Wall Street Journal on Mad Mad World Restore

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Gary Rhine, Feb 13, 2002.

  1. Gary Rhine

    Gary Rhine Stunt Coordinator

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    Here is an excerpt -

    "Still, Mr. Harris decided to take the next step toward a full reconstruction. During a trip to Los Angeles in 1998, he approached Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which now owns the United Artists library. MGM agreed to help, and would consider financing a true restoration of the film. The studio was even willing to pay for a backhoe to root through a landfill in Pennsylvania, where it was believed that some of the lost soundtrack had been taken from the Paterson warehouse. But nobody could figure out where to look in the miles of trash."
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Gary,

    We are hoping to do our own report on

    this very soon.

    Stay Tuned!
     
  3. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    Ron
    Is something brewing in regard to a Mad World restoration? Come on, spill the beans. A complete Roadshow restoration of this great film would please everyone
    who was disappointed with the recent general release theatrical version that was released (which I love btw[​IMG]).
    This would indeed be great news to ALL fans of this comedy classic.[​IMG]
     
  4. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    I, too, would like to know what is going on with this title.
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I haven't read the Wall Street journal

    article yet so I don't know what has been

    revealed.

    If someone has a link, please let me know.

    At this moment, I really cannot comment.

    I certainly can tell you at this time that

    nothing is imminent.

    As I said, we hope to be doing our own

    report in the next few weeks, complete with

    lots of pictures.
     
  6. paul o'donnell

    paul o'donnell Second Unit

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    If it is the full roadshow edition then that'd be sweet considering the stink we all made about the original release.
    And someone find a link for Ron dammit [​IMG]
     
  7. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    All good things come to those who wait. Those who didn't wait and who bought the current MGM DVD are also helping.

    Sorry to be cryptic...
     
  8. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    The Wall Street Journal online is only available to subscribers. The title of the article is "From New Jersey to New Zealand, Film Buff Searches for Bits of Movie", and it is in the February 13th edition.

    Regards,
     
  9. John Morgan

    John Morgan Supporting Actor

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    In another forum...something dealing with 35mm, Robert Harris posted a request to collectors about the whereabouts and information on lost footage for this film. It certainly seems like something is in the wind. Maybe the previous release did well, but got enough complaints that MGM is considering doing it right.
     
  10. Ted Kontos

    Ted Kontos Stunt Coordinator

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    The missing footage...is buried under....A BIG DOUBLE-YA!
     
  11. Michael English

    Michael English Auditioning

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  12. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  13. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well if someone could convince me it'd actually help the odds of a proper restoration, I'd go buy a copy of the current Mad World dvd (though I'd never watch it, I'd still watch the ld).
     
  14. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    George, that is EXACTLY the case. It's pretty much the same attitude at all the studios - if one version sells well, that means another one will also.
     
  15. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    The wide release version is editorially interesting for fans of the film. It actually plays quite well, all things considered. If you know that you have a shot at owning the legitimate roadshow version in the future, completists will eventually want both. Heck, there are probably people who are obsessive enough that they would still want the extended laserdisc version available on DVD even if a successful reconstruction of the roadshow version were released.

    MGM's biggest goof on the DVD of the wide release version was not getting the opening title cards right. I have no problem with them releasing it until something even better can be done with good to great video quality.

    Regards,
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I think some may be surprised and disappointed

    IF and WHEN a roadshow restoration is ever done.

    The laserdisc version was NOT the roadshow

    version. IF and WHEN a DVD is done, it will

    not be exactly what the laserdisc edition had.

    I learned that the LD edition had all sorts of

    cuts never intended to be in any version.
     
  17. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    That's why I bought the current version (and it sits, still wrapped)...to help make it clear to MGM that there's a market for the restoration work to be done. Glad to know that my efforts did not go unheeded [​IMG]
    Ron's right, my understanding is that the lost original roadshow version included tons of Buster Keaton footage that never made it into the wide release version or the LD (in the wide release version he's cut down to a couple lines, if that, and never even properly introduced as a character), and the LD contains stuff that wasn't even in the roadshow version. If the forthcoming report means that the Keaton material has been retrieved from somewhere, then all I have to say is
    HALLELUJAH!
    I will, of course, do my duty and buy this again in a restored version. [​IMG]
     
  18. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    Well, sorry to disappoint, but I saw the original roadshow version when I was a kid and don't remember any additional Buster Keaton footage.

