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Re: Aspect ratios of 50s and 60s films

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  • thebradstevens
    Does anyone know why films were shot soft matte? Was it purely so that they could be unmasked for television screenings? That seems to me an unlikely
    Message 1 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
      Does anyone know why films were shot soft matte? Was it purely so
      that they could be unmasked for television screenings? That seems to
      me an unlikely consideration for the 1950s, when TV was seen as the
      enemy, but I guess it's not impossible.

      It's worth pointing out that certain directors shot films in hard
      matte 1.85 throughout their careers. Sidney Lumet and Robert Aldrich
      are two notable examples, though there are exceptions to this rule in
      their filmographies (certainly TOO LATE THE HERO)
    • Joseph Kaufman
      ... Yes, admittedly not a 1950s situation, but if you know Truffaut s FAHRENHEIT 451 diary, published in CAHIERS DU CINEMA and reprinted in Sarris s
      Message 2 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
        Brad wrote:

        >Does anyone know why films were shot soft matte? Was it purely so
        >that they could be unmasked for television screenings?

        Yes, admittedly not a 1950s situation, but if you know Truffaut's
        FAHRENHEIT 451 diary, published in CAHIERS DU CINEMA and reprinted in
        Sarris's English-language edition, he ran up against Universal's
        insistence that he shoot open-matte for television viewing. As I
        recall he eventually won the fight to shoot with hard mattes.
        --

        - Joe Kaufman
      • peterhenne
        I m glad we re in agreement on ATHA, Fred, as I ve made several detailed posts here on why 1.33 is its preferred aspect ratio. I don t think there can be any
        Message 3 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
          I'm glad we're in agreement on ATHA, Fred, as I've made several
          detailed posts here on why 1.33 is its preferred aspect ratio.

          I don't think there can be any doubt that many non-Scope Hollywood
          films from 1954 to around 1958 were composed such that masking was
          acceptable, if not always preferable from the artistic point of
          view. The general evidence is that masked films in this period
          consistently do not look awkward by the standards of "actors walking
          around talking," as you might put it--commercial audiences want to
          see faces in a medium shot, for example. However, for a sizable
          number of these films, the space at the top and/or bottom hidden by
          masking is not an excess but contributes to the artistry and meaning
          of the film. I think the safe presumption is that when in doubt,
          keep it in. As I've already argued a couple of times, a director's
          name went on the full-frame version anyway, and prima facie that
          authorizes it as work to take seriously.

          Side note: How often was 1.66 the intended ratio for American films
          in the 1950s? Wasn't 1.85 much more common? Bordwell and Thompson
          call 1.66 European widescreen.

          Peter Henne


          --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
          >
          > I've raised this before here, but it has come up again in
          conjunction
          > with a screening last night of a 35mm print of Douglas Sirk's "All
          That
          > Heaven Allows" at Doc Films here in Chicago.
          >
          > I had previously tested 1.85:1 versus 1.66:1 with another 35mm
          print of
          > this film, and 1.66:1 was clearly better, even though supposedly
          > theaters in the US anyway were masking to 1.85:1. Last night
          before the
          > screening we ran the last reel at 1.66:1 and then at 1.33:1.
          Despite the
          > fact that the Criterion DVD is masked to 1.85 I believe, it seemed
          > really clear that 1.33:1 (technically, it's 1.37:1, but "1.33" is
          in
          > common usage) was correct. Things that seemed obviously an
          intended part
          > of the image were only visible at 1:33, and this wasn't one of
          those
          > case where showing at 1.33 also revealed lights and stuff.
          >
          > Fred Camper
          >
        • Jaime N. Christley
          David Hare, from another board, wrote: This is a minefield of a subject and everyone needs to be aware that until the late 50s at least, widescreen masking -
          Message 4 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
            David Hare, from another board, wrote:

            "This is a minefield of a subject and everyone needs to be aware that
            until the late 50s at least, widescreen masking - by fiat as it were -
            is a no mans land of contention. In the end everything up to 1960
            (except Scope and Vistavision) was still being shot optically in 35mm
            and if in any doubt at all, 1.37 is the preferred framing option in my
            view. At least up to 1957."

            I'm glad we're able to get that out of the way, at least up to 1957.

            Jaime
          • david hare
            ... Jaime, in the course of that thread (which began over the 2:1 screenings and the UK DVD of Magnificent Obsession) I cited a number of reissues of movies,
            Message 5 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
              --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Jaime N. Christley"
              <j_christley@...> wrote:
              >
              > David Hare, from another board, wrote:
              >
              > "This is a minefield of a subject and everyone needs to be aware that
              > until the late 50s at least, widescreen masking - by fiat as it were -
              > is a no mans land of contention. In the end everything up to 1960
              > (except Scope and Vistavision) was still being shot optically in 35mm
              > and if in any doubt at all, 1.37 is the preferred framing option in my
              > view. At least up to 1957."
              >
              > I'm glad we're able to get that out of the way, at least up to 1957.
              >
              > Jaime
              >
              Jaime, in the course of that thread (which began over the 2:1
              screenings and the UK DVD of Magnificent Obsession) I cited a number of
              reissues of movies, and for argument's sake looked at the period 53 to
              58, which had all been clumsily remastered for 1.85 for DVD: notably
              Dial M for Murder (the PAL version), All that Heaven and Written on the
              Wind, The Wrong Man and Touch of Evil. In the context of those posts it
              seemed clear to me that 1.85 was becoming the favored alternative
              widescreen mask by the late 50s for 35mm Optical movies, presumably as
              more theatres adapted for the masking technology. There are many more
              problematic titles from the period - Invasion of the Body Snatchers and
              even Anatomy of a Murder (as late as 59) which circulate in both
              widescreen and 1.37 versions. Added to which the use of the old
              Superscope process in either 1.85 or 2:1, which was even inflcted
              retrospectively upon pre 53 (shot) titles like Jet Pilot. I was merely
              drawing an arbitrary line at 57/58, but my position, like others here
              is that where there is the slightest doubt, the movies should be
              released in full frame. OR - as Warners have done with Pajama Game for
              instance, in both versions. (In that case I prefer the 1.85.)

              In a related vein there's another problem with reissues of movies in
              1.33 which were surely intended for widescreen. Examples la Notte - on
              the R1 DVD in 1.66 (but should surely be 1.85 - Antonioni himself talks
              about the freedom widescreen gave him to plan lateral tracks, and
              explore the width of the frame horizontally. (The Australian DVD of
              this is 1.85 and has more visual information on the sides, as will the
              forthcoming MoC disc.) Criterion's DVD of l'Avventura has also
              attracted criticism for being too narrow. Lang's two Indian pictures,
              despite the gorgeous Technicolor prints used for the Fantoma discs look
              like they should have been masked to a wider aspect than 1.33, at least
              to 1.66. The headroom looks fine but the bottom of the frame in most
              of the interiors appears unused and even barely dressed.
            • peterhenne
              But do you know for sure about the two Langs? Cropping the bottom would change the horizontal centering of actors in the films, which seems crucial to the
              Message 6 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
                But do you know for sure about the two Langs? Cropping the bottom
                would change the horizontal centering of actors in the films, which
                seems crucial to the aesthetic balance of the compositions. I think
                Lang is going for simplicity and monumentality in his arrangements
                of objects and people, and playing that against the striking color
                schemes.

                I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about the Antonioni films,
                by the way.

                Peter Henne



                --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "david hare" <davidhare@...> wrote:
                >
                > In a related vein there's another problem with reissues of movies
                in
                > 1.33 which were surely intended for widescreen. Examples la Notte -
                on
                > the R1 DVD in 1.66 (but should surely be 1.85 - Antonioni himself
                talks
                > about the freedom widescreen gave him to plan lateral tracks, and
                > explore the width of the frame horizontally. (The Australian DVD
                of
                > this is 1.85 and has more visual information on the sides, as will
                the
                > forthcoming MoC disc.) Criterion's DVD of l'Avventura has also
                > attracted criticism for being too narrow. Lang's two Indian
                pictures,
                > despite the gorgeous Technicolor prints used for the Fantoma discs
                look
                > like they should have been masked to a wider aspect than 1.33, at
                least
                > to 1.66. The headroom looks fine but the bottom of the frame in
                most
                > of the interiors appears unused and even barely dressed.
                >
              • david hare
                ... No, no certainty at all, in fact you re right - the exteriors also seem to need both head and foot room for the epic scale of the processions etc. But the
                Message 7 of 27 , Jun 1, 2007
                  --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "peterhenne" <peterhenne@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > But do you know for sure about the two Langs? Cropping the bottom
                  > would change the horizontal centering of actors in the films, which
                  > seems crucial to the aesthetic balance of the compositions. I think
                  > Lang is going for simplicity and monumentality in his arrangements
                  > of objects and people, and playing that against the striking color
                  > schemes.
                  >
                  > I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about the Antonioni films,
                  > by the way.
                  >
                  > Peter Henne
                  >
                  No, no certainty at all, in fact you're right - the exteriors also
                  seem to need both head and foot room for the epic scale of the
                  processions etc. But the interiors - take Paget's two dance sequences
                  as examples - leave the studio floor virtually undressed! Of course
                  Lang wasn't happy with the DP Richard Angst so there may have been
                  some problem with communication of intentions. I can only suspect
                  1.66 might have been intended, but they still look magnificent in
                  full frame. And I've only ever seen them (including the cut US
                  version) in 1.33. And there is the question of when 1.66 became a
                  popular widescreen ratio in Europe. (and for how long it persisted.)

                  Interestingly I have burns of the last two Lang American pictures.
                  (Both RKO who were frequently using Superscope.) While the City
                  Sleeps (from the Laser) looks fine in 1.78. However the Cable print
                  from TCM of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt also looks fine in 1.33! And
                  the Spanish DVD of Humans Desire is 1.85! (Lousy image quality
                  sadly.)
                • thebradstevens
                  ... There are many more ... and ... My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints
                  Message 8 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                    --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "david hare" <davidhare@...> w

                    There are many more
                    > problematic titles from the period - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
                    and
                    > even Anatomy of a Murder (as late as 59) which circulate in both
                    > widescreen and 1.37 versions. Added to which the use of the old
                    > Superscope process in either 1.85 or 2:1, which was even inflcted
                    > retrospectively upon pre 53 (shot) titles like Jet Pilot

                    My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
                    in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35. But
                    I don't believe that the film ever circulated in 1.37, and it seems
                    that the materials which would enable the film to be seen in this
                    ratio no longer exist.

                    I've never seen or heard of ANATOMY OF A MURDER being shown at 2.35.
                    The DVD is masked to 1.85, and even feels cramped at that ratio, with
                    the tops of the actors' heads constantly being bisected by the upper
                    matte. Unmasked full-screen television versions look far better.
                  • Richard Modiano
                    ... My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35. But I don t believe
                    Message 9 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                      --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "thebradstevens" <bradstevens22@...>
                      wrote:
                      >
                      "My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
                      in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35. But
                      I don't believe that the film ever circulated in 1.37, and it seems
                      that the materials which would enable the film to be seen in this
                      ratio no longer exist."

                      In the US there are extant in 16mm prints of INVASION OF THE BODDY
                      SNATCHERS that are unmasked.

                      I've never seen or heard of ANATOMY OF A MURDER being shown at 2.35.
                      The DVD is masked to 1.85, and even feels cramped at that ratio, with
                      the tops of the actors' heads constantly being bisected by the upper
                      matte. Unmasked full-screen television versions look far better."

                      The last time I saw ANATOMY OF A MUDER projected (at the Los Angeles
                      County Museum of Art) it was screened full frame and did indeed look
                      far better than the cropped DVD.

                      Richard
                    • samfilms2003
                      ... If the 1.85 has more info on the sides then that stuff should be there in the 1.66, (I don t know which AR is right) the only difference should be top and
                      Message 10 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                        > In a related vein there's another problem with reissues of movies in
                        > 1.33 which were surely intended for widescreen. Examples la Notte - on
                        > the R1 DVD in 1.66 (but should surely be 1.85 - Antonioni himself talks
                        > about the freedom widescreen gave him to plan lateral tracks, and
                        > explore the width of the frame horizontally. (The Australian DVD of
                        > this is 1.85 and has more visual information on the sides, as will the
                        > forthcoming MoC disc.)

