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.”