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Monday, January 13, 2020

Ads Torn From Time


They Might Otherwise Have Lined A Bird Cage

There is a sympathy I have for distressed theatre ads, yellow and torn, seen but fleetingly even when new and passed by quickly as readers made fleet way from page to newspaper page. These were made to be junked or wrap fish. I argued for movie ads as an art form in a 2017 book, but was anyone convinced? Still, I keep finding them, or they find me, in scrapbooks, loose survivor pages --- wonder is, who or why did anyone save such ephemera back in the day? These two got the worst of passing years, one ripped, the other scotch-taped to ruination. Still they are precious to me. Have the movies themselves survived better? Ben-Hur is a DVD extra with the 1959 remake, but not HD. I saw it once in 35mm to orchestral accompany. Dan Mercer was with me and could tell more about that. Suffice to say, it was a high-point in my film-going life. A colossal earner, Ben-Hur still lost money owing to massive costs (the ad blurb says four million, which was very nearly right). Then Metro had to split with the estate of source author Lew Wallace. Re the scotch-tape, I was once guilty of using it to adhere ads, not realizing the stuff turns yellow and leaves residue you can’t get off. Live and learn. To Son Of The Sheik, that one is on Blu-Ray, but source elements are not so great. The first