John Wayne's HONDO 3-D (1953) remastered for Cannes

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Richard--W, May 15, 2007.

  1. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    'Hondo' remastered for Cannes
    Auds to experience film as director intended
    By DAVID S. COHEN

    'Hondo'
    The 3-D rigs used a pair of interlocking 35mm cameras, which proved
    unreliable for the 'Hondo' shoot.
    "Hondo" hasn't exactly been a lost film in the 53-plus years since its
    original release, but few people alive have seen it as it was meant to be seen.

    Pic was filmed in WarnerColor 3-D, yet even at the time got only a limited 3-D release.

    So when the picture screens at Cannes, with its color and 3-D digitally restored, audiences will finally have the full experience director John Farrow and producer-star John Wayne intended.

    Gretchen Wayne, the star's daughter-in-law and the proxy and owner of his production company, Batjac, says, "If you never had seen a John Wayne film, this might be the first one you want to see, because he's at his peak." She says the Duke himself felt he looked his best in the film, which catches him at 46, mature but still lean and athletic.

    The cowboys-and-Indians side of the film is pure 1950s pulp but still
    manages to weave a surprisingly complex triangle between Wayne's part-Indian cavalry scout, the married-but-abandoned ranch woman (Geraldine Page) he comes to love and the Apache chief (Michael Pate) who also takes a protective interest in her.

    The supporting cast includes a raft of familiar faces, including future
    "Gunsmoke" star James Arness and none other than Lassie, hair dyed brown and with a makeup scar on her forehead, as the ill-tempered Hondo's worse-tempered dog.

    Wayne was something more than the top box office star of the day and a producer. As Gretchen Wayne notes, "He was able to demand to have the return of the copyright of the film and perpetual distribution of his film, which was really unique for actors."

    "Hondo" shot on location in Chihuahua, Mexico, at a time when such travel was rare, especially for oaters, which could shoot much nearer Los Angeles.

    But that made 3-D more difficult. The 3-D rigs used a pair of interlocking 35mm cameras, each running single-strip WarnerColor negative film. The massive cameras proved so unreliable at the desert locations that Wayne complained to Jack Warner that the studio couldn't seem to get him a camera that worked.

    Still, the 3-D went ahead because the studios were trying to regain the audience they were losing to television. Then, as now, the ability to project a stereoscopic image seemed to be something the small screen couldn't match.

    Warner Bros. took out a two-page spread in Variety in November 1953 to tell exhibitors: "It is our conviction that the presentation of 'Hondo' gives your patrons the opportunity for the first time to fully evaluate 3-Dimension entertainment." Ad went on to tout the presentation of "dimensional vistas inexpressibly beautiful and never before possible."

    Yet the 3-D craze had passed its peak. "Hondo" in 3-D screened at only a few theaters and has almost never been seen in 3-D since.

    The film itself has been restored more than once, with most of the
    restoration work done only on the left-eye negative, which was used for 2-D release. There were tears to be fixed, lots of dirt to be removed. Strange perforations in the film stock had to be masked. On top of that, parts of the original negative had mysteriously been destroyed and replaced with an internegative, which doesn't quite match the quality of the original.

    Restoring the film for 3-D introduced still more challenges. The two color negatives had shrunk and faded differently, making it even more difficult to get the color identical and the images perfectly aligned. That exacerbated an inherent problem with the 3-D rigs of the 1950s: Each of the paired cameras had its own camera shake, so the two "eyes" would be just enough out of alignment to make 3-D viewing uncomfortable. It proved a big task for the restorers at Post Logic, who spent much time and effort correcting for that camera shake to get the two eyes to line up precisely for 3-D.

    Merle Sharp, Post Logic's chief technology officer, says that one headache they faced was simply "trying to find somebody who saw it originally so they could tell us if the 3-D effect was working as intended."

    At the end of the process, Sharp says, "(The 3-D) was actually quite good, but there's almost too much. It's like ... the guys are sitting right in your face."

    Gretchen Wayne, though, says the digital 3-D is far better than the original release. "I never really got it, it never really affected me that much," she says of the original 3-D, with its red-green anaglyph glasses. "Now with the new digital format, you feel like you're sitting at the table with him. You can feel the depth, it's so sensational. It's like, 'Pass the bread.' "

    Posted: Wed., May 9, 2007, 8:30pm PT
    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117964571.html?
    categoryid=2574&cs=1&query=3%2Dd

    ========================

    The demand for this film has been white hot. Stereoscopic film makers and stereoscopic film buffs have been pleading with Gretchen Wayne for years and years to let them see Hondo 3-D. She refused to let the World 3-D Expo screen it at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood in 2003 and again in 2006 (that Expo undertook a dozen important 3-D restorations and is largely responsible for re-introducing the industry to stereoscopic cinema). Evidently she had her own plans. Let's hope a theatrical release will soon follow.
     
  2. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    The errors in this paragraph beg for a correction.

    I seriously doubt if the digital restoration is better than the original release, since no digital technology invented so far comes close to the resolution of motion picture film. But it can be useful and cost-effective.

    In 1953, Hondo was not originally shown in anaglyph, so red-green glasses were not worn. Anaglyph is a poor system because it discolors the left and right eye to give the illusion of separation. Soon the retina and brain begin to correct the discoloration and the illusion of separation is quickly lost. Anaglyph works better as a print medium.

