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DRW50

Recovering lost films and TV shows

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DRW50   

Extremely rare 1919 Houdini film was finally sold last year by the man who owned it (he'd bought it from Houdini's estate in 1949), has been restored, and will be premiering on TCM.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/harry-houdini-movie-set-tcm-766234

I had to laugh when I saw some sneering AV Club article insisting that if this were the 80's, TCM would have colorized it. Apparently no one told AV Club that TCM wasn't around in the 80's.

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Vee   

According to a colleague of mine, the release of Orson Welles's final film, The Other Side of the Wind, may finally be happening after years of researching Welles's notes, legal wrangling and BTS strife. At last check, the film is still slated to be aired on Showtime when and if it is assembled from its raw footage and completed.

Here's a recent article (10/14) about the completion process. It has been a very long time getting here.

Two producers heading up the completion of Orson Welles' unfinished The Other Side of the Wind say they intend to deliver a film close to what the legendary director would have wanted when he completed principal photography in 1976.

Noted Hollywood producer Frank Marshall, who was a line producer on the original shoot, and Filip Jan Rymsza of Royal Road Entertainment detailed their plans in conversations this week with Wellesnet. The duo, along with Jens Koethner Kaul, have secured the partial ownership rights for The Other Side of the Wind that were held by the Paris film company Les Films de l'Astrophore and the late Mehdi Boushehri. Agreements were also reached with Welles' youngest daughter, Beatrice, who heads the Estate of Orson Welles, and his longtime companion Oja Kodar, who inherited the late director's ownership.

"Everyone has a notion of how it should be done," Rymsza said. "My goal was to bring everybody together with a shared sense of purpose."

Producers are not pursuing a film-within-a-film-within-a-film scenario or a documentary on the making of the movie. Rather, the movie will utilize instructions left behind by Welles, as well as a 40-minute workprint edited by Welles and now in Kodar's possession, to complete the movie he set out to make.

Marshall believes there is no need to shoot additional footage, adding a scene at a drive-in theater will completed as a visual effect and he has photographs taken on the set for the needed glimpse of a fatal car crash.

In a letter written less than a month before his death on Oct. 10, 1985, Welles stated his wish that in the event he was incapacitated The Other Side of the Wind "shall be completed" with Kodar's involvement.

Welles' workprint will be shipped from Kodar's home in Primosten, Croatia, to Los Angeles later this fall.

[...]

Marshall, who will oversee the editing of The Other Side of the Wind, said he will immediately begin assembling a production crew, adding there has been no shortage of interest in the film community.

"It's a challenge," Marshall said of matching Welles' editing style. "For me, Orson was way ahead of his time in the way he shot and constructed his movies."

Marshall said he, Kodar and The Other Side of the Wind co-star Peter Bogdanovich know Welles' intentions for the film. There is also the workprint, other scenes edited by Welles and not included in the workprint, various scripts and written instructions left behind by the late filmmaker to rely on.

"We have a road map to guide us," Marshall said. "We are going to be able to imitate his style."

[...]

The Other Side of the Wind takes place at the 70th birthday party of maverick movie director Jake Hannaford (John Huston), who is struggling to make a commercial comeback at a time when the studio system has been replaced by the New Hollywood. The party is attended by young directors, like Brooks Otterlake (Bogdanovich), hangers-on, critics and movies freaks – many of whom are not so subtly patterned after people in Welles' life. Hannaford dies at the conclusion of the party and his final hours are recounted in a collage of still photos, and 8mm, 16mm and 35mm color and black-and-white film shot at the party, along with scenes from his unfinished comeback movie.

Welles struggled to complete The Other Side of the Wind until his death, but was stymied by issues ranging from financing to the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

For nearly 30 years, repeated efforts to complete the film have failed, often because of squabbles and bad blood among rights holders and investors.

Marshall and Rymsza were able to bring these parties together.

"Everyone has realized next year is the perfect time for the movie to be completed and released," Marshall said. "Everyone wants this to happen and to honor Orson's legacy."

This assembly plan is not dissimilar from how Welles's friends and colleagues, including longtime confidante Peter Bogdanovich, re-assembled his masterpiece Touch of Evil from Welles's own editing notes in the late '90s.

Beatrice Welles, Welles's notoriously litigious daughter from his marriage to Paola Mori, seems to have finally agreed to not challenge the film's future development. Hopefully this will finally work out. (She is also doing a Q&A this weekend for a screening in New York of Welles's rare and beloved Shakespeare pastiche, Chimes at Midnight with Jeanne Moreau, so that is sure to be an interesting room.)

Edited by Vee

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Vee   

This is really interesting. He had a lot of projects that never finished or took forever to finish, didn't he? What did you think of their Touch of Evil remaster?

I think the Touch of Evil restoration is a masterpiece. Seeing that on the big screen was one of the very first films I saw in school.

He had many unfinished films - one was a film called The Deep, sort of an old take on the same source material that later became the film Dead Calm in the early '90s with Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill and Billy Zane, a three-person thriller on a boat at sea. His version starred Laurence Harvey and Jeanne Moreau. They couldn't finish some key FX scenes in the climax - Welles was always out of money - so it languishes forever, sadly. Wind, hopefully, will finally have a happier ending. Supposedly all that was left to shoot was a car crash or something. Sadly I don't think we will ever find the rest of his footage for The Magnificent Ambersons, which was taken away from him by the studio and recut by Robert Wise, his editor. The film as is is still incredible, but it is truncated.

His version of Othello, which ran in town last week, also took years to film piecemeal, around the world, with various money-saving maneuvers. His Macbeth was filmed on the backlots and leftover sets from various Republic pictures; at one point he supposedly stole props and wardrobe from pictures he'd acted in to use in these productions. Both are excellent.

Edited by Vee

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Vee   

Incidentally, your linked article mentions another Bill Gunn retrospective, featuring his extremely rough, guerilla-esque PBS soap, Personal Problems. I saw a very rare screening of that several years ago and wrote about it here, I remember us talking about it. I may have to go see it again - maybe they're showing more, who knows (nevermind, the Lincoln Center link says they're only showing 75 minutes' worth; at BAM Cinematek, they showed almost three hours). The cast and crew will be there, so I may check it out. You have also convinced me to hit Losing Ground, and I hate going all the way up to Lincoln Center.

Edited by Vee

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Vee   

If I can I will do that. I also wish everyone could see the Personal Problems footage I saw a few years back, but after seeing, say, AMC 2.0, with its renewed focus on the Hubbards and social issues, that feels like less of an elegy for good soap potential lost. It got realized again.

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DRW50   

Given the cynicism of marketing, maybe someone can convince a company to buy it and bill it as Empire before there was an Empire.

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Vee   

I do love Empire and it's an idea, I suppose, but it bears little to no resemblance, and I mean, it's barely releaseable, frankly - it's very, very, very roughly made. We're talking home video recording or something. I think the only way that could happen is if someone packaged it as an extra on a future release of Gunn's great Ganja & Hess, but that already has a nice Blu-Ray. And who knows what the rights issues are like.

Edited by Vee

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DRW50   

Definitely. That's why I said cynical marketing. It would just be nice to see some of the old material given a new chance now that the industry might see it can make money.

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Vee   

Oh, I understand. But I think the market for that would be basically nil, sadly. Even if you somehow got the rights to put it on a disc with his one other somewhat well-known film, though, that's still super-super-niche. What I hope for is that it eventually ends up streaming on that Archive.org site or whatever it is, in the public domain someday. Or someone could leak it to YT.

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