Last night I was browsing through some HBO Max films, and was startled to discover that the boxy (1.37:1) version of Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket (’87) is being HD streamed. Which is certainly cause for celebration.
One, I hadn’t watched this version of FMJ since the early aughts, or soon after the release of the 2001 “Kubrick Collection” DVD version, which was mastered in 1.37:1. Two, until last night I’d never seen the boxy version in 1080p HD, as the ’01 DVD was naturally presented in 480p. And three, Kubrick preferred the boxy version to the cleavered 1.85, which is how 99.5% of the home viewing public has seen this Vietnam War classic.
Full Metal Jacket as it currently appears on HBO Max, with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.
Same scene within the standard 1.85 a.r., which is how almost everyone has seen Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam War classic over the last 15 or 20 years, give or take.
HE is advising all HBO Max subscribers to stream the boxy FMJ as soon as possible before it disappears. Because the sworn enemies of “boxy is beautiful” will be doing everything they can to erase this version, despite the fact that Kubrick personally preferred it.
Seriously, hurry. If I know Bob Furmanek and the 1.85 fascist cabal they’ll soon be hounding HBO Max to swap out the boxy with the 1.85. These guys are fanatics. They hate boxy and will stop at nothing.
Perhaps someone on the HB0 Max tech team made a “mistake” in uploading the boxy version, but it’s a good mistake, trust me.
Consider the following 2008 DVD Talk interview with longtime Kubrick employee and collaborator Leon Vitali, in which he explains Kubrick’s visual aesthetic:
DVD Talk: “One of the areas of greatest debate in the DVD community is about aspect ratios. The two films that people talk about the most in terms of aspect ratio are Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, maybe because those are the ones that have been seen theatrical by the DVD buying audience. But people will go through [these films] frame by frame and say ‘in the trailer of Eyes Wide Shut, you can see a sign on the street that you can’t see on the full frame video. You can see an extra character.’ So how do you address the differences between the theatrical releases of Eyes Wide Shut and of Full Metal Jacket in the DVD releases?”
Vitali: The original video release of Full Metal Jacket was in the supervised hands and owned by Stanley. The thing about Stanley, he was a photographer. That’s how he started. He had a still photographer’s eye. So when he composed a picture through the camera, he was setting up for what he saw through the camera — the full picture. That was very important to him. It really was. It was an instinct that never ever left him.
“What he wanted [was] the videos to reflect was how he shot the film through the camera, what was on the original neg and what his composition was when he was shooting it. That’s why Full Metal Jacket is in full frame. What you get on the video that you didn’t get in the theatrical because of the 1.85 masking, was what Stanley was envisioning. You assume these soldiers in the world that they’re in. And he uses wide angle uses to shoot. I mean an 18 millimeter lens was the commonest one. He used 24 sometimes. Wide-angle lenses. It was important to him, the relationship between things. You can see in Full Metal Jacket how small the people were in relation to this huge landscape.
“The thing with Eyes Wide Shut, it was how he saw the thing through the camera and how he set it up. That’s what he wanted to reflect in his videos. He did not like 1.85:1. [Because] you lose 27% of the picture on 1.85. Stanley was a purist. This was one of the ways it was manifested.”
DVD Talk: “If full frame was so important why didn’t Kubrick release them theatrically that way?”
Vitali: “After Barry Lyndon, more and more theaters were showing films 1.85 or in Cinemascope even if it wasn’t shot that way. He had no control. He couldn’t go around every cinema and say ‘You show this film in 1.66’ as you could with Clockwork Orange, because then the projectors had 1.66 mask. With multiplexes things are different and so they only show a film in 1.85 or in 2.21, the Cinemascope. You know? You cannot put a mask in 1.66 as it should be for Clockwork Orange. You can’t put a 1.77 in as it should be for Barry Lyndon and that’s what Stanley understood with The Shining onwards. He realized that his films were going to be shown in 1.85 whether he liked it or not.
“You can’t tell all the theaters now how to show your movies. They say it’s 1.85, that’s it. Stanley realized that masking for 1.85 would far outweigh having 1.66 projected at 1.85.
“We did a re-release of Clockwork in the U.K. and it’s 1.66. It’s composed for 1.66. It’s shot in 1.66, and the whole shebang. Well, you know, they had to screen it in 1.85. I can’t tell you how much it hurt that film.”
Jacket cover of Full Metal Jacket DVD that was released in 2001.
Specs of the ’01 Full Metal Jacket DVD say it was mastered in 1.33 — incorrect. The boxy aspect ratio was always 1.37:1.