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Monday, October 02, 2017

Generations Since We Had It Complete ...


The Sea Wolf (1941) Howls On Warner Blu-Ray




We're about to get dosed up with a more complete Sea Wolf than they've had since initial release of 1941. Warners delayed disc release for years in hopes a complete print might turn up. There was but one in 16mm for the meantime, that owned by actor John Garfield, and later property of his estate. This was shown on isolated occasion, but no way could Warners construct satisfactory whole by ying-yang from pristine, but cut, elements of their own with cloudy 16mm via the Garfield holding. Sounds much like old "uncut" prints of King Kong where inserted snips fell down a quality well each time one popped up. Jumps throughout The Sea Wolf would have been glaring with complaints assured. The  original negative did exist, on deposit at the Library Of Congress, but this was the cut version. Happy find that led to forthcoming Blu-Ray release was a nitrate fine grain at full-length. Now at long last we may sail again, October 10 the launch date. The Sea Wolf has made do with thirteen minutes shorn for seventy years, so Bravo to Warner Archive's righting that wrong.






1947 was chopping date, The Sea Wolf tail-end of a double bill reissue with The Sea Hawk. Both were shortened so theatres could freshen crowds every three and a half hours instead of hosting them for over four. Trims would add at least an extra show per day, and that spelled much paid admission. What did casual patronage care from incomplete versions? The Sea Wolf went from 100 minutes to 87, The Sea Hawk taking steeper drop to 109 minutes from 1940 run-time of 127. Warners tried the duo in test markets during early 1947 and saw two Albany houses equal their house record, a dazzling score for first-runs, let alone an oldie serve. Word of the gross brought 100 requests from outlying showmen, said WB to Variety (4-2-47), and April 26, 1947 was set for a national rollout.






"Unprecedented" day-and-date bookings, on first-run terms, were arranged for the pair, Chicago getting a "fabulous" $19K in a first week, but "falling apart" for a second (Variety) with a mere $8K. Warner's Strand on Broadway committed to two weeks, dropped its customary stage show, but admitted in hindsight (7-22) that Hawk/Wolf did "weak" business overall. There may have been overconfidence in keeping the pair past a single frame. 1947's public was bullish for some reissues, ice-cold on others, as 20th Fox found with "miserable flop" that was Alexander's Ragtime Band, which had lots of promotion money poured over it that would not be got back. As with so many shows, different territories told a different story. Three Warner theatres in the Los Angeles market racked up a "pleasing" $50K for the first Hawk/Wolf week, and nationwide tally had 150 first-run situations grabbing carrot that was The Sea Hawk/Wolf. Variety saw trend of oldies "going big out in the stix" (4-25-47), WB's combo liked by small towns. Bad fallout of the 1947 revive was Wolf negative cut for bunk-in with The Sea Hawk and left that way, all theatrical, and then TV prints from 1956 syndicated release onward bearing the scars. It's lucky, if not a miracle, that the nitrate showed up for Warners access. This then is a Blu-Ray I will be most eager to see.

6 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

Despite being a fan of EG Robinson, this was never on my must-see list. Now it is.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Similarly, we've been told that A NIGHT AT THE OPERA remains on hold for Blu because Warner is still hoping to recover -- somewhere, somehow -- the footage that was cut from the film after its original release.

The company's policy of not using 16mm for restoration purposes has been contentious on some animation discussion boards, when offers to loan 16mm prints with original title art missing from the company's 35mm altered-for-reissue materials have been politely declined. It's 35mm or nothing.

5:39 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

I like this film... but I prefer things like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMJSjUN7dJc

8:23 PM  
Blogger Richard Schilling said...

This is easily WarnerArchive's most exciting blu-ray release of 2017...or 2016 for that matter. It has been a long time since home video releases have yielded discoveries of additional footage, such as the long missing footage on Laura, City For Conquest, Stage Door and all those Judy Garland musical numbers. Since the footage is known to exist, I hope the complete Mata Hari and The Glenn Miller Story get released some day too.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

It is interesting how quickly the magic could fade on a big hit title. I remember being told by someone at Films Inc. that Silver Streak had made more money on college campuses than any movie ever. I bought it back in about '82, when it was all of about 6 years old, and it died a death.

We're about to really get a test of that with a bunch of Avatar sequels. I wouldn't count out Cameron delivering the multiplex goods, but... talk about a big hit grown cold in the meantime.

8:49 PM  
Blogger BrendanGCarroll said...

When Film Score Monthly issued the complete soundtrack of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's magnificent score for SEA WOLF, I was asked to write the extended booklet essay and had to rely on a copy of the final shooting script (courtesy of the Warner Archives at USC) to be able to figure out what was happening on screen during those portions of the score that were no longer available in the cut version, released back then on DVD.

Now at last, I can finally see those scenes. This is wonderful news indeed.

Now - to complete my wish list, please can Warners find the missing parts of JUAREZ (1939) amounting to about 20 minutes worth, for a sparkling Blu-ray soon?

11:37 AM  

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