    Why WOULD I remember this? Because even at age 10 I was a BIG Buster Keaton fan and remember being quite disappointed that he wasn't in the movie more.

    There may be more Keaton footage somewhere, but I'm 95 percent sure it wasn't in the original road show version.
     
  19. Peter Avellino

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    I've heard about the Buster Keaton footage as well. But the way it's been described, I think "tons" might be a slight exaggeration. It might not be any more than an extra scene or two. Still, if it exists, it would be great to see it along with any other missing footage. That laserdisc never did seem quite right.
     
  20. Bill Huelbig

    Bill Huelbig Second Unit

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    We have access to the Wall Street Journal webpage at work. Here's the link, followed by a copy of the article in case the link only works with a password:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/0,4286...d=Page%20On e
    ***********************************
    From New Jersey to New Zealand,
    Film Buff Searches for Bits of Movie
    By ANNA WILDE MATHEWS
    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    On Nov. 7, 1963, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" had its premiere at Hollywood's brand new Cinerama Theatre. One of the most publicized movies of the year, it featured Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney and Ethel Merman, among other stars. Reviews were glowing, despite how long it was -- 195 minutes.
    But a few weeks later, as the film played in more markets after a limited initial release, moviegoers around the country saw a very different picture. Between the premiere and the wider rollout, a big chunk of the movie had been chopped out. The new version ran just 162 minutes, allowing theater owners to run it more frequently and rake in higher ticket sales.
    The switch has turned this classic comedy into an enduring mystery: What exactly was in the missing footage?
    The answer isn't as obvious as it would seem. While today's studios and directors obsessively save everything they shoot, remnants of director Stanley Kramer's longer version have long been lost, and film historians and collectors have been at a loss to locate what some think of as one of cinema's holy grails.
    Nearly four decades later, Robert A. Harris thinks he's zeroing in on an answer. His small office suite in Bedford Hills, N.Y., is crowded with reels of old "Mad World" film. Mr. Harris, a 56-year-old who runs his own film-preservation company, has worked on major restorations, including "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Rear Window." He hopes to re-create the lost original version.
    But Mr. Harris's quest to put the movie back together again has come to mirror the madcap plot of the film itself, which tracks a bunch of conniving strangers chasing a stash of loot. For five years, he has been hunting rumored pieces of the lost film from New Jersey to New Zealand, hoping to reconstruct a movie that included cameo appearances by nearly every major comedian of the era. Among the lost footage: a scene in which Mr. Tracy, as a police captain, makes a phone call to Buster Keaton, playing a character called "Jimmy the Crook." The film was the only time the two legendary actors acted together on screen.
    "Mad World," which won an Oscar in 1964 for sound effects and was nominated for five others, was one of the few light movies made by Mr. Kramer, better known for sober works such as "Inherit the Wind." But it hasn't always fared well with modern critics. Leonard Maltin summed it up as a "supercomedy cast in attempt at supercomedy," adding that "bigness doesn't always equal greatness."
    To Mr. Harris, the original "Mad World" is "an extraordinary document of American culture. No one has seen it the way it was meant to be seen in 40 years."
    His own role in this drama began five years ago, when a tall stranger named Jim Kroeper approached him at a New York screening. He gave Mr. Harris his phone number, along with a cryptic message: "I have something you might be interested in."
    The next day, Mr. Harris heard an incredible tale. Mr. Kroeper, a construction-company employee and part-time film historian, claimed that reels of "Mad World" soundtrack had recently turned up in a Paterson, N.J., warehouse. Mr. Kroeper said he acquired the trove from a middleman who had used laundry bags to ferry the dusty rolls to his office.
    The cuts were made in December 1963, soon after the assassination of President Kennedy. The missing 33 minutes were lopped from all existing prints and the original negative. As United Artists, the studio that released the movie, declined over the next few decades, many of its holdings scattered. Original elements never reappeared, and movie historians never even found a scene-by-scene description of the long version.
