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70mm Film Introductions

The 70mm Newsletter
Feature film text by:  Date: 28.04.2012

"Cinerama's Russian Adventue" by Randy Gitsch

“RUSSIAN ADVENTURE” represents a surprising merger of Cinerama’s past with it’s immediate future. Released in 1966, the picture is a montage Cinerama-compatible 3-panel Kinopanorama footage from features and shorts shot between 1958 and 1963. It also features a shot of an original Cinerama 3-strip camera as “star”, albeit in a short prologue of “Der Bingle”, Bing Crosby introducing the Kinopanorama footage that follows. And this scene was apparently shot rather quickly. There’s a film crew cable visible on the floor of his “office” set. Crosby with his mellifluous voice serves quite nicely as a narrator and he seems to do well pronouncing a dozen difficult Russian first and last names. It’s interesting to see Bing tagged onto this picture, as in just a few short years, he, through his Bing Crosby Productions company, would become Cinerama Releasing’s most bankable independent producer, responsible for “WILLARD”, “BEN”, the “WALKING TALL” films, and several others, all of which had huge box office returns. So here he is, tagged onto the front of the Russian footage somewhat in the same way that Raymond Burr was spliced onto the Japanese “GOJIRA”, to make “GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS”.

I find it fascinating how the Russian filmmakers captured the shot of the ‘troika” these three-horse hitches seen shortly into the film. Needless to say, three horse heads…in what amounts to a Kinopanorama close-up, captured with extreme wide-angle lenses, results in evident, inescapable parallax. The result is that three horses, which would otherwise have had the animal sense to look straight ahead while pulling their sleigh, don’t appear to be. The two horses on the “outside”, of the hitch, appear to be looking to the side of the road. In reality, they aren’t.

However, the ersatz result is fascinating, and I’m sure it was to the original Kinopanorama filmmakers and fans when they first viewed this footage. A clue to it’s universally popular reception is that both the Soviet producers of “VOLSHEVNOYE ZERKALO” the 1958 Kinopanorama film from which this sequence was culled, and the American producers of the 1966 montage, created promotional ad art for their respective pictures using these three, splayed out horse heads coming at you as if you were looking down into the head of a fleur-de-lis.

If they couldn’t beat parallax, they seemed determined to exploit it. I commend the Kinopanorama filmmakers for that. And Frankel and Dennis, the producers of the Cinerama compilation even front-loaded this scene at the beginning of their assembled, “RUSSIAN ADVENTURE”. And I commend them for that.

Watching this film, gives me cause to cut the Kinopanorama filmmakers some slack. You’ll frequently see the captured shadow of the camera and camera crew. These inclusions make any other conventional film “amateur hour”, but with the trio of wide-angle lenses used here, it’s very difficult to keep those shadows out of range. In fact they’re conspicuously visible in every set-up of the first sequence.

There are several really good 3-panel shots in “RUSSIAN ADVENTURE”, including some “thrill” shots. For example, a point of view of a high-wire artist swinging out over an audience is one of the best. Keep an eye out for an orbiting Sputnik.

Now…I’ll be careful to not slip any spoilers, in case some of you haven’t yet seen the film, but you’re going to see a scene with a whale. When you do, this film becomes “MONDO CANE” theater fodder, and by that I mean “sensational”, a “shockumentary”. And this scene alone possibly sealed the fate of the film’s somewhat limited 1966 U.S. release. Such shock wasn’t seen on American theater screens in the ‘60’s, or if it was, it was relegated to the art house circuit. Cinerama’s primary audience base, especially after “HOW THE WEST WAS WON” and “THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM” was family…not art-house.

My one problem with the picture is it’s inclusion of a monkey act. They’re actually chimps. And I guess they’re supposed to be funny. Maybe this is an age reaction. When I was a child, in the U.S. I enjoyed watching “THE HATHAWAYS”, a weekly television program in which three little chimps were dressed as the children of a funny couple. Their hi-jinks, or…”monkey-shines” always ensued. To a child, they were very funny. Even in widescreen, and right here in Pictureville where it screened a few years ago, “FLYING CLIPPER”, had a monkey act in it. And they were funny. But here, in “RUSSIAN ADVENTURE”, these chimps are really kind of scary. See if you don’t agree. I’ll have my eyes closed.
More in 70mm reading:

2012 Widescreen Program

Widescreen Weekend

Travel to Bradford

Past Widescreen Weekend programs

"Audience on Stage"


Creating the Widescreen Weekend

Projecting the Widescreen Weekend

Planning the Widescreen Weekend

Internet link:

"Around the World in 80 Days" by Tony Sloman

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and an especial welcome to this afternoon’s screening of Michael Todd’s film of Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”, a film, which, I fear, is today unfairly dismissed, if not forgotten – especially in Great Britain where there is ever a deep suspicion of extravagance in the cinema, and few films – if any – are more extravagant than that which you are about to view – and I’d like to dedicate this screening during this weekend anniversary of 60 years of Cinerama, to the film’s maker, producer Michael Todd, the brash and courageous film-maker whose only feature film this was ever destined to be.

