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uncknown
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« on: December 17, 2008, 04:22:10 PM »

Yeah, this is olde news, but a couple of other threads have rekindled the debate over the  MGM "restored' Leone films.
I wrote this for a magazine (remember them?) back in "04. it is based on the theatrical release, the dvd had not yet been issued Huh
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THE FILM RESTORATION
 
I was fortunate enough to  see the re-released version of the film in San Francisco last Summer [2003]
How great it was to see a new, clean print after  years of suffering through ragged prints at revival houses. Leone's style especially demands to be seen on a big screen. His compositions favor close-ups and long shots and the Techniscope process, which uses less than half the 35mm film frame, is not well suited to the small screen.
 
This new version contains scenes that were only included in the Italian version. To insert them into the US version the actors had to dub their lines into English for the first time. Lee Van Cleef is no longer with us so a voice actor dubbed him, and did so very well. Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood dubbed their own voices and maybe in Eastwoods's case an impersonator might have been a better idea. His raspy, modern day voice just does not match his mid-sixties one, making his new scenes a bit jarring.
One of the new  scenes, where Tuco recruits gunmen to kill Blondie,  was never even in the Italian version. It should have stayed out. However, the scene where Angel Eyes visits a Confederate fort seeking information about the missing gold cache was a welcome addition.
 
Now we get to the crux of the matter. One of my big beefs with these restorations is the treatment of the soundtrack. G, B, U has a mono soundtrack. In a situation analogous to the colorizing of black & white films, film companies feel a need to soup- up older soundtracks with Dolby Digital overkill. The gunshots in this new version sound like cannons going off. Panning sound effects are produced by dropping out a speaker a la the old Perspecta sound system. And, do we really need the voices bouncing all over the screen as characters move about? At least the surrounds were kept to a minimum; only noticeable when the bridge was blown up.
I don't really mind them stereoizing the music, especially with such a great score. However, that too can pose some problems. First you need the music in stereo, then it has to sync up. In this instance, only some scenes could overlay new stereo music tracks.
Unfortunately, this trend seems to be with us to stay. The best we can hope for is that the dvd retains the original mono soundtrack(done with Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST) as an optional alternate to the "re-mastered in 5.1" track.
 

« Last Edit: December 17, 2008, 08:09:28 PM by uncknown » Logged

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My article on the restoration of the The Big Gundown
http://thekinskifiles.blogspot.com/2009/01/cinemaretro-13-big-gundown.html
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2009, 11:43:21 AM »

Quote
One of the new  scenes, where Tuco recruits gunmen to kill Blondie,  was never even in the Italian version. It should have stayed out
I have to disagree with that, as it clarifies the later scene where Tuco sends those guys to the hotel room to deal with Blondie... with the predictable outcome of course Wink

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2009, 01:55:12 PM »

Quote
One of the new  scenes, where Tuco recruits gunmen to kill Blondie, was never even in the Italian version.
My understanding is that it was part of the print screened at the Roman premier, but subsequently edited out for general release. So saying it was "never" in the Italian version isn't strictly accurate. Anyway, if MGM hadn't put the grotto scene back in and the fans found out about it there would have been an outcry.

I have mixed feelings about the scene. It isn't essential, but it's fun. The gunsmith's scene isn't essential, either, but I'm glad it's in there. In this case, more is better. GBU is a film I wish were twice as long: I hope they keep finding stuff to put back in (maybe they could do a CGI rendering of the missing Socorro sequence). By it's very structure, highly digressive and with a plot that leisurely unfolds (Tuco and Blondie don't even learn about the gold coins until an hour goes by), the film can support almost any number of "extra" scenes. May they continue to be unearthed.

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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2009, 01:37:39 AM »

I love the Grotto scene. I just think that the new dubbing and dialogue is crap. It makes the scene look second rate. The sniggers dubbed over the cuts to the bandit's faces is just embarrassing. And as if the original script would have a line like "yeah, and people talk b*llshit..." It's just so out of place.
No, it's not an essential scene but visually it does it for me every time. The same can be said for the added scene in the desert where Tuco is washing his feet. It looks great but the new dubbing is sh*t. It's all out of sync and just sounds horrible.

Personally I would welcome any new found stuff. Just not necessarily stuck into the film, best as an extra.
Seeing different angles and stuff in the French trailer gave me goose-pimples when I first saw it. The same can be said for the film in general. How does that happen? Love it....

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cigar joe
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2009, 06:30:17 AM »

They would have been better off with voice impresionists for Eastwood & Wallach much like they did with Van Cleef's restored scenes. Prehaps in future editions this will be addressed/corrected.

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2009, 11:00:17 AM »

The dubbing is less an issue with me now. If I want to watch the maxed out version I select the Italian dub. If I want to watch the film in English, I opt for the U.S. theatrical cut with the original English soundtrack.

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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2009, 11:20:02 AM »

I think the issue with the dubbing is quite sad, considering the once in a lifetime opportunity they had to do it right. I suspect it has to do with John Kirk's steadfast stance on using analog technology as opposed to digital techniques (he refused to use any digital means to restore GBU. I think this has more to do with his fear/ignorance of the technology than anything-which is why the "restored" film is full of dirt that could have been easliy removed ) . I suspect that if the film had been restored digitally, the sync would have been much better (for instance you can stretch words without effecting the pitch etc to fit their lips). In some cases though, it's really evident they didn't even TRY to match the lips of the actors, I myself can lipread what they're supposed to be saying, and in a lot of cases they're making something up that's quite different. That's just a lazy/poorly done job. I also think they manipulated (as stated in the interviews on the dvd) the voices way too much to make them sound "younger" but instead made them sound poorly recorded. I'm hoping the BLU-ray will have a branching option to choose the original cut as many new blu-rays have used this quite effectively.  It's just a sad case of the wrong person making the creative decisions in the restoration process (the same thing happened with the recent restoration of Superman 2). They should have used Mickey Knox to do the dubbing sessions (who I met personally a couple of years ago and who was certainly still capable of doing the job) Sigh....what could have been....

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moviesceleton
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2009, 01:03:40 PM »

I'm not saying anything about the sound but I can understand keeping things analog when it comes to the picture. I'm not an expert but I'd suspect that the only way you can "remove" anything from the film digitally is to paint it over. So that's not really removing, is it? I've used this parable before: That's like painting your ass white instead of wiping it. I'm not afraid to admit my fears towards digital technology. Have you seen the "restored" version of the original Star Wars trilogy. Makes you want to puke.

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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2009, 01:20:16 PM »

Well to be fair, John Kirk did the right thing by first painstakingly restoring the picture analog, but then didn't follow it up by removing dirt and scratches (which can only be done digitally). Not to completely disagree with you, but do you really think Leone "intended" to have dirt and scratches? Star Wars is a completely different comparison because they added new elements to the picture (and re-color corrected it). That's completely different than what I'm talking about. When they remove dirt etc, they simply clone a piece of the same image (sometimes from the frame before or after) so they're not really introducing anything new. In the new italian blu-ray of fistful, all the original negative scratches from the cemetary gunfight have been removed, which I think improves the scene because you're not distracted by the unintended scratches. True that in the 60's this would have been impossible, but surely Leone would have wanted the scratches removed if he had been able to do so back then.


I'm not saying anything about the sound but I can understand keeping things analog when it comes to the picture. I'm not an expert but I'd suspect that the only way you can "remove" anything from the film digitally is to paint it over. So that's not really removing, is it? I've used this parable before: That's like painting your ass white instead of wiping it. I'm not afraid to admit my fears towards digital technology. Have you seen the "restored" version of the original Star Wars trilogy. Makes you want to puke.

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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2009, 01:32:03 PM »

Well to be fair, John Kirk did the right thing by first painstakingly restoring the picture analog, but then didn't follow it up by removing dirt and scratches (which can only be done digitally). Not to completely disagree with you, but do you really think Leone "intended" to have dirt and scratches? Star Wars is a completely different comparison because they added new elements to the picture (and re-color corrected it). That's completely different than what I'm talking about. When they remove dirt etc, they simply clone a piece of the same image (sometimes from the frame before or after) so they're not really introducing anything new. In the new italian blu-ray of fistful, all the original negative scratches from the cemetary gunfight have been removed, which I think improves the scene because you're not distracted by the unintended scratches. True that in the 60's this would have been impossible, but surely Leone would have wanted the scratches removed if he had been able to do so back then.
Of course Leone didn't want his films to have scratches. I used Star Wars as an extreme example of what can happen if people fall in love with the new technology too much. What I'm after here is that it's really a fine line between restoring and modifying (or "upgrading"). Know what I mean? How much can you "correct" and still keep it the same film? But I'm sure they did the GBU restoration in the right spirit and wanted to serve the film honestly. And thanks, your post was informative Afro