    Mr. Harris agreed to listen to Mr. Kroeper's sound tracks. The first few were authentic but had nothing on them that wasn't in the shortened version. Then, right where the film's 18th reel should have ended, Mr. Harris heard something unexpected: a phone ringing. He held his breath. A voice said, "Hello?" It was Buster Keaton's growly baritone. On the other end of the line was the voice of Spencer Tracy: "Jimmy?"
    His hopes rising, Mr. Harris dug through the boxes. He found a reel marked "16" and quickly threaded it onto the player. There was silence, then a series of police radio calls describing a chaotic car chase. They had found one of the movie's oddest artifacts -- the entr'acte audio track played during intermission. Only people who saw the film's earliest engagements ever heard that.
    The men "levitated" from their seats, Mr. Harris says: "That's the stuff that dreams are made of, to steal a line from 'The Maltese Falcon.' " But while Mr. Kroeper clearly had sound elements from the original version, he had just 11 of the film's 27 reels.
    Still, Mr. Harris decided to take the next step toward a full reconstruction. During a trip to Los Angeles in 1998, he approached Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which now owns the United Artists library. MGM agreed to help, and would consider financing a true restoration of the film. The studio was even willing to pay for a backhoe to root through a landfill in Pennsylvania, where it was believed that some of the lost soundtrack had been taken from the Paterson warehouse. But nobody could figure out where to look in the miles of trash.
    Mr. Harris went into overdrive, tracking rumored "Mad World" sightings, finding dead ends at a British film festival and a Paris archive. When an Australian friend of his located a print owned by a New Zealand collector, it contained one essential lost element: the original title seen on the screen. Mr. Harris seemed to get another break when he called a company that catalogs historical Hollywood footage. An employee at the firm was the grandson of the movie's special-effects coordinator, who had kept an original work print as a souvenir. None of the lost scenes were intact, but a separate black-and-white reel had seven seconds of missing footage.
    Then last year, Mr. Harris reached Joshua M. Berman, a ponytailed film buff who in 1985 had been a temporary worker at a film-storage facility. There, Mr. Berman spotted a pile of boxes headed for the trash that were labeled "Mad World outs." Mr. Berman asked to keep the cartons, and says he crammed about 22 of them into his two-door sedan, with two balanced on his lap. He didn't have room in the car for the rest.
    Holding tiny pieces of film against a light, Mr. Berman discovered that several contained scenes he didn't remember from the movie. Thinking he was on to something, he returned to the storehouse, only to find that the other boxes were already gone.
    By the time Mr. Harris reached him, Mr. Berman hadn't looked at the film in years, though he had supplied some of it for a "Mad World" laserdisc and VHS tape MGM released in 1991. He shipped them to Mr. Harris, but only after the preservationist wired more than $1,000 to pay Mr. Berman's overdue storage fees. A DVD of the movie was released last year by MGM. It's the short version, but it includes a bit of lost footage lumped together at the end.
    Mr. Harris pored over the fragments, but there were problems. Some had Japanese subtitles and other were dubbed in Italian and German. Some of the footage gave off the vinegar smell of decaying film. One reel was so damaged that it threw off flecks when Mr. Harris cranked the film through a viewer. The chemicals in one flying fragment burned his eye.
    The chase continues today -- though Mr. Harris is still a long way from completing his mad, mad project. He figures he's still missing about nine minutes of picture and four minutes of sound. In the meantime, he puzzles over fragmentary notes that Mr. Kramer's widow, Karen, found in the filmmaker's archives -- apparently the only surviving document explaining the final cuts. Mr. Kramer died last year. Mr. Harris had never tried to reach him.
    If MGM decides to pay for a full restoration, digital technology might be able to make up some of the gap. But Mr. Harris holds out hope that the missing pieces will still show up. At this point, his best chance lies with original "separation" masters of the movie, which were made in 1963 to preserve it. According to MGM's records, these elements, captured on black-and-white film stock with the colors separated out, hold only the short version.
    Mr. Harris hopes to see them soon. They are stored in a Pittsburgh facility owned by a company that has filed for bankruptcy protection. MGM is trying to get them.
    Write to Anna Wilde Mathews at anna.mathews@wsj.com
    Updated February 13, 2002 12:01 a.m. EST
     

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