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OUR TOWN


Ray Faiola
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Well, this had a "digital restoration" credit.  And during the main titles they even shrank the image so they could superimpose restoration credits.  With a PD film, this is a way of adding a "fingerprint". They did a freeze frame on the main title and eliminated the United Artists Release credit that preceded it. They used a 16mm print that went many times around the block  The main title music was gravelly, so the track was probably an overexposed variable density track.  The track sounded much better on the analog channel than the HD channel (additional processing).  I'm pretty sure this was a 35mm to 16mm dupe print.  Unfortunately, it had a constant bob-and-weave printed into the negative.

 

It would have helped if they had wet-gated the transfer to eliminate all the lines.  Digital Noise Reduction is not nearly as effective.

 

With all that, this was better than most of the hoary, unintelligble dupes out there.  UCLA has 35mm printing materials, and spotty positive reels with footage removed due to nitrate deterioration.  OUR TOWN is an orphan film and until somebody ponies up the dough, it will remain unpreserved.

 

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Well, this had a "digital restoration" credit.  And during the main titles they even shrank the image so they could superimpose restoration credits.  With a **** film, this is a way of adding a "fingerprint". They did a freeze frame on the main title and eliminated the United Artists Release credit that preceded it. They used a 16mm print that went many times around the block  The main title music was gravelly, so the track was probably an overexposed variable density track.  The track sounded much better on the analog channel than the HD channel (additional processing).  I'm pretty sure this was a 35mm to 16mm dupe print.  Unfortunately, it had a constant bob-and-weave printed into the negative.

 

It would have helped if they had wet-gated the transfer to eliminate all the lines.  Digital Noise Reduction is not nearly as effective.

 

With all that, this was better than most of the hoary, unintelligble dupes out there.  UCLA has 35mm printing materials, and spotty positive reels with footage removed due to nitrate deterioration.  OUR TOWN is an orphan film and until somebody ponies up the dough, it will remain unpreserved.

Variable density soundtracks were known for the headache of EXACT processing.  Sound track noise were an issue regardless if it's done in 35 or 16mm.

Guy Kibbee can bring a smile on one's face regardless of film quality. :)

 

Ever did that idiotic play when you were in high school?

 

our_town.jpg

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This is definitely not my area of expertise-- but it seems to be that most of the United Artists titles from the 1930s and 1940s are in sad shape.  Criterion tends to go for the obvious art films with high profile directors, but wouldn't it be nice if they, or some group like them, started to focus on restoring the UA titles?  Maybe Kino? Unless the general consensus is that they are not worth preserving...?

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UA was not as much a studio as a releasing organization.  Rights were retained by producing group, so it is hit and miss as to which groups survive in good or bad shape.

 

Variable Area tracks can be loused up very easily too by soft focus or grey "application".  I prefer the wide-range ambience of variable density tracks.

 

I've done "the Stage Manager" professionally but not in high school.

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I just did a quick scan of my OUR TOWN recording, made from TCM this morning.  The quality does not seem too bad-- it is better than expected.  The supernatural parts during the last fifteen or twenty minutes, where Martha Scott is superimposed over the action of the past, seems grainy and not as clear as the earlier portions of the film, but for the most part, this is a copy worth keeping.

 

 

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There were several sections with 16-16 dupe replacement footage.  Complete original prints of OUR TOWN are very rare.  I ran mine at the Shadowland in Ellenville last month.  It looked fabulous and went over very big.

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It was the most searched title on the TCM database yesterday.

 

This film definitely belongs on the Essentials schedule.  I watched it this morning, and it is easy to see how much this style of storytelling influenced a lot of Hollywood product that came after it in the 1940s and 1950s.

 

It stands in stark contrast to films that were being produced before this time.  It is somber, meditative. Usually, the motion picture industry prided itself on delivering saccharine entertainment.  OUR TOWN is not that sweet. It retains its wholesome value, but does not dress simple Americana up with a festive bow.

 

A lot of that is due to Thornton Wilder's original writing, which the filmmakers were wise to honor and not alter too much.

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