Perhaps more remembered today as Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband (between Michael Wilding and Eddie Fisher), Michael Todd virtually defined the terminology of “film producer”, and he was certainly the only clear artistic and financial link between the very birth of Cinerama, and the single lens 70mm process that you are about to witness – the only screen process to bear the very name of its progenitor: Todd-AO (the “AO” standing for Todd’s partners, the American Optical Company).

Perhaps it’s worth pointing out the competition in 1957, when “Around the World in Eighty Days” carried off the Best Picture Academy Award, and four others besides (for best cinematography, best music, best editing, and best adapted screenplay): - “Around the World” was up against four exceptional movies of undeniable populist appeal and artistic merit, all well remembered today: Cecil B DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments”, William Wyler’s “Friendly Persuasion”, George Stevens’ “Giant” (ironically starring Mrs. Michael Todd, Elizabeth Taylor), and Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I”. All still well remembered with affection some fifty – some years later – but it was Michael Todd’s “Around the World in Eighty Days” that pipped them at the post as Best Picture that year, for reasons that you are about to discover.

Yet, “Around the World” has, today, fallen out of fashion, its sheer sense of bravado in both production and storytelling unfashionable in today’s smart-ass, cynical world, a world in which everybody knows everything about movie-making, and neglects to respect the combined aspects of good taste, financial acumen, and audience appreciation that go to make up the very best elements of motion picture production.

Elements that Michael Todd understood better than almost any producer who ever lived, and it is Cinema’s tragedy that he only lived long enough to make this one film, although when he died he was planning an epic-scaled film version of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”, to star Fernandel in the title role, supported by Elizabeth Taylor as Aldonza and Cantinflas as Sancho Panza.

So how did “Around the World in 80 Days” come to be?

Well, Mike Todd, born – the son of a Rabbi – Avrom Goldbogen in Minneapolis, and nicknamed “Todd” as a youngster – was brought up hustling: amongst other things he had been a newsboy, a fruit peddler, a cornettist, a carnival come-on pitchman and at 13 was the youngest apprentice pharmacist in the state of Illinois, and at 17 was the president of a construction company which, by the by, constructed the first sound stages at Columbia film studios in Hollywood. Before he was 20 he had made a fortune at soundproofing film studios, but he was by nature a gambler, and he lost that first fortune fast enough.

But he was attracted to the show business, and by 1939 conquered Broadway with his first big production hit “The Hot Mikado”, and during the War had four very successful shows running (including Maurice Evans as “Hamlet” and “Catherine the Great” with Mae West). But hot tips and cold dice lead him in and out of bankruptcy, affording up his famous quote “I’ve been broke many a time but I can honestly say I’ve never been poor”.

In 1950 Todd formed The Thomas-Todd Company with explorer and commentator Lowell Thomas, to work alongside two other companies, Fred Waller’s Vitarama and Hazard Reeves’ Cinerama, Inc., to develop and fund the new motion picture process that we are celebrating this week, here in Bradford, the process known as Cinerama. But, despite the fact that both Todd and his son, Michael Junior, were heavily involved in the actual making of “This is Cinerama” (most notably in the Rockaway beach roller-coaster opening sequence and the Salzburg Vienna Boys Choir shoot), questions began to be asked about Todd’s actual stock-holding in Cinerama, and eventually Thomas-Todd was dissolved, and the company totally absorbed by Cinerama, Incorporated.
Michael Todd wasn’t unhappy with that result. Although Cinerama was a resounding success at the time (Twenty million dollars, in only 17 cinema theatres over two-and-a half years - the third largest grossing motion picture in film history!) Michael Todd could see no future in telling a narrative film story on three linked screens with apparent joins.

Immediately following the New York opening of “This is Cinerama” on September 30th 1952 Michael Todd set about to discover a method of showing a movie, to quote Todd, “where everything comes out of one hole”. His search lead him to Dr. Brian O’Brien, who had just been named as Head of Research for the American Optical Company.

