How the West Was Won - Now Playing at Cinerama Dome

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Brian-W, Sep 14, 2003.

  1. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Just saw this for the first time, and in Cinerama. Waaaaaaaaaaay better print quality than "This is Cinerama" and definitely had the audience laughing. I thought John Wayne would have had a larger role, but he was hardly in it.

    Anyway, I had a blast, and really enjoyed the movie. Even with Steven Speilberg sitting four chairs over. I see he appreciates good cinema.

    I also had no clue that the Cinerama process was one camera assembly with three lenses/rolls of film.

    The one thing everyone kept pointing out was "because they used 27mm lenses, they couldn't do close ups in the movie" which to be honest, I'm glad they didn't. Does every movie have to have a 'close up' of the actors? Besides, with that large of a screen, who needs a close up of the actors faces?

    I enjoyed the film, including the stunts. And as pointed out in another thread (and at the film introduction) the 70mm shots had far less resolution than I would have guessed.

    Get over and see it before it's gone. I may venture over to see "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" when it shows in October. Never seen that movie either.
     
  2. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Brian, glad you enjoyed the film. IAMMMMW was the first "single lens" Cinerama movie. You'll immediately notice the difference in the two from a presentation viewpoint. HTWWW is real Cinerama and IAMMMMW is bogus.... sort of like non IMAX films being show in IMAX theatres. The whole secret is the constant 146 degrees of view of 3 camera Cinerama (except for the 70mm sequences, where the view collapses to about 60 degrees.) IAMMMMW has no wide angle sequences in the 146 degree area. Great music no?

    Peter
     
  3. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    IAMMMMW wasn't even filmed as a Super Cinerama film, but rather just as an Ultra Panavision one. The idea to make it Cinerama came after the fact. (according to the Widescreen Museum)

    www.widescreenmuseum.com has some scans of How The West Was Won, presumably from the new print, and it looks fantastic.
     
  4. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Only three films, that I know of, were filmed in 70mm with an eye towards a Cinerama type involvement by the audience. They were "Grand Prix", "The Golden Head" and "Battle Of The Bulge" aka "The Tummy Tuck Movie". Super Cinerama was just a marketing term for a handful of theatres that were built near the end of the 10 year run of the process. Some ads used Super Cinerama for 70mm films, some didn't. It's interesting how the name Cinerama was used on bogus films to fool people. It didn't, audiences knew the difference.
    Alas if that single lens that Cinerama Inc. had made could have been mated to a workable camera to shoot 146 degree images Cinerama afficiandos would have had more films in the process. The lens was distortion-free, but they couldn't get a camera to run the film sideways along a curved gate without jamming. I understand the fastest they were able to achieve was about 6 fps. (They needed at least 24fps). A gentleman by the name of Scott Norwood now owns that lens.
     
  5. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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    Sorry if I confused people with IAMMMMMW as being Cinerama. It's being shown in the Dome next month from a brand new 70mm print and remixed digital sound track. No mention or advertisement as being a Cinerama film.

    I'm just starting to get into these older movies, so that's why I mentioned it.

    The music in HTWWW was great. Songs, music, everything. Although I'm not too fond of the 5 minute musical interludes prior to the movie (before the movie and also before the second part after intermission). Goes on too long.

    Shelley Winters, what a hottie...(back then)
     
  6. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Brian,

    When IAMMMMW came out is played in major cities as a "Cinerama" film (the first of the new single lens 70mm ones). They made a special retified print that squeezed the image at the sides so that when it was projected on the deeply curved screen the sides looked "normal" and not spread out. The Dome opened with IAMMMMW as the first of the new Cinerama films.

    Shelley Winters? She isn't in HTWWW. Are you thinking of Debbie Reynolds?
     
  7. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I thought I'd toss this in.

    I saw HTWWW on my local PBS statin a few months ago and it was shown in full wide frame, whatever you'd call it. I enjoyed the movie and it pulled you in. A real All Star Production. What amazed me was that the PBS station actually broadcast it on TV this way. It had a center image that was normal and the two side images were distorted with a visible "edge" at the 1/3 increments. I knew that was meant for this wide screen presentation of cinerama, but on a flat screen presentation, it was engrossing to watch. Particualry for tracking shots and panning shots where you can see the persective change and nearly fish-eye effect at the boundries of the 'edges'. One point perspective shot really look distorted, like the train track shots. Cool to see,
    particulary that way.

    Nelson
     
  8. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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  9. Bill Huelbig

    Bill Huelbig Second Unit

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    Brian said:

     
  10. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Bill.

    IAMMMMW violated all the rules on how to film Cinerama. Because of the enormous curved screen and wide angle view, 3 camera Cinerama avoided several things to keep the audience from getting dizzy! First the camera never panned up or down. Any sideways panning was done very slowly or with objects moving in sync. The camera would move forward or backward of course. Images that were shown from the air were done slowly as well. In IAMMMMW the helicopter shots following the cars along the winding road are very fast. Left to right panning at times is dizzying. Of course since Cinerama was an afterthought, director Stanley Kramer didn't have those restrictions in mind. He was known to have said, "this isn't a Cinerama movie". It isn't. Just the name on the poster, in the booklet and on the theatre marquee. When I saw the film shortly after it opened in NYC I was terribly disappointed that the "new" Cinerama wasn't as good as the old.

    Peter
     
  11. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Nelson,

    The presentation on television and DVD crops about 20% of each side image. The super wide angle lens causes distortion if shown on a flat screen such as a tv monitior. That's why seeing it on a properly curved screen in a theatre is a must. The vertical join lines are a product of the process. In filming HTWWW they attempted to hide them as much as possible by using trees, the edges of buildings and other objects. One no no was not to put people at the join lines. They could wind up having an overlap look... in This Is Cinerama one shot showed a woman on the right join line area who had 3 legs!
    I'll be seeing it this coming Thursday night at the Dome. Can't wait.

