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March 26, 2009

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Ryan Kelly

No doubt the film versions are technicolor triumphs, but there is just something about Rodgers and Hammerstein that makes my blood boil. Ever since I was a kid I've had a distaste for them. The film version of "Carousel", in particular, was a particular low point in my life.

Ryan Kelly

D'oh. What kind of schmuck misspells his own website? This kind, apparently.

Pete Apruzzese

Glenn -

I read on another site that the 'Roadshow' version on Disc 2 is actually presented in standard def, even though the disc is a Blu ray disc. Is that true? If so, I imagine it's because of the quality of the materials they have for that version.

Glenn Kenny


Thankfully, Pete, that's not the case. This note comes up after you push "play" on the disc that houses the "Road Show" version:

"What you are about to see is the ‘Road Show’ version of R&H’s South Pacific as it played in movie theaters when it was first released, with intermission. Later a shorted 'general release' version was created—and that has been the version seen through the years.

For this release we have restored the master which was taken from the original negative and master sound elements, cut for the 'general release.' There are approximately 14 additional minutes in the 'Road Show' version, and you will notice a significant difference between that footage and the footage that is shared by both versions. Over time, the best elements unique to the 'Road Show' version have been lost or destroyed, so we have taken those sequences from the best source available."

And indeed, the differences are very noticeable, and are evident early, as in an extended conversation in the plane between John Kerr and Tom Laughlin and the bit of business with the G.I. who won't buy the "very sexy" grass skirt in "Bloody Mary." The colors are very pale, washed out.

As for everything else, it looks and sounds stellar; it's the same as the Blu-ray of the shorter version. The "Road Shot" version will appeal most to completists.

Pete Apruzzese

Thanks, Glenn. Looking forward to seeing it...just need to pick up that Blu-ray player first :)

Bruce La Bruce

U R Gay

Griff

The thing about the OKLAHOMA! laserdisc that was so eyepopping was that it included an impressive restoration of the original 30 frames-per-second 65mm Todd-AO roadshow version of the film, almost impossible to see since its original reserved seat engagements in the mid-'50s.

[The OKLAHOMA! we are generally familiar with is the concurrently shot 35mm CinemaScope version; 30 fps Todd AO could not readily be converted to 35mm 24 fps 'Scope prints. By the time SOUTH PACIFIC was produced, Todd AO had become a 24 fps process; a 'Scope reduction negative could easily be adapted from its 65mm negative.]

When Fox released OKLAHOMA! on DVD, the Todd-AO roadshow version -- which, with careful handling, could have practically been a demonstration disc for both DVD and Blu-Ray -- was, strangely, faded and blurry. A tremendous disappointment, and I'm not sure what went wrong; after all, it came out only a few years after that laserdisc. I'm not even a particular fan of this movie, but the color, sound and depth (there really is something to this 30 fps business) of that laserdisc was just as you say, Glenn... staggering.

michaelgsmith

It's amazing to me how many people think that Bluray is somehow not an appropriate format for showcasing "classic" films. When I told a friend of mine that I had purchased The Searchers on Bluray, he responded, "Why? It wasn't shot in HD". And this guy is intelligent.

The major studios need to seriously rethink how to market their back catalogs on Bluray.

Joe

Excellent post, Glenn!

You may know this, but here goes anyway... Back in the late 1970s when he was booking films for RKO in New York, Ralph Donnelly staged a roadshow-musical series at the Cinerama on Broadway. He managed to unearth an original Todd-AO print of "Oklahoma!" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization - and it was scarily gorgeous. Scary because the huge, huge figures on the screen looked so incredibly lifelike. I remember the dream ballet, backed by Oliver Smith's expansive, haunting set, being particularly striking. Difficult to shake.

Ralph couldn't locate "South Pacific" in Todd-AO for the engagement, but he did find a 65mm roadshow print that had Spanish subtitles. What was curious about this print was that it was a slightly different version of the movie: The chronology of its opening scenes were closer to the play. This version opened with the Emile and Nellie scene (and the songs "Cockeyed Optimist" and "Some Enchanted Evening") and then segued into the seabee numbers ("Bloody Mary" and "There Is Nothing Like a Dame"). The aerial stuff involving John Kerr and Tom Laughlin that connected them were alternate shots of what we've become used to seeing over the years.

A year or so ago, when Fox Home Entertainment released the two-disc "South Pacific" that included the 170-minute "roadshow version," I was hoping that it would be this scrambled version that Ralph screened at the Cinerama.

