CineSavant Column

Saturday August 18, 2018


Criterion’s Blu-ray lineup for November is a winner: Mizoguchi’s tragedy A Story from Chikamatsu, a new 4K transfer of Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot. David Byrne’s terrific True Stories and the long-awaited Blu-ray of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons.

Some Like it Hot will be in its correct 1:85 aspect ratio, which is a good thing. Various online voices would like to impose personal preferences on aspect ratios (even me, sometimes) and it’s good when the documented specifications are followed. Criterion once caved to scattershot aspect ratio demands for its release of Kazan’s On the Waterfront, unnecessarily releasing it in three separate ARs. I’m glad they’re not continuing that practice.

Consumers will be happy to hear that today’s standard for full-coverage film mastering on video is to produce a Full Aperture Transfer (‘FAT’) digital file that records everything on the film, from perf to perf and frame line to frame line. Any desired aspect ratio can be down-converted from that file, and endlessly adjusted if necessary. Even in 1:85, care must be taken to see if the scan is dead center, or if the cameraman raised the top cutoff point higher, to make it easier to hide lights on the set.

Gary Teetzel can’t be stopped: he’s found vintage American Cinematographer articles on favorite fantasy pictures, readable online. From 1960 comes a piece on George Pal’s The Time Machine. The same issue has a profile of Eiji Tsuburaya. Weirdly, the article claims that the Toho monster films start when Tsuburaya dreams up a new creature, hammers out a rough plot, and assigns it to a screenwriter; I wonder if Tomiyuki Tanaka ever read this? From a year later comes a short, not terribly informative article on Gorgo, and Roger Corman is interviewed for his Vincent Price thriller Pit and the Pendulum. They consistently refer to Daniel Haller as ‘Heller.’

Correspondent and friend Marshall Crawford was faster on the scene than I last week, and caught this view of a ‘set’ for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie. It’s a fake copy of the old East wall of Grauman’s Chinese, which was much different in 1969. A door on the forecourt indeed led to a dedicated parking lot — there was no Kodak Theater, and a street (now erased) led North to Franklin Avenue. The parking lot indeed had signage like we see here — maybe that elaborate ‘pagoda’ sign was taken out of storage? The picture cars for the shoot appear to still be in place.

This is course is some other building standing in for Grauman’s, which looked more or less just like this from that angle. Note the price for parking (which I can’t believe was ever that cheap). Just inside the real doors, on a morning in 1972, I filmed Super 8 movies of Ali MacGraw getting her footprints set in concrete, when The Getaway was a hot release. They were good movies, too.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson