Lamenting the destruction of numerous 35-millimeter theatrical prints of classic films in last week’s Universal Studios fire, UCLA film professor Ron Kuntz has written in a N.Y. Times 6.7.08 op-ed piece that Universal “has already canceled screenings of Rear Window and Howard HawksScarface for the U.C.L.A. film history class I teach, along with all their other titles for the indefinite future.
Kuntz says he hopes this disaster “will prompt Universal and its fellow majors to better preserve not just key titles like Duck Soup, Dracula or Vertigo — which will surely be reprinted and return to circulation — but also the other 90 percent of their inventories, the less famous and therefore more vulnerable titles that the studio may not feel justify spending thousands to save. These are exquisite samples of 20th-century American culture and deserve to always be seen in their extravagant, sensual, big-screen glory.”
Of course, Kuntz wrote the article and the Times ran it precisely because they don’t believe — no one does — that Universal execs will make a concerted full-boat effort any time soon to replace the destroyed prints, and certainly not the less-well-known ones.