                        If the 1.85 has more info on the sides then that stuff should be there in the 1.66,
                        (I don't know which AR is right) the only difference should be top and bottom.

                        1.85 and 1.66 are crops of 1.37 should not be reductions AFAIK

                        -Sam
                      • thebradstevens
                        ... Are you sure these prints weren t created by simply cropping the 2.35 version? The BBC used to regularly screen a panned-and-scanned transfer of the
                        Message 11 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                          --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Modiano" <tharpa2002@...>
                          wrote:

                          >
                          > In the US there are extant in 16mm prints of INVASION OF THE BODDY
                          > SNATCHERS that are unmasked.
                          >

                          Are you sure these prints weren't created by simply cropping the 2.35
                          version? The BBC used to regularly screen a panned-and-scanned
                          transfer of the already cropped Scope print!

                          The BBC also used to screen a pan-and-scan version of THE TALL T
                          which was taken from an already cropped 2.35 print. Fortunately,
                          unmasked 1.33 transfers do still exist - Scorsese used some correctly
                          framed 1.33 clips from this film in his documentary on American
                          cinema.
                        • jess_l_amortell
                          ... You did mean 2.0 (SuperScope), right? I know this is getting pedantic, I m just curious since it s the first I d heard of a CinemaScope ratio being
                          Message 12 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                            --- <bradstevens22@>
                            > wrote:
                            > >
                            > "My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
                            > in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35.

                            You did mean 2.0 (SuperScope), right? I know this is getting
                            pedantic, I'm just curious since it's the first I'd heard of a
                            CinemaScope ratio being extracted from the frame in the 1950s. IMDB
                            gives SuperScope/2:1`for the Siegel. (I find I remember it as NON-
                            widescreen, but it's been a long time and I'm not sure what gage I saw
                            it in..)
                          • thebradstevens
                            ... SNATCHERS ... saw ... I have a version that I taped off ARTE which is letterboxed at approximately 2.35. I compared this with the BBC transfer, and the
                            Message 13 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                              --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "jess_l_amortell" <monterone1@...>
                              wrote:
                              >
                              > --- <bradstevens22@>
                              > > wrote:
                              > > >
                              > > "My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY
                              SNATCHERS
                              > > in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35.
                              >
                              > You did mean 2.0 (SuperScope), right? I know this is getting
                              > pedantic, I'm just curious since it's the first I'd heard of a
                              > CinemaScope ratio being extracted from the frame in the 1950s. IMDB
                              > gives SuperScope/2:1`for the Siegel. (I find I remember it as NON-
                              > widescreen, but it's been a long time and I'm not sure what gage I
                              saw
                              > it in..)
                              >

                              I have a version that I taped off ARTE which is letterboxed at
                              approximately 2.35. I compared this with the BBC transfer, and the
                              latter was definitely panned and scanned.
                            • Richard Modiano
                              ... wrote: Are you sure these prints [16mm prints of INVASION OF THE BODDY SNATCHERS that are unmasked] weren t created by simply cropping the 2.35 version?
                              Message 14 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                                --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "thebradstevens" <bradstevens22@...>
                                wrote:

                                "Are you sure these prints [16mm prints of INVASION OF THE BODDY
                                SNATCHERS that are unmasked] weren't created by simply cropping the
                                2.35 version?"

                                I'm sure of it. The print I saw was an early 1960s original struck for
                                the local US TV market. It belonged to a collector who boasted of its
                                rarity, and he claimed that there were a few other 16 mm originals of
                                INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS in the proper aspect ratio circulating
                                among film collectors. This print was definitely not cropped.

