Wow! If that's correct, that's major news. Sons of the Desert is their best film and one of the funniest films ever made. If they have the original camera negative and it's in decent condition, we might see a high quality blu ray someday. Personally, I think that they should see what they can do with that with the eye to licensing it to Criterion. That might pay for a good bit of the restoration on the other films.
A Criterion licensing fee won't come close to dealing with the expense of restoring the library. Below is a post from Jeff Joseph of Sabucat productions that was originally posted on the 35mm forum, for those who would like to make any sort of donation to the project : Please help us save the Laurel & Hardy film library! The Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy shorts and features that we baby boomers grew up on.... those great comedies that played on television constantly...those films are in danger of turning to dust. Although some work has been done over the years for video release (the current DVD boxed set actually looks quite nice), most of the library has not been properly preserved or restored. The reason is simply this: There is no money in it. But if this work isn't done soon, the nitrate (a very fragile and flammable film element) will continue to deteriorate, and these amazing films will only exist digitally--and, even then, in mostly "low resolution" versions. Throughout the years, the Hal Roach film library was sold, resold, leased, and rented, over and over again, and the printing elements were just used up. Hard as it is to believe, most 35mm prints (and even 16mm prints) were struck from the original 35mm camera negatives. Consequently, these original negatives are in awful shape. It is necessary to do both digital and photochemical clean up on them; the soundtracks have to be fixed, the main title sequences replaced, and so forth. (Various reissue companies put their own main titles in place of the original Hal Roach/MGM titles). Since both digital and 35mm preservation is required, the costs are simply enormous. The average 20-minute short will cost around $50,000 to complete. There are more than 60 shorts (and about a dozen features). We need to get this done now, while it's still doable. Waiting even a few more years not only means that more of the original film elements will have turned to dust, it also means that the folks who know this library won't be around anymore to work on it. I find it shocking that movies that were so well known just a few years ago are now almost forgotten; I think it's a crime that material that has meant so much to so many people has been treated in such a shoddy manner....and that future generations may be unable to view these films properly. This restoration project is being spearheaded by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Most of the Hal Roach film elements are at the UCLA, and their archivists are some of the best in the business. But film archives (and schools, for that matter) tend to always need more money than they have. Without donors stepping up, the Laurel & Hardy collection can not be saved. (Many film-archival projects rely on outside donors.) We need your money to make this happen. I have personally made a decent-sized donation to this project to get the ball rolling, but we need quite a bit more if we want to get this done before it's too late. Anything you can donate would be most appreciated. Here is the main website: http://www.savelaurelandhardy.com
There is a Donate Here button about halfway down the page, or: https://giving.ucla....spx?SiteNum=274
I recently saw the UCLA restored version of the 1933 L&H short Busy Bodies (one of my all-time favorites) in 35mm at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. It looked simply stunning. I've seen this short many times over the years, and it tended to look scratchy, "dupey," and just plain old. Now...it doesn't. It looks like it was shot yesterday. And there's still time to do this for the rest of the library. But this window of opportunity will not stay open for long; every year more and more nitrate film turns to goo and then to dust. Please. Anything at all that you can donate would be most appreciated. As Stan Laurel said in Brats, "You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led!" Thanks so much, Jeff Joseph Formerly SabuCat Productions Former owner of the 35mm Forum