Aspect-ratio scholar Bob Furmanek, the man most responsible for persuading distributors to cleaver various 1950s films on Bluray over the last four or five years, explained today why a 1.37:1 aspect ratio is correct for Laslo Benedek‘s The Wild One (12.30.53). “When determining whether or not a film was composed for widescreen,” Furmanek reminded, “the dates of production must be determined.” The Marlon Brando motorcycle drama was filmed between 2.12.53 to 3.17.53, or a little before Columbia’s 1.85 mandate went into effect in March/April of that year. A high-def 1.37 version is viewable on Vudu, and a new 1.37 German Bluray has been reviewed on DVD Beaver.
I thanked Furmanek for the assistance but added, “I’m comforted that you agree that the boxiness of The Wild One should be left alone, but I still regret that in other instances you seem to be happier with the idea of replicating a visual scam (cropping films that looked fine at 1.37 in order to simulate a widescreen experience) that distributors and exhibitors put over on moviegoers in the early to late ’50s out of fear of television…here it is, the 21st Century when we can do anything we want, and you seem happier with perpetuating this ridiculous marketing charade on Blurays than in simply allowing the fullness of the taller, boxier images to be seen.
“You have the research on your side, granted, but you’re still a believer in visual claustrophobia — in lowering the ceilings a la Being John Malkovich. And I’m very sorry about that because you’re a nice guy.”
Furmanek: “When Jack Theakston and I began this research in earnest way back in 2006, it was all about respecting the directors compositional intent. After March/April/May of 1953 — depending on the studio and their policies – it was widescreen. The ratios might be 1.65:1 (UK), 1.66:1, 1.75:1, 1.85:1, 2:1, 2.35:1 or 2.55:1, but it’s always been about the specific ratio the director and DP were composing for on the set.”
Wells: “Directors were ordered to play along, and they complied because they wanted to keep working and stay in the fold and make more movies. ‘Compositional intent’…hah! With a gun at their heads, you mean.”
We both wished each other a happy 4th of July.