                                Richard
                              • david hare
                                ... Snatchers ... But ... 2.35. ... with ... upper ... Brad, Anatomy is also available on DVD in 1.37. There is a lot of head room but it s completely viable,
                                Message 15 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                                  --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "thebradstevens"
                                  <bradstevens22@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "david hare" <davidhare@> w
                                  >
                                  > There are many more
                                  > > problematic titles from the period - Invasion of the Body
                                  Snatchers
                                  > and
                                  > > even Anatomy of a Murder (as late as 59) which circulate in both
                                  > > widescreen and 1.37 versions. Added to which the use of the old
                                  > > Superscope process in either 1.85 or 2:1, which was even inflcted
                                  > > retrospectively upon pre 53 (shot) titles like Jet Pilot
                                  >
                                  > My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
                                  > in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35.
                                  But
                                  > I don't believe that the film ever circulated in 1.37, and it seems
                                  > that the materials which would enable the film to be seen in this
                                  > ratio no longer exist.
                                  >
                                  > I've never seen or heard of ANATOMY OF A MURDER being shown at
                                  2.35.
                                  > The DVD is masked to 1.85, and even feels cramped at that ratio,
                                  with
                                  > the tops of the actors' heads constantly being bisected by the
                                  upper
                                  > matte. Unmasked full-screen television versions look far better.
                                  >
                                  Brad, Anatomy is also available on DVD in 1.37. There is a lot of
                                  head room but it's completely viable, although the 1.85 seems to be
                                  the "standard". In fact I prefer it.
                                • Fred Camper
                                  ... I m pretty sure the same thing was done with Lang s While the City Sleeps. Certainly there were 16mm anamorphic prints circulating in the 60s (which
                                  Message 16 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                                    jess_l_amortell wrote:

                                    >
                                    >
                                    > --- <bradstevens22@>
                                    > > wrote:
                                    > > >
                                    > > "My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
                                    > > in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to 2.35.
                                    >
                                    > You did mean 2.0 (SuperScope), right? I know this is getting
                                    > pedantic, I'm just curious since it's the first I'd heard of a
                                    > CinemaScope ratio being extracted from the frame in the 1950s.

                                    I'm pretty sure the same thing was done with Lang's "While the City
                                    Sleeps." Certainly there were 16mm anamorphic prints circulating in the
                                    60s (which would have been 2.66:1), but Lang said it was not anamorphic,
                                    not widescreen.

                                    Fred Camper
                                  • david hare
                                    ... SNATCHERS ... 2.35. ... the ... anamorphic, ... The Turner Laserdisc of City Sleeps is in 1.85. It has a high level of grain which suggests the print is
                                    Message 17 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                                      --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > jess_l_amortell wrote:
                                      >
                                      > >
                                      > >
                                      > > --- <bradstevens22@>
                                      > > > wrote:
                                      > > > >
                                      > > > "My understanding is that Siegel shot INVASION OF THE BODY
                                      SNATCHERS
                                      > > > in 1.37, and that the studio decided to mask the prints to
                                      2.35.
                                      > >
                                      > > You did mean 2.0 (SuperScope), right? I know this is getting
                                      > > pedantic, I'm just curious since it's the first I'd heard of a
                                      > > CinemaScope ratio being extracted from the frame in the 1950s.
                                      >
                                      > I'm pretty sure the same thing was done with Lang's "While the City
                                      > Sleeps." Certainly there were 16mm anamorphic prints circulating in
                                      the
                                      > 60s (which would have been 2.66:1), but Lang said it was not
                                      anamorphic,
                                      > not widescreen.
                                      >
                                      > Fred Camper
                                      >
                                      The Turner Laserdisc of City Sleeps is in 1.85. It has a high level
                                      of grain which suggests the print is another victim of Superscoping,
                                      although like a number of RKO Superscope reissues (Vera Cruz, Jet
                                      Pilot) it's delivered in 1.85, not 2.00. It definitely looks all
                                      wrong - credits are too tight, the image seems to regularly crop
                                      actors on the right, and the "classical" headroom is wildly
                                      unbalanced by an overly tight bottom of the frame which crops out
                                      legs, and so on. I have to retract my earlier support of this
                                      version - I got the disc out to view again for the first time in
                                      years and was not happy.
                                    • jess_l_amortell
                                      ... City ... in ... About SuperScope, I just looked it up and learned there was indeed a 2.35:1 version in addition to the 2:1 version. Hadn t realized that.
                                      Message 18 of 27 , Jun 2, 2007
                                        --- davidhare@...> wrote:
                                        >
                                        > --- Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
                                        > >
                                        > > jess_l_amortell wrote:
                                        > >
                                        > > > I'm just curious since it's the first I'd heard of a
                                        > > > CinemaScope ratio being extracted from the frame in the 1950s.
                                        > >
                                        > > I'm pretty sure the same thing was done with Lang's "While the
                                        City
                                        > > Sleeps." Certainly there were 16mm anamorphic prints circulating
                                        in
                                        > the
                                        > > 60s (which would have been 2.66:1), but Lang said it was not
                                        > anamorphic,
                                        > > not widescreen.

