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October 31, 2009


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The Siren

Despite my (very) low opinion of Rand as a writer and a human being, I would love to see this movie if only for la grande Alida. And as you say, it has a great deal of historical interest. However, this passage had this here preservation-lover warier than a setter on point:

"Duncan Scott, who produced the DVD release, explains how as a young editor he talked his way into recutting and subtitling the film alongside Ayn Rand herself. WTL had originally been released as two separate films. They combined them, trimmed away some of the excess, and removed or redubbed pro-fascist propaganda speeches inserted at the insistence of the authorities.

"Scott tells how in the original version, Andrei delivered a heated diatribe against the evils of capitalism. Needless to say, this speech didn’t exactly belong. Not content merely to change the subtitles, Scott actually hired a sound-a-like Italian actor so he could redub the voice track in Italian to match the new subtitles."

Um, excuse me fellas. Let's say I decided to excise this speech in Objective, Burma!: "They're degenerate, immoral idiots. Stinking little savages. Wipe them out, I say. Wipe them off the face of the earth." Because after all, post-Holocaust, genocide advocacy "doesn't exactly belong."

Or I wanna re-write some of the intertitles in Birth of a Nation.

Or I have decided to re-dub the dialogue in Mission to Moscow because "the authorities" made them put in all that stuff about Russia invaded Finland in order to save it.

That okay too? No? Didn't think so.

I'm interested in this film as it was released, not as Ms Rand and her acolytes decided to sanitize it years after the fact. It's got fascist stuff in there that is supposedly inconsistent with her philosophy? I'll be the judge of that, thanks. And no, I don't think it's analogous to re-releases such as Touch of Evil--for one thing, I can still see the original cut of that one if I so choose.

Anyhoo. Great post Glenn, and the picture of Alida made my weekend.


It's actually a great example of Rand's principles in action more than you realize: we live in a world where obscure Italian giallos get fancy digital remasters. In other words, whoever this guy is, he's just too fucking cheap to remaster and he knows that his audience will buy the movie anyway. Finally, Star Wars fans and Ayn Rand fans have common ground.


The Siren has difficulty with that complex activity known as "reading."

The artists who made the film did not want the anti-capitalistic propaganda; it was forced - and incongruously tacked on - by the "authorities" in Mussolini's Italy. Getting rid of it restored the film - which is a condemnation of totalitarianism in all of its forms - to what Rand and the Italian filmmakers originally intended.


Why wouldn't you want to release the movie in the "director's cut" or "Ayn Rand cut" instead of the "Fascist censor cut"?

I could understand finding and subbing the Fascist footage as a DVD extra, but I can't understand thinking that would be a truer version of the original vision.


hey. I am one of those Instapundit people and am happy I was directed to your site... Though I am a big fan of Rand, I am a much bigger fan of film and proper restoration. To alter anyone's original vision on a film especially after those in question have passed is criminal. I completely agree with your idea of a proper transfer. Criterion would have given us a restored version of the original with a pristine transfer and added a second disc with the newly dubbed version as well as plenty of interviews and even a documentary on Rand... sadly that won't happen. I have never seen this film, but if it is altered in any way I will not be buying it, or even netflixing it. Shame.


Just FYI: "Money quote" is a bit of newsroom jargon, and it's been around at least as long as I've been in newspapering, which is a long, long time. (Christ, it's 2009 already, isn't it?)

So Andrew Sullivan didn't coin it. Well, theoretically, I suppose he could have, but he would have done it as an un- or little-known Brit with no presence in the daily news biz, which would make it a pretty magnificent feat!

Glenn Kenny

@ Christopher: I know it's used (or used to be used) around newsrooms a lot, and my understanding (and this might just be because I went wrong somewhere in life) is that it derived from the porn-industry phrase "money shot." In any event, Sullivan uses it pretty much to death, to the extent that one can come to believe he owns it.


The fact that we can now confuse a "money quote" with a "money shot" may say something about bloggers, probably says a lot about journalists, and scripts every last jot and tittle of Sullivan.


Oh yeah, it's for sure a play on the term "money shot." I can say that these days it's deployed with less frequency, now that newsrooms have become more corporate and, um, sterile.

We can agree that Sullivan has popularized it, certainly.

Stephen Macklin

I guess your opinion of the edits have a good deal to do with whether your interest is in the film as made or in a film of Ayn Rand's novel. For historical accuracy and interest I would like to see the original with the pro-fascist content inserted at the command of the Mussolini government.

I would also enjoy seeing the corrected version and I don't fault the editor or Rand for it's creation.


People here seem to be commenting without proper knowledge of the history of the film.This film was made without Ayn Rand'd knowledge or permission and hence amounted to theft of her intellectual property. When Rand saw the film, she was livid that her book was used for anti-Semitic propaganda. There were legal proceedings which were settled out of court with rand getting paid and getting editorial control whcih she properly exercised. I'd suggest the author of this blog get some facts first before trying his snark.

The Siren

Brian, I have difficulty with nothing except your tone. I am aware of the history of this film. I am interested in it as it was released, not as some post-production pastiche.

Whether or not the Fascist content of We the Living was entirely imposed from without is debatable, as Alessandrini had been working under the Italian government for many years and won awards from Mussolini-controlled film festivals. My point, which apparently requires more direct phrasing, is that many films are made under the heel of censors, Fascist and otherwise. Many films contain things that offend those who wrote the source material. Many films are made via outright theft of source material. Many films include things that offend later viewers. Film history cannot be properly preserved if people decide to re-cut old movies to adapt to afterthoughts, and then withhold the original. That is my objection.

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