Restoration of “Patton”
A note about the restoration for the Pictureville audience on the
occasion of the British re-release, Saturday, March 16, 2002
article first appeared on
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Michael
Pogorzelski, Director Academy Film Archive
epic war film with hardly any scenes of war (only 11 minutes of onscreen
combat). To some audiences, patriotic biopic of an American military
giant. To others, a scathing critique of General Patton and the military.
A grandiose film shot in Dimension-150 for 70mm that could only be viewed
in anamorphic 35mm prints for the last 25 years.
These are only a few of the contradictions that surround and permeate
Franklin J. Schaffner's “Patton”. The filmmaker's craft and
skill are able to turn this story into something of a cinematic Rorschach
sketch allowing viewers to see what they want to see. At the time of its
original release in 1970 the respect and admiration for the film was
coming from all corners but sometimes for very different reasons: aging
WWII veterans could find a portrait of a great but flawed soldier
while a child of the 60s flower power generation saw an indictment of the
demeaning effects of rampant militarism gone amok crystallised in Patton's
The film continues to offer contradictory messages today. At the first
screening of the restoration at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in December 2001, George C. Scott walked
before the American flag and a cinema audience who suddenly found itself
in the opening moments of another war.
Some felt that Patton's speech was just what they, and America, needed to
hear after Septemeber 11th. Other audience members saw “Patton”
as emblematic of an American attitude which causes extreme hatred to boil
up in the hearts of many around the world and found echoes of Patton's
rhetoric in the speeches being made by current U.S. politicians and
military leaders as they charged headlong into war.
in 70mm reading:
What will you see
in “Patton” tonight?
The only answer that we may all be able to agree on is that we will be
seeing a brand new 70mm print of “Patton” which is the result
of a yearlong restoration effort by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences Film Archive and 20th Century Fox.
“Patton” is the third film which received a Best Picture
Academy Award and which was restored by 20th Century Fox and the Academy
Film Archive. The previous two Best Picture winners were John Ford's “How
Green Was my Valley” (1941) (restored in collaboration with the UCLA
Film and Television Archive) and Joseph Mankiewicz's “All About Eve”
(1950) (restored in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art).
There were simply no 70mm prints of “Patton” left anywhere in
the world, which did not suffer from severe color dye fading or were not
in the advance stages of deterioration. There was never any doubt
that any restoration of the film would have to be conducted in its
original large format.
The 65mm original camera negative was inspected and printed at
Consolidated Film Industries (or CFI) in Hollywood, CA. Thankfully;
the negative was in remarkably good shape. The other elements of the
film, the English subtitle elements used to translate the German and
the original soundtrack mix master, did not fare so well.
The original 35mm 6-track magnetic mix master was deteriorating badly. The
audio engineers at Chace Productions in Burbank, CA meticulously
transferred the deteriorating elements and made sure every nuance of
the track was accurately captured. Some digital cleanup was required
to erase the defects, which had been introduced by time and wear on
the element, but the key effort was to preserve the track as is. No
re-mixing or alteration of the track took place. Instead, every
effort was made to capture the original achievement of the
filmmakers Don J. Bassman and Douglas Williams who also won Academy Awards
for Sound. This print contains a 70mm DTS track which not only
replicates the original mix but the original speaker configuration
which was in use at the time of “Patton”'s original release.
In addition, you will be treated to viewing the print with proper screen
and Dimension 150 lenses -- a rare treat indeed. By the time the
film was ready to be released Franklin J. Schaffner, “Patton”'s
director, asked the 20th Century Fox distribution department to send
him a list of theaters in the United States which could project 70mm
and Dimension-150 properly. The department obliged sending him a
fairly comprehensive list of every 70mm house in the country,
organized by city. Most major cities had two or three and sometimes
even as many as six "premeire" 70mm showcase screens in 1970.
But the memo takes a turn for the worst with note after depressing
note: the theater in St. Louis does not regularly book with Fox and
therefore the film will run at another house in 35mm; the theater in
Pittsburgh is being split into two screens and will no longer run 70mm by
the time of “Patton”'s release; the house manager in
Minneapolis does not want the added expense and "trouble"
of 70mm and has requested a 35mm print. In the end, Schaffner must have
been disappointed: “Patton” probably only ran on roughly
40 first run [70mm Dimension-150] screens in North America and the
rest of the audience saw 35mm reduction prints.
So congratulations on your good fortune to be able to see “Patton”
exactly as it was intended to be seen: in 70mm, Dimension-150 and
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