CineSavant Column

Saturday December 5, 2020


I love it!  I put a picture of a baby up top last Tuesday and his link (to 1965’s Georgy Girl) made the Trailers from Hell most popular article list for two days. I’m not kidding, I got notes from people who understood how the ‘click on this’ link works and notes from some that didn’t. Right about this time many of us are thinking of children and even new babies that we cannot see, meet or hold in person until a certain global problem is put to rest.

This holiday let’s keep all the babies safe and snug from health hazards, of all kinds.


I guess the Warners decision to release all of its 2021 films to streaming at the same time that theaters get them is the big news this week: Warner Bros. to Debut Entire 2021 Film Slate, Including Dune and Matrix 4, Both on HBO Max and In Theaters. I’m already receiving pub announcements from a research firm stating that ‘audiences will demand’ to see movies on their home screens after the pandemic has passed, too. Of course, they’re thumping for HBO Max.

We’re all thinking of things that may not go back to ‘normal’ after the pandemic passes. Businesses gone, services changed. A lot of restaurants and independent bookstores, of course.

But a close associate sees the Big News of the ‘eclipse of the theaters’ as an acceleration of what the big studio content providers — most of which are consolidated under broad corporate umbrellas — have been wanting to do for years: cut those troublesome exhibitors out of the loop. I think that the theater-going habit will come back, at least for some segment of the audience. When it is safe to do so people are surely going to want to get out of the house, just like they always have. I’m no longer a once-a-week moviegoer, and I’m not sure anybody really is, but the already shrunken theater market out there will surely become even smaller. “Event Movies” will of course continue, but modest dramas and arthouse films for older audiences? … not so sure about them. They may be doomed forever to wander between the winds take up permanent residence in splinter streaming systems, away from mass distribution.

 I was told last week that a similar ‘sudden’ shift in the technical end of the movie business happened nine years ago. Remember the havoc of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami?   One small part of its aftermath was that some Japanese factories that produced much of the world’s magnetic videotape were put out of commission. Before 2011 most everything was recorded on videotape, even as the trend toward videochip and hard drive recording grew. The industry resisted because post houses (which would soon mostly disappear as well) made huge profits passing on the cost of videotape to their customers. In the ’90s I’d walk out of an $800 editing session with $500 worth of show dubs, backup dubs, work tape dubs. When the 2011 earthquake cut off the supply of videotape stock production shifted to the new model. ‘Camera’ digital recordings were backed up on various drives, and videotape use in some applications went into decline. My ‘career’ in advertising and trailers is in my attic, on 1″, 3/4″ and digibeta tapes … all of which aren’t that easy to play anyplace, anymore. There’s still plenty of videotape around, it hasn’t disappeared entirely.

We’re accustomed to most industry evolution being a gradual process, like the general ‘de-film’ transformation that changed the business in the 1990s. Just as I got out of trailer work, editing on 35mm, going to a film lab and an audio mix with tracks cut on magnetic film was the norm. Then digital finishing took over, a change as big as the shift in special effects to CGI. No more mixing houses with banks of audio dubbers, no more learning how to explain an effect to an optical house by marking a work print with grease pencil. I almost trained to become an optical line-up expert, prepping elements and taking counts for an optical printer operator. That entire rarified specialty disappeared overnight.

But that was natural evolution, not a consequence of a tsunami or a plague. The pandemic is obviously changing the world — how many more companies will now decide that it’s just fine to have employees work from home?  What will happen to all the surplus office space?  Will fewer cars be sold to fewer commuters?  How much less business travel will there be, if vendors don’t have to impress clients by flying thousands of miles to make in-person pitches?

But the big news for the impact of the pandemic on Hollywood is the boost given to streaming. Empty theaters are definitely helping the streaming model conquer more visual entertainment. And the companies that like that idea are already crowing that ‘audience demand’ will be for new movies to be immediately available to their home theaters in ‘normal’ times as well.


And finally, some good news from overseas, a CineSavant SCOOP of sorts. Ulrich Bruckner of Explosive Media has made arrangements to release two epic Italian sword ‘n’ sandal epics on Blu-ray, probably arriving next Spring (2021). Both were produced in Rome by Titanus. I won’t know any more details for months; Explosive Media discs are almost always English friendly, and some are All-Region. We’re hoping for original, longer versions, of course.

First Up will be Romolo e Remo, the 1961 epic about the founding of Rome filmed in CinemaScope. Starring as the warring brothers is the unbeatable peplum team of Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott. Their co-star is Virna Lisi. The English version of the show, reduced by nineteen minutes, was distributed by Paramount as Duel of the Titans. It’s said to be a quality epic all down the line — the director is Sergio Corbucci (you know, the director of Nebraska Jim) and the music is by Piero Piccioni.


Explosive has also licensed the truly epic 1962 Titanus production Sodoma e Gomorra, known in America as The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah or simply Sodom and Gomorrah. A huge bust for Robert Aldrich in his European career detour, the show has an all-star cast: Stewart Granger, Anouk Aimée, Pier Angeli, Stanley Baker, Rossana Podestà, Scilla Gabel and Alice and Ellen Kessler.

It’s coming from Italy, so we’re hoping that the disc will be remastered (it needs it) and again, in international versions. We’re already fans of the music score by Miklos Rosza. I don’t expect it to be longer or different than the standard 154-minute cut we see here, but who knows?  You never can tell: perhaps an Italian cut will indeed carry a directing credit for Sergio Leone.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson