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3-strip Technicolor, year by year

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by benbess, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Like most of you here, I'm a big fan of the unique look of the 3-strip Technicolor process. We've already had some stunning releases on blu-ray from the original negatives of such films as The Wizard of Oz, GWTW, The Red Shoes, and several others. I'm hoping some of us can chip in on doing a year by year of the 3-strip Technicolor full-length film. I think the process got started with Becky Sharp, which was released in 1935. I think the process lasted about 20 years. The number of Technicolor releases grew fairly steadily in the 1940s, esp. after the huge success of GWTW. Because of the expense and the demands for extremely bright lighting, Technicolor was generally reserved for big, prestige productions, esp. in the early years.
    There is what appears to be a good site listing many of the Technicolor features, which apparently is based on a list that RAH posted here once. Anyway, here's the site:
    http://www.lopek.com/3stf/3stf_index.php
    I saw Becky Sharp about 20 years ago on the restored version then available. The film itself is only so-so, as I recall (although my memory of it is pretty vague), and more than that the original negative was mostly lost and what remained was damaged. In other words, even though the restoration was a heroic effort for the early 1990s, there was only so much they could achieve. And in any case, beyond the historical curiosity of it being the first full length Technicolor film, I'm not sure there's that much to recommend it. In other words, there's probably no reason to ever try to bring this one to blu...
    The two other Technicolor films from 1935 I've not heard of, and I don't know if that means anything or not. Perhaps it's already time to move to 1936, where there might be a promising title or two?
     
  2. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Romona, from 20th Century Fox, probably isn't worthy in terms of its drama. But in any case we can't hope for any Fox production in 3-strip to make good blu-rays, because as we know Fox made the insane decision in c. 1978 to throw all of their original Technicolor negatives in the trash. It gives me a headache to think about it. Can those execs still be found and have soft whipped cream pies thrown in their faces? Just joking....
     
  3. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Trail of the Lonesome Pine from 1936, starring Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray seems more promising. Originally released by Paramount, it's probably owned by someone else now (Universal??). Only modest commercial prospects for it, but the reviews at imdb seem to show there's some affection for this title. But do the 3 strips exist, and are they in ok shape?
     
  4. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Ben Bess! Great idea for a thread.
    I must disagree with your premise that some films are worthy and others are not for Hi-Def treatment.
    Becky Sharp and Ramona were once popular and influential films and still reward repeated viewings today.
    Trail of the Lonesome Pine is restored and released on DVD by Universal.
    Michael Curtiz's Gold Is Where You Find It (1938) has also been restored for broadcast but as yet remains unreleased to home video by Warner Brothers.
    As artistic works, and dramatic works, they are all worthy.
     
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  5. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938 is a very fun movie and a great blu-ray. Highly recommended. Look for a young Alan Hale, later of Gilligan's Island fame as the Skipper.
     
  6. Guest

    Alan Hale in the credits is Alan Hale Jr.'s (the Skipper) father.
     
  7. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Thanks for that correction!+++
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I also like three-strip Technicolor sequences inserted into otherwise black and white films like Shirley Temple's The Little Colonel. It just about blinds you when they pop up so unexpectedly in various movies.
     
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  9. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    Many people know that BECKY SHARP was produced by Pioneer Productions as part of a deal to sell the new Technicolor process. If it weren't for the diligent efforts of Bob Gitt and the UCLA Film and Television Department, that most historic film would not exist in its current form today.
    However, that being said, a far more entertaining and possibly more colorful film that is orphaned and in need of restoration is Pioneer's THE DANCING PIRATE, starring Frank Morgan (the WIZARD OF OZ himself) and Steffi Duna (LA CUCARACHA). Cinecolor and black and white prints exist of this title, but I don't know of original elements or Technicolor prints existing of the film. Since the film is public domain, however, it is something that a private entrepreneur or a film archive will have to pursue.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Negs and masters on DP appear to be incomplete.
    RAH
     
  11. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Then it should be restored incomplete and released incomplete, assuming a benefactor can be found.
    Consumers understand these things.
    I think 2-strip color should be included as well.
    1941 Hoppity Goes to Town (Paramount) animation
    1938 Gulliver's Travels (Paramount) animation
    1938 Gold Is Where You Find It (Warner Brothers)
    1936 Phantom of Santa Fe (independent)
    1936 The Bold Caballero (Republic)
    1934 La Cucaracha (RKO) 20 minute short
    1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum (Warner Brothers)
    1932 Dr. X (Warner Brothers)
    1930 The Devil's Caberat (MGM) 16 minute short
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    What does the list above represent?
     
