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HTF REVIEW: "1776" (with screenshots) * An in-depth Report *

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 6, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


    Studio: Columbia
    Year: 1972
    Rated: PG
    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
    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
    history lesson.
    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
    of 1776.
    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
    to derive.
    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.
    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.
    Read on...
    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
    nearly PERFECT!
    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
    ever before.
    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
    rear channels.
    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
    bass-filled sound.
    Special Features
    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
    Peter Stone.
    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
    and Pal Joey.
    Final Thoughts
    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!
  2. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

    Mar 7, 2001
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    I'm very glad you reviewed the disc. While I personally lean towards deferring to Peter Hunt's desires with this (especially with regard to the overture & intermission), I'm pleased that a fan of the laserdisc such as yourself was still able to find the DVD enjoyable. Thanks again for the review.

  3. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

    May 1, 2000
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    This is great news, indeed. I fell in love with 1776 as a child, but have only viewed the theatrical release. Usually on VHS, in Junior High history class, 30 minutes a day over the course of a week.
    So in a good way, by never having seen the Laserdisc Special Edition, I don't know what I'm missing.
    But in a bad way, by never having seen the Laserdisc Special Edition, I don't know what I'm missing!!
    Perhaps Columbia might revisit the title in the future, but I gotta say I am totally excited!! This DVD looks sweet and I can't wait to get my grubby mitts on it. John Adams's is William Daniels greatest role ever (except for maybe Dr. Mark Craig from St. Elsewhere, a hospital show that kicks ER's ass in every way possible, but that's another thread).
  4. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

    Apr 23, 2002
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    Well.....there it 'tis.
    I'll pick it up. Can't resist it.....never could.
  5. Jon_W

    Jon_W Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 19, 2000
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    Great Review!
    I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want an overture and intermission included when they were never meant to be in the film in the first place. In my view that would be just as bad as taking away the overture and intermission from a film like 2001: A Space Odyessy. I won't comment on the other missing footage, except to say if the post production of the film was botched from the beginning then I would have thought that the fans of the film would appreciate the director's chance to create the film he orginally envisioned. It is not like Mr. Hunt created new CGI shots, he simply created a 166 minute cut that most likely matches his orginal vision as cloely as possible.
    Added footage is a mixed blessing because for a fan it gives them more of what they love, but from a director's artist standpoint added footage may simply not be a part of his or her vision for the film. It is always a tough call with films that have a colourful production history.
  6. kevin_asai

    kevin_asai Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 12, 2001
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    Great review, Ron. [​IMG]
    I've never heard about this film before but, from your review, it is a purchase to me.
  7. Patrick_S

    Patrick_S Producer

    Apr 1, 2000
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    Ron thanks for the review.

    I really enjoyed the background information that explained why you were originally upset about the DVD release.

    I originally saw this film in 1976 and have always enjoyed it.

    Since they have done a good job on the transfer I'll be picking this one up.
  8. kevin_asai

    kevin_asai Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 12, 2001
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    July 2nd, 2002 is the release date, I can't wait for this [​IMG]
  9. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Cinematographer

    Dec 10, 2000
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    Some odd things ab0ut peter Hunts choices here. Since I was the Producer of the laserdisc version, I am hardly an impartial observer.
    Back in 1991 when the project first came up I wanted to do three tings for the laser -
    1. Letterbox it
    2. provide a stereo remix
    3. find the missing number Cool,Considerate men -
    to this end I got permission from Peter Hunt and passed this on to columbias Lawyers, to call in cartons of film and sound from the valults to find stereo prerecords and the missing number.
    The first prerecord I found was the Lees of Virginia - this was played on a mag roll of film at Chace productions. When the number ended, we didn't stop the mag roll - just let it play out - all of a sudden another verse of the song started up ( the now cut reprise) - This was transferred to play for Peter.
    Gong through rolls of film I find two that had interesting markings.
    1. Jefferson and children
    2. Martha Jeferson at the window. they were interesting because there were no such scenes in the film.
    These were transferred to video to show to Peter Hunt.
    A meeting was arranged to paly this material at Peters house. I asked him what this material was and ha said,
    "That's from the long version of the film"
    I asked him HOW long and he said it was about three hours.
    He then asked me if I could find the rest of the missing footage. The Plan was originally to use this footage in a supplement section. Pewter said no, he wanted it all put back in the film.
    Two video masters were made - one with all of the new footage and one with just one added piece - the Cool Men number which was from black and white workprint because that was all that could be found. At that time EVERYTHING had to go through Columbias lawyers, every step of the way. It was sometimes hard to explain to them just what we were trying to do. I asked Peter if we could put the now three hour film together with an Overture and Intermission Music - again two masters were made - one with the music and one without. WE did NOT clear this with anyone, because it took very little time and money.
    When it was done the completed Overture and Intermission Music was taken over to the AFM (to get their ideas on problems clearing it) - they said it was no problem as long as it used music that was still in the film. With ther okay we approached two of Columbias lawyers who both okayed the "new" music.
    Theeir must be the original leters on file from 1992 - so clearances must not be a problem here. At each step of the way - all found footage was played for Peter Hunt who seemed delighted with the whole project. We evenheld up the relase for six months in case there was any changes he wanted to make!
  10. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Feb 9, 1999
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    1776 is based on a Broadway muscial. It had an Overture and intermission. Putting them in the film makes sense to me.
  11. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

    Mar 7, 2001
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    Brooklyn, NY
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  12. Eric Paddon

    Eric Paddon Screenwriter

    Mar 17, 2001
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    Joe, thank you for providing your side of the story on this controversy, which I think has been neglected too much during the many controversial threads over this subject.

    One question for Ron. I have been told this by someone else who has reviewed the DVD regarding the booklet notes, in that he says they are exactly the same as the LD notes with the difference being that Hunt's name has been substituted over Joe's. Is this true?

    July 4 remains my date to watch the real extended cut of the film.
  13. Eric Paddon

    Eric Paddon Screenwriter

    Mar 17, 2001
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    "I would have thought that the fans of the film would appreciate the director's chance to create the film he orginally envisioned"

    What this boils down to is that the LD cut gave us the complete score of the musical from the Broadway show, untampered with so in point of fact, we as fans of the *musical* were finally at last seeing the entire score restored to the project. In its LD version "1776" becomes the rarest of rarites, a hit Broadway musical transferred to the screen intact with no cuts in songs in verses or anywhere, which is a status only "My Fair Lady" shares with it. With the score cuts it loses that status, hence the controversy and the bitterness. I frankly believe that the anger which still exists with me and others, would not have been so great if the cuts Hunt has made now were not to any songs but to six minutes of pure dialogue scenes.
  14. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
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  15. Eric Paddon

    Eric Paddon Screenwriter

    Mar 17, 2001
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    Thank you. I appreciate the clarification on this point.
  16. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

    Nov 1, 2001
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    The one thing that I don't recall reading (not that that would be very surprising) is the overall disdain for the cover art.
    Excuse me, Columbia, but "1776" is NOT a love story between Thomas and Martha Jefferson! The movie is about John Adams even more than it is about the problems leading up to the development and signing of the Declaration. John Adams is the focus of this movie. The front cover is completely inexcusable in that it has absolutely no picture of John Adams or even Benjamin Franklin.
    In my always humble (cough) opinion, this cover does an immense disservice to "1776". If it comes in a standard DVD case, I will most likely be creating my own cover that is actually appropriate to the movie. This "love story" theme is not.
    Just my two hundredths of a dollar.
  17. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

    Jan 6, 2001
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    From my friend involved in the project -

    Id like to thank Ron for his balanced review of this title.

    Im a bit jealous as I havent even gotten my copy yet, and my new (used) laserdisc player decided to die on me today, so I cant even watch the LD to calm my withdrawal.

    Seeing the screen caps above from Firewagon and Cool Men brought a chill to me, as It's hard to believe that nearly two years later it's all finally done.

    This project has taken a lot of my time and energy over the last 18 months, and hopefully this DVD will make the effort all worthwile - It sure sounds like it from here.

    TR Wilkinson
  18. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

    Mar 4, 2000
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    Ron, this is your best review yet. It does you great credit that you were able to approach the disc with an open mind and write such a fair-handed piece.

    I have only seen this film once, back in the mid-80s on a rental P&S VHS. I'm sure it looked and sounded like crap, but I did enjoy the film (of course I knew nothing of cut numbers, etc.). I am looking forward to the revelation this DVD appears to be, with that amazing-looking transfer and the addition of all the material that was not in the version I saw.
  19. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

    May 7, 2001
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    One really important feature on the Laserdisc that appears to be missing on the DVD, is the incredible, fascinating and hugely enjoyable MUSIC ONLY TRACK !!

    I'm absolutely amazed that nobody has mentioned that on any of the previous posts.

    There is no way I will part with my Laserdisc, for that one reason alone.

    I will forever be grateful to Joe, for that wonderful music track and the fabulous and brilliantly edited Overture and Intermission.
  20. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

    Dec 6, 1998
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    I am a fan of musicals but was not even aware of this movie/play until it appeared on cable a few years ago. I will definitely at least rent this and possibly purchase after the first viewing. Thanks for the great review, Ron.

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