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April 04, 2010

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The First Bill C

For what it's worth, I do know that Paramount has archived COMMANDMENTS in HiDef; that version screened for I believe the first time last night on ABC, and looked seriously beautiful. I'm not sure why they haven't put it on Blu-ray yet, as it's one of the studio's perennial best-sellers. Unfortunately, with these all-digital restorations, it's become more and more common to not strike any prints.

jasctt

Ah, yet another reason to make me ponder a move to NYC.

Ryan Kelly

Lovely piece, Glenn. I've had the privilege of seeing a handful of films there, as well, and the experience is every bit as magical as you describe. I grew up in the age of the multiplex, and it's very unique for me to go to a theater where the movie theater itself is a part of the experience as much as the movie is. The vintage movie posters as you walk in, like the one you have pictured, is a great treat as well. Unfortunately I work Saturday in the early afternoon, and can't go as often as I like (it's only like a half hour drive from Fort Lee, well worth it), but when there's something I can't resist I'll get our of work and go (I'm torn between "The Man Who Knew Too Much", and "The Red Shoes" two weeks following. Unfortunately I'll have to pick one!). I've seen "North by Northwest", "King Kong", and "Vertigo" at the Lafayette, not experiences I'd ever trade.

colinr

I'm jealous of course! Did they do SuperVistaVision versions of other films, such as the Hitchcock remake, or was Ten Commandments the only one to receive such treatment?

lipranzer

Lovely tribute to the theater, but I can't get behind the "if you don't get DeMille, you don't get motion pictures" idea. Granted, I'm always going to fall on the content side of "form vs. content," but that content in most of DeMille's pictures is always an issue with me, even in his non-Biblical films. I mean, we're talking about the director who made a not only boring but wretched movie about the circus, which in theory should be impossible.

Glenn Kenny

Interesting question, Colin! It's got a two-pronged answer. When Paramount made this version of "Commandments," it was under the impression that it was coining the term "Super VistaVision." In point of fact, in 1954 a man named Frank Caldwell devised a three-35mm-frame process that aspired to Cinerama-ness. It underwent a couple more name changes, but no features were produced with it.

The Harris/Katz restoration of "Vertigo" was kind of a Super VistaVision project, as the VistaVision feature was transferred to 70mm, but in this case the original aspect ratio was preserved.

@ Lipranzer: Yes, "Greatest Show" is a train wreck, train wreck aside. But consider "Why Change Your Husband?" Or "Sign of the Cross." Or "Four Frightened People..."

James Russell

Or his 1927 King of Kings, which I watched the other day. It is indeed the polar opposite of Bresson, and I for one am glad of that fact.

Anthony Thorne

That all looks great. The only cinema in Melbourne I think that compares is the Astor cinema, which William Friedkin raved about while he was down here screening a new print of SORCERER. Before reading the blog proper, the messiah title made me think it was going to be about Verhoeven's new JESUS OF NAZARETH hardcover.

A restored Blu of COMMANDMENTS would be very nice.

Pete Apruzzese

Glenn -

Thank you for the write-up about our show at the Lafayette, glad you enjoyed the presentation.

THE FUTURIST!

THE FUTURIST! has seen quite a few films at The Lafayette.
A very memorable viewing was last year or the year before ...
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. IT was splendid.

He, also,saw HOUSE OF WAX in 3D, PSYCHO (during their fabulous Halloween weekend festivals), FRANKENSTEIN (1931), THE BIRDS and Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It is ALWAYS pure fun and a mental escape. Bravo, Commander Kenny! This was a surprising and great piece.

Cadavra

Glad to hear the Lafayette's back in operation.

As it happens, I'm the perpetrator of "SuperVistaVision," which I coined off of SuperScope, which was pretty much the same concept. It turned out there already was an anamorphic negative, prepared in part because DeMille took so long to shoot the film that the studio felt they needed a back-up plan. We printed up several test sections, including the Red Sea, and it all looked spectacular, so I bit the bullet and went with it. (For an additional fillip, I had them print DeMille's intro in 1.33, then mask the Paramount logo to that size and then open up the matting as the music came in. It was a great effect and usually got applause.) Yes, there were a handful of cropped shots (notably Hardwicke's pointed crown), but in a nearly four-hour movie, it was a more than acceptable trade-off. As for the opening credits, the heraldic borders match the CinemaScope frame line (deliberately, no doubt), so if they had to reframe, they're probably overscanning.

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