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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2009, 03:19:58 PM »

Of course Leone didn't want his films to have scratches. I used Star Wars as an extreme example of what can happen if people fall in love with the new technology too much. What I'm after here is that it's really a fine line between restoring and modifying (or "upgrading"). Know what I mean? How much can you "correct" and still keep it the same film? But I'm sure they did the GBU restoration in the right spirit and wanted to serve the film honestly. And thanks, your post was informative Afro

I think you and I are in complete agreement in terms of properly maintaining the original vision when you restore a film (but when I say "restore" I specifically mean removing meaningless things like dirt etc (unless they were intended) bringing color back to its original intent etc.

A little more controversial are small changes like removing visible fx wires, fixing continuity mistakes, etc (for instance on the dvd release of raiders, they erased the cobra reflection in the glass when indy falls in front of it- that I don't mind, because it certainly was something they would have fixed had they had the technology in 1981, but then again you could use that same argument in the wrong way, like Lucas does for justifying all his changes)

What you and I are in agreement on is when they start going nuts on the film, adding fx or changing the story with newly shot footage, (i.e. star wars or even thx-1138, e.t. etc) that's stepping over the line.

However, I firmly believe that digital restoration tools are giving us our favorite films in a presentation that sometimes is better than what they looked like in the theatre. (for example the new Godfather blu-ray had a team that painstakingly fixed a lab-induced color/negative error in the restaurant scene- the scene itself hasn't changed, but from shot to shot it matches better and the damage to the negative has been removed). In some cases, new cuts that are closer to what the director intended are now offered because of the digital technology available (for instance the new version of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in the new apes boxset restores violence and the original ending for the first time to the film, which in my opinion GREATLY improves the impact of the film as whole, although the original version is still available to watch on the disk) Also, the greatly debated newer cut of Touch of Evil attempts to conform to Welles original intention. (and again they have done the right thing by including BOTH versions). To reconstruct films like these in an analog world would have been nearly impossible or so expensive that the studios wouldn't bother.

One definitely negative aspect of the digital world is the newer process of DNR (digital noise reduction) which should be BANNED - basically because HD is so sharp, they worry consumers won't be able to withstand grain in the image (which is bs cause that's what you see in theatres and nobody ever complains about that). This kind of thing is apparent on some older titles (Patton) and even a few new ones like Pan's Labyrinth. This kind of thing I completely abhor. I think the studios are aware however that purists hate it and it's being done less and less now (hopefully that trend continues)

So yes, it can be a dangerous technology in the wrong hands (i.e. LUCAS) but in the hands of someone who appreciates the film they are restoring, it can be a wonderful thing that gives us a clean, sharp presentation of our favorite films. The new Blu-ray of Fistful is a perfect example of that. If you ever get to see it yourself, you'll be amazed at the richness of the image, and how lovingly it's been restored (and no DNR). It wouldn't have been possible without loading the film into a computer and going through it frame by frame. I think it's like any tool, people can use it for right or wrong and sometimes the line is blurred....but I would argue overall it's a positive change....

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« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2013, 09:13:01 PM »

I think you and I are in complete agreement in terms of properly maintaining the original vision when you restore a film...

Not Leone-specific but an excellent article nonetheless on such things:

http://somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_running/2013/03/film-restoration-in-the-digital-domain-a-chat-with-james-white.html

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« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2013, 04:28:25 AM »


That was a pretty good read, it's pretty impressive with what is being done with classic movies being released on blu ray. I was at a friend's house yesterday, and he was watching Raiders Of The Lost Ark on blu ray and it looks great!

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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2013, 07:22:45 AM »

The gunsmith's scene isn't essential, either,

disagree, that scene defines Tuco's "uglyness" towards the storekeeper.

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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2013, 10:14:04 AM »

The point is that it is not essential to the plot. What i can't understand is why united artists removed the scene with angel eyes at the confederate fort but kept in the gunsmith scene. The former is essential to the plot

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