My Two Cents
Friday, 30 May 2014 16:07

More on The Alamo (UPDATED 5/31), plus Captain America: Winter Soldier & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. announced

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[Editor’s Note: The section of text below regarding The Alamo has been updated on 5/31 to reflect important corrected information. Please give it another read to ensure that you have the most accurate/updated info.]

We’re closing out the week here at The Bits today with some big announcement news for you Marvel Universe fans, as well as an update on the situation with The Alamo.

But first, our own Bud Elder has turned in a new View from the Cheap Seats column in which he talks about location scouting in his native Oklahoma and takes a look at a great new book on John Wayne. He also spotlights some of the better recent classic film releases on disc from Olive, Twilight and more. By the way, you can listen to quick movie reviews from Bud on 104.5 KRXO radio in Oklahoma City. So don’t miss the column and be sure to give Bud’s Movie Minute a listen on the radio and online. [Read on here…]

All right, the big announcement news today is that Disney has just set Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier for Blu-ray and DVD release on 9/9. There will be a Blu-ray 3D Combo, a Blu-ray Combo and a DVD release (SRP $39.99, $32.99 and $29.99). Unfortunately, there’s no One-Shot short film this time, but you will get audio commentary with the filmmakers, a number of “making of” featurettes, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and more.

But Disney’s not done yet: They’ve also announced the Blu-ray and DVD release of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete First Season on 9/9 (SRP $79.99), featuring all 22 episodes plus audio commentaries with the filmmakers and cast, the Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe TV special, the Journey Into S.D.C.C. featurette, 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (including The Malibu Jump, The Bridge, Asgardian Bar Fight, Classified, and Cello Duet), VFX Breakdowns, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.

Here’s a look the cover artwork for both titles (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cover artwork is now the final version). Pre-orders are going up on Amazon now…

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray 3D Combo)    Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Disc)    Marvel's Agents of SHIELD: Season One (Blu-ray Disc)

Now then… let’s get to that update on The Alamo. Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere has picked up the story and offered a few more details. Our friends at The Home Theater Forum have also joined the effort to encourage MGM to allow the restoration to proceed.

[Editor’s Note: This this section has been updated for accuracy with information directly from Robert Harris as of 5/31.]

According to Robert, all versions of The Alamo are currently endangered. The film’s original 65mm elements are essentially gone, both for the 202-minute roadshow version and the 167-minute cut down version. The roadshow version could possibly still be salvaged in a half-decent home video version, but it's no longer possible to restore it to anything remotely like original quality. Sadly, the same is also true of the 167-minute version created by UA, because the original negatives can no longer be printed to anything viewable. According to Robert: “All that remains [of The Alamo] are old 35mm dupes, which do not represent the film as a large format epic, and even those elements are less than stellar.”

Interestingly, in response to e-mails and “tweets” from cinephiles on this issue, Trish Francis, MGM’s senior VP for Library Rights Management, has issued this statement: “Thank you for your email. I have spoken with our Technical Services staff who assured me that the film is not in danger of being lost. They proactively and routinely monitor and assess the condition of the various elements of all of MGM’s films and take steps as needed to protect and preserve them. The film is a valuable part of film history and naturally want to protect it. We appreciate your interest in THE ALAMO. it. I will mention your concerns to the appropriate people.”

Here’s the problem with that statement: There are few people with more knowledge and expertise on film preservation than Robert A. Harris. Among the classic film restorations that Robert has supervised are: Lawrence of Arabia (in 1989, done with the involvement of director David Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young), Spartacus (in 1991), My Fair Lady (in 1994), Vertigo (in 1996), Rear Window (in 1998), The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II (in 2006, done with the involvement of director Francis Ford Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis), and most recently It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (in 2013). Those of you who have seen these restorations will know one thing: Robert has abundant experience on this issue. What’s more, Robert has very recently examined the extant 35mm dupe elements for The Alamo in MGM’s possession and has conducted tests to both determine their condition and determine what the best possible outcome of a restoration would be. His conclusion is that the elements are very close to having deteriorating beyond saving. As we’ve said recently, if a restoration were started right now, the best result would be just 60% of original quality. The reason for this is that restoration has been needed for a number of years (since at least 2009, per Robert’s column at the time), but MGM has continued to delay, during which time the photochemical element degradation has continued unchecked. In any case, The Alamo preserved at 60% is far better than the film being lost entirely.

Now… it’s widely understood that MGM is in a difficult position financially. And while The Alamo is important from a cinema history standpoint for any number of reasons, it’s not usually considered among the studio’s A-list classics. So I can understand completely that MGM may feel they just can’t afford to invest the money to do a proper restoration at this time. That’s a sad situation, but I get it – I am entirely sympathetic to that argument. It’s understandable. The problem is this: There have been efforts to fund this restoration with outside monies, at no cost to MGM. And there has been interest in doing so from outside parties. But MGM has chosen not to allow it, seemingly in an effort to save themselves the embarrassment that would result from essentially admitting that they can’t or don’t want to put up the money themselves.

How can MGM studio executives possibly think that the embarrassment of letting outside parties fund the restoration of The Alamo is worse than the shame that will surely result from letting the film be lost on their watch?

Anyway, that’s where things sit at the moment. Our hope is that MGM will finally relent in letting outside parties fund the restoration effort, and then ride the positive PR that would result from having done so and finally issuing a proper Blu-ray and DVD release of the roadshow version.

Bottom line: Either The Alamo will be saved… or it won’t. From both a PR standpoint and that of preserving our Hollywood film heritage, only one of those outcomes is positive. Let’s hope MGM comes to its senses in time.

You can reach MGM Studios on Facebook here. Tell MGM to save John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) from being lost on Twitter: @MGM_Studios (use #savethealamo).

That’s all for now. More as it comes in. In the meantime, have a good weekend.

- Bill Hunt

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