It’s been reported by NY Post critic/columnist Lou Lumenick as well as HighDef Digest that Warner Home Video will release that Shane Bluray that I’ve been complaining about on Tuesday, June 4th. Regretfully, the aspect ratio will be 1.66 and not 1.37, which is how this 1953 George Stevens classic was shot and meant to be seen. The decision to ignore this fact and present a reconstituted Shane is a very bad thing, and there should be a hue and cry about it, dammit.
I don’t care how expertly WHV’s Shane Bluray has been mastered for 1.66. It will present a version with missing gun belts and dog legs cut off and missing boots and slightly lowered skylines. It’s wrong and WHV knows it.
If WHV wants to release Shane at 1.66 for commercial purposes, fine, but for decency’s sake and particularly out of respect for the vision of George Stevens and his dp Loyal Griggs they need to make the 1.37 version available via Warner Archives.
There is absolutely no basis for any debate on this. I am 100% correct and that’s that. Again — read what I wrote before. And then read the two discussions about this matter on Home Theatre Forum — discussion #1 and discussion #2. Shane was shot in 1.37 and should be at least concurrently presented on Bluray at that aspect ratio along with the 1.66 version.
Respected archivist Bob Furmanek has written on HTF that Shane “was clearly composed for 1.37:1. I prefer to see it in that ratio. I feel that is how it should be seen.”
Restoration guru Robert Harris says on HTF that “while I would love to also see the film in 1.37, the 1.66 has been formatted on a shot-by-shot basis, as opposed to locking in at a 1.66 center and running. George Stevens, Jr., whom I trust implicitly, has approved. He was not only on set for the shoot in 1951, but also, rumor has it, knew the director reasonably well. Hopefully, a dual format release can occur, as the data would have been completed both ways.”
From my HTF post: “George Stevens and dp Loyal Griggs shot Shane at 1.37 — that is a stone fact. Between July and October of 1951. Before anyone had ever heard of or even conceptualized 1.66. It was never intended to be seen at 1.66 by its makers, period.
“Has George Stevens, Jr. done an impeccable job of making the 1.66 Bluray version look as good as possible by balancing the visual elements and not chopping heads off and whatnot? Almost certainly, I’m told. But did his father and Loyal Griggs compose for 1.66? No, they did not.
“The 1.66 theatrical release of Shane in April 1953 was a studio mandate. We’ve got to look bigger and broader than TV. Get on board or else. The industry was up in arms against TV. A huge Battle Cry. Wider and bigger, wider and bigger.
“Do you suppose that the 1953-era Paramount studio chiefs went to Stevens and said, ‘Whaddaya think, George? Is it okay with you & your dp if we whack the tops and bottoms off the film that you guys shot? We won’t do it if you say no.’
“Seriously — what was Stevens going to say or do? Be Patrick Henry and fall on his sword while crying 1.37 or death? He was a political animal like all studio directors, trying to swim and stay afloat and stay viable.
“How in the world can anyone be against urging WHV to present the film as it was framed and shot to Bluray viewers? How could it possibly be a problem to urge a concurrent release via Warner Archives of the real Shane (i.e., the 1.37 version)? George Stevens, Jr. told me a while back that he prepared a highdef/Bluray version of same. It’s there to be issued. How could this possibly be a problem for anyone who cares about this film?
“As the Bluray has no doubt been pressed and duplicated and locked down by now, I’m going to send a letter out tomorrow to every person of any importance in the Bluray/home video/archive & restoration community, asking that they sign a letter urging Warner Home Video to issue a concurrent 1.37 Shane Bluray via Warner Archives.
“Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, the heads of the American Cinematheque, AFI, BFI, Robert Harris, Bob Furmanek, Scott Foundas, Todd McCarthy, Robert Osborne and the people behind the TCM Classic Film Festival, Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer, all the restoration guys in the community, Home Theatre Forum, Digital Bits, Highdef Digest, the Film Foundation…everyone of note who could or would care about seeing a Bluray of George Stevens’ film as it was actually framed and shot in 1951.