                                        > The Turner Laserdisc of City Sleeps is in 1.85. It has a high level
                                        > of grain which suggests the print is another victim of Superscoping,
                                        > although like a number of RKO Superscope reissues (Vera Cruz, Jet
                                        > Pilot) it's delivered in 1.85, not 2.00. It definitely looks all
                                        > wrong - credits are too tight, the image seems to regularly crop
                                        > actors on the right, and the "classical" headroom is wildly
                                        > unbalanced by an overly tight bottom of the frame which crops out
                                        > legs, and so on.

                                        About SuperScope, I just looked it up and learned there was indeed a
                                        2.35:1 version in addition to the 2:1 version. Hadn't realized that.

                                        The Widescreen Museum website gives a list of SuperScope titles (incl.
                                        Invasion and City Sleeps) but says, "Precise records of which films
                                        were done in which aspect ratio are unavailable so no attempt is made
                                        here to identify them, though other lists may do so."
                                        http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/Widescreen/sslist.htm
                                        Does Belton's book do so?

                                        About While the City Sleeps, I seem to remember seeing it in something
                                        like 2:1 in 16mm -- but more recently in a 35mm print projected full
                                        frame, it seemed (_pace_ Lang) so top- and bottom-heavy that even
                                        2.66:1 might have been (almost) plausible! So I'm startled by the
                                        above convincing report. A series of comparative screenings of the
                                        versions of some of these films is overdue!

                                        I recall first seeing AtHA in Academy ratio (maybe in 16) so I was
                                        surprised when it began turning up in (historically correct, I
                                        realize) widescreen, even though that doesn't seem to destroy it as it
                                        does Mag Obs.
                                      • Blake Lucas
                                        ... I can t find the specific post I wanted to respond to but I believe it was by David Hare and referred to this issue as a minefield. Whoever used that
                                        Message 19 of 27 , Jun 12, 2007
                                          > --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "david hare" <davidhare@> w
                                          >
                                          > There are many more
                                          > > problematic titles from the period - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
                                          > and
                                          > > even Anatomy of a Murder (as late as 59) which circulate in both
                                          > > widescreen and 1.37 versions. Added to which the use of the old
                                          > > Superscope process in either 1.85 or 2:1, which was even inflcted
                                          > > retrospectively upon pre 53 (shot) titles like Jet Pilot

                                          I can't find the specific post I wanted to respond to but I believe it
                                          was by David Hare and referred to this issue as a "minefield."
                                          Whoever used that word (please correct me if it was not you, David)
                                          had it right.

                                          I had wanted to participate a little more in this discussion because
                                          this thorny issue is an important one to me. Many of my favorite films
                                          were made in the period--and I do have some early experience of how they
                                          were shown in some cases, and much later experience as well.

                                          I had wanted to wait until after the Sirk double bill--that was
                                          "All I Desire" and, of course, "There's Always Tomorrow" (Stanwyck
                                          series put on by UCLA)--which I had definitely planned to see. I
                                          wanted to see what they would do. "All I Desire" (1953) is always
                                          correctly projected in 1:33/1:37 of course--it's beautiful compositions
                                          all seemed absolutely perfect, as they always do.

