Senior HTF Member
- Jul 3, 1997
- Real Name
- Ronald Epstein
Film Length: 166 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp
of an eaglet being born
The release of 1776 should have been
a joyous event for fans of the film. Unfortunately,
for the past year, we have heard nothing but
discouraging news reports about how Director
Peter Hunt butchered what we had hoped would be
the ultimate Special Edition presentation.
Mr. Hunt seems to easily forget that it has
always been the fans who originally fell in love
with this movie that have kept its spirit alive,
and had pushed Columbia to release it on DVD
(more on that in a few moments).
After all, 1776 is a tough sell. It's
not only a musical, but a musical about the founding
fathers of our country and days leading up to
July 4, 1776. From the outside, the notion of
making such a musical seems absurd. However, in
1969, the Broadway play went on to win BEST MUSICAL
beating out the very popular HAIR.
To understand why the initial news of this DVD
release upset so many fans who felt they were
being shortchanged, one must be taken through
the entire history of this film from theatrical
release to home video.
In The Beginning
1776 opened at the 46th Street Theatre on March
16, 1969 with a cast that featured William Daniels
(John Adams), Howard Da Silva (Benjamin Franklin),
Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson) and Ronald Holgate
(Richard Henry Lee). The production enjoyed a run
of 1,217 performances.
In 1972, Director Peter Hunt brought the Broadway
show to the screen with Daniels, Da Silva, Howard,
and Holgate reprised their roles. Before the film
was released, it went through massive edits
cutting the story into a more streamlined
vehicle. The cut even included the song Cool,
Considerate Men. Most of the additional cuts
were done were for the benefit of pacing, while
eight solid minutes of the song Cool Considerate
Men were removed after a negative reaction from
the White House.
I so vividly remember the first time I saw 1776,
at the age of 9. It was playing at Radio City
Music Hall. Back then, you paid one price for a
movie followed by a stage show. This was perhaps
my very first visit to one the most beautiful
theaters in the world where an organist played
before the start of every show. At that early
age, I was immediately awestruck with the film.
Not only did it contain the most poignant moments,
and the sweetest love songs I'd ever seen in movies,
but I was impressed with the performances by
William Daniels (John Adams) and Howard Da Silva
(Benjamin Franklin) who seemed all-too-real to me
up there on the screen. By the time the film was
over, I felt I had experienced a most enjoyable
A Fan's Dream come true: Laserdisc SE
To fully understand why this DVD was originally
reported as an atrocity to fans everywhere, one
needs to go no further than the laserdisc release
In 1992, something wonderful happened. The on-line
community received word that Joseph Caporiccio and
Michael Matessino had unearthed almost 40 minutes
of cut material from the original film. Both men
pored over the lost material that included a stereo
soundtrack and fragments of "Cool Considerate Men"
that were painstakingly edited and synchronized to
the stereo tracks.
(photos from the laserdisc release)
Also added was an OVERTURE and INTERMISSION that
featured additional orchestration of the musical
The Pioneer 1992 release to laserdisc was a
monumental event that gave fans the opportunity
to watch a completed 180 minute version of 1776.
It became the most ambitious video restoration
ever performed. Though the added footage was
mostly in rough form, it was still something that
made every fan's jaws drop. It became the most
talked about Special Edition within the on-line
forums, and to this date, has become one of the
most sought after collector's items on laserdisc.
Approaching Columbia Pictures to release DVD
Back as early as 1998, I and a few other fans
had written letters to Columbia Pictures urging
them to release 1776 in the exact form
that it was released on laserdisc nearly 6 years
A letter that I had personally written to the head
of Columbia's DVD division came back with an initial
reply that they were unaware of the laserdisc release
but would look into it. Further email conversations
with them indicated that they were very much interested
in having the film restored to DVD in the exact
manner in which it was restored to laserdisc, with
the hopes that new and better original source
material could be found.
It was the fans that had contacted Columbia
and got the ball rolling based on what they had
seen on the laserdisc Special Edition.
