Rspaight wrote:Amazing that we actually have as much as we do still around. Robert Harris is a hero.
I think I've posted this before, but it's scary what happened to Hitchcock's films:http://www.avclub.com/content/node/22892
O: Could you explain briefly what happened with these Paramount Hitchcock films before they were picked up by Universal?
RH: Yes. The rights for five films—Rope, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, and Vertigo—reverted to Hitchcock in 1967. Hitchcock called someone and said, "I've got hundreds and hundreds of cartons. This is going to cost money, and I can't fit it in the freezer because I'm not going to take the ice cream out. What do I do with it?" And he was misinformed. Hitchcock, whose work I love, was a superb master craftsman when it came to filmmaking and a really lousy archivist. Basically, he got some really bad advice. And that advice was, "Take your camera negatives, your black-and-white separation masters (which protect the negatives), a 16mm and a 35mm soundtrack negative (which is used for making prints), and junk everything else worldwide." What this means is that they junked all of the original audio stems (music, effects, dialogue), they junked the three-stripe mag master (which included music, effects, and dialogue on separate stripes on a single 35mm film), they junked the monaural composite mag master, they junked all the foreign elements, they junked all the advertising elements and trailers, they junked all the effects material, and they junked all the main title backgrounds and main titles, except for the composite dupes. Then they took [what they kept] and stored it in a non-air-conditioned, unheated warehouse in Los Angeles, where it stayed from 1967 to 1983, when Universal got it. Universal's vaults, by the way, are superb: 34š, 25% humidity, right on target. But by the time they got [the films], they were faded. They were gone.
O: What were some of the most daunting challenges posed by the Rear Window restoration?
RH: Picture and sound.
O: So everything.
RH: Everything. There was nothing that was good. There was no surviving original sound material whatsoever, only used 35mm tracks. We found that when they made the optical soundtrack negative in 1954—which was made for the manufacturing of all the prints—it had been run 389 times along with camera negative in '54. So they were both worn out, but the [soundtrack] negative had been made defectively. You've obviously seen a piece of film at some point?
O: I was a projectionist for many years.
RH: So you've seen a lot of film. The Rear Window track negative was a bi-polar variable-density track... you know, two soundtrack impulses. The outboard impulse was fine. The inboard impulse—the one next to the perforations—was out of focus and not properly exposed. So all we had to work with was a single impulse cutting the quality of the sound down in half, plus all the splices, all the dirt, and all the wear built into the optical track. We had to go in and digitize everything, take different pieces of track from different prints and do what we could to piece the track back together. We did find the original music, which was all mono, and that's been preserved. There was no reason to go stereo [for the reissue], because the music itself was recorded mono. That's why we didn't do what we did with Vertigo.