                                          "There's Always Tomorrow" was in 1:85, and in this case, that's the
                                          only way I've ever seen it. By contrast to "All I Desire," its images
                                          at first seems less graceful and less right--and I have a pretty strong
                                          sense of the space of those images being conceived in terms of full
                                          frame, even if they were filmed so there could be no specific complaint
                                          if it's shown this way (no heads cut off or any thing like that),
                                          though I must acknowledge that soon after it started, I got used to it
                                          because I was just so absorbed by the film, and its mise-en-scene was
                                          certainly not destroyed. The film was made between "All That Heaven
                                          Allows" and "Written on the Wind"--only a month or so after the former,
                                          same director, cinematographer, producer, studio. In the case of ATHA,
                                          I have seen it 1:33 and agree with those who have said it looks better
                                          like that. In the case of WOTW, I've posted before that I sat through
                                          it twice in first run at the Hollywood Paramount, and my memory is of
                                          1:33, and that on wide release a few months later, it was wide at 1:85.
                                          When the Academy showed a collector's original Technicolor print a
                                          few years back, they showed it in 1:33, and the collector himself was
                                          at first surprised than readily agreed this was preferable. A year
                                          later the Museum showed the same print in 1:85 and we saw it again and
                                          agreed some of the visual tension of Sirk's framing was definitely gone.

                                          In the case of Sirk, those three films in a row are the ones at issue
                                          I believe. All those through "Magnificent Obsession" were surely
                                          meant to be full frame, as the next two are in 'Scope, and the ones
                                          which follow "Wind" are in Scope until "Imitation of Life" which all
                                          agree is 1:85.

                                          My experience with "Touch of Evil" was the same as "Written on the
                                          Wind" (a conscientious 1:33/1:37 presentation the first week it was out,
                                          and then 1:85 the following week when it moved to second run as a
                                          second feature--even if one has little sense of aspect ratios as a
                                          young person, when you see it two different ways close together you
                                          are aware of it).

                                          And as I posted before, and it's well known and noted above, when it
                                          was finally released in 1957, "Jet Pilot" was cropped and shown wide
                                          (pretty cruel treatment to a director with those visual gifts!), yet the
                                          co-feature "Joe Dakota" (Richard Bartlett) was 1:33, as it was
                                          obviously filmed, and looked infinitely better.

                                          Yet one shouldn't be blase and say everything was really full frame,
                                          or intended to be shown that way even if shot that way. For example,
                                          "The Square Jungle" (Jerry Hopper), made around the same time as
                                          "All That Heaven Allows" and "There's Always Tomorrow" by the same
                                          studio, was shown full frame on AMC some years ago, and the characters
                                          all seemed to never come up below the bottom half of the frame, and
                                          to be confined to that space. It seems obvious that Hopper and his
                                          cinematographer George Robinson took the idea it would be shown wide to
                                          heart and composed with that in mind--I don't know how else to explain
                                          something like that (yet Robinson also shot "Joe Dakota"!) And there
                                          are other examples.

                                          I can say authoritatively that when "Seven Men from Now" was restored,
                                          Budd Boetticher insisted to both Bob Gitt and me that 1:85 was the
                                          correct aspect ratio. For this reason, I believe that Brad Stevens
                                          is wrong about "The Tall T"--when there was memorial tribute for
                                          Budd with three double bills of all six Ranowns, this and the two
                                          successive non-anamorphic Ranowns were shown, like "Seven Men" in
                                          1:85 and all looked most comfortable that way. The remaining two,
                                          of course, are in 'Scopoe. It just seems unlikely that Boetticher
                                          would have retrenched to full frame after composing "Seven Men" wide
                                          --and in some cases, a director might have wanted more expanse, as
                                          in these Westerns (even the two "town" ones).

                                          There has been some discussion of Superscope too. I don't know if it's
                                          true in all cases (though am personally willing to take Fritz Lang at
                                          his word, as with Budd Boetticher)but with the first ones, it was
                                          definitely a case of taking films shot full frame and originally meant
                                          to be shown 1:33/1:37 and making them into 'Scope, with some ill
                                          effects. "Vera Cruz" was perhaps the first one--it's a favorite movie
                                          of mine and I've seen it many times. If you saw it at a downtown
                                          trible bill house in later years, it was just as if they were showing
                                          Cinemascope; this did not do the film any good. It is best full frame
                                          and is in fact brilliantly composed that way. I saw them recreate
                                          that Superscope effect for "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" at UCLA.
                                          Why? It looked terrible, I believe. Full frame seems just right to
                                          me for that film.

                                          A separate issue is when projectionists pay no attention to the obvious.
                                          I saw Bunuel's "El" (1953) projected wide once. It was unwatchable.

                                          Where practicable, the kind of experimentation of trying it different
                                          ways that Fred Camper talked about with a screening of "All That Heaven
                                          Allows" seems like a very desirable idea. But how often can something
                                          like that reasonably done?

                                          I don't know what the alternative is to being subjected to alternately
                                          whimsical/responsible attempts to show things the right way (for, like
                                          everyone, I continue to see the same films showed different ways at
                                          different times), and the extent to which the reality of intention may
                                          be buried or misinterpreted in the actual records of shooting, vagaries
                                          of policy, and so on. I'm always glad to see this discussed here.

                                          Blake Lucas
                                          >
                                        • Joseph Kaufman
                                          ... I believe it s true that lots of misinformation is to be had in studio records. For instance the recent DVDs of one or two of the Hammer films came in at
                                          Message 20 of 27 , Jun 12, 2007
                                            >I continue to see the same films showed different ways at
                                            >different times), and the extent to which the reality of intention may
                                            >be buried or misinterpreted in the actual records of shooting, vagaries
                                            >of policy, and so on. I'm always glad to see this discussed here.
                                            >
                                            >Blake Lucas

                                            I believe it's true that lots of misinformation is to be had in
                                            studio records. For instance the recent DVDs of one or two of the
                                            Hammer films came in at 2:1, when they obviously would have been in
                                            the UK 1.66 ratio of those days. Someone in 1960 thoughtlessly
                                            pencilled 2:1 as the ratio in Universal's records, perhaps really
                                            meaning the also incorrect 1.85, and now we're stuck with badly
                                            cropped DVDs.
                                            --

                                            - Joe Kaufman
                                          • kian@uchicago.edu
                                            One further wrinkle to the aspect ratio question came up in my mind as I watched _All that Heaven Allows_ in 1:1.37 with Fred. I was part of the
                                            Message 21 of 27 , Jun 12, 2007
                                              One further wrinkle to the aspect ratio question came up in my mind as I
                                              watched _All that Heaven Allows_ in 1:1.37 with Fred. I was part of the
                                              <sarcasm>crack team of projectionist experts</sarcasm> who worked on
                                              figuring out what ratio to show the film in with him, and we all agreed that the
                                              film was not just better but strongly better in Academy. However, I noticed that
                                              in one shot, reflected in that mysterious fireplace mirror, there is very clearly a
                                              boom mike hanging over one of the actor's heads (Wyman's, I think). This was
                                              high enough in the frame that it would not be visible in 1:1.85, nor, I think, in
                                              1:1.66. Errors like this crop up in many films, and are in no way definitive, but
                                              in my limited experience with Sirk, I cannot remember a single other sighting of
                                              a microphone, or for that matter a grip, camera tracking, or any of the other
                                              harmless intrusions of the profilmic that sometimes accidentally can be
                                              glimpsed.

                                              In the absence of production data from, say, the cinematographer, how much,
                                              then, should we weigh such minor production goofs - ones that appear in full-
                                              frame but would be hidden by masking - against our subjective senses of more-
                                              apt use of space or the frame? I'm still convinced that _All that Heaven Allows_
                                              is 1:1.37, but if I saw 10 instead of 1 instances of the mike, would I have cause
                                              to change my evaluation? 100?

                                              -Kian
                                              -----
                                              Peculiar Marks are the Only Merit.
                                              -Blake on Reynolds
                                            • Fred Camper
                                              ... Of course you have to look at all the evidence. When the lights are visible above the set rather consistently, that s a pretty good clue. But as you admit
                                              Message 22 of 27 , Jun 12, 2007
                                                kian@... wrote:
                                                >...if I saw 10 instead of 1 instances of the mike, would I
                                                > have cause
                                                > to change my evaluation? 100?

                                                Of course you have to look at all the evidence. When the lights are
                                                visible above the set rather consistently, that's a pretty good clue.
                                                But as you admit one mike does not an aspect ratio make. The camera's
                                                shadow is clearly, even grotesquely visible in a dolly in on the window
                                                shot in "Written on the Wind," and that's not an aspect ratio error --
                                                just a goof. Russell must have had one too many martinis at lunch....

                                                Fred Camper
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