“And not some bizarre studio-slice version that did not and never will represent what Stevens and Griggs captured on the set. You can cut the pie ten or fifteen different ways and it still comes down to that rock-solid fact.”
HTF commenter Pete Apruzzese: “I hear is going to reframe Maltese Falcon for a new 1.85 version since the film played that way during reissues. I’m sure he’ll honor his father’s vision and that HTF will support his decision. Time to change the HTF mission statement — if a relative of the director does the change to the aspect ratio, then it’s okay.”
A HTF contributor who calls himself Eastmancolor has written the following:
“I’ve seen Shane many times over the years, not only on VHS, laserdisc and DVD, but also on 16mm and 35mm film. Even in previous 35mm screening held here in Los Angeles, I’ve never seen the film shown in a 1.66 aspect ratio. Never.
“As has been discussed, the only reason the film was ever shown in 1.66 was to satisfy the marketing department at Paramount in 1953. And except for screenings around that time (and only in certain venues) was the film ever shown publicly in that ratio?
“The film all of us know and love has primarily been shown in 1.37. That’s also how the original creators of the film wanted it shown.
“1.37 should be a no-brainer.
“The argument for modifying the film to a 1.66 ratio is more to satisfy the folks who want every inch (or almost every inch) of their 16×9 hi-def television screens filled. It’s this same lunacy that’s ruined the presentation of many CinemaScope ratio films. Warner Bros especially loves to take both their new and old scope films and modify them to 1.78, ruining the original screen compositions. Try watching East of Eden on Netlix or Amazon streaming. After the widescreen opening credits at 2.55 they zoom in to 1.78, thus making the film about as unwatchable as those old 1.33 pan and scan jobs from decades earlier.
“Now they want to modify Shane, only cropping off the top and bottom instead of the sides.
“The whole point of of letterboxing in the past has been to preserve the original intent of the filmmakers. This upcoming pillarboxing of Shane goes against what the filmmakers intended. It was only what the pencil pushers in the front office at Paramount intended in 1953. I would no more think of purchasing a 1.66 version of Shane than I would a 2.1 version of Gone With The Wind, but that’s how that film was released to theaters in the 1960’s.
“At the very least, both a 1.37 and the 1.66 presentations of Shane should be offered on the Bluray. The studios love to give us newer films with a Bluray, DVD and Digital copy in the same package. Having two presentations of Shane shouldn’t be too difficult.”
I wonder what kind of language system is being used in the filming of George Clooney‘s Monuments Men as the World War II-era film has German, French and American characters. Will everyone speak English with differing native accents as the characters did in John Frankenheimer‘s The Train (’64) and Edward Dymytryk‘s The Young Lions (’58), or will the character speak their native language with subtitles? Or will the character ignore accents as they did in Bryan Singer‘s Valkyrie? Phony and illogical as it always sounds, I suspect that most audiences prefer the “speaking English with accents” approach.
George Clooney, Matt Damon during yesterday’s filming of Monuments Men in Berlin.
On 3.19 it was observed by HE commenter “CP” that perhaps George Clooney should have thought twice about wearing a moustache in the currently-rolling Monuments Men as the last two films in which he wore one, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Men Who Stare at Goats, were box-office stiffs. Honestly? I’m not much of a fan of Clooney moustaches myself. But I’m guessing that Monuments will be an exception as Clooney needed to separate himself from his usual appearance in this 1940s wartime film, and I think audience will get and accept that.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a good saucy showbiz tale with a kind of villain (Today host Matt Lauer) at the center of it plus two or three Shylocks and a victim (former co-host Ann Curry) and lots of robust acidic flavor. This describes Joe Hagan’s story about Curry’s removal and how Lauer…okay, how he didn’t exactly orchestrate it but how he sure as shit nudged it along and certainly did nothing to stop it or save Curry.