What was needed was staggering. Under Dr. O’Brien, an entirely new geometric process for photographing and projecting film was created. They evolved a series of new-type lenses, ranging from a 37 degree angle to 128 degrees: in other words, everything the human eye could see with the sole exception of that peripheral vision which the eye can pick up only by rolling in its socket. They produced especially made 65 millimetre film for cameras, three and a half times the area of the standard Academy aperture, which meant changing the style of perforation, projecting at 30 frames-a-second, instead of the traditional 24, and it is that original 30 frames-a-second frame rate that you will be viewing on the print about to be screened this afternoon. You will also be hearing the original magnetic stereophonic tracks on the 70 millimetre film area.

The company Todd set up in March 1953 he called the Magna Theatre Corporation, and the process was named Todd-AO, after Todd, who at that time owned half of the company stock, and the American Optical Company, whose new 9-inch lens, nick-named the “Bug-Eye”, was to be such an important part of any potential shoot, and “Oklahoma!”, the most successful-ever musical show on Broadway, was to be the first film in the new Todd-AO process.

But Michael Todd had not reckoned on the power and clout of “Oklahoma!”’s authors, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who demanded full artistic control over the forthcoming film. Where did that leave Michael Todd, who wanted to make an exciting movie, and not a faithful adaptation of an existing theatrical show? At a crucial board meeting, Todd was out-voted and, frankly, overmatched, and eventually virtually forced to sell all his stock to Magna and relinquished all, if indeed he had any, artistic control in “Oklahoma!”, the film of which process bore his name, Todd-AO.

So Michael Todd needed another project. As a child, Todd, an avid reader, had enjoyed Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”, and his first encounter with the work professionally was producing a stage production of Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of the story as a musical show, which turned out to be a disaster, best remembered today as the show in which Welles took a second-night curtain call dragging behind him a kitchen sink, simply because a first-night reviewer said that, “This show has everything in it but the kitchen sink” and Welles wanted to prove him wrong. Producer Michael Todd lost forty thousand dollars cash on that show, which, after a six-week out-of-town tryout, closed in its first week at the Adelphi Theatre, New York.

But Todd loved the sheer scale of “Around the World in 80 Days”, and never forgot the project, and, in 1954, when Todd was in negotiations with producer Alexander Korda over a planned film of “Richard III” to star Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Todd noticed a screenplay on Korda’s shelves. “How much do you want for this?” Todd asked. “Back away from it, Mike” replied Korda, according to Art Cohn. “I’ve been trying to lick it for years. It’s too tough to make and too expensive”. It was, of course, “Around the World in 80 Days”, and Korda and Todd reached an agreement whereby Korda would supervise the English-related facilities in the film, and Todd himself would supervise the rest, although eventually Korda would extricate himself from the deal, selling his interest back to Todd for a mere hundred thousand dollars, quite a tidy sum at the time.

Todd commenced post-production with his cash settlement form Magna, and without a distributor in place. After negotiations with Harry Cohn of Columbia fell through – Todd angered Cohn by putting his feet up on Cohn’s desk – twice! – Arthur Krim and Max Youngstein of United Artists came in with an initial five hundred thousand dollars, on Thanksgiving 1955. In 1956 Paramount Theatres came up with an additional seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Todd was also offered an advance of nearly three million dollars from a consortium of foreign exhibitors. Although he was virtually broke he turned it down – he would never surrender release control, and it would prove to be the wisest gamble of his career.
Crucial to Todd’s concept was the star actor playing Phileas Fogg, and he waited over six months before being turned down by Cary Grant. He then approached the more malleable David Niven, who consolidated his box office value with the role for which he is now most notably most famed for, and who won his Best Actor Oscar only two years later, for proving to the public how far away from Phileas Fogg he could actually act when necessary.

Casting was to be crucial. Todd had the brilliant concept of casting internationally famous artists in over fifty “bit” parts that occur on screen, and paying the actors not
with money, but with whatever their hearts desired: a painting here, a Bentley there...the results were stunning, and Todd created the term “cameo” to describe these roles.

Todd’s choice of director, John Farrow, who had worked on the script, resented Todd’s interference in his direction, so Todd replaced him with British director Michael Anderson, who was originally only to helm the British interiors and some screen tests. But Todd’s real brainstorm was in casting Mexico’s Cantinflas as Phileas Fogg’s servant Passpartout: he stole the show.

