he was flying to an industry dinner that was to honour him as ‘Showman of the Year’.
While ‘Scope’ is no longer a word current in the film industry, it happily survives among us film collectors to describe our anamorphic presentations. Older ones will remember the excitement when Scope first came to Super 8. It was amazing to see the crystal-clear pictures of some early Scope releases – I remember well the visually sharp pictures of such releases as ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Romancing the Stone’ hugely magnified on big screens at BFCCs at Red Lion Square way back in the Eighties – enough to make anyone rush to buy the required anamorphic lens.
The video under review covers all the major aspects of various industry efforts to bring better pictures and sound reproduction to their films, along with interesting technical details and anecdotes. Among the latter is the amusing one about Peter Ustinov on the set of ‘The Egyptian’ being told by director Michael Curtiz ‘Whisper more widely – this is CinemaScope’. Among more sober items is the reminder of the tragedies surrounding ‘The Conqueror’, one of only two Scope films made by RKO. Location shooting on its story of Genghis Khan was done in an area contaminated by radio-active dust from atomic tests, which would seem to explain the eventual deaths from cancer of director Dick Powell, leading actor John Wayne, leading actress Susan Hayward, and supporting actors Agnes Moorehead and Pedro Armendariz. The last-named shot himself after learning he had cancer.
As Twentieth Century-Fox dominates this video, it is no surprise that we see and hear plenty of its searchlight fanfare which was extended from its pre-Scope version when its films went anamorphic. Collectors always seem to enjoy hearing it – it certainly sums up better than any other logo the special thrill of anticipation cinema can provide. Keith has even dropped into the video a sequence showing it being played by the BBC Elstree Concert Band at a BFCC in the ‘nineties. Perhaps he will forgive me by saying he never misses a reason, a legitimate one, for including the Fox fanfare in these bi-annual videos of his. And you can usually bet on there being a mention of his favourite film star Errol Flynn –there’s even one in this latest video.
All these facts on the history of CinemaScope and subsequent developments in presentation take up only the first part of the video. There then comes a section of some 55 minutes devoted to CinemaScxope and Panavision trailers.
The trailers, of which there are many, are grouped into sections. The first are for true CinemaScope productions, starting with ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators’ which tells us that it ‘begins where ‘the Robe’ left off’. We are promised all manner of spectacle including ‘ bacchanalian orgies’ -- a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, for those days when censorship was prominent. After the trailers for true CinemaScope productions, we get a section on films shot in Panavision, a similar anamorphic system with which Fox replaced its CinemaScope process and which was widely used by other film-makers. And later we see trailers for films shot in VistaVision, a 70mm format which was used, mainly by Paramount, between 1954 and 1961. As described in Leslie Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion, it was ‘a non-anamorphic process retaining the old frame ratio of 4:3……None of the essential action took place at the top or bottom of the picture, so that exhibitors with appropriate lens and aperture plates could choose their own screen ratio (from 4:3 to 2:1) on a big screen’.
This latest fascinating, instructive and entertaining video produced by Keith runs to 78 minutes. As already mentioned, it is also available as a high-quality DVD-R, the casing referring it as a ‘maxi-bit transfer’. As explained in its credits, it is produced by Keith’s concerns, the British Film Collectors Conventions and his Sprocket-Hole Cinema.
In video form it is priced at £14.99 , and the DVD-R version is £19.99. It must be stressed that if you want the DVD-R version, you must ensure that you can play DVD-Rs on your machine. Both version are available from Filmtek