Paramount’s new Blu-ray of Milos Forman’s Ragtime finally allows for far more than a proper home theater presentation.

While the new image harvest is lovely, and I’m thrilled to have it, the big news for me was the inclusion – on a second Blu-ray disc – of Mr. Forman’s final work print, here noted as a “director’s cut,” whether that happens to be accurate or not.

What that cut of the film enables viewers to share is an earlier – non-final – cut of the film – almost 20 minutes longer, that films in a myriad of gaps, creating a more cohesive result. Because much of the un-cut footage is from a black & white slop print, it makes it relatively easy to understand what changes were made, and how they affect the overall way the the film plays.

One of the things that I love about this film, is that while it takes place in 1906, it’s less about music and the era, and more attuned to racial tension and a single event in which a young, educated, respected black man is mistreated by a dumb, white fireman – leading to a number of horrific events.

The fact that we have both James Cagney as well as Pat O’Brien in their final performances, along with Donald O’Connor, kicks things up a huge notch.

A beautiful disc of a wonderful film, with one of the most interesting, and educational extras in ages. The fact that we get to see the work of Anne Coates, Antony Gibbs and Stanley Warnow, who as a group editing the film in an incomplete form is a major asset for those interested in film production.

One suggestion for future reference. Paramount has designed the packaging so that the film’s credits are printed in what appears to be dark gray against a black background. This makes them all but unreadable.




Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Highly Recommended

RAH
Post Disclaimer

Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

View thread (23 replies)

JoshZ

Screenwriter
Joined
May 26, 2012
Messages
1,061
Location
Boston
Real Name
Joshua Zyber
Is the "director's cut" transferred entirely from a workprint? Or is it only the additional footage taken from a workprint spliced into the more pristine footage from the theatrical cut master?
 

lark144

Premium
Joined
Feb 22, 2012
Messages
1,596
Real Name
mark gross
Doctorow's novel was even better. Different media, and all worthy

The thing about Doctorow's novel--and the same goes for "Billy Bathgate"--is the author's voice, as well as the rhythm of the prose, for which there is no cinematic equivalent, (or at least, none that Milos Forman or Robert Benton were able to come up with). That authorial voice of Doctorow's works on a number of levels. First, it draws the reader in, and personalizes the prose in a way that the objective camera style of 80's cinema can't. Then, because it's an authorial, omniscient voice, it's also able to give you a sense of the times, along with the characters and the basic narrative, which the novel does brilliantly. Then there's the problem of time. If one was to film most of what was in the novel, it would take up 5-6 hrs of cinema time, and that isn't viable, at least the way commercial cinema was done in the 1980's, that is, to open the film everywhere and have a 120 minute or less running time to maximize screenings and profits the opening weekend. So you have to pick and choose what pieces of the novel you're going to put on the screen, which means you're doing away with the structure, as well as much of the material, which made the novel such a success to begin with. It's particularly problematic for "Ragtime", because in the novel there's this wonderful balance between the different narratives, as well as the historial time period in which the novel takes place, and in the film, one is elevated, as opposted to the other, creating all kinds of inbalances and skewed perspectives, so that the film is something completely different, and for this viewer, much less attractive. What slowly came into view in the novel though a whole continuum of intersecting characters and stories--an American mosaic, if you like; in the film becomes (for this viewer) pedantic, didactic and artificial, because that structure has been tampered with. It's not really the fault of the filmmakers or the actors. A great deal of craft and sweat and love and art have gone into this production, and you can see it in every frame. I look forward to the workprint, as it sounds like that might be a real revelation. An additional 20 minutes might make the film seem much less forced and artificial than it did to me upon first seeing it back in the 80's.
 

Robert Harris

Archivist
Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 8, 1999
Messages
14,633
Real Name
Robert Harris
Is the "director's cut" transferred entirely from a workprint? Or is it only the additional footage taken from a workprint spliced into the more pristine footage from the theatrical cut master?
All workprint.
 

Jim Peavy

Supporting Actor
Joined
Aug 12, 2002
Messages
728
Very interested in this. Remember seeing this in college and liking it quite a bit. And with the workprint included - ! Knew this was Cagney's final bow, but did not know about O'Brien.
 

MartinP.

Screenwriter
Joined
Mar 26, 2007
Messages
1,393
Real Name
Martin
I read the book in the 70's, saw the film a few times, in a theater and then VHS, in the 80's and saw the musical at the Shubert Theatre in Century CIty, before it went to Broadway, three times in the 90's. The Pasadena Playhouse mounted a hugely successful revival of it in 2019 that I went to see as well.

I have enjoyed all the different versions of Ragtime that have been produced and am looking forward to seeing this again along with the "director's cut."

If anyone isn't aware--there was a book published around 20 years ago titled "Three Screenplays: Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake by E.L. Doctorow." From a description of it: The screenplay for "Daniel" was filmed by Sidney Lumet in 1983. The monumental "Ragtime" screenplay he wrote for director Robert Altman was to have been filmed as either a six-hour feature film or a ten-hour television series. When Altman was replaced on the project by Milos Forman, a shorter, more conventional script was commissioned from another writer. In 1981, Doctorow adapted "Loon Lake", but this challenging work has yet to be filmed. For this book, Doctorow has revised his "Ragtime" screenplay, making clear how different the film might have been, and has written a preface about the art of screenwriting.
______

SIDEBAR: Has anyone read Doctorow's novel WORLD'S FAIR? I'd read other novels of his before I started that one. I had the strangest experience in that I wasn't into at all and a bit bored, but since I'd liked others I kept at it. When I was finished with it I felt the opposite. I was so glad I'd read it, but I don't know why my interest changed during the reading of it or when. I've never been able to figure out that experience of how or why that sequence happened; or if it even makes sense. I'd like to see it made into a movie.
 

moviepas

Supporting Actor
Joined
Apr 13, 2011
Messages
716
Doctorow's novel was even better. Different media, and all worthy.
A second reading years after the first made a much better impression on me. I have the French box set and the latest US has been ordered. Due in a couple of weeks, hopefully.
 

