Universal Pictures will premiere a restored version of Hell Bent (1918) at the 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The early John Ford western will screen on Saturday, May 4 at noon at the Castro Theatre, with musical accompaniment by Philip Carli.

“We are proud to add Hell Bent to our list of restored silent titles,” said Michael Daruty, Senior Vice President, Global Media Operations at NBCUniversal.  “And we are honored to be part of the ongoing commitment to preserve our classic films, with almost 100 films restored to date.”

Hell Bent was one of many western films that paired director Ford with star Harry Carey.  Carey plays Cheyenne Harry, the cowboy who saves a local woman (Neva Gerber as Bess Thurston) when she is abducted by the leader of a gang of outlaws, Beau Ross (played by Joseph Harris).  The film was originally released on July 6, 1918 with the tagline “Fast Riding, Straight Shooting, and True Love Triumphant in the Unfenced West.”

John Ford’s Hell Bent (1918) from Universal Pictures

The primary source element for this restoration was a 35mm tinted silent film print with German dialog cards borrowed from the Národní filmový archiv, Czech Republic.  NBCUniversal’s restoration team recreated dialog cards in English over a textless background, while also addressing dirt, scratches, and stain removal, film stabilization, and deflicker.

Universal Pictures has been restoring their classic films as part of an initiative first announced in 2012.  Since 2015, the company expanded that initiative to include 25 silent films to be restored by the end of 2019.  Restored silent films include The Man Who Laughs, which premiered at the 2018 San Francisco Silent Film Festival, The Reckless Age, which premiered at the 2018 Pordenone Silent Film Festival, The Last WarningOh Doctor!Sensation SeekersThe Heart of Humanity, and Outside the Law.

Overall, the company has restored nearly 100 titles.  In addition to the silent films, other 4K digital restorations include All Quiet on the Western FrontThe BirdsBuck PrivatesDracula (1931), Dracula Spanish (1931), FrankensteinJawsSchindler’s ListOut of AfricaPillow TalkBride of FrankensteinThe StingTo Kill a MockingbirdTouch of EvilDouble IndemnityHoliday InnSpartacusKing of JazzOne-Eyed JacksCleopatraDestry Rides AgainScarface (1932), and My Little Chickadee.


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Published by

Martin Dew