Enter Director Peter Hunt. From the moment Peter
became involved with restoring this film to DVD,
the project suddenly took a nose dive. Those
closely associated with Peter began reporting back
to this forum that the movie would not be restored
to the 180 minute laserdisc release.
A restoration clouded in controversy
Reports of original color negatives being found
including those for "Cool Considerate Men" became
news of joy for fans everywhere? But why was this
footage not unearthed almost 10 years prior? Reports
that someone at Columbia's vault purposely
hid the footage started coming to light.
In addition, there were many questions concerning
the OVERTURE and INTERMISSION sequences
that were added to the laserdisc release. These
were not part of the film's original release, and
were manufactured by Joe Caporiccio who wanted to
relive his glory days of watching movie musicals
that contained an overture and intermission.
Director Peter Hunt obviously had a problem with
these manufactured sequences and probably felt that
securing musical rights to include these in the
DVD release would be a far too painstaking effort.
Fans of the movie who had seen the 1992 Special
Edition laserdisc release had every right to be
upset over this DVD release. They were the ones
wrote letters to the studio lobbying for them to
release the 180 minute version. And while Peter
Hunt has every right to release this film the way
that he deems fit, you can't help but be
outraged that he and Columbia did not go the extra
mile to secure rights for the extra material and
release an elaborate edition that contained BOTH
What is in this DVD and What is Not
Realize, that the 180 minute time includes the
OVERTURE and INTERMISSION music which accounts for
about 7-8 minutes, so really only about 6 minutes
of actual footage were taken from the long LD
version, which adds up to the bits missing from
Piddle Twiddle, Jefferson and the children, and
the reprise of "The Lees of Old Virginia".
Peter Hunt wanted this to be his personal
cut of the film. His reasoning was that he wanted
this movie presented in a manner that newcomers
would readily be entertained, rather than presenting
a movie that would satisfy the fan base. For that
reason, fractions of the film were removed.
(photos from the laserdisc release)
The two major cuts to this DVD are about 4 minutes
of "Piddle Twiddle" which have been removed, as
well as 2 minutes of the refrain of "The Lees Of
Old Virginia". It is absolutely beyond me why
Peter Hunt chose to remove 6 minutes of material
that ultimately added to the magic of this film
rather than weighing it down. Those 6 minutes
removed are a major blow to this version.
Also missing are the OVERTURE, INTERMISSION which
were manufactured by Joe Caporiccio for the laserdisc
and never included at any time in the film's release.
The movie starts with the Columbia logo, as music
fades in to the film's original credits that were
seen for the first time on the laserdisc SE.
The closeups of Adams cringing during the final
vote for independence have also been removed.
Instead of the close-ups on Adam's face, the entire
sequence remains one entire long shot as seen in
the theatrical version.
What has been added, as far as I can tell,
is a 10-second sequence right after Cool
Considerate Men that takes place on the steps
of Congress, where a comment is made about borrowing
a dollar from "those guys".
(photos from the laserdisc release)
Peter Hunt also made some choice decisions not
to include some of the newly found footage, including
a scene where Jefferson is looking out at a bunch
of kids playing war in the outdoor yard. A scene
of Jefferson smiling at a young girl was removed
considering new evidence about Jefferson. Hunt
felt that this scene suggested Jefferson as a
pedeophile, which is an absolutely absurd conclusion
It seems odd that Hunt would not have control over
putting in, at the very least, the full length
versions of Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve; and The
Lees Of Old Virginia, if only as supplemental extras.
THE GOOD NEWS
Having read all of the above, you would think
that I would be gravely disappointed in this new
DVD release. Nothing could be further from the
I didn't want to watch this disc. I had felt
that the laserdisc version was the ONLY version
worth watching. With an open mind, I agreed to
review this DVD. I am now happy to report to you
that this DVD surpasses all my expectations.
The bottom line is this: Besides the
OVERTURE and INTERMISSION, only 6 minutes have
been cut from the laserdisc release, as already
described. It is extremely painful to see these
sequences gone, but 85% of what was discovered for
that laserdisc release is still included,
and what's more, this is not work print footage.