I was fortunate enough to see “Around the World in 80 Days” at its UK premiere engagement at The Astoria Theatre, in London’s Charing Cross Road, where it opened on the 2nd July 1957, and vividly remember the excitement of the stereophonic sound with its lush Victor Young score and arrows whizzing across the screen. I also remember the excitement of Michael Todd’s opening night party (though only from newsreels and newspapers, alas) when he hired the Festival of Britain Amusement Park at Battersea Gardens for the post-premiere party, and had the foresight to provide umbrellas and mackintoshes for when it would rain – which it did – overprinted with the movie’s title and balloon trademark.

It was a film that nobody who saw it ever forgot. “Bite your tongue when you call it a film”, Todd once said. “It’s a show”.

When “Around the World” opened at the Astoria for its 10-month run it actually wasn’t shown in Todd-AO, although we didn’t know that then. English quota restrictions and prohibitive taxation meant that profits would be substantially reduced if a 70mm was screened, and if a 35mm reduction was shown, it could only be for a very limited period in order to make way for British quota product. So Mike Todd imaginatively made a 35mm anamorphic reduction from his 70mm original and then shaved a millimetre off the whole, rendering the screening at the Astoria outside exhibitors’ quota rules! He called this 34mm-with-Fox holes process “Cinestage”, and it was the only time that this ever happened.

The copy you are about to see is a genuine 70mm Todd-AO print from the period, although I regret to say that the glorious Technicolor has by now faded into a somewhat magenta bias, but the 6-track stereophonic sound is apparently still as good as it ever was, when heard on the 34 speakers which graced the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, not to mention the six speakers behind the screen.

“Around the World” was eventually shown in Britain in 70mm, over ten years later, at The Coliseum Cinerama Theatre for a short season from 21st March 1968, but it was truncated from its original length for that screening. You can find it today complete on DVD in a Warner Bros. twin-pack issue, in Technicolor and replete with out-takes and an excellent commentary by Brian Sibley, one of the best to be found on DVD since it is properly composed, timed and recorded, and not improvised to a mere single screening...I should know, I’ve done enough of them...

But that’s enough from me. As Michael Todd – God rest his soul, over-a-sholem – would’ve said, “On with the Show...

"The Star Chamber" by Wolfram Hannemann

Good morning and welcome to the Monday morning 70mm blow up double feature! As you may have noticed the leading actor in both films is Michael Douglas. So I thought I should be telling you a bit about him before we enter the “Star Chamber”.

Michael Douglas is one of the few actors who actually appears to be a walking paradox. A household name, an estimated worth of over $200 million, a father (Kirk Douglas) who was one of the world's biggest film stars in the 1940s, and a wife whose father is younger than he is, Douglas has indeed gained fame and acclaim. Michael Kirk Douglas was born September 25th, 1944, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. His parents (Kirk and wife Diana Douglas) divorced when he was six, and he went to live with his mother and her new husband.

Only seeing his father on holidays, Michael attended Eaglebrook school in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where he was about a year younger than all of his classmates. Deciding he wanted to be an actor in his teenage years, Michael often asked his father about getting a "foot in the door". Kirk was strongly opposed to Michael pursuing an acting career, saying that it was an industry with many downs and few ups, and that he wanted all four of his sons – Michael being the eldest - to stay out of it. Michael, however, was persistent. When he started his career in the mid 1960s people were all too ready to tag him as "the next Kirk Douglas". He defied all those critics by accepting sensitive, quiet roles, a far cry from the macho, leading-man, hero parts that his father was most famous for. It didn't earn Michael much credibility, but it earned him his own identity.

Although he made his film debut in “Cast a Giant Shadow” (1966), a film his father took the leading role while Michael appeared as an uncredited Jeep driver, his breakthrough role was on the TV series “The Streets of San Francisco" (1972) opposite screen veteran Karl Malden. Michael gained quite a following on this show, and left it to produce “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” (1975).

In the 1980s Michael tried his hand at comedies, the most successful being “Romancing the Stone” (1984), its sequel “The Jewel of the Nile” (1985), and “The War of the Roses” (1989), in which he co-starred with Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner. It was in the 1990s, though, in which he gained the most notorious aspects of his reputation. He starred in “Basic Instinct” (1992), a thriller, heavy on sex and violence, that was a worldwide hit. Having played a similar role in “Fatal Attraction” (1987), it did indeed appear that he was being typecast in "man against woman" type roles, and pictures like “Disclosure” (1994) did nothing to dissuade that opinion. He finally tried to break away from this image with “The American President” (1995) and “The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996), yet when he started dating Catherine Zeta-Jones, whom he met at the Deauville Film Festival in France, this image continued, even after their marriage. Catherine is exactly 25 years his junior – they share a birthday: September 25th.

