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HTF REVIEW: "1776" (with screenshots) * An in-depth Report * (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
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
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!

Damin J Toell

Senior HTF Member
Mar 7, 2001
Brooklyn, NY
Real Name
Damin J. Toell

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.



Supporting Actor
May 1, 2000
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).


Stunt Coordinator
Jul 19, 2000
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.


Stunt Coordinator
Mar 12, 2001
Great review, Ron. :emoji_thumbsup:
I've never heard about this film before but, from your review, it is a purchase to me.


Senior HTF Member
Apr 1, 2000
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.

Joe Caps

Senior HTF Member
Dec 10, 2000
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!

Peter Kline

Senior HTF Member
Feb 9, 1999
1776 is based on a Broadway muscial. It had an Overture and intermission. Putting them in the film makes sense to me.

Damin J Toell

Senior HTF Member
Mar 7, 2001
Brooklyn, NY
Real Name
Damin J. Toell
1776 is based on a Broadway muscial. It had an Overture and intermission. Putting them in the film makes sense to me.
Broadway musicals are also done in a single "take" and viewers are forced to see the entire production from a single unmoving "camera angle." Suffice it to say that not everything that works for a stage play works when translated directly to film. These are tough choices that filmmakers face when putting an adaptation together. I see no reason to second guess Peter Hunt by inserting something 30 years later that he never wanted in the first place.


Eric Paddon

Mar 17, 2001
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.

Eric Paddon

Mar 17, 2001
"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.

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein
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?
This is not so. I opened the booklet and
opened the laserdisc album and compared the notes.
They aren't close to being similarly word-by-word.


Senior HTF Member
Nov 1, 2001
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.

Moe Dickstein

Senior HTF Member
Jan 6, 2001
Las Vegas, NV
Real Name
T R Wilkinson
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

Craig S

Senior HTF Member
Mar 4, 2000
League City, Texas
Real Name
Craig Seanor
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.

Doug Bull

Advanced Member
May 7, 2001
Melbourne, Australia
Real Name
Doug Bull
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.

Marty M

Senior HTF Member
Dec 6, 1998
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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