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Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies,rec.video.releases From: moriarty@tc.fluke.COM (Jeff Meyer) Subject: Summary of American Moving Image Archivists screening, 12/8/93 Message-ID: <1993Jan24.071916.10547@tc.fluke.COM> Summary: Summary of restored and discovered films shown at AMIA Screening Keywords: AMIA, film restoration and archival Organization: The John Fluke Mfg. Co. /a.k.a. The Gizmonics Institute/ Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1993 07:19:16 GMT Lines: 224

Sometimes, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and are alerted to it by the right person. A very good friend I was visiting in Palo Alto last December pointed out that David Packard's Stanford theatre (the nicest movie theater on the face of the earth in appearance, restoration and choice of viewing matter, as far as I'm concerned; it's one of the two things I would move up from the Bay area to Seattle if I could) was hosting the American Moving Image Archivists members' clips from current subjects they were working on. The AMIA is made up of professionals who root out, restore and/or archive rare and significant films or television programs (on video or kinescope recordings); one of the members that will be best-known to film and video enthusiasts is the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Anyway, the AMIA was having it's annual convention, and after their dinner, David Packard had offered them the use of the Stanford for showing the "crown jewels" of their current projects to each other. However, he had stipulated that members of the public could attend (for free!!), and printed it up in the Stanford program. My friend, knowing of my mania for film history and restoration techniques (I collect laserdiscs; 'nuff said), generously offered to accompany me there for the evening. We arrived to the theater to discover that maybe 10 other Stanford film buffs had decided to attend. We had the pleasure of sitting and reading the AMIA program for the evening for 20 minutes while listening to one of the Stanford's talented organists played various tunes on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, until the AMIA members (dressed in tuxes and evening gowns) appeared. We felt a little guilty to have copped the best seats in the house from the paying members -- but not too much. BTW, the Stanford is one of the last places on earth that has kept the art of a dramatic curtain-up for film. It is a pleasure to experience.

Here's a rundown of the most interesting (to me) things we saw that evening; those interested in film preservation and restoration (as well as those in the video community wondering what new restored prints of films may appear on video) will be interested, I think. Each member's clip was limited to about 8 to 10 minutes, I believe.