  13. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    One of the most stunning Technicolor films I have in my blu-ray collection is The Red Shoes. What a film! And the quality of the image is really something. And it's about ten times more stunning when you read this in the booklet for this Criterion release....
    "....For quality reasons, we chose the original negative as our starting point, even though they were afflicted with a daunting number of problems: 65 percent of the film had bad color fringing, caused by differential shrinkage and sometimes by misadjustment of the camera during shooting; 176 shots contained color flickering, mottling, and 'breathing' because of uneven development and chemical staining; 70 sequences contained harsh optical effects with excessive contrast; and throughout there were thousands of visible red, blue, and green specks caused by embedded dirt and scratches. Worst of all, mold had attacked every reel and begun to east away the emulsion, leaving behind thousands of tiny cracks and fissures.
    Extensive digital restoration was the only practical solution. Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging was chosen to undertake the immense task of digitally scanning 579,000 individual frames directly from the three-strip camera negatives, reregistering the the colors, removing visible specks and scratches, mitigating color breathing, solving contrast issues, performing shot-to-shot color correction, and, finally, recording all 134 minutes back to 35mm Eastman color internegative stock..."
    It almost makes one weep to understand even a little of the miracles that have been wrought to bring this back to life. It took a lot of time, a lot of TLC, a lot of technology, and a lot of money. They don't say how much, but maybe a million dollars???
    The results are amazing. We can now see this film probably better than the original audiences could on opening day in 1948. But this was a labor of love, not economics. I doubt whether even to this day they've earned back all they spent on this film. It was to a significant degree charity work for a film key to the history of film.
    So, for a regular good film from Hollywood that's entertaining enough but not such a work of art, it's unlikely such work can be performed to this high degree if the elements are in such poor shape.
    I'm hoping some of these Technicolor negatives are in better shape. But even then utilizing the Warner Bros. Ultrarez process to perfectly align the three strips of the negative for the the whole film must be rather costly.
    Quo Vadis looks good for most of the long length of this film, but I'm not sure if Ultrarez was used....?
    Anyway, unless some of these Technicolor negatives are in good shape, the bar for realistically suggesting a blu-ray probably needs to be set fairly high. The film generally needs to have good artistic and entertainment merit and at least some commercial possibilities today.
    In other words, maybe there are only a few Technicolor features per year that have a chance of being saved?? Not sure....
     
  14. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Trying to go year by year (and feel free anyone to help me out), we still need to list the films in 3-strip Technicolor from 1937. It seems the list of films from that site for this year includes:
    Ebb Tide
    God's Country and The Women
    Nothing Sacred
    A Star is Born
    Victoria the Great
    Vogues of 1938
    When's Your Birthday
    Wings of the Morning
    I confess I haven't seen any of these! Anyone else have a comment or poster on one or more of them?
    The one I'm most curious about is A Star is Born, but they did a much more minimal job of restoration for this film that's now in the public domain. Apparently rather than going back to the original 3 strip negative, which may no longer exist, they just made a blu-ray from the best print source in existence. That costs a small fraction of what they did for The Red Shoes, but the results are also less impressive. I guess I'm spoiled, and more want to be stunned by my blu-ray purchases rather than thinking "that's OK, or just good enough." The image quality, however, is still acceptable according to the review here and at blu-ray.com:
    "Like other films in the public domain, A Star is Born has been subjected to many sub-par home video releases over the years. While Image Entertainment's 2004 DVD was decent, Kino's Blu-ray release handily bests it in every category. Sourced from the best materials available at the George Eastman House's film preservation division, the disc's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer does justice to the film's Technicolor cinematography. As I've mentioned in other reviews, Kino doesn't have the resources to do extensive, frame-by-frame restorations, digitally removing every instance of dirt and debris. Instead, they find the cleanest prints possible, leaving the specks and scratches "as is" and focusing their restoration efforts on color and tonality issues, which are somewhat easier to deal with. So, yes, you'll notice some mild scratches and flecks and the occasional instance where the film emulsion looks worn away, but there are no major streaks, stains, or warping. I was actually quite surprised by the condition of the print. As usual with Kino titles, film grain is natural and untouched, and there are no signs of edge enhancement or other forms of digital boosting. Clarity all-around is much improved over prior standard definition releases--as you'd expect--but what will leave you gawking is the beautiful Technicolor photography, which is dense and vibrant without being gaudy. There are some minor and fleeting color fluctuations, but in all other regards--contrast, black levels--this transfer has rock solid stability. Another wonderful early Technicolor title from Kino."
     
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  15. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    1938:
    Adventures of Robin Hood (looks amazing on blu! Fun film!)
    Adventures of Tom Sawyer
    Divorce of Lady X
    The Drum
    Gold is Where you Find It
    Goldwyn Follies
    Heart of the North
    Kentucky
    Men with a Wing
    Sixty Glorious Years
    Sweethearts
    Valley of the Giants
    The only one I've seen on this list, aside from Robin Hood, is the Selznick production of Tom Sawyer. Saw it in the 70s on tv, iirc, and so my memory is hazy. But I think it's worthy of the blu-ray treatment, even if it costs some money....Anyone seen any of the other titles on this list? Some of them sound interesting!
     
  16. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Richard--W: Love those posters! Keep em coming....+++
     
  17. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    A few posters of Technicolor movies from 1938....And as we know the negative for the Fox flick Kentucky is in a landfill somewhere in LA....
     
  18. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    A couple more posters of Technicolor films from 1938:
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Like all marketing, the comment that the element was the best available at GEH is meaningless - and by that I mean nothing negative about GEH. The original negatives survive, and should be accessed. If anything, the Kino release - with no malice toward Kino - may damage the chance of that occurring. Best not to have been released as public domain.
    RAH
     
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  20. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    So Warner Bros. probably has the complete 3 strip negative in OK shape, but because this has already been released pubic domain from a print, the odds of WB HV spending the money to fixed this up may not be as high. That's a shame.
    My guess, however, is that a lot of people (like me) didn't buy this release because it was just sourced from an old print, without even any digital clean up. In other words, a spectacular new release would bring some buyers....
     
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