    Peter
     
  12. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Here's an interesting reprint of a 1983 article on the filming of HTWWW.
     
  13. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    My thoughts on HTWWW after seeing it at the Cinerama Dome.

    The good:

    The film print was very good to excellent. The scenes filmed in 3 camera were outstandingly sharp, colorful and provided the true "puts you in the picture" experience. The presentation by the crew at the Dome was well done, although at the screening I saw the left panel had some alignment problems at times on the left seam. The 7 Channel sound was very good with only a slight hint of hiss from time to time.

    The bad:

    About 10% of the movie was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 - the process rear screen shots, some close-ups and the couple of minutes of outtakes from "The Alamo" and "Raintree County". They popped out as being grainy, muddy in color and not as sharp. Several sequences used both 3 Camera and 70mm mixed together and again they were easy to discern which was which.

    The ugly:

    Cinerama Inc. will not be restoring or reconstructing any more of the 3 camera travelogue films. Brothers Grimms' camera negs and other elements are mostly lost. Making a usable print from release prints and back up elements would be cost prohibitive according to the Cinerma person I spoke with. Even then, the final print would not be up to the standards of the HTWWW print I would guess.
     
  14. Dennis Gallagher

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  15. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Dennis,

    You can see a true 146 degree Cinerama screen at the Seattle Cinerama when they play 3 projector films. I mentioned the lack of proper curvature on the sides in previous posts. The louvered screen was used originally because of reflections from the right and left would wash out the center image. The 120 curve makes that unnecessary.

    I agree, the Overture was fun and adds to the anticipation of what is to come.

    For an idea of what the opitmal screen should look like see below. I saw "This Is Cinerama" at the Broadway Theatre a week after it opened and the diagram below is of that set-up. I sat with my brother about 6 rows back on the right side of the center section.

    [​IMG]

    The movie plays today and tomorrow (9/23, 9/24) only. I don't believe they will be showing it on Thursday.
     
  16. Dennis Gallagher

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  17. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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  18. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Ron Epstein, Steve Simon and myself caught a viewing of this excellent film at the Cinerama Dome in LA. It was one of the best theater experiences I have ever experienced as an adult and it brought me back to some old movie theater experiences from my youth.





    Crawdaddy
     
  19. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Crawdaddy couldn't have described it better.

    I have never had such an experience watching
    a film than I did with How The West Was Won
    at the Cinerama Dome.

    Upon our first day in LA, Crawdaddy dragged Steve
    Simon and I to the Cinerama to see this film. In
    all honesty, I wasn't really in the mood to watch
    an "old classic movie" in a theater. My philosophy
    was that these type of movies were best suited for
    watching on DVD.

    Boy was I wrong!

    To watch this film on such a huge screen, was as
    an enormous an experience as the picture itself.
    I have never felt quite so immersed in a film than
    I did here. How The West Was Won sports
    some rather impressive action sequences (including
    water rapids and charging buffalo) that were so
    intense that it literally shook my entire body.
    Picture quality was amazingly sharp in both
    foreground and background. The seams that joined
    the three projected images together were mostly
    negligable.

    The film was just awesome! Had I simply just
    watched it on DVD, I don't think I would have
    appreciated it as much. It just goes to show
    that the movie theater experience is still alive
    and well and that theaters like Cinerama
    are an essential venue for film lovers. It takes
    you back to a time where filmgoing was an EVENT
    rather than just something to do.

    I am just amazed at how much care went into the
    film presentation at that theater. The film
    presentation began with a short speech about
    the film's production, restoration and what
    to expect in its presentation. During most of
    the film, a technician was walking around
    the entire auditorium making sure sound and
    picture levels were up to par. Never have I
    been in a movie theater where so much respect
    has been given to the film's presentation.

    The saddest part of experiencing a film at
    the Cinerama Dome is knowing that I am going
    to miss It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
    My favorite all-time comedy is going to show
    in its (I hope) near-original roadshow version this
    October. Having just returned from LA, it
    would be an unjustified huge expense to go all the
    way back out there just for a single-night
    showing (although the temptation continues
    to burn inside me).

    I can only sum up my experience last week as
    saying that watching How The West Was Won
    in an environment like the Cinerama Dome
    was absolutely the most memorable movie experience
    of my life. I really need to thank Robert
    Crawford for dragging me out to this theater.
    As we walked out, Robert turned to me and said,
    "If I lived out here in LA, I would be at this
    theater several times a month.
    "

    I couldn't agree with him more.

    God, do I miss LA!



     
  20. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    The "puts you in the picture" aspect of the original 3 camera Cinerama cannot be duplicated by any other process because of that near peripheral 146 degrees of view. As the camera slowing dollies down a street and you can read the signs on the stores as they literally goes past you on the left and right cannot be duplicated with any other process. Add to this the incredible sharpness and brightness of the image and it can be truly amazing. There is a technical fault (the screen is not curved enough) but the experience makes you forget that fact. Add the 7 channel surround sound and the care that John Sittig and the folks at Cinerama/Arclight take and it's truly a great experience. This kind of road show pressentation was begun by Cinerama and was commonplace on 70mm films from the late 50's through the early 70s. Mad World is not really in Cinerama but seeing it on the big screen is a treat.

    One last thing. The Dome is now better then it ever was before the restoration. There were always parallax troubles with films (heads and feet cut off) because of the screens curvature but those have been corrected by repositioning the projection booth somewhat.
     

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