After two children with Jones, Michael tried to settle down to become a more "family-oriented" actor. The comedy “Wonder Boys” (2000) and the Douglas-clan movie “It Runs in the Family” (2003) were box office flops, and it appears Michael was looking again for a career change. Trying his hand at light-hearted comedies, like the re-make of “The In-Laws” (2003), he hoped to break away from his past reputation. The films that followed, however, were of very distinct nature: “The Sentinel”, “King of California”, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”, the sequel to the Box office success “Wall Street” in which he repeated the role which won him an Academy Award as “Best Actor in a Leading Role” in 1987 and finally Steven Soderberghs action flick “Haywire”. His next project will be yet another one directed by Steven Soderbergh, “Behind the Candelabra”, where he is going to portrait famous entertainer Liberace. The film is scheduled to open next year.

In 1998, he was appointed UN Messenger of Peace by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. His mission: to focus worldwide attention on nuclear disarmament and human rights.

Let me close this short bio by courtesy of James Briggs with two personal quotes from Michael Douglas. The first one refers to his movie going habits: “I'm not a big filmophile. I don't watch movies a lot for a hobby. I spend all my time watching sporting events. Because, opposed to movies, you can never tell how they're going to end.” And in the second one Michael is explaining British film certificates in full: “Oh, I get it, it's simple. PG means the hero gets the girl, 15 means that the villain gets the girl, and 18 means everybody gets the girl."

“The Star Chamber”, which we will screen right after this, was made in Los Angeles in 1983. It was directed by Peter Hyams, who also co-wrote the script with Roderick Taylor. With films like “Outland”, “Capricorn One” and “Hanover Street” in his portfolio – all of which got 70mm releases, by the way - Hyams was not a newbie to the filmmaking business. For “The Star Chamber” Hyams created lighting innovations to create the eerie atmosphere of the movie, including a daylight lamp, and utilizing light beams for the exterior shots. Richard Hannah served as cinematographer, filming with Panavision cameras in the 35mm anamorphic format. It was Hannah’s only work for the cinema, by the way. As was the habit in the 1980s “The Star Chamber” got the 70mm blow up treatment with a 6-track Dolby Stereo magnetic soundtrack which was an improvement to the Dolby Stereo optical sound version.

The film’s music score is by American composer Michael Small, who died aged 64 in 2003. The music seems almost directly lifted from “The Parallax View”, another movie score by Michael Small from 1974, and the next-to-final scene in the warehouse, with the cop looming in the shadows, recalls the final scenes of “The Parallax View” as well. It's pretty clear that “The Parallax View” was the main inspiration for the sense of conspiracy and dread that “The Star Chamber” tried to evoke.

And as a final note let me tell you Michael Douglas‘ mother will appear in the film. Diana Douglas, who was married to Kirk Douglas from 1943 to 1951, can be seen in the role of Adrian Caulfield.

"Black Rain" by Wolfram Hannemann

The filming of “Black Rain” began in October 1988 and ended March 1989, taking place in Los Angeles and New York, USA, as well as Osaka, Japan, with an estimated budget of 30 million US dollars. Ridley Scott of “Alien” and “Blade Runner” fame directed from a script by Craig Bolotin and Warren Lewis. Originally Paul Verhoeven, who had just completed “RoboCop”, signed on to direct the film, in which Jackie Chan was supposed to star. However, Chan turned down the role, as he didn't want to play a "bad" character, and Verhoeven was replaced by Scott. Howard Atherton, who did “Fatal Attraction” for Adrian Lyne and which also starred Michael Douglas, shot most of the film, but he got so frustrated in Japan that he resigned. Jan de Bont was brought in to finish the rest of the film. De Bont worked as cinematographer on some of Paul Verhoeven’s films, notably “The Fourth Man” and also photographed the first “Die Hard” movie and later became a film director himself with films like “Speed” and “Twister” in his portfolio. With the exception of some material being filmed with a Beaulieu Cine 8, “Black Rain” was shot in Super 35 using Panavision cameras and released in both 35mm anamorphic prints as well as 70mm blow up prints, one of which will be screened in just a few minutes.

The film was produced by Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe in association with its leading actor Michael Douglas for Paramount Pictures.

