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Restoration of “Patton”
A note about the restoration for the Pictureville audience on the occasion of the British re-release, Saturday, March 16, 2002

This article first appeared on
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Michael Pogorzelski, Director Academy Film Archive March 2002
An 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 own personality.

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.
Further in 70mm reading:

Filming of "Patton"

Dimension 150

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 6-track stereo.
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Updated 21-01-24