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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Jezebel - in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Message #1 of 90 Aug 10, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 12, 2019
    Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I’ve always considered William Wyler’s 1938 Jezebel, one of those “miracle” films.

    It just works.

    Great cast. Superb direction. Wonderful score by Max Steiner (he also did the score for that other Old South production, the following year) Beautifully photographed, in black & white, by the great Ernest Haller.

    It all works, and does it ever stand the test of time!

    Five Academy Award nominations &
    WINS:

    Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Fay Bainter
    Best Picture
    Best Cinematography - Ernest Haller
    Best Music Scoring - Max Steiner
    Best Actress - Bette Davis

    Like all cinephiles, we have our favorite films for each and every director, and actor.


    For Bette Davis, the two at the top are Jezebel and All About Eve. One can add to that, Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, The Bride Came C.O.D., Now Voyager, and The Whales of August.

    A nice list of great films, for an extraordinary talent.

    But I’ve had my concerns about Jezebel, from a survival perspective. And while I used to have a gorgeous 16mm print, struck in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s, I’ve never seen it look better than acceptable in any home video format.

    Did I just hear someone mutter the word, “Why?”


    Where do I begin?

    The film had an original running time of only 104 minutes, when it was originally released in March of 1938. I've always found this odd, as there seems to be three hours of content, which seem to fly by.

    Certainly, a re-issue, such as the one in late 1947 wouldn’t necessitate a re-cut to a shorter version?


    Well, why not?

    And if one is cutting the film, certainly one can make a new fine grain, and cut a duplicate negative?

    Well, why not?

    And so it was, that some time in 1947, the studio re-cut Jezebel, removing 11 minutes, taking the running time down to 93 minutes.


    And cut both the original camera negative, as well as the track.

    But wait, it gets better.

    At some point, what remained of the original negative deteriorated enough, so that today, it no longer exists.

    Everything up until today, for the original cut of the film, has been derived from a “quick and dirty” dupe negative, derived from a nitrate dupe, produced after enough runs on the neg to make it show wear and tear.

    What thrills me about Warner Archive’s new release, is that it looks far better than my 16mm print, which was beautiful.

    So much better, that one can easily forget what has befallen this film.


    Produced from a very early lavender, also with its share of problems, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Rich blacks, gorgeous grays, with proper shadow detail, luminous whites, and magnificent velvety grain.

    And to go with the image is a track that allows me to hear Mr. Steiner's score, as I’ve never heard it before.

    As I recall, it may have been another Warner film that gave us the line, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of…”

    Well, this new incarnation of the restored Jezebel, fits that line perfectly.

    The point also must be made that this is a true restoration. An expensive one. So for those who like to request classic films, and may not yet have purchased The Thin Man and Footlight Parade, be aware that your purchases speak volumes, and create the ability to restore more nitrate productions.

    Jezebel is a film for the ages!


    Image – 5

    Audio – 5

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Upgrade from DVD – Are you seriously asking?

    Very Highly Recommended

    RAH

     
  2. Robin9

    Robin9 Producer

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    Obviously, an imperative purchase! Automatic too! Many thanks.
     
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  3. Message #3 of 90 Aug 10, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
    marcco00

    marcco00 Second Unit

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    From the rousing score, the word "Jezebel" glowing on fire in the title credits, Davis in a
    prostitute's red dress at a high society function, to that final confrontation at the end.....this is just a really thrilling movie to watch and a good example of WHY i love classic Hollywood.

    Thank you Ms. Davis, for this and all of your work, you are my favorite!!!
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Last week, my best friend finally watched this great film on TCM. He called me up to say he didn't understand the praises this film received over the years as he tried to compare it to GWTW. After some discussion he finally conceded that he was too harsh on Jezebel and accepted the film for what it is and not some grand spectacle like GWTW. I'm looking forward to watching this on BD.
     
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  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You’ll not be disappointed.
     
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  6. battlebeast

    battlebeast Cinematographer

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    I have purchased Gaslight, the Thin Man and Jezebel. And I will continue to purchase the best picture nominees as they release them!
     