How is the transfer
It's almost amazing that a man can be moved to
near tears from watching one of his all-time
favorite films presented in a manner that has never
been seen before. The transfer of 1776 is
First of all, this is the first time the film
has been seen anamorphic widescreen. The picture
field has suddenly become wide open, with images
that are razor sharp showing detail and clarity
never-before-seen. I just sat there in total
amazement, not quite believing I was watching a
transfer that looked this good. It actually looks
as if the movie was filmed in the past decade rather
than 30 years ago.
The continuity of extra added material is flawless.
On the laserdisc, it was easy to see when the extra
scenes were added as all of it was off work print,
plagued with an awful amount of film debris and loss
of color and detail. The scenes are presented here
for the first time off of the original negatives,
and they are seamless. You can't tell that they
were ever added.
The only complaint I have is that the faces of
the characters have an orange cast to them. I
don't know if this was done intentionally or not,
but it doesn't look natural.
The new 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is also something
that will blow you away. You have never heard
1776 sound this good.
Realize that the film was recorded in stereo, but
Warner never mixed it to stereo. It was released
to theaters in mono. For the laserdisc release,
the original stereo tracks were found and were
synchronized to the film. What this did was
separate all the dialogue and music between the
two front stereo channels.
What has been done here, is a total new 5.1 mix
that makes this film sound completely unlike
anything you have heard before. All the dialogue
has been mixed squarely to the center channel with
absolutely no bleeding. The main score and film
action rests squarely across the front two speakers
with beautiful stereo separation. What this does
is reduce the "shrill" sound that all previous
versions produced. The sound is now much tighter,
sounding more professional with an orchestra that
comes across with more substance and bass than
The rear channels mostly add an "echo" effect
to the film score, as expected. What I did not
expect was the addition of effect sounds to the
rears such as when Franklin (Da Silva) is sitting
in the garden posing for his portrait. The sounds
of chirping birds can be clearly heard in the
Most impressing of all, is how great the songs
sound and feel. Yes, I said feel. The
music has never sounded so rich and robust. The
LFE channels are extremely active as my subwoofer
pounded away with each beat of the instruments.
You haven't lived until you heard how good "The
Lees of Old Virginia" and "Cool Considerate Men"
are reproduced across 5 channels that provide robust
Surprisingly, the added material here is very
slim, though what has been added is very special
since it is material that has previously not been
included anywhere before.
To begin with, the film features a running audio
commentary with Director Peter Hunt and Writer
My biggest complaint against Columbia (and
Grover Crisp) is that the scenes removed from
this Director's cut were not included in the
supplementals. It seems that the only way the
excised footage will ever be seen is by those
who own the laserdisc release.
The biggest surprise on this DVD is the inclusion
of five Original Screen Tests for actors
William Daniels (John Adams), Ray Middleton
(Col. Thomas McKean), James Noble (Rev. Jonathan
Witherspoon), Leo Leyden (George Reed) and Rex
Robbins (Roger Sherman). These are individual
tests done in full costume, filmed against a
totally white background. Very interesting to
see after all these years and very funny to hear
James Noble flub his lines and say "shit!".
The film's Teaser Trailer is here, along
with trailers for: Oliver; The Taming of the
Shrew; and Pal Joey.
For the longest time, I was leading a brigade
of anger towards Peter Hunt for his decision to
butcher the laserdisc release that has become
the bible version of this film for all the fans
that had seen it.
I never wanted to watch this DVD. Now that I
have, my opinion on it has totally changed.
This newly restored Director's cut looks and
sounds incredible. After all, this was produced
at Columbia's Hi-Def center, and you can expect
nothing short of miracles from that studio.
It is important to know that other than the
OVERTURE and INTERMISSION, only 6 minutes have
been cut from what was seen on laserdisc. The
rest of it is all here, all seamlessly presented
without any blemish or degradation in the transfer.
Frankly, it will only take most fans about 20
minutes to realize that this DVD is the most
incredible version of the film since the laserdisc
While its very painful to see that Director
Peter Hunt cut 6 minutes from this film that
were vital to its enjoyment, you can easily
overlook all of it once you watch and listen to
1776 as never before.
A terrific job!