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"The Big Trail" (1930)


HollywoodGolightly
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The Castle of Frankenstein mag, was that put out by the same people who did "Fangora", my cousin worked for them for many years in their accounting dept.I think "The Big Trail" is one of the most overlooked and under appreciated films ever produced. It scopes almost anything done in the 30's and even into the 40's as far as the large scale movies go. I thought you book ends of John Waynes career was terrific with "The Big Trail' and "The Shootist", the beginning and the end of his career as was well as the west. I figured I better make a statement on movies here.Sounds like you enjoyed your time on the magazine and the screenings and working at WOR.

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Castle of Frankenstein was run from the North Bergen basement of Calvin Beck, a guy who couldn't afford to pay staff, so he used the likes of Barry Brown (later an actor), Joe Dante (later a director) and myself (later a TCM Message board contributor) for a half-cent a word - if we got paid at all.

 

Not long ago, I was watching that Kirk Douglas production of *The Way West* and was thinking that 37 years later. it's images in color were no match for the older *The Big Trail*. Also, it's funny how one can forgive the cliches of a nearly 80-year-old film, since it was establishing them, while the more recent film is almost laughable for them.

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That is so true. I've had those same thought regarding other films. With all the advancements in Technology they have not always served the film makers for the better in building a better mouse trap or producing a better or more entertaining film. Was "Castle" anything like Famous Monsters of Filmland. I don't know if you're familiar with that mag. It centered on old and new{ for then} horror films. I still have the first 40 or 50 issues. But i bet even for only a half a cent a word- if you got paid at all. that you had a grand time and memories are priceless...

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I'm very familiar with Famous Monsters, but don't have many of them left anymore. I do still have a first issue which is autographed by Forrest J Ackerman. I used to send them letters often, but all that ever appeared in print was an excerpt in issue 34, it has the Fredric March Mr. Hyde on the cover.

 

Castle of Frankenstein was one of the first FM imitators, but it was a bit more literary. It aimed for a somewhat older audience.

 

I can't grumble about getting paid or not. The editor introduced me to many friends who included the likes of Wiliam K. Everson, Carlos Clarens, and Leonard Maltin who is the same age as I and whom I met at an Everson screening in August 1966 of the 1936 SHOW BOAT which at the time was not in circulation. I had a byline at age 15 in the magazine, some things one can't place a monetary value upon. One of these days I'll get another copy of the issues that had my name, I lost almost my entire monster magazine collection to a flooded basement.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

I wanted to make sure and mention this here because it seems to have been lost amidst a flurry of announcements regarding the upcoming TCM Film Festival.

 

Those attending the festival in L.A. (at great expense, I might add) will be treated to a screening of the restored version of The Big Trail:

 

*The Big Trail* (1930) ? Premiere of the restoration by The Museum of Modern Art, preserved with support from the Bartos Preservation Fund and The Film Foundation

Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, this Raoul Walsh western about early pioneers stars John Wayne in his first lead role. The film was shot in Grandeur, a very early widescreen process. In addition to the sweeping vistas captured by Lucien Andriot and Arthur Edelson?s stunning cinematography, the film broke ground in the use of natural sound.

 

 

Now, for those of us who most likely will _not_ be attending the festival, let us only hope that TCM might be able to show the restored version sometime after the festival....

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  • 3 weeks later...

> {quote:title=HollywoodGolightly wrote:}{quote}

> *The Big Trail* (1930) Premiere of the restoration by The Museum of Modern Art, preserved with support from the Bartos Preservation Fund and The Film Foundation

> Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, this Raoul Walsh western about early pioneers stars John Wayne in his first lead role. The film was shot in Grandeur, a very early widescreen process. In addition to the sweeping vistas captured by Lucien Andriot and Arthur Edelsons stunning cinematography, the film broke ground in the use of natural sound.

 

Was this print made from the original 70mm camera negative?

 

Or will it be a cropped version of the standard 35mm version, with the top and bottom of the standard 35mm print matted off the screen?

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I just found this on wiki:

 

"In the early 1980s, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which housed the 65mm nitrate camera negative for The Big Trail, wanted to preserve the film but found that the negative was too shrunken and fragile to be copied and that no film lab would touch it. They went to Karl Malkames, an accomplished cinematographer and a leading specialist and pioneer in film reproduction, restoration, and preservation. Malkames was known to be a ?problem solver? when it came to restoring early odd-gauge format films. He immediately set about designing and building a special printer to handle the careful frame-by-frame reproduction of the negative to a 35mm anamorphic (CinemaScope) fine grain master. The printer copied at a speed of one frame a second. This was a painstaking year-long undertaking that Malkames oversaw from start to finish. It is solely because of him that this film survives in this version."

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Trail

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> {quote:title=HollywoodGolightly wrote:}{quote}

> That might be the version from which they worked on the film. It is starting to sound like they are presenting a restoration of a restoration, but I'll wait until more information is made available.

 

Here?s how people can tell if this ?restoration? is from the original wide-screen film:

 

If it is from the original, then we should see additional characters, wagons, horses, and buildings on each side of the main characters in the frame, more than we?ve ever seen before in any 1:33 presentation.

 

However, if it is a fake ?restoration? and is merely a matted-down print from a standard 35mm print, then we will see NO additional characters, horses, etc. to the right and left sides, and we will see LESS of the top and bottom of the film frame than we usually see when we watch a 1:33 presentation.

 

A fake ?restoration? is why TCM wound up with improperly matted copies of ?The Man Between? (1953). That film was shot in a non-wide format, either 1:33 or 1:37, which is about the same on the screen as 1:33. Then later the film was matted down at the top and bottom to give it the illusion of it being a ?wide screen? film. That chopped off some of the actors heads at the top and their chins at the bottom, during the close-ups of their faces.

 

Then later, someone came along an matted down both sides of the fake ?wide screen? copy, to give the illusion that the film had been ?restored? to the original 1:33 or 1:37 format, so TCM wound up showing either the matted fake ?wide screen? version (cut down at the top and bottom), or the double-chopped and double-matted fake ?restoration, which has both sides cut off AND both the top and bottom of the frame cut off.

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I saw the film at the Museum of Modern Art in the 80s. The TCM publicity does not claim it to be a recent restoration, and what I saw 25 years ago looked just fine, as does the DVD of the film that I own.

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The Wiki article makes it seem as if the restoration was done in the 1980s from a 65mm copy of the original, so the wide-screen version shown in theaters should match the original wide-screen version. So, we should see more people and scenery off to the right and left of the normal 1:33 frame.

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Well, it seems a bit confusing to me, because the TCM blurb calls it a "premiere", which makes it sound like something that hasn't been shown in public before - yet you have seen the version that they restored in the 80s.

 

No offense to anyone, but I just think TCM should have been a bit more precise in their description, it might have made things a lot clearer.

 

In any event, I just hope TCM can show it on the air at some later date.

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*Given how much people are paying for their pa$$e$ for the festival, I would think TCM could at least arrange to have a real, proper restoration of the film.*

 

*Well, it seems a bit confusing to me, because the TCM blurb calls it a "premiere", which makes it sound like something that hasn't been shown in public before - yet you have seen the version that they restored in the 80s.*

 

Perhaps the best place to post that question is in the Film Festival forum. TCM is restoring or helping to restore a number of films at the Film Festival.

 

This could be one of them. If you are so concerned about it and their motives, post the question where they are likely to see it and best answer it.

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