    Hondo was originally projected in authentic stereo that required wearing polarized glasses. Like sun glasses. Polarized 3-D was then and is now a state-of-the art optical technology. If properly projected, it still blows people away. Imax theaters have re-asserted this fact and proved it every day for the last twenty years.

    Hondo was televised in an anaglyph conversion in the mid-1980s. The stereo effect was so poor and so inconsistent most TV viewers thought it was a rip-off. Notorious incidents like this give stereoscopic cinema a bad reputation and create a fundamental mis-conception that is hard to overcome until the person is sat down in front of authentic 3-D. Then, suddenly, they get it.
     
  3. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    There are two major mistakes in the article.

    First, HONDO was never released theatrically in the awful red/blue anaglyph format as Richard pointed out above. All the 3-D features of the 50's were clear glasses polarized.

    Second, despite numerous reports to the contrary, HONDO actually got a fairly wide release in 3-D back in 1953. Even the DVD featurette states it didn't, but it did.

    I'd love to see this one on the big screen as intended. I guess I know why it wasn't featured at either of the recent World 3-D Film Expos...
     
  4. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    HONDO was Warner Bros. big 3-D release for Christmas, 1953 and had literally hundreds of 3-D playdates all around the country. It played nearly every major city, and most sub-run and small town engagements in 3-D. It was so popular in 3-D, Michael Wayne stated years later that it made back its negative cost in the first four weeks of release!

    Here's one typical booking from New Jersey:

    [​IMG]

    And I don't need to say that ALL of those presentations were in full color dual-strip Polaroid 3-D.

    The mis-information on this film (and 3-D movies from that period in general) just gets worse and worse. Now you've got Variety, and both the NY/LA Times repeating this anaglyph nonsense! It would be nice if these journalists did some real research instead of believing all the PR crap handed to them.
     
  5. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    What do you expect? They have deadlines to meet and are too arrogant to be bothered using the internet to do research, even though it may turn up some actual FACTS.
     
  6. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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  7. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    The New York Times now joins the list along with the LA Times and Variety in repeating wrong historical information about 3-D movies. In fact, the LA Times was contacted after stating that all 3-D movies of the 1950's were anaglyph, and they never even printed a correction.

    These articles will now go on record, and more and more this myth will become fact to future researchers.

    Imagine how many other articles contain such errors in these papers of record?!
     
  8. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Thanks everybody for commiserating.

    Thanks Bob Furmanek for that history of Hondo 3-D. Love that newspaper clipping. Your attention to accuracy and the correct aspect ratios at the World 3-D Expos was much appreciated by the audience.

    I find it incredible that industry insiders are actually making production decisions based on inaccurate information. I've actually sat in on meetings where studio execs say they remember going to 3-D moves and wearing those red and blue glasses. First, they are too young, and second, they never did. But their decision to not green light a production is based entirely on misconceptions and false information. To convince them otherwise is impossible; they don't want to be lectured, and they don't have time to accompany you to the local Imax, not when there's another pitch waiting in the lobby. You can draw their attention to box-office hits like Meet the Robinsons and Polar Express, and show them stats proving how polarized 3-D screenings made ten times more money than flat screenings, and they still can't connect.

    I wonder if the digital 3-D companies are not mis-representing the facts as part of their sales pitch. "Digital 3-D is better than film 3-D because film 3-D required red and green glasses whereas digital 3-D is polarized." I've heard James Cameron say it. This sleight of hand is becoming standard operating procedure, and the execs believe it because they don't know any better.

    Too many people remember the anaglyph conversion of Hondo from the 1980s. That broadcast was a bad idea. As a result many people (like Gretchen Wayne) assume that's how the film was originally shown. Also, the anaglyph videos (like Cat Women On the Moon, Comin' At Ya!, Barbie and the Pegasus, etc) keep the misconceptions alive. The inability of many people in this business to think, and their ignorance of film history and technology, never ceases to astonish me.
     
  9. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Thanks Richard. I'm glad that you enjoyed seeing those selected titles in widescreen at the Expo. While most people knew that we were showing them correctly, there were a few complaints stating that we were cutting off parts of the picture.

    I agree with you about the anaglyph TV version of HONDO. I recently saw a website showing a pair of the TV glasses and the text claimed they were from the 1953 theatrical release!
     
  10. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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  11. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Bob, my thanks to you and Jack Theakson for all your fine scholarship and preservation efforts. You guys are leading the charge.

    Everyone who loves movies should study your website.

    When you know of a public screening of HONDO in its proper stereoscopic format, I hope you will the post the news here. I can't think of any other film I'd like to see more than HONDO in authentic 3-D.
     
  12. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Thank you for your kind words Richard, and I'm glad that you enjoyed the article.

    HONDO will be screening in the new digital 3-D transfer at the Academy on November 13. Here's the webpage: http://www.oscars.org/events/3d_hondo/index.html

    The film will not be shown in its correct 1.85 ratio. The new transfer is full-frame, so watch for some boom mikes!
     
  13. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Thanks for the heads-up on the 3-D screening of HONDO. This is an important screening. Bought my tickets.

    Bob Furmanek, check your PM.
     

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