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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Restoration discussion thread


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#1 of 111 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 04 2002 - 10:00 PM

This is just mearly a teaser for something
in the works....

On Monday, I had the opportunity to spend
an entire day with Film Preservationist
Robert Harris, who has been compiling
missing footage from Stanley Kramer's It's
A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
, to present
to MGM in hopes that they will fund a total
new restoration.

I am working on a full-blown story of my visit,
complete with pictures that I think you'll
find very interesting.

One of the most startling photos you will see
is of an entire reel that has been ruined due
to storage neglect. The reel is warped, reaking
of a vinegar-like odor, and easily crumbled to
the touch. 90% of all the extra footage for this
film is close to being forever extinct. If MGM
does not fund a restoration THIS YEAR, it can never
be done and the footage will be lost forever.

Although I am going to save most of the details
of my visit for the upcoming story I am working
on, I do want to say that I heard audio footage
that has not been heard by more than a handful of
people since 1963. This audio footage includes
a sequence where Captain Culpepper (Spencer Tracy)
is talking to Jimmy the Crook (Buster Keaton).
The film portion is missing, but Harris is still
optimistic it will be found.

I also heard the infamous "Radio Calls" sequence
that played in theater lobbies during intermission.
This also has not been heard by anyone since the
film's premier. It's an amazingly funny piece of
audio footage, and if MGM funds this restoration,
all of you will have the opportunity to hear it for
yourselves.

I am in the process of starting this lengthly
article, which includes a Q&A with Robert Harris
on all the aspects of his MAD WORLD quests. I
hope to have the article up by week's end.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 111 OFFLINE   Eric Paddon

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Posted March 04 2002 - 10:16 PM

Ron, your account is fascinating and disturbing, as there is both excitement over the news of what has been found, and at the same time concern that time is fast running out.

"Mad, Mad World" is not a particularly great film from my standpoint (I think "The Great Race" is a funnier "epic comedy") but it is a fascinating piece of filmmaking that deserves to be seen restored back to as full a version as possible. To help that, I broke my vow not to buy the existing DVD in the hope that one extra purchase would contribute to the sales figures that are needed to convince MGM that more work needs to be done.

Since you got a chance to hear the Tracy-Keaton scene, can you kind of summarize how the dialogue went? And also, how did the "police bulletins" Entr'acte work? Was it more recapping of the action or something else altogether? This is probably the one missing sequence that intrigues me the most above all others.

#3 of 111 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 04 2002 - 10:39 PM

Eric,

If you are good, I'll post a photo of
the actual Buster Keaton dialogue sequence
off of the original music timing sheet.

The sequence changes the entire mindset of
the film's ending as we learn for the first
time that Culpepper is planning to take the
money and run even before he meets up with
the group.

The "Police Calls" sequence will also be
discussed in further detail once the article
is posted.

Regards!

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#4 of 111 OFFLINE   george kaplan

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Posted March 04 2002 - 10:46 PM

I for one have put my money where my mouth is. I ponied up $15 and bought the current Mad World dvd, which sits in my desk, upopened and unwatched (I will never watch this, I'll watch my ld instead). I bought it to help send MGM a message. I only hope I didn't spend my $15 in vain.
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#5 of 111 OFFLINE   Peter Kline

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Posted March 05 2002 - 01:06 AM

Not to nitpick. ok I will. There is no missing or deteriorating"video" footage. It's called "film". Posted Image

#6 of 111 OFFLINE   Jonathan Perregaux

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Posted March 05 2002 - 03:17 AM

Quote:
One of the most startling photos you will see
is of an entire reel that has been ruined due
to storage neglect. The reel is warped, reaking
of a vinegar-like odor, and easily crumbled to
the touch. 90% of all the extra footage for this
film is close to being forever extinct.

Whenever I read something like that, I see spots before my eyes and I have to rest on something. It pains me to realize that many cinematic achievements of the 20th century can barely survive a handful of decades and will most likely not exist at all hundreds of years from now.
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#7 of 111 OFFLINE   John P Grosskopf

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Posted March 05 2002 - 03:42 AM

Quote:
If you are good,

So it's conditional based on behavior? Posted Image Posted Image

#8 of 111 OFFLINE   JohnS

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Posted March 05 2002 - 04:09 AM

This is sickening news.
Just to hear about a reel of film, just sitting there breaking down and rotting away.

Isn't there something that can be done, with maybe outside investors?
Just how much would it cost to restore this film?

These film elements must be saved.

