CineSavant Column

Saturday February 11, 2023



Two days ago the 3-D Film Archive’s Bob Furmanek announced a big step for the long-in-gestation, Pandemic-delayed 3-D restoration of Phil Tucker’s immortal Robot Monster. The release is planned for this summer; Bob notes that Kickstarter subscribers to the restoration project will receive their copies earlier than the official publication date.

 The final product artwork also made its debut. The good-looking painting depicts roughly 20 of the film’s credited Billion Bubbles.

The actual disc distributor has been announced: Bayview Entertainment. The 3-D Archive’s previous work has benefitted from excellent distributors — we hope the new arrangement turns out to be a winner. We’ve been following this project for at least two years; when the smoke clears hopefully we’ll learn the details on the rights issues with Robot Monster, if only because they were thought to be tied up for so long.

The official press release can be seen at Kickstarter.



Some promising restoration news, forwarded by Gary Teetzel: ClassicFlix has begun a video restoration job on the classic 1940 fantasy-drama  Our Town, directed by Sam Wood and designed (beautifully) by William Cameron Menzies. Sophisticated special effects were employed to depict the ghostly afterlife episodes in playwright Thornton Wilder’s stage presentation. Menzies’ radical designs express the notion that, beneath appearances, our daily lives are haunted byhuman frailty and regret.

The movie features William Holden in an early role, and stars Martha Scott, Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, Fay Bainter, Guy Kibbee and Doro Merande. Frank Craven is the original ‘stage manager’ character, a narrator who exists ‘outside time,’ as if speaking from the Twilight Zone. The music score is by Aaron Copland.

Originally released by United Artists, Our Town became an Oscar nominee for Best Picture. But it hasn’t been properly preserved. The original film elements apparently reverted to the rights holders. Who knows where they are now — this was one of the first films to become a Public Domain no-show and it’s been missed ever since. I’ve posted on CineSavant more than once that a ‘restoration’ has been promised on TCM … but every time I’ve tuned in they’ve shown the same wretched 3rd-generation dupe: full of splices and as difficult to hear as it is to see. The off-framing spoils William Cameron Menzies’ careful designs. Adding insult to injury, a PD video company has added their own names to the credits, as ‘restoration experts.’

Could the success of the recently restored Menzies classic Invaders from Mars have inspired this move?  ClassicFlix is working from a fine-grain master that they say “has baked-in issues like persistant scratching, staining, warping and instability, but when cleaned up will look very nice.” That’s encouraging. They offer a link to a sample raw scan of what they’re working from. Even with the scratches, the clip is already a vast improvement.

A greatly improved copy of another former PD eyesore showed on TCM a few months back. Also designed by William Cameron Menzies, the ‘lost’ classic So Ends Our Night was directed by John Cromwell and stars Fredric March, Margaret Sullavan, Glenn Ford and Erich von Stroheim. Where’s that improved disc?  I have the sinking feeling that these movies are already on the need-to-rescue lists of archives everywhere . . . is it possible that their original negatives were thrown away?  Say it ain’t so.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson