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"My Fair Lady" DVD Commentary Question

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jo_C, Aug 16, 2003.

  1. Jo_C

    Jo_C Well-Known Member

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    Recently I had a chance to revisit the secondary commentary track for WB's "My Fair Lady" DVD. In it, a fellow poster, Robert Harris, mentions that at the time of the DVD's release there was a "film coming out very soon, a classic film, that's been re-edited against the director's wishes" or something to that effect. Harris and co. didn't name the movie, but he did clue in that its director is no longer alive.

    Could he have been referring to Orson Welles' "Touch Of Evil"?

    It probably could be, since it was a classic film that was re-released shortly after the "MFL" DVD came out.

    Can anyone shed some light on the subject, especially Mr. Harris?
     
  2. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Touch of Evil was re-editied based upon notes found in the Universal files from Mr. Welles. The work on this film was very much in the spirit of finally creating a version of the film which eluded him four decades before, and was done with a great deal of care and professionalism.

    We were not referring to Touch of Evil.

    RAH
     
  3. Jo_C

    Jo_C Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, RAH. That narrows things down a bit. My other guess would have been "Blade Runner", but Ridley Scott is still alive doing movies. I guess it is up to us to figure the puzzle out.

    But at least we now know it wasn't Orson Welles' "Touch Of Evil".

    Frankly, I prefer the version of "Touch Of Evil" that came before the current restoration, the 108-min. version with credits at the beginning.
     
  4. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    Well when was the MFL DVD out - or was the commentary recorded for the LD Box Set, which was released around 95/6 if I remember. would the DVD have been 2000?

    Could he have meant Eyes Wide Shut... That movie was in a way edited after Kubrick's death, but it would have been a new release at the time and not a classic.

    Hmmmmm

    And coming out soon, would have referred to a home release I assume, so perhaps some sort of "restoration" perhaps.

    Well how about the 4 hour version of Greed - that definately fits the clues!
     
  5. Jeff D Han

    Jeff D Han Well-Known Member

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    Hey Moe- I have the 30th anniversary laserdisc box set of
    MFL with the book, CD, etc and there is no commentary track
    included so the track was done for the DVD.
     
  6. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Well-Known Member

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    Was it The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen?
     
  7. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    I think it was "The Wizard of Oz." He was referring to the fact that WB/Turner toyed with the idea of putting in the extended Scarecrow dance for the 1998 theatrical rerelease.
     
  8. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    Couldn't be - Friedkin is still alive.

    Could be Oz... maybe RAH will give us some clue if we are close even if he cant say for sure what he was referring to...
     
  9. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Well-Known Member

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    If I were a betting man (and I'm not), I'd bet Mr. Harris and Mr. Katz were referring to the reconstruction of a four hour version of Erich von Stroheim's Greed, which has aired from time to time on TCM.

    Stroheim's Greed (1925) underwent multiple revisions from his rough cut of some unthinkable length (six or eight hours, I believe) to a four hour cut (or was it three?) which he reportedly characterized as the tightest possible cut without destroying the story he was attempting to tell. The studio then took it away from him and chopped it down still further with the help of a new editor who was not allied to Stroheim (if I recall from the stories I read at the time of the reconstruction, Stroheim had originally sent the film to a well regarded editor who was a friend of his to put together a cut of the editor's own, as short as he could make it, and having done so he reportedly concurred that to shorten it beyond three or four hours would ruin it).

    Well, the studio released their further cut and re-cut version, and as bad as that may have been, the film was cut still further after premieres and general release (this is the case with Foolish Wives, and I believe also true of Greed, but I'm not certain it was cut further after release), and the version which survives today is ... well, a quick reference to the IMDB says two hours and twenty minutes.

    Anyway, the newly reconstructed edition inserts on-set stills and newly created title cards to reconstruct several lost plot lines and scenes and restore the length to just over four hours. Dynamic camera effects, such as fades, zooms, and irises, are used on the inserted photos to mimic the film language of the surrounding material, and the new title cards were reportedly derived both from a shooting script (I think) and the novel on which the film was based.

    I was thrilled with this project, and loved the result. In the absence of what I'd readily characterize, given the film's history, as the impossible rediscovery of lost footage from nearly eighty years ago, this approach proved for me very satisfying, and offers a wonderful suggestion of the breadth of story Stroheim wanted to tell. It's inherently false to the art of cinema, though, in its use of repeated still shots, and remains a controversial effort. Its general success, however, led to the stills recreation of an entirely lost film, Lon Chaney's London After Midnight, not long afterward, and in variant, less extensive applications this philosophy of recreation has been used to fill in a few missing chunks of Frank Capra's Lost Horizon and George Cukor's A Star is Born, and also for the entirety of F.W. Murnau's 4 Devils (on Fox's Sunrise DVD), all of them (from Columbia, Warner Bros., and Fox respectively) discs I'd highly recommend.

    Erich von Stroheim died, by the way, on May 12th, 1957.

    Greed isn't available on disc yet, but I'm hoping it'll arrive under the TCM banner Warner Bros. is using for their Lon Chaney Collection in October (which it has been reported will include the recreation of London After Midnight, though this isn't mentioned on the front cover). If and when it does, both the surviving release cut of Greed and the stills recreation (which uses all of the surviving release cut amidst the stills, of course) should be presented in the same release.

    Heated debate about the merits of this manner of film recreation (in the absence of surviving footage) may well follow, but that's out of my hands. [​IMG] Don't shoot the messenger, but as a final note, allow me to say that I'd love to see a similar recreation attempted on Stroheim's Foolish Wives, also a notoriously long film in its initial cut which was severely recut by the studio prior to release, and further cut thereafter, as mentioned above.
     
  10. Jo_C

    Jo_C Well-Known Member

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    To correct Mr. Burns, the original cut of "Greed" did indeed run eight hours, ultimately cut down to the "existing" version of 140 minutes.

    And yes, I did see the "reconstruction", but to me that does not do the film any justice at all...at least until "the mountain comes to Mohammad" at last along with the missing five-and-a-half hours...given the fact that this is an almost 80-year-old film I doubt it will ever turn up soon.
     
  11. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Well-Known Member

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    That's not a correction, Jo -- it's an affirmation.

     
  12. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Well-Known Member

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    Why such a big secret about this, RAH? If wrong has been done, we need to know about it.


    Gordy
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Gordon,
    Evidently, it's one of those delicate situations that RAH is unable to comment further on, so let's respect his position.





    Crawdaddy
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    There are certain "restored" films which we would prefer not to comment upon directly for any number of reasons.

    We were not, however, referring to Greed. This was a very interesting experiment by Rick Scmidlin, who previously worked with Universal's Robert O'Neil on Touch of Evil. Although the stills had been around forever, and were the basis of a beautiful book by Herman Weinberg, this was a new way of looking at old material, and the only way we are likely to see this film in any way near the form its director intended.

    Greed is curretnly available on VHS -- those are the black plastic paperback book sized varmints which you have to rewind -- and hopefully will arrive on DVD in the future.
     
  15. Derek_McL

    Derek_McL Well-Known Member

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    I'd love to see Greed on DVD both the 140 minute version and the stills recreation which I have never seen. Its a pretty depressing film but very impressive.

    Staying on the subject of Von Stroheim (sorry its a bit away from My Fair Lady) a couple of weeks ago I received my copy of the new Kino edition of Foolish Wives. Sorry I haven't had time so far to watch the main feature but from a quick glance it looks like the same print I saw at the NFT in London last year.

    Silentera.com suggest its the same material that was used on the Image Entertainment edition although they weren't too keen on some of the framing of the Image. Don't know if the Kino has rectified that problem but the running time is 143 minutes : it would be interesting to know if that contrasts with or matches the Image.

    I have watched the main extra on the disc : a 78 minute documentary about Von Stroheim's life and career "The Man You Love to Hate". This was made in 1979 and a lot of the time it looks twenty years old or older. The interview segments in colour are very grainy as are many film clips obviously from public domain materials. A clip from Heart of Humanity (1918) with Von Stroheim throwing a baby out the window is surprisingly good.

    Those hoping for excerpts from all Von Stroheim's directed features will be disappointed : there is material from Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives and Merry Go Round but that's it. The other features are well represented though particularly Greed by stills and recollections. They go into quite a bit of detail on the deleted segments of this.

    Actually the script of the documentary is excellent : this is a good, comprehensive and revealing study of Von Stroheim which plays like an extended version of the 25 minute segment of the Hollywood series.

    I'll get back to you when I've seen the main feature and sampled the other extras.
     
  16. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Well-Known Member
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    I'm fairly certain that they were referring to "The Wizard of Oz". As Matthew pointed out, at one point, the Busby Berkeley-staged scarecrow dance was to be re-inserted into the film as part of the late 90s theatrical restora-"Cough"-reissue. A number of prominent film scholars and critics raised a hubub, and WB smartly backed away from this plan. This would be consistent with the time that the MFL commentary was recorded.

    Regards,
     
  17. Rob Ray

    Rob Ray Well-Known Member

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    At the time I first listened to this commentary, I had no doubt Mr. Harris was referring to "The Wizard of Oz." The talk of reinserting the Scarecrow dance had classic film purists up in arms at a point when Warner Bros. was just beginning to put its stamp on the newly acquired holdings from the Turner acquisition. And all this happened right around the time this commentary was recorded.
     
  18. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Premium
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    In that quote you've posted, you say that the reedit was "against the director's wishes." It would seem that the Wizard Of Oz wouldn't fall into that catagory as the director is no longer living.

    I think the guess of The Exorcist is probably correct, or at least a better guess; as I recall, Friedkin was against adding the extra footage; supposedly this stuff was added at the request of William Peter Blatty, the writer.

    ...though I could be totally off base.
     
  19. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Well-Known Member

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  20. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Well-Known Member

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    My apologies for pressing the matter. Its just a shame when films are messed around with like this.


    Gordy
     

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