Let me quote from an interview in which Sherry Lansing remembers when she first saw Ridley Scott’s first cut of his movie: “It was about 2 hours and 40 minutes, and it was brilliant. Stanley and I were just knocked out by it. It was extraordinary. But this was his first cut and so we all knew that he was gonna go in, and make the movie under two hours. So we were thrilled. I mean, the texture of the movie, the performances, the story, the visuals, the sound, everything was just brilliant. And then Ridley called us back maybe four weeks later and he showed us a movie that was like an hour and 50 minutes long. And this may be one of the few times in both of our lives that we looked at him and we said “What did you do?”. And he said “What do you mean what did I do?” I said, “You took out all the good stuff. I mean, why did you make it this?” He says, “But I had to.” And he did have to. In order to make it under two hours, we had to take out some of the texture, some of the finest scenes in the movie. So we said, “You know something? Just make it the right length. It doesn’t have to be under two hours. Just make it the right length.”

Ridley Scott and his editor Tom Rolf went back and reinserted some of the footage that he had taken out. According to Rolf that seemed to make it play at a different rhythm, and it worked better. He thinks that it was the only time in his career that he ever had that happen. “Black Rain” now has a running time of two hours and five minutes. I guess that means that one day we probably will get a Super Deluxe Super Long Blu-ray release of the film. Remember my words.

“Black Rain” marks the first time Ridley Scott and German film music composer Hans Zimmer worked together. Having seen “Rain Man” Scott was thrilled by Hans Zimmer’s score. According to Scott “it kind of felt bigger than it ought to be, and yet it worked. It was playing an internal world, yet it was a big track.” Ridley Scott remembers: “And I went there and thought “Who’s that? Hans Zimmer. Who the hell is that? Well, I’ll call him up.” So Scott called him up that same night. Zimmer recalls: “We just started chatting. We had a good time chatting. And I said to him, “So how do I not get fired off a Ridley Scott film?” And he said, “Well, don’t write me a symphony. Write something that is appropriate for the movie.” And we, sort of, started working away, and we started coming up with some fairly unconventional ideas.”

Producer Stanley R. Jaffe recalls that one of the best music cues he has ever been associated with was the aerial shot coming into Japan when they’re returning Sato’s character, saying that it is very visceral and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. And he thought it was a phenomenal cue.

Zimmer comments: “I was aware that not all scores had to be done orchestrally, and that there was an interesting way to present a foreign culture to America, or to Europe, etc., by using some of the instruments from that culture. It’s so easy to go and steal all the cliches from a culture and string them together and go “Hey, here it is,” as opposed to just saying, “Okay, I’m just writing from my point of view but I’m going to interpret it by musicians from that culture.” There is a very strong sense of percussion in Japanese culture. And because Ridley shot the film in a very, sort of, modern way, and it was Osaka where he shot a lot of stuff, it’s very industrial. So for all the percussive instruments I used synthesisers and electronics because I wanted it to be really hard. I wanted each percussion hit to be like a gunshot.”

Andy Garcia, who is playing Charlie Vincent in the film, remembers: “I saw it for the first time at a test screening of the film. I enjoyed it very much. I remember Ridley would sit at the control riding the sound whenever he wanted to. He’d just crank up the sound. He likes a loud movie. He likes to be in your face with it, at times. Sound is a very important element in films, and Ridley certainly doesn’t shy away from it.” As you might know we don’t have Ridley Scott here this morning to play along with the Dolby fader. So we kindly ask Duncan to step into Ridley’s shoes and do the fader thing. And with a six-track Dolby mix I am sure we are getting a lot to hear! Mind you, “Black Rain” was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1990: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing and Best Sound.

When asked about “Black Rain”, actor-producer Michael Douglas says, that he is proud of the fact that during the 70s and 80s, people used to say, “When I see your name I don’t know what it’s gonna be but I know it’s gonna be good.” “And that’s what I’ve always just tried to do,” Douglas says, “try to be unpredictable, and hopefully good. People always ask me “In your career, what’s your favorite movie?” And, you know, you work as hard on your successes as your failures. But I’d have to say “Black Rain” is right up there for the unique qualities of this movie, the execution across the board.”

Let me close my introduction with two items of trivia:

Yûsaku Matsuda, who plays the villain, Sato, knew he had bladder cancer, and that his condition would be aggravated by acting in the movie. He elected to do so anyway, unbeknownst to director Ridley Scott, reportedly saying, "This way, I will live forever." He died on 9 November 1989, less than seven weeks after the film's American premiere.

The winery where the final battle takes place is not in Japan, but in Napa County, California. The filmmaker's visa had run out, so final filming was shifted to the United States.
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Updated 21-01-24