I’ve just sent the following to George Stevens, Jr. regarding last night’s levitational Shane screening at the TCM Classic Film Festival: “George — I just want to extend a crisp, respectful salute and heartfelt congratulations for a magnificent digital restoration job on Shane, which I saw last night on the big screen at the Chinese in glorious 1.37. Chapin Cutler of Boston LIght & Sound (whom I spoke to in the booth yesterday afternoon) was overseeing the digital projection. It was drop-to-your-knees — the most beautiful rendering I’ve ever seen of this 1953 classic. It was like seeing it new and fresh all over again. It was almost like being there on the set. The detail was to die for.

Poster from Bob Furmanek’s 3D Film Archive site. Thanks to Bob got letting me use it.

“For the first time I noticed the reddish-violet markings on the pearl-white hand grip on Jack Palance‘s six-shooters. For the first time I noticed the pancake that was applied to try and cover Jean Arthur‘s crow’s feet. For the first time I noticed dozens if not hundreds of little details that hadn’t popped through on that DVD from 12 and 1/2 years ago.

“I have some perspective because in addition to seeing Shane countless times on TV and via that 2000 DVD, I saw what looked like an excellent, scratch-free 35mm print at a special Academy showing about ten years ago. (Or was it 15 years ago?) I remember that Palance was there and he delivered some pithy remarks to the crowd. Anyway, what I saw last night was a much sharper, cleaner and more vivid Shane than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. And with a wonderful Technicolored vibrancy (i.e., natural tones, not over saturated).

“For what it’s worth I was enormously impressed by the night scenes, which really look like night. There’s ‘fake’ day-for-night in which everything looks brighter than it should so that the audience can see things more clearly, and there’s authentic, genuine-looking day-for-night which I saw last night — a look of actual moonlight. You told me earlier you weren’t entirely satisfied by the night scenes but the integrity was obvious. The more commercial way to go, obviously, would have been to render them with more light, but you stuck to your guns. Hats off.

“I wasn’t just delighted by how good Shane looked last night — I was spellbound if not close to shocked. My eyes were going ‘wow,’ ‘wow’ and ‘double-wow.’ The Bluray is going to send the faithful into spasms of delight. I wish I could see it again on a really big screen. Sincere congratulations to you & your Technicolor colleagues.

Side note: The reason it looked better than that 35 mm print I saw 10 or 15 years ago was because the grain has been slightly velvetized with a higher contrast effect. This was a 4K scan, of course, and the elements were presumably captured by the proprietary process known as Ultra High Resolution. Developed by Warner Brothers in collaboration with two sisters who created the process for AOL, UHR “digitally realigns and sharpens the color on classic movies shot with the three-strip Technicolor process.”

“I only know that the mint-condition Technicolor prints I’ve seen of numerous three-strip Technicolor films over the years have not looked as sharp and radiant as what I saw last night. I suspect that one or two pain-in-the-ass purist monks are going to write reviews that say “this looks too good!…this isn’t what the original Technicolor version looked like!…it’s been artificially sweetened!” I only know that in all my years on this planet, Shane has never looked so drop-dead beautiful. The classic content brought tears to my eyes all over again, and the look of it brought tears to my eyes as well so it was a heavy emotional experience.

“I’m going to write Joe McBride about this right away. And also Robert Harris and Woody Allen and the world in general. I’m only sorry I wasn’t able to see Giant earlier yesterday. — Respectfully, Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere”