September 20, 2011

The Pharaoh Returns (or) Restoring Like an Egyptian

Coming attraction slide for The Loves of the Pharaoh (1922)
It's not often that I have the opportunity to share a coming attraction slide for the express purpose of actually advertising a coming attraction, but today that is indeed the case.  I'm talking of course about the brand new restoration of Ernst Lubitsch's 1922 epic The Loves of the Pharaoh.  

Last month I had the pleasure of viewing an advance screening at the Reel Thing symposium in which Thomas Bakels of ALPHA-OMEGA presented the details of the project.  Those of you in the know may remember ALPHA-OMEGA as the folks that did the technical work on the Metropolis restoration that we all so recently thrilled to.

For decades The Loves of the Pharaoh had been counted among the lost until the 1970s when a fragmentary print surfaced in the Russian Gosfilmfond archive.  In subsequent years additional material has come to light, making possible this fuller reconstruction.

Like their restoration of Metropolis, the film has received a full digital restoration treatment, including recreation of the original tinting scheme.  To my eyes they may have actually gone slightly overboard with the digital cleanup, resulting in an image so clean and a frame so stable that the "print" no longer looks like film.  However, that is but that it a minor quibble compared to thrill of witnessing this important title's return from the grave. 

For those of you that will be in or around Los Angeles on October 18, you won't want to miss the U.S. theatrical premiere at (appropriately) the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.  For those of you in more distant lands, ALPHA-OMEGA is also planning BluRay and DVD releases this fall, but if you can make the trip to see it on the big screen I promise you won't be disappointed.

You can read more about the film and its restoration on the ALPHA-OMEGA web site, it's definitely worth the read.

SilentRobert says "check it out."

September 8, 2011

A Depressing Slide into the Fifties

Slide for World in My Corner (1956)

What is the the latest date that lantern slides were used for motion picture advertising in the United States?  

This is one of many questions I have been trying to answer through my inquiry.  Though I may never find a definitive answer,  I am constantly discovering evidence that the practice continued, at least on the fringes, late into the 1950s.  Every couple of months I come across a new slide that pushes my terminus post quem a little later.  Most recently I came across a slide for World in My Corner which was released in March 1956, making that the date of my new latest confirmed U.S. slide.

Slide for Jim Thorpe - All American (1951)
But even though the physical manufacture of advertising slides persisted into the mid/late fifties, it is abundantly clear that any consideration that these materials could be interesting, attractive, or creatively designed, had long since retreated into oblivion.  Not only are these slides poorly and cheaply produced, the graphic design is sadly, even depressingly, the same: black and white copy, a sloppy splash of yellow across the title, and a stripe of blue across the text box at the bottom.  

Slide for Retreat Hell! (1952)
It also appears to be the case that by this time the manufacture of coming attraction slides was reduced to a single commercial entity.  While during the silent era there were literally dozens of national and regional concerns producing slides for the cinema, every slide from I have encountered from the 1950s is framed by the same sad nondescript blank cardboard holder, bearing only the title of the film and the assurance that the slide was "MADE IN U.S.A."

Slide for Red Light (1949)
Why anybody thought these advertisements would entice anybody into the cinema is beyond me.  Could they have put any less effort into them?  It's hard to see how.  

For some reason the projectionist's handwritten text in the Red Light slide says it all:  "Soon."  Yeah, what ever.  That's close enough

I get depressed just looking at them.