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#9 of 111 OFFLINE   paul o'donnell

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Posted March 05 2002 - 05:10 AM

Thanks for the update there Ron. Cannot wait for the article, was already frothing at the mouth over the last thread. Posted Image

And preservation is far too overlooked. I get soooo annoyed upon hearing about film totally deteriorating due to simple lack of care. Its a social document for god sake, a piece of art. I sincerely hope MGM pick this up.
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#10 of 111 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted March 05 2002 - 06:07 AM

I do wonder how MGM's current financial state will affect whether they will or will not fund a restoration.

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#11 of 111 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted March 05 2002 - 06:43 AM

Quote:
This audio footage includes a sequence where Captain Culpepper (Spencer Tracy)
is talking to Jimmy the Crook (Buster Keaton).
The film portion is missing, but Harris is still
optimistic it will be found.


i wouldn't mind having this sound included back into the film with a photo montage as was done in the restored version of LOST HORIZON,
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#12 of 111 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted March 05 2002 - 09:01 AM

If MGM can't fund the entire restoration, perhaps a fund can be started where people send in pledges (like for PBS) for the restoration...

#13 of 111 OFFLINE   Greg_M

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Posted March 05 2002 - 09:36 AM

Of course, If MGM is sold, there is a chance the film may not be restored. Having the audio only scenes play over still photo's is also a good idea that has worked before "A Star is Born" If the film could have a limited release in 70MM like "Lawrence of Arabia" it may help to cover the costs. If you can make it work on paper, they'll let you restore the film.

#14 of 111 OFFLINE   paul o'donnell

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Posted March 05 2002 - 11:00 AM

For anyone who's only got this thread bookmarked. The article is up. (or has it been up all day and I've only noticed now?)

Im only half way through it thus far. Good stuff Posted Image
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#15 of 111 OFFLINE   Jon_W

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Posted March 05 2002 - 11:03 AM

Great report Ron. Let's hope Mr. Harris can work his magic on those MGM executives. If it doesn't happen soon who knows it ever will.
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#16 of 111 OFFLINE   paul o'donnell

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Posted March 05 2002 - 11:17 AM

Yup that was a very good report there. Keeping my fingers crossed about the Pinewood connection, maybe we're good for something over here. Posted Image

Its astonishing how preservation is so overlooked among people at studios. Restore any film properly and I pledge to buy a copy of the DVD regardless, how's that? Posted Image

Anywho, cheers for the report Ron.

ps: LOA range-finder! that must've been cool!
My uncle was reading the paper one morning and saw an ad that said "Drink Canada Dry"...and he was gone the next morning.

#17 of 111 OFFLINE   Derek Miner

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Posted March 05 2002 - 12:49 PM

Ron,

I just read through your report, and I am very impressed! I'm sure I speak for many of the film fans on the HTF when I say that I'm incredibly jealous that you got to spend a day with Robert Harris watching the man work and getting to see such interesting artifacts. I certainly hope to see more articles like this in the future.
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#18 of 111 OFFLINE   Jeremy Jones

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Posted March 05 2002 - 01:01 PM

GREAT report, Ron! I wish there was a way that some of our tax dollars could go to film restoration. I mean, there has GOT to be some way to finance these restorations. Lord knows what's sitting outside and rotting this very moment! You'd think with all the Hollywood fund raisers there are, at least most of them would be to preserve their history. Look how bad of shape Star Wars was in when they restored it. Lucas said it would've been lost if they hadn't restored it when they did. The sad thing is, Lucas could fund 2000 restorations, at the rate it's costing to restore Mad World, with just the money he made off the Pepsi deal. Come on, Hollywood. Have a heart! Posted Image

#19 of 111 OFFLINE   EricK

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Posted March 05 2002 - 03:36 PM

Excellent report Ron, thank you so much for sharing your day with Robert Harris and MMMM World. I hope that MGM decides to go ahead and restore MMMM World properly. I would be glad to make a donation to the restoration efforts if it would help.

Eric.

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#20 of 111 OFFLINE   Hank Frankenberg

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Posted March 06 2002 - 12:48 AM

Ron, thank you for the best report I've read on the net about deterioration of our film history. Your report saddens me as I realize how many reels are already beyond hope. Specifically for IAMMMMW, I am willing to sign a petition to the studio, to pledge donation dollars, write a letter, etc. Are there any of these activities already started somewhere? Anyone?

I'm 55 and the two memories I have of actually nearly falling out of my theater seat with laughter, are IAMMMMW and The Pink Panther. Great comdey is more difficult to create than great drama.




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