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"Up The River", Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart


mrroberts
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I just watched this film, "Up The River"; was warned it was in rough shape. It sure was, I get the impression there might be a few short scenes missing as well. The whole plot had a lot of holes in it, I would expect better from John Ford. It was fun seeing Tracy and Bogart so young, I thought Bogart came off a lot better in this, his character was more interesting to watch. The prison life in this movie made me think of the Marx Bros, or a 3 Stooges short. Robert Osborne said the movie was done in 2 weeks, it looks like it was done on the fly. Considering who was involved in this movie, I expected better.

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I don't know about scenes missing, but as far as picture quality goes, I checked the first few minutes that had a lot of scratches with a recording I made from The Fox Movie Channel, at least a couple years ago, and both were the same. Must be the best footage Fox could come up with.

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20th Century Fox has had a couple of disastrous vault fires over the years The victims were primarily pre-merger Fox Film Corporation titles, so good prints of a film like this are going to be hard to come by. We're lucky to have this film in the shape that it is in. The overall quality of the image though (contrast, detail) isn't any different from any other early talkie.

 

The fascinating thing about Up the River is that it started out as a prison drama but was changed into a comedy after The Big House came out. This is tonally all over the place and its movement from prison film to vaudeville show to social dramedy to sporting event bring Ford's vignette approach and comedic tendencies to a new level. Here it's a bit of a mess but he'll sort it all out by the time of the Will Rogers comedies.

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I'm aware of the fires that destroyed most of the Fox films which is why they are so rare today. From what I read in the past most of the Fox films still existing were gathered from private collections over the years.

I would think however that 20th Century Fox would restore "Up The River". Not only is it a John Ford film but it is the only pairing of Humprey Bogart and Spencer Tracy. It is also important as it is the first film with Tracy and Bogie in a major role.

We are lucky though to still have this film in existance.

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Anyone notice what TCM did with this one for the HD channel? I didn't believe what I was seeing, so I kept switching back and forth from the standard channel to the HD to confirm. I believe they blew it up to fill the screen on the HD channel -- thereby cutting off the top and bottom of the frame.

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We don't get TCM in HD on DirecTV yet , but according to TCM's programmer they show everything in its proper aspect ratio. I'm a regular on a couple of satellite and cable TV forums and there's always complaints that some cable companies stretch or blow up and crop everything that's in 4:3 to fill the 16:9 screens and that's not just on TCM. I guess they don't want to deal with viewers who hate those "damn black bars". I think your cable company might be the culprit and not TCM.

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

> . I believe they blew it up to fill the screen on the HD channel -- thereby cutting off the top and bottom of the frame.

 

I'm sure that was a mistake. I do seem to recall that it was listed as letterboxed in the monthly guide. That must have been the origin of the mistake, and not the fault of a technician.

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And Tracy was only 30. It was fun watching these 2 guys, you know them so well from all of their films, their little mannerisms, etc. And you see bits and pieces of that in these early pictures. I know it was supposed to just be a comedy, but the storyline could have been a little tighter and made some sense. Because of the historical importance of this movie, I hope someday we might see a more nicely restored issue of it.

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> {quote:title=midnight08 wrote:}{quote}

> I'm aware of the fires that destroyed most of the Fox films which is why they are so rare today. From what I read in the past most of the Fox films still existing were gathered from private collections over the years.

> I would think however that 20th Century Fox would restore "Up The River". Not only is it a John Ford film but it is the only pairing of Humprey Bogart and Spencer Tracy. It is also important as it is the first film with Tracy and Bogie in a major role.

> We are lucky though to still have this film in existance.

 

Isn't it kind of strange that an important movie like UP THE RIVER is in such shabby shape while other FOX films from around the same period like CHANDU THE MAGICIAN have been cleaned up and restored? By the way does anyone know the status of FOX's QUICK MILLIONS, a 1931 Spencer Tracy/George Raft Gangster film?

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

> I take it it wasn't restored for the recent Ford At Fox collection.

 

The print that TCM showed is the same one that is part of the Ford at Fox set. It says at the beginning of the dvd that they they used the best available source elements.

Yeah, it's in pretty ratty condition, but unless someone has a pristine 35mm print somewhere in their basement and/or attic, this surviving version is as good as it gets.

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I haven't watched it all yet, but I did check it in several places. That film has more jumps due to missing frames than any film I ever saw! It's sad that this is the best that survives.

 

Also, I noticed that the card just before it said "letterboxed." I don't know how it got marked as LB, but obviously it wasn't, and obviously, this designation caused it to be cropped top and bottom on TCMHD.

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By the way does anyone know the status of FOX's QUICK MILLIONS, a 1931 Spencer Tracy/George Raft Gangster film?

 

In answer to "infinite1" QUICK MILLIONS does exist and the George Eastman House usually provides the print for some rare showings. They did show it at Film Forum in NYC about 4 years ago.

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> {quote:title=infinite1 wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=midnight08 wrote:}{quote} Isn't it kind of strange that an important movie like UP THE RIVER is in such shabby shape while other FOX films from around the same period like CHANDU THE MAGICIAN have been cleaned up and restored? By the way does anyone know the status of FOX's QUICK MILLIONS, a 1931 Spencer Tracy/George Raft Gangster film?

 

A little strange? Not at all. It all depends on what original film elements are still available and the condition. That, of course, varies from film to film.

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