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MAJOR BARBARA - longer version

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Chuck Pennington, Jun 27, 2015.

  1. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    A friend recently sent me a VHS tape of the 1941 film MAJOR BARBARA. He wanted me to put it on DVD for him
    as he said it was longer than the version Criterion released on DVD through their Eclipse line in a set titled "George Bernard Shaw on Film" (paired with CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA and ANDROCLES AND THE LION). I was skeptical, especially as the VHS was released on the Home Vision label with the Janus Films logo, familiar to anyone from many Criterion releases.

    The first thing I noticed when comparing the VHS and DVD, other than very different music being used for the opening titles, was that the tape was a PAL conversion to NTSC with the 25fps speed-up built in. Once I reversed that, the running time of the VHS was over 136 minutes when compared to the 120 minutes of the DVD. What exactly was different? My friend didn't know, and I could find no information online about such a long version.

    I compared the first 35 minutes and created a video showing scenes as they are on the DVD followed by the same scenes with footage from the VHS spliced in. Many scenes are assembled differently with alternate shots and angles, and there are also little to large trims everywhere. Aside from a splice where a few seconds are missing on the DVD (the same shot is intact on the VHS) and many other scenes where splices eat away at the dialog on the print used for the VHS, it seems to me that the VHS represents a less polished version as the trims so far serves to speed up the pace of the film. Why is there no information about this online?

    One of the reasons I think this is an earlier cut is because of the scene with Wendy Hiller and Rex Harrison going up the staircase. In the VHS there is a cut to an alternate angle and additional dialog once they reach the top, whereas on the DVD there is a visible splice mark at the exact moment of the cut but the original shot confines, as if negative was put back later and a frame was lost.

    I'm not sure if I'll continue my comparison as it took too much time for me last night to cover the first 35 minutes, but I thought some people here might find this of interest and have some thoughts.

    ImageUploadedByHTF1435409510.729501.

    ImageUploadedByHTF1435409533.230583.

    Here is the comparison:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/0hew4jpy2y6yqvg/majorbarbaraalt.mp4?dl=0
     
  2. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member

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    Wow! Nice discovery.


    (Wish I had something a little more helpful to say.)
     
  3. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    Because I'm curious (and crazy), I've gone on comparing the two versions this morning have had added more comparisons. Some scenes are in a different order as well, though when possible I've included higher quality footage from the dvd. Note how some underscoring is missing from the longer version where it is there on the shorter one. That also goes to show why I think the VHS has a preview version of the film before final editing.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/xmobd8yhpbza7e2/majorbarbaraalt_2.mp4?dl=0
     
  4. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Stunt Coordinator

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    What's to become of this extra footage? Will it find itself onto a blu-ray? Will the dvd release company have any interest in it?

    It seems to me that the complete production should be made available.
     
  5. Nick*Z

    Nick*Z Screenwriter

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    Fascinating, having only seen Major Barbara in its truncated form, the clips you provided herein are a revelation indeed. It could be that the U.S. release of the film omitted what it likely felt were 'sentiments' and/or situations it believed indigenous to the U.K. and/or foreign to American audiences. It's not the first time movies from different countries have had different music, scenes (even, on occasion) different actors substituted into certain scenes for continuity's sake. However, the inclusions I reviewed in your graciously provided comparative analyses seem to suggest the cuts were made simply on the basis of a matter of time (to fit more screenings in states side). Criterion ought to have latched onto these edits and made both versions of the movie available. Perhaps we can petition them to do a Blu-ray containing BOTH versions with an explanation provided for the cuts. It certainly would make for a much sought after hi-def release for the pending Christmas season - and no, I won't hold my breath for this to come about either. But again, thanks for sharing.
     
  6. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    I think it may be a preview version because some underscoring is missing that is in the dvd release. But how could this have been available on VHS at one point with the Janus Films logo on it, and then finally go to dvd also from Janus Films and be an alternate cut? And no one noticed this version was perhaps two reels longer?!
     
  7. Dr Griffin

    Dr Griffin Cinematographer

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    It would be interesting to hear what Criterion knows or thinks about this alternate version.
     
  8. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member

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    Watched the additional comparisons in the second link. Incredible, really.
     
  9. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    As I find more alternate/deleted footage, I am updating the comparison montage. I'm currently sorting through the last 15 minutes of the film, and it is proving to be a nightmare. There are so many alternate takes and shots that it's more difficult to put back the higher-quality DVD material then it may be worth.
     
  10. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    But I can find no source indicating that a 136 minute version exists - but it is on this VHS. Even Leonard Maltin's guide reports 120 minutes, with a 115-minute version
    also in circulation. There doesn't appear to be anything overtly British in comparison to the rest of the film in the deleted or altered segments, which again supports by hypothesis that this is a preview version. Many shots in the factory at the end of the film feature additional inserts in the version released on DVD of the actors to make it seem like they were there, whereas these shots aren't on the VHS.
     
  11. Nick*Z

    Nick*Z Screenwriter

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    What can I say? You've discovered a very rare find indeed. Don't let that copy out of your sight. You may never see it again!
     
  12. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    It can easily be bought on VHS on Amazon.com. Out of print, sure, but plenty of $5 copies out there.
     
  13. Brent Reid

    Brent Reid Supporting Actor

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    Great work Chuck. I agree this is likely a pre-release version that was transferred to VHS in error, somewhat akin to demo or alternate takes of songs sometimes being mistakenly issued on commercial releases. Re the 'missing scenes, someone wrote about it on IMDb a few years ago:
    I've thought ever since that we were being cheated out of the 'full' version, so I'm v grateful to you for clearing it up. Here's a list of the BFI's Major Barbara holdings; perhaps that alternate version is among them?
    I note that IMDb lists three 1960s TV versions of the play; they'd make for fascinating viewing too!


    I just love Wendy Hiller and can but dream of a BD box set of all her too-few early starring film roles, including any alternate edits. Incidentally, does anyone know where I could find out if a copy of her first film, Lancashire Luck (1937) survives? The BFI don't have it...
     
  14. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    I just did. Thanks for spotting this.
     
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  15. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    I suspect the Criterion version had at least some of the cuts done by request from the Production Code of America.


    From what I can tell, there is a large segment of Reel 9 that was cut because the PCA though "it did a disservice to the Salvation Army." One line of dialogue suggests that a 50,000 pound donation would guarantee salvation.


    The PCA also cut many segments they deemed potentially offensive as seen in some of your clips, such as Rex Harrison saying "So this is your place...Heaven help me.." That whole segment was cut. This extends to many of Robert Morley's lines and others where the whole scene is simply chopped off for good measure because of one or two "immoral" lines of dialogue.


    Other cuts were to simply trim it down below 2 hours as seen in some of the bits you uploaded.


    At any rate, thanks very much for the upload. Please upload the rest of the changes in due time (if there are more).
     
  16. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    Here's an update everyone!

    I finished creating a hybrid version of the film following the continuity of the longer version
    (a few scenes were in a different order). Some small differences appear to perhaps be due to print damage (lost frames, end of reel), but many more are outright cuts. Some have alternate angles and even alternate takes. There is one section of dialogue only present in the shorter version, and the end credits are different as well. My hybrid runs 137 minutes.

    Here is the comparison I put together:
     
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