RJ992

Supporting Actor
Joined
Sep 7, 2010
Messages
626
Real Name
Joel
Paramount's new Blu-ray of Milos Forman's Ragtime finally allows for far more than a proper home theater presentation.

While the new image harvest is lovely, and I'm thrilled to have it, the big news for me was the inclusion - on a second Blu-ray disc - of Mr. Forman's final work print, here noted as a "director's cut," whether that happens to be accurate or not.

What that cut of the film enables viewers to share is an earlier - non-final - cut of the film - almost 20 minutes longer, that films in a myriad of gaps, creating a more cohesive result. Because much of the un-cut footage is from a black & white slop print, it makes it relatively easy to understand what changes were made, and how they affect the overall way the the film plays.

One of the things that I love about this film, is that while it takes place in 1906, it's less about music and the era, and more attuned to racial tension and a single event in which a young, educated, respected black man is mistreated by a dumb, white fireman - leading to a number of horrific events.

The fact that we have both James Cagney as well as Pat O'Brien in their final performances, along with Donald O'Connor, kicks things up a huge notch.

A beautiful disc of a wonderful film, with one of the most interesting, and educational extras in ages. The fact that we get to see the work of Anne Coates, Antony Gibbs and Stanley Warnow, who as a group editing the film in an incomplete form is a major asset for those interested in film production.

One suggestion for future reference. Paramount has designed the packaging so that the film's credits are printed in what appears to be dark gray against a black background. This makes them all but unreadable.


Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Highly Recommended

RAH
 

RJ992

Supporting Actor
Joined
Sep 7, 2010
Messages
626
Real Name
Joel
Not Cagney's final appearance. After Ragtime, he starred in a TV movie (title escapes me) about a boxer.
 

Dick

Premium
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
9,033
Real Name
Rick
The thing about Doctorow's novel--and the same goes for "Billy Bathgate"--is the author's voice, as well as the rhythm of the prose, for which there is no cinematic equivalent, (or at least, none that Milos Forman or Robert Benton were able to come up with). That authorial voice of Doctorow's works on a number of levels. First, it draws the reader in, and personalizes the prose in a way that the objective camera style of 80's cinema can't. Then, because it's an authorial, omniscient voice, it's also able to give you a sense of the times, along with the characters and the basic narrative, which the novel does brilliantly. Then there's the problem of time. If one was to film most of what was in the novel, it would take up 5-6 hrs of cinema time, and that isn't viable, at least the way commercial cinema was done in the 1980's, that is, to open the film everywhere and have a 120 minute or less running time to maximize screenings and profits the opening weekend. So you have to pick and choose what pieces of the novel you're going to put on the screen, which means you're doing away with the structure, as well as much of the material, which made the novel such a success to begin with. It's particularly problematic for "Ragtime", because in the novel there's this wonderful balance between the different narratives, as well as the historial time period in which the novel takes place, and in the film, one is elevated, as opposted to the other, creating all kinds of inbalances and skewed perspectives, so that the film is something completely different, and for this viewer, much less attractive. What slowly came into view in the novel though a whole continuum of intersecting characters and stories--an American mosaic, if you like; in the film becomes (for this viewer) pedantic, didactic and artificial, because that structure has been tampered with. It's not really the fault of the filmmakers or the actors. A great deal of craft and sweat and love and art have gone into this production, and you can see it in every frame. I look forward to the workprint, as it sounds like that might be a real revelation. An additional 20 minutes might make the film seem much less forced and artificial than it did to me upon first seeing it back in the 80's.

Excellent essay, Mark. You have really hit the nail. I love both book and film, but for reasons you outline so well, for different reasons. I read the book after seeing the movie, and was surprised at the enormous outlay of historical characters and events in the former that necessarily had to be compromised or entirely left out of the film. I have no experience with the Broadway production, but I cannot image it expand much if any upon Doctorow's novel. But, as a stand alone, the film commands respect. It is beautifully filmed, scored, and acted by and with outstanding people who were dedicated to makig RAGTIME one of cinema's finest productions of 1981. I anxiously look foreward to this Blu-ray.
 

Robert Harris

Archivist
Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 8, 1999
Messages
14,633
Real Name
Robert Harris
It was "Terrible Joe Moran" with Art Carney and Ellen Barkin playing his granddaughter.
An odd TV production, in which Mr. Cagney and Mr. Gorshin were placed in a blender and set to mix - slow.

True connoisseurs of cinema have not, do not, and never will accept a production created for the small screen as cinema.

Ask anyone, and they’ll agree.
 

Robert Crawford

Crawdaddy
Moderator
Patron
Joined
Dec 9, 1998
Messages
56,237
Location
Michigan
Real Name
Robert
An odd TV production, in which Mr. Cagney and Mr. Gorshin were placed in a blender and set to mix - slow.

True connoisseurs of cinema have not, do not, and never will accept a production created for the small screen as cinema.

Ask anyone, and they’ll agree.
I have little concern for such film elitists. In short, screw elitism!:) As to that TV film, I haven't seen it in over 25 years, but I remember liking it as they showed some scenes from one of Cagney's earlier boxing movies when he was a young actor.