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What happened to Movies in the 70s? (1 Viewer)

Grant B

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I was reading the WSR of straw dogs and got to the part of "1.0 mono scratchy audio" and it dawned on me how awful movies from that era looks and sounds. Movies from the 50s and 60s on the whole seem great compared to the movies in the 70s. Taxi Driver, Roger Moore's Bond pictures, Peckinpaw's films(except for the wild bunch) come to mind... colors seem faded or wrong, audio awful even when it's redone. Did they change film stock or something? End to the studio system dry up money for quality films or am I just thinking of bad examples?
 

Jeff Kleist

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Studios started making cheaper films on cheaper film stocks, which is why films from the 70s and early 80s can and often do look worse than films with 20 years+ on them
 

Chris Lynch

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I was just watching Scarface the other day and was thinking it could go for a bit of sound and visual remastering.
 

Grant B

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Did they always look bad or did they just age badly? I was a little young at te time
 

Claire Panke

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Taxi Driver looked amazing when it came out, with a highly saturated color range (although not especially naturalistic)...the night scenes seemed to glow from within.

Film is a fragile medium, and it deteriorates over time, no matter what the era in which it was originally shot. Keep in mind that many 50's and sixties films you may have seen are *restored*. Back when I as seeing 40s and 50s films on the big screen in the seventies, I was surprised at extreme red push and off colors...the greens and blues in some were almost gone from some prints. Many prints of classic films looked just plain awful. (Some Technicolor movies looked anything *but*.) Thanks to the film preservation movement, many color classics now look great.

Surround sound was practically nonexistant. Good sound wasn't common, excpet for "roadshow" type pictures and music films. General cinema had four screens in my town of 1 million people. I remember going to one particular theater we all loved because it had the big curved screen for 70mm and a an excellent sound system for its time. Star Wars, Fiddler On The Roof, Alien all seemed amazing presentations.

I think the seventies were a golden age for American films...with young mavericks influenced by the Italian realists and the French New Wave pushing the boundries of popular films as the studio system crumbled. But the palette of plenty of lesser movies was garish, reflecting the times. Plus, some of the films stocks were very dicey and alas, looked cheap even at the time of their release. Some directors used a toned down color scheme deliberately.

But plenty of stuff looked wonderful. Even so, it's the content that counts. You shouldn't be looking to 70's flicks to wow you with their sound presentation.
 

Grant B

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Thanks!
Like you said about the audio, most Older pictures were in mono or stereo but it seems like some movie soundtracks cant get much better like strawdogs. Maybe they dumped the original tapes or something.
It's too bad there are a lot of great films from that era and many of the best look like junk. It was a great move for Raging Bull to be in B&W besides the more apparent reasons
 

Claire Panke

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The soundtracks being located at the edge of the filmstrip means the sound is often damaged. Sometimes the original soundtrack tapes can't be found or are damaged also.

Remember, stereo music recordings only became poipular in the fifties. The stereo boom really didn't hit until the sixties and seventies. Took a long time for some theaters to catch up. Many good films have mono soundtracks. But a good film is still a good film, no matter what kind of shape it's in.
 

Grant B

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But a good film is still a good film, no matter what kind of shape it's in.
True, it's just a shame that some of the best look like they do. Except for the silent era, I dont think any other period looks so bad. Im curious if todays films will age well
 

Chris Lynch

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Very good point Michael.

Digital technology does provide us with consistency, but they have a little ways to go to match the beauty of the natural methods. People still love their LPs, and for good reason.

Many good films have mono soundtracks. But a good film is still a good film, no matter what kind of shape it's in.
This was my point. I do not mind mono mixes. In fact, as a sound engineer, I love them, because it is no small achievement to put all that goes on in a movie down to one audio track. I love a good challenge. But some of these movie mixes were made on outmoded, outdated equipment, and could do for a remastering (notice I didn't say reMIXing). It seems to me that the 70's are especially bad when it comes to overcompressed, distorted mono tracks.
 

Claire Panke

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Kirk, someone can probably explain this better than I, someone who could tell you technically what films stock and what processing did what and why the switches and who made it etc.

But in a nutshell, some cheap film stocks didn't have accurate color reproduction to start with, plus they were (very) chemically unstable (all film is coated with emulsion), thus prone to fading and discoloration. Some art directors used cheesy color schemes in their films to start with.

Two of my favorite 70's films, The Conversation and Taxi Driver, look very good on DVD.

Chris, you're right (mono is fine if it's well mixed; analog rules, but what a pain). As I recall, many films in the 70's used contemporary songs on their soundtracks, and the original LPs sounded much better than the soundtracks. Big orchestral scores fell a bit into disfavor. I remember what a shock the score to Star Wars was...we hadn't heard anything like that in a big, commercial movie for some time before SW came out. 70's scores tended to be spare, not lush.

What a shame compression became the rule for popular music in later decades.

Any particular 70's movie candidates you'd like to see "fluffed up?"
 

Colin Jacobson

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I was reading the WSR of straw dogs and got to the part of "1.0 mono scratchy audio"
While they're right in this case - Straw Dogs has a fairly weak soundtrack even for an older movie - I'd take any WSR comments about mono mixes with a grain of salt. They seem to hate pretty much all mono audio and disparage those tracks frequently...
 

ArmandV

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Armand Vaquer
It just so happens that this Op-Ed article is appearing in today's Los Angeles Times:


May 26, 2003

COMMENTARY
Hollywood Plays to the Pimply
Blockbuster-driven MBAs have killed movie creativity.[COPIED-AND-PASTED TEXT OF ARTICLE REMOVED BY ADMIN. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. PLEASE PROVIDE A LINK. SORRY, READERS OF THIS THREAD.]
 

Jack Briggs

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Unfortunately, Armand, that's copyrighted material you've copied and pasted here. Also unfortunately, if you link to the Times site, the link will only be good for a day or two. But please remove the editorial (which is in the Calendar section, not the Op/Ed page) and provide a link. Thanks.
 

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