But it wasn't/isn't.

I can't explain why the print I saw all those many years ago had a different opening - except that, perhaps, at one time, Josh Logan entertained the idea of keeping the film closer to the play and prepared and tested two versions. (I've a hunch that Paul Osborn's original shooting script opened with the Emile-Nellie sequence.)

What confounds me is how Spanish-speaking countries obviously saw a different version than we did - or is this the version that originally opened at the Rivoli in '58 and played for a while before being replaced with the film that's been most widely seen for the past 50 years.

Any theories, Glenn?

BTW, for what it's worth, I think Kline's work on "Camelot" is fine - exquisite, actually - especially for a relatively new cinematographer. I'm sure it must have been an overwhelming experience for him.

But, then, I also have a soft spot for Logan as a director of film. Full disclosure: For reasons that I can't entirely explain, I tend to like all of his stuff. (Tall Story," anyone?)

Glenn Kenny

Fascinating story, Joe. I have no idea how this came to pass, myself. Anybody?

Tom Russell

I've always liked "Paint Your Wagon", though I know full well that to do so is intellectually indefensible. :-)

Tony Dayoub

@michaelgsmith

"It's amazing to me how many people think that Bluray is somehow not an appropriate format for showcasing "classic" films. When I told a friend of mine that I had purchased The Searchers on Bluray, he responded, "Why? It wasn't shot in HD". And this guy is intelligent."

Personally, I think the ONLY thing that justifies Blu-ray is the tremendous improvement on the look of "classic" films over the way they look on standard DVD. Your average contmeporary film has so much already going for it high-def wise already that the improvement on Blu-ray is arguably negligible. I'm thinking of films like "Miami Vice", "Sweeney Todd" or "The Dark Knight". But having recently seen "From Russia With Love" and "Quo Vadis" on Blu-ray, I can tell you each experience was revelatory.

@Glenn,

Really? You don't like "Camelot"? I love this movie, and fell in love with Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere. Please explain your dislike.

michaelgsmith

Tony, I know exactly what you mean. The best looking Bluray in my collection is unquestionably How the West Was Won. Casablanca and The Third Man aren't far behind. The reason? These transfers come SO much closer to approximating the look of 35mm film than DVD ever did.

When it comes to contemporary films, some look amazing (Zodiac, Chungking Express), whereas others are seriously hampered by digital noise reduction and edge enhancement (Pan's Labyrinth, A History of Violence).

I can't wait to see Gigi and An American in Paris.

jbryant

I saw the Todd-AO road show version of Oklahoma! a few years ago at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, introduced by Shirley Jones. It looked fantastic. Sorry to hear the DVD version of same isn't up to snuff.

Glenn Kenny

RE: My dislike for "Camelot:" simply the way it's shot. Those massive closeups filling up one half of the screen, then another...practically unwatchable for me.

Campaspe

South Pacific is my mother's favorite movie. Your screen caps do give me pause, Glenn, but I personally find SP static, lumbering and if it weren't for the glorious score, I might not be able to watch it at all. I have to say that Fanny, which I reviewed back at my place a while ago, was a much more bearable experience. Fanny also abuses the closeup, but to a far lesser degree than the atrocious Camelot. The color filters in South Pacific are HIDEOUS and Logan's boring framing drives me crazy, plus the different shots seem to have been chopped together with a ginsu knife.

Picnic is not bad at all, and even has some genuinely lovely moments (Kim Novak on the barge, the famous dance, and I like the closing shots too) but it seems they are in spite of Logan, not because of him. I remember you commented that the production designer on Picnic also had a great deal to do with its more interesting visuals.

@Tom Russell: I have a weird fondness for Paint Your Wagon too, based solely on the old NY Times TV reviewer's capsule: "Clint sings like a moose." Was ever a performance so perfectly summarized in one line?

Tom Russell

Having not seen Camelot since I was a wee lad, I didn't remember how the close-ups were used and so borrowed the dvd from my local library this evening. I only got a half-hour in-- the extremely petulant and ill-conceived characters, terrible (TERRIBLE!) rhymes, and Richard Harris's eyeshadow, all in that first big scene, were just too much for me-- and so I didn't even get far enough to see the awful intercutting of close-ups that Glenn cites.