*  The two opening shorts (from the San Francisco State University Library
   and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, respectively) were
   travelogues, the first from 1939 San Francisco, the second one of MGM's
   publicity records of the grand opening of GRAND HOTEL from 1932.  The
   restoration on the latter was particularly impressive; however, outside
   of seeing various famous actors and actresses in a less "handled" manner
   than publicity shorts that came later, these were less interesting than
   what followed.  (I had hoped to see a clip of something more interesting
   from UCLA.)
*  A company called Wolfson Media Center in Miami came up with a
   highly-amusing clip from a Miami news program from 1962 called FYI.  The
   film was made in 1962, two months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was
   made up of on-the-street interviews with New Yorkers, asking them if
   they planned to change their plans to vacation in Miami after the
   problems with Cuba.  The reporter was rather flowery in his speech, and
   the audience enjoyed it greatly; I was impressed to see how some of
   the smaller AMIA members, with less material to choose from, had an eye
   for something that, if not massively significant to film restoration,
   was entertaining to those attending the screening.
*  Hollywood Vaults, Inc., is a public storage facility for storing film
   and tape in secure, safe vaults.  One of their clients is the estate of
   Abbott and Costello, who gave permission to show a wonderful sketch
   performed live on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1952, and saved on
   kinescope.  It is titled "The Diamond Necklace", and while one of the
   classic vaudeville acts, is accentuated by a sound man who had some
   trouble sticking to his cues -- which provides a good deal of
   unintentional humor, and has Bud and Lou almost losing it live, on
   nationwide television.
*  Southwest Film / Video Archives has discovered a print of Alfred
   Hitchcock's directing debut, THE PLEASURE GARDEN (they mention that a
   prior film, a 2-reeler, was never finished.)  It is a silent production
   of a morality play, about two showgirls.  As one would expect from a
   first production, little about it hints at the director's future, but
   the opening credits are extremely striking.  According to records, the
   only other print in the world of this film is in the British Film
   Institute (along with "unidentified material" in the Belgian Film
   Archives.) 
*  WGBH Education Foundation provided a host of early 60's video programs
   on public station WGBH; WGBH is currently evaluating what to do with a
   large amount of videotaped shows from their early years, which are
   nearing the end of their shelf life.  Some fast clips from their
   archives that were shown: early Julia Childs "French Chef" episodes (I
   cannot watch these with a straight face after seeing Dan Ackroyd do
   Julia Childs on SNL years ago); a monologue (to the camera) by Jean
   Shepard; an interview from 1963 with James Baldwin; a speech by JFK at
   Amherst College in 1963; a special in 1964 on Robert Frost; "What's
   Happening, Mr. Silver", a 60's counter-culture program done by various
   lights of that generation, with tons of psychedelic montages and
   round-table discussions between noted revolutionaries (I could swear one
   was Abbie Hoffman, but I'm not sure) -- it all was rather embarrassingly
   dated; a conversation with Muhammad Ali in 1968; and James Brown performing
   at the Boston Garden, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
   Very interesting stuff, to be sure.
*  The Museum of Modern Art showed the ending of ON THE WATERFRONT, from a
   new restored print initiated by the Sony-Columbia preservation program.
   The negative it was restored from had extensive sound damage.  The sound
   and picture quality of the restored print we saw was absolutely
   top-drawer. 
*  Eastman Kodak had brought in test films of their new digital film-making
   process; it opened with voice-overs by James Cameron and Harlan
   Ellinshaw describing how this would open up film-making into amazing new
   vistas.  Unfortunately, Kodak under-estimated how much time they had to
   show their process at the screening, and showed the comparison of color
   between normal 35mm film and digital film-making (point: no difference
   to my eye), but ran out of time before showing the special effects
   capabilities of their digital process, which is really the reason d'etre
   of the whole shebang.
   