Best passage: “If Lauer is guilty in the hosticide of Ann Curry (he’s certainly not innocent), he’s far from the only guilty party. For all the smiles, TV hosts often get offed for all sorts of reasons. As Hyman Roth said in Godfather 2: This is the business they’ve chosen.”
Second best passage: “Blamed in the press for his co-host’s offing, Lauer has watched helplessly as his reputation gets battered week after week. When Chelsea Handler joked to him on Today earlier this month, ‘You have a worse reputation than I do,’ Lauer’s smile sharpened into something that wouldn’t make it past airport security.”
Early passage: “If Matt Lauer doesn’t want to be seen with sharp knives, it’s because last summer his co-host Ann Curry was discovered with one in her back. She was swiftly replaced by a younger, more genial woman, Savannah Guthrie. Ever since, Lauer has been the prime suspect in Curry’s virtual demise.
“Five million viewers, the majority of them women, would not soon forget how Curry, the intrepid female correspondent and emotionally vivid anchor, spent her last appearance on the Today show couch openly weeping, devastated at having to leave after only a year. The image of Matt Lauer trying to comfort her—and of Curry turning away from his attempted kiss—has become a kind of monument to the real Matt Lauer, forensic evidence of his guilt.
“The truest truism of morning-TV shows is that they are like families, or aspire to be—it’s a matter of practiced artifice, faked from the first minute to the last. But reality can’t always be kept out of the picture.
“On Curry’s final day, Lauer realized the scene was catastrophic even as cameras rolled. ‘I think we all knew it at that moment,’ says Lauer during an interview with his current co-hosts, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Guthrie. ‘And it just seemed like something…there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it.’
“What followed was the implosion of the most profitable franchise in network television. After sixteen years as the No. 1 morning show in America, Today was worth nearly half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue to NBC, the bedrock of its business. In the aftermath of the Curry debacle, the show lost half a million viewers and ceded first place in the ratings war to ABC’s Good Morning America, losing millions of dollars overnight.”
Hagan is a solid, exacting reporter and an excellent prosemeister.
In writing your story of your movie career you can go the Klaus Kinski route by including sex (which is to say the madness, fever, longing and heartache) or you can go the William Friedkin route and wait until approximately page 400 to mention that you have three ex-wives and then not even name them and then barely mention your current wife of 20 years, and generally ignore that aspect of your life entirely and just focus on the work.
Which is fine. I’m not sure I’d ever want to read stories about Freidkin doing Kelly Lange or Lesley Anne Down or Jeanne Moreau on a beach in Maui anyway. On top of which there there was only one Klaus Kinski. (To which some might say “thank God.”) In all the times I’ve listened to him address a live crowd, Friedkin has never been one to blurt out random confessions. He’s always been a guy who tells the tale that he wants to tell, no more and no less, exactly.
William Friedkin directing The French Connection sometime in the winter of ’71 with Gene Hackman and Fernando Rey.
All along the idea in Baz Luhrman‘s The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros., 5.10) has been “let’s make Gatsby’s world our own…let’s make the affluent, rollicking aspects of Long Island’s North Shore in the early 1920s feel as glam and energizing to Baz and Leo and Toby and Carey and…well, to our post-Millenial sensibilities as it did to the folks who were actually there and living in F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s mercurial realm.
So forget the yesteryear time-travel vibe. This is now, this is us & we’re doin’ it…all new cars, fireworks in the night, breathtaking sex with perfumed ladies, exquisitely tailored suits and warm, sun-sparkled waters…party like it’s 2013 but in dress-up mode.
Just as Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet was an infusion of ’90s urban Americana (guns, muscle cars, street gangstas) and high-style coolness into Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, substituting pistols for swords and Vera Cruz for Verona…roughly the same idea. Bring it down, make it our own.
I’m not uninterested in seeing Roland Emmerich‘s White House Down (Sony, 6.28) because I’m figuring it has to be a bit better than Antoine Fuqua‘s Olympus Has Fallen. It has the same basic plot (under-appreciated good guy in a career cul-de-sac saves U.S. President from terrorists), but it’s awfully hard to imagine it being worse than Olympus. Plus I’m sure I’ll be into Jason Clarke‘s bad guy more than Rick Yune‘s.
TheWrap‘s Sharon Waxman is reporting that “billionaire Ron Burkle and former Hollywood Reporter CEO Richard Beckman have joined forces to create a new branded entertainment company, Three Lions.” She adds that “Joel Katz, global chair of Greenberg Traurig’s international media and entertainment practice, will be a minority partner and have a seat on the board.”
I’m not trying to sound like a nine-year-old, but how can you announce a company called Three Lions with three partners and not expect everyone to say, “Oh, we get it…these guys see themselves as lions of the Hollywood forest”?
If I were Katz I’d be feeling vaguely insulted by that “minority partner with a seat on the board” stuff. Like he’s some kind of adolescent lion who isn’t quite ready to hunt with the other two. It sounds to me like they’re saying Katz is a little like Simba and Burkle is King Mufasa or something. Burkle obviously seems himself as a lion. He’s been one for years. And I imagine Beckman sees himself as one also, but probably not able or willing to roar as loud as Burkle.
Fox Home Video will be releasing a Great Escape Bluray on May 7th following a special screening of a new 4K digital transfer of John Sturges‘ 1963 film at the TCM Classic Film Festival (4.25 through 4.28). But all the Bluray extras listed in the press release are the same ones offered in the 2004 special collectors edition DVD. In fact, the DVD had a few more. So we’re just talking about a better-looking version of the feature, which is fine.
The one thing I’ve never been able to tolerate in The Great Escape is Angus Lennie‘s performance as RAF officer Archibald “Archie” Ives, the Scottish jockey who befriends Steve McQueen‘s Hilts. I instantly hated his twee Scottish accent — too Brigadoon. And his smiling, cheerful attempt to hide the fact that he was on the verge of cracking up. My first reaction when I saw this film as a kid was “fuck you, Ives…I hope you get machine-gunned to death by the krauts.” I wasn’t elated when this happened at the end of Act Two, but I wasn’t displeased. Is it too much to ask for a deleted scene in which Ives is tortured by the SS?
As a huge fan of Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237, I’m urging everyone to please read a week-old “Vulture”/New York piece by Mark Jacobson called “The Shining Cult at the Overlook Hotel.” Great passion! And as a prelude to a chat I had this morning with Marshall Fine about Room 237, please read Fine’s piece in which he kind of pisses all over the movie and Jacobson’s piece in particular.
I guess you could my 26-minute discussion with Fine the latest Oscar Poker, if you’ve a mind to.
Here’s a nifty Huffington Post discussion about “Movies That Divides Us”, focusing mainly on Spring Breakers. MSN’s Glenn Kenny (“Eeww, here’s a subversive Harmony Korine film finally making its way into the mainstream market!”), Huffpost movie wag Chris Rosen, The Inquisitir‘s Niki Cruz and director William Friedkin. Ricky Camilleri moderates.
Wells to Friedkin: Have you given any thought to joining the good-guy team and offering the Sorcerer Bluray at 1.66, even though you don’t have to and can fully justify mastering it at 1.85? It’s a free-thinking movement, Billy. And the philosophy of this movement is, “We can watch movies any way we want.” To hell with projection standards from 40 or 50 years ago. This is 2013, and if we like the way an older film looks at 1.37 or 1.66 then we can bloody well show it that way. Eff 1.85…unless, of course, we really and truly like 1.85 and are not just being cowed by the 1.85 fascists.
Update: Friedkin to Wells: If you want to see my movie in 1.66 you can mask your display. What is a 1.85 fascist? I’ve never heard of such an animal.