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  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    That gorgeous Max Steiner waltz used in the ball scene is one of the GREAT waltzes ever written. It just sweeps you up in its grandeur (and is all the more bittersweet because of the humiliation that Julie is suffering during this sequence). The Adventures of Robin Hood won Best Score that year, but that musical moment in Jezebel is without peer.
     
  8. Astairefan

    Astairefan Second Unit

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    I have both Footlight Parade and The Thin Man on blu (and really enjoyed them!), and I eagerly look forward to this one, too!
     
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  9. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    I may be wrong, but I think he used that waltz theme first in A Star Is Born.
     
  10. DennisBassi

    DennisBassi Stunt Coordinator

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    Mr. Harris,

    I could not tell from your review. Was it restored to its original length?
     
  11. Message #11 of 90 Aug 10, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
    Trancas

    Trancas Stunt Coordinator

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    So you are saying the blu-ray was produced from the very early lavender (with problems)?
    If the lavender was so superior why wasn't it used to make "Everything up until today, for the original cut of the film"?
    Why was a quick-n-dirty dupe negative from a dupe used prior to this?
    Had the lavender been misplaced? Was the lavender incomplete?
     
  12. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor
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    Warner shows a running time of 104 minutes for the Blu-Ray. That’s the original running time.
     
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  13. Message #13 of 90 Aug 11, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
    Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Simple inventory control, and selection of elements, by someone who knows what they’re doing.
     
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  14. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    I'll have to watch it again soon to see if that's true. If it's there, it hasn't stood out to me the way it does in Jezebel.
     
  15. Message #15 of 90 Aug 11, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
    Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To be clear, many things would come into the orders to produce printing elements. For example, if memory serves, many of the original WB nitrates were stored at the Vitaphone warehouse, which I believe was in Brooklyn.

    If the lab being used was in NY, simple answer would be to use whatever duplicating positive might have been handy.

    Negatives were hardly considered treasures. They were simply a means to an end, toward the creation of “commercially acceptable” prints.

    Nothing more. Especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
     
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  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Couple of add’l points of interest.

    Included as extras, a short promotional film with Bette Davis on the lot in 1938, and Daffy Duck in Hollywood, and early 3-strip animated mini-epic.

    And for those who take their cinema history seriously, a wonderful commentary with Jeanine Basinger, who knows her stuff.
     
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  17. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    Now I wonder what was shown at MoMA during the 1973 WB retrospective. WB used to ship original 35mm nitrate prints from their vaults to the Museum, such as the complete Captain Blood (first time ever!); a sepia-toned Torrid Zone; the Technicolor Doctor X which fell off the truck on its way back to the warehouse, etc. We also got surprises such as the reissue print of The Life of Emile Zola, subtitled The Dreyfuss Affair. A beautiful print, but severely truncated.
     
  18. Message #18 of 90 Aug 12, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
    PMF

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    It's nice to know that encouragements of future restorations can be heard and noted by WAC, merely by each and every one of us making a purchase.
    Footlight Parade
    The Thin Man
    Gaslight
    Jezebel
    Yes to all four, and a pleasure.
    Now, for clarification, are there any other titles from WAC that fall into this category of encouragements?
    If so, then such additions would be worth posting.:thumbs-up-smiley:
     
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  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The support is needed, Philip. There are more on the way, but akin to any business, budgets must be approved, based upon sales numbers.

    And these are not inexpensive endeavors. They’re full scale restorations.
     
  20. Message #20 of 90 Aug 12, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
    PMF

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    Well, perhaps a moratorium is in order concerning my old rally for "Ryan's Daughter".
    Yes, perhaps, we at HTF who are already interested in these 4 titles should rally together and make a pledge.
    How about all who believe in this cause of true restorations; and all the BD benefits that go with it;
    make a unified pledge to purchase all 4 titles in a single order, between now and the end of September.
    WAC has thrilled us all in 2019, so wouldn't it be fun for us to thrill them in return?:)
    P.S. RAH, please add any other titles that may fall into this category of support.:thumbs-up-smiley:
     

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