*  The Chicago Historical Society had come across an amusing kinescope of
   Kukla, Fran & Ollie describing how a kinescope works.  Much spoofing of
   technical film and video terms, and the techies in the audience had a
   great time.  Much fun for us rubes, as well.
*  The Japanese American National Museum had transferred a video program
   (shown in the museum on multiple laser discs) of home movies taken by
   first-generation Japanese Americans of their life in San Francisco and
   Tacoma, Washington during the late 1920's and early 1930s.  A bit long,
   but fascinating stuff, particularly as one does not see much "home movie"
   footage from the late 20's these days.
*  The National Archives of Canada had two subjects, both amusing and
   educational: the first was a short news clip describing their trip to
   Australia where the CBC had discoved the last remaining evidence of a
   device described as the (I believe) "Blatnerphone" -- one of the
   earliest examples of recording audio on magnetic tape.  A spool of the
   tape which had recorded CBC broadcasts during World War II had been
   found there, and they were anxious to find out what was on it.
   Apparently Lorne Greene was a newsreader for the BBC during WWII, and
   there has never been any recorded record of his reports during the war.
   However, the news clip never explained if Greene's voice was found or
   not.
   The second was a clip from a 1920 silent film called "Something New"; it
   was a typical silent western from the period, except for one thing: the
   film had almost entirely been financed by the Maxwell car company.
   Thus, the standard plot of such a melodrama (heroine gets kidnapped by
   outlaw villain, who has despicable plans for her, while hero rides to
   the rescue) is altered by one thing; instead of searching for the
   outlaws' hideout (situated in a boulder-strewn no-man's-land) on
   horseback, the stalwart young lad sallys forth in -- yes, you guessed it
   -- a Maxwell automobile.  I will admit that the car seems pretty durable
   (the actor takes it into place I wouldn't go in a Land Rover), but it's
   a bit difficult to generate suspense when the hero seems to be
   riding to the rescue at a speed of about 40 feet every 10 minutes.  The
   hero's dog, sitting in the back seat of the Maxwell, looks seasick even
   in black-and-white.  Halfway through the show, David Packard motioned
   to the organist to accompany it, and he did a wonderful job of it,
   considering he'd never seen the film.  Everyone in the crowd was rolling
   -- an excellent choice.  [My favorite line: as the villain tries to
   convince the heroine to compromise her virtue, she valiantly turns up
   her nose, and the caption card reads "Never!  I'm an American!"  Next
   time, cast Madonna.]
*  The West Virginia State Archives, as you might expect, doesn't have
   anything of huge significance to the history of film; but they did show
   a number of interesting restored films of people camping in West
   Virginia during the 30's.  (Along with an amusing 1966 UFO story.)
*  The International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House came up
   with two extremely interesting finds.  First, last August, a fellow
   walked into George Eastman House in Rochester and dropped off three
   reels of nitrate film from *1903*, all made by the Edison Film Company,
   and all in nearly perfect condition.  The two that were particularly
   exciting to hear about were a George Melies film "Une Indigestion / Up-
   To-Date Surgery", which we watched (lots of jump-cut special effects,
   just what you'd expect from Melies, but very charming); and an
   immaculate print of THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, which we didn't get a
   chance to see.  Yowsah!
   The other find was a collection of samples from a French company named
   the Caumont Film Company, which developed, in 1913, an additive color
   process, Gaumont Chronochromes, and made a number of test films to sell
   the system.  I quote from the program: "Chronochromes have three black
   and white (YCM), wide-screen images (1:1.66) on a single strip of film
   which, through a system of filters and mirrors, were projected with a
   special Gaumont Chronochrome projector to produce a color image on the
   screen."  It appears to be an early twist on three-strip Technicolor;
   however, the results were very unusual in the clip we saw.  A woman in
   the latest fashion of the day was seated; she and her surroundings were
   a rather sepia-colored tone, but the hat on here head, and her blouse
   and skirt, were colored in very bright, almost neon colors.  It reminded
   me of a moving black-light poster.  George Eastman House says they have
   other Gaumont Chronochrome titles (approximately 30), and plan to
   restore them all.
 * Turner Entertainment finished up the official program for the evening,
   with a sequence from THE WIZARD OF OZ where the clip cut between
   three-strip Technicolor, and Eastman Color.  I could almost always tell
   when they'd switched from Eastman Color to Technicolor, but had more
   trouble determining when they switched back to Eastman Color.
   Interesting. 
 * An unannounced item at the end (along with the Blatnerphone clip):
   someone (I don't know who) is restoring Sam Pekinpah' MAJOR DUNDEE -- a
   full restoration of the director's cut, putting in much of the scenes
   that were cut out before it got to the viewer.  However, the project is
   in the very early stages.  The clips we saw were gorgeous, though.

The AMIA conference opened with David Packard jokingly announcing that the only way he had allowed the AMIA to put that "damned video equipment" (the videotape projectors which projected the videotaped parts of the presentations on the big screen) was that he got to show a 35mm restored clip of the "Sheik of Araby" sequence from TIN PAN ALLEY -- the one with The Nicholas Brothers do absolutely amazing tap-dancing, and Betty Grable and Alice Faye giving the boo-ba-doo treatment to Jack Oakie in the title role of the bit. Absolutely immaculate, and using black-and-white film to an almost luminescent effect. An excellent way to end a very interesting evening; Palo Alto is lucky to have the Stanford, and David Packard.

                          DAVE BARRY'S 1992 IN REVIEW -- February 7th
                             "President Bush, responding to allegations
                              that his use of the potent sleeping-pill
                              Halcion has caused him to act erratically,
                              angrily tells reporters that they are `big
                              Methodist spiders.'"

---

                                       Moriarty, aka Jeff Meyer

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