Me and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - a 50 year Love
About the problems involved in obtaining a copy of a Holy 70mm Feature for
home theater use
and the general demise of best acceptable standard...
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The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Stefan Adler, Göteborg, Sweden
• I recorded it on VHS from network television
in 4:3... I bought it on a pan-and-scan VHS...
I bought it on a widescreen VHS without overture and edited out
I bought it on a NTSC VHS in a fair version but cropped to 1,85:1...
I bought it on a Laserdisc, which was OK for being a Laserdic...
I bought it on a DVD with color corrected titles (still a mystery)...
I bought it on a Blu-Ray lacking the entr'acte...
I might as well have bought a private 70mm
print to get it right from the beginning! What's $ 20.000:- or more for
nostalgic remembrance purposes for an old 70 mil' projectionist? A mere
trifle! The possibility of having "prime beef" running through two lusty
warm purring kittenlike DP70:s in the living room was appealing, but
somewhat hard to get a household majority to vote for. The living room
furnishing was not the major issue though, rather the devastation of my back
yard to get room for a fairly large screen. (Everything under at least 50
feet of width is for sissies).
We did some extensive testing almost 13 years ago, when we ran
"The Miracle of Todd-AO", followed by "Paint your Wagon" at home with
a two-projector setup and xenon lamps. The 3-phase 380V connection is still
there, so it wouldn't have been any really serious technical problem.
Anyway, I had to let it go.
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• I’m as normal as a
• So, what about the Sound of
Music on Blu-Ray?
I had started to accept my bitter destiny of
maybe having to travel around the world to relive It's a Mad, Mad, Mad,
Mad World again in an acceptable state. On the other hand one could
always argue about what an acceptable state is.
The Widescreen Weekend in Bradford
showed "my" brushed up old Swedish print
some years ago, which I once edited together from two prints for
re-run purposes. Not worth the effort for me to re-connect with that print,
we know each other so well already.
Is an acceptable state at all possible in this new era? I'm fully aware that
both the Dolby matrix and later digital sound meant a great evolution for
standard cinemas. For us who manned the big 70mm houses it was the beginning
of the end. Adding these achievements to growing new home media markets and
demands of faster investment returns from the increasingly scrooge
distributors, we lost our advantage of reserved engagements and our
exclusiveness. With the advent of big screens eventually emerging in low-res
digital horrible multiplex theaters, movies originated digitally, the last
nail has inevitably been drawn into the coffin of exclusive theatrical
presentation as I knew it. Worst thing is that everybody seem to forget how
good it really was - in those few exclusive spots.
I'm glad I didn't go the recent screening at
The Dome! 4K and without an intermission - at the very home of this great
picture, on its 50th birthday? Now, really - and with an audience of cast,
production members and IAMMMMW nerds! The Swedish ministry of foreign
affairs would probably still had been negotiating with Californian
authorities about having me released from prison for starting a riot... A
roadshow release of a feature with intermission must have its intermission.
Its edited that way. Especially Mad World, with its gorgeous "Living End
summary" - leading to a very, very, very, very frustrated Culpepper in phone
at his desk and a "...step into the lobby or whatever is your hobby..." And
4K is not 70mm - by the way! Not even close! I'd say that 4K is what a good
35mm print is able to perform or there about. The lousy 35mm prints of later
days are not a reason at all to accept 4K for 70mm, since 2K might look as
bad as 35mm did towards the end! Are people too young to remember? Have
people actually seen or focused new first generation 70mm prints struck from
a 65mm negative, projected with top gear and optics? True 70mm is not
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade shown in 70mm or
“The Empire Strikes Back” shown in 70mm! It's not even a faded print of The Sound
of Music filtered through nostalgia and softened by moist eyes! True
70mm is not 4K. 70mm is way more; Sharper, yet softer, more vivid, yet more
natural... Deeper - it's the Zen of motion pictures. At least I think so -
grumpy old man ;-)
Is it possible to rape a motion picture? If so
- few titles have been as gang-banged and exposed to ignorance and violence
Of course I was delighted to hear that IAMMMMW was to get the
Criterion treatment and a Blu-ray release. I have several Criterion DVDs and
Blu-rays and I have so far been very satisfied with the way they handle
their scans and releases.
When it finally arrived in the mail, it in every way corresponded to my
anticipations. The general roadshow version is an absolute delight. Not a
single frame missing from the version I and most others got to know so many
years ago at the Royal in Malmö or
Vinterpalatset in Stockholm and since
then showed so many times in 70mm at the
Draken in Gothenburg. (all the
above are Swedish 70mm & Cinerama theaters) The image is delightful and
looks great on my 65" Panasonic plasma! It's free from later days flaws made
by stupid people trying to make it more contemporary-looking by saturation,
noise reductions, smart filters or contrast manipulations as they so often
The image quality of IAMMMMW is among
my top quality BD discs, together with South Pacific and a few more! There
were perfect 65mm film elements intact from those titles what I can recall.
No heavy digital manipulation was made. That's good! Leave the digital
manipulations to the rescue missions that are being made for those titles
that are almost lost and need it! (Like the heroic efforts being made right
now to save the Cinerama travelogues).
The sound is also treated with great care and perfection! Being a discrete
six channel release, it's impressing how well they have managed to pan the
five directional dialogue channels into the inferior DTS 5.1 soundtrack. May
they be excused for filling the surround channels with a bit more that I can
remember. That's on the other hand not a major issue. Today's audiences
would probably consider everything less to be monaural. The magnetic six
channel feeling is intact.
It was also great fun to finally see the (almost) complete original roadshow
version, more or less as it played at the Pacific Cinerama all those years
ago. We never had the original cut in Sweden.
As with so many titles that have been
re-edited right in connection with its opening, I would say that also
IAMMMMW benefited from it. It's probably time to kill the myth of later
days director's cuts. The longer version adds next to nothing but minutes to
the story and the joy of the film. A few scenes could maybe have been
spared, but most are missed by few. On the whole IAMMMMW enormous
success might even have been less, had it been kept in its original length.
There were some wise decisions made during the days of executive producing.
Skills long gone, I reckon, since most of today's features seem to be in
severe need of a digital pair of scissors and the creativeness of a really
Sweden It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is the 17th most seen picture of
all times in its original run, with 1.540.000 sold tickets. It was also one
of the most successful 70mm regular roadshow re-runs we had, together with
titles like "Where
Eagles Dare", The Sound of Music, Ben Hur, Kelly's
Heroes and a few more...
It's great to have a correct version to enjoy at home. Great job Criterion,
Mr R. A. Harris and all involved! And warmest thanks from a former
IAMMMMW roadshow projectionist! You released a home version that is good
enough for me to remember how good it was originally!
Nothing at all to complain about with this
release? Of course there is! :-)
There are a couple of frames from the fade in after intermission in the fade
out before intermission in the long version. Such an outrage! Nah... It's
OK. Not to worry. Just had to say it :-) Now it's time to put the quest for
a good IAMMMMW home version to rest. At least until I've upgraded my gear to
True 70mm greetings!
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