So, add me to the contra-Camelot side of the equation, simply because it's awful. Setting aside the fact that basically making the story of Arthur et al into a musical comedy (which is very much what it is at the beginning) is not a particularly sparkling idea (unless you're going to go all-out with it as the Pythons did), there's still the fact that the play and film omit/gloss over the most striking parts of the Arthurian legend to concentrate on a tragic love triangle, the effectiveness of which is seriously undermined by making two out of three into twits. Or, to put it more succintly: "Yeeargh".

Joe

Campaspe: I was told on good authority that the Times capsule writer made a mistake when writing about "Paint Your Wagon." He meant to say that Lee Marvin "sings like a moose" (and he does), but somehow he got mixed up and typed in Eastwood's name. I think it's been corrected in subsequent references. Anyway, I don't understand your comment/question, "Was ever a performance so perfectly summarized in one line?" because, frankly, Eastwood has a very nice singing voice - soothing, not moose-like at all.

Oh, and I can't resist: "Camelor" rocks. There's nothing wrong with it. Nothing. (I know it's blasphemous to like Josh Logan, but I do.)

Glenn Kenny

This thread, I must say, is really making me hope for a Blu-ray or even standard-def DVD of "Camelot" to emerge, so we can have this argument fresh!

Campaspe


@Joe -- Harrumph. Not that I wish to impugn your sources, but the capsule writer, Howard Thompson, passed away a few years back and the Paint Your Wagon review was included in the obit.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/13/arts/howard-thompson-82-writer-of-mini-reviews-for-the-times.html

Now we could of course debate what a moose is supposed to sound like--Bullwinkle? a foghorn? Mike Mazurki?--but the fact is, it was Clint who was so described.

Good on you for coming clean on the Camelot love, though. Confession is good for the soul. I suspect you've forgotten some stuff, however. Surely you could not be remembering Franco Nero (or "Franco Zero" as David Hemmings nicknamed him) when you use the verb "rocks," unless you meant "in his head."

I was going to say that there was no format available or dreamed-of that could make me re-watch Camelot but then I remembered my major girlhood crush Hemmings, and the prospect of seeing him at the height of his pop-eyed beauty does have appeal. I tell you what. When and if it appears on Blu-Ray, we will all three gather at Glenn's place to watch it. But Joe provides the liquor since it's basically his idea.

:D


Fake Armond White

What Logan's naysayers don't understand is that he is quite possibly the greatest film director the American cinema has ever known. The use of color filters in "South Pacific" is a masterstroke, ensuring that we're never lost in or overwhelmed by the film's visual beauty, which enables us to think critically about the carefully-callibrated compositions. Logan's use of color is far superior to that of the overhyped and overloved Minelli, not the least of all because Logan's use of color is inherently democratic while Minelli's is elitist and racist. Minelli's use of color is "faggy", which appeals to liberal white hipsters who want to feel good about having gay friends; Minelli only appeals to hip white hipsters who are so busy being hip that they blind themselves to Logan's power.

Camelot is Logan's masterpiece; it reminds me a bit of Ozu's film "Tokyo Story" in its portrait of romantic disappointment. Only Logan is far superior to Ozu.

If you don't love Camelot, you don't love movies.

Campaspe

oh all right Fake AW, you can come to the Hypothetical Blu-Ray Camelot party too, but you have to bring the canapés.

sara

That shot of Mitzi Gaynor is absolutely gorgeous. I wish I had a TV and DVD player that could do it justice, because I adore South Pacific, and only own it on VHS. The Oklahoma DVD that came out a few years ago (for the 50th anniversary, I think? Same time as 2-disc sets of State Fair and The Sound of Music) was really lovely as well.

Back when I was in high school, I was watching Turner Classics' 30 Days of Oscar quite late at night, and they showed a version of my very favorite movie of all time, ever, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, that was entirely different from the version I'd been watching all my life. It took me until the DVD release to realize that they'd showed the widescreen version - entirely separate takes from what was eventually put on VHS. There was like 15% more movie. It was life-altering.

Pat

To "Campaspe." I find that men who look like David Hemmings (or at least the way he used to look when he was alive) tend to have derisive opinions of men who look like Franco Nero.

Glenn Kenny

No fair, Pat. At the time Hemmings and Nero worked together, David was a blonde god. And Nero himself has expressed regret that his surly attitude and poor command of English (embarassment over the latter frequently exacerbating the former) alienated his English co-stars of the era.

Joe

The "Camelot" Blu-Ray bash sounds great, Campaspe, and, yes, the faux Armond White must attend - but only if Glenn approves the whole thing and only if you promise not to make snarky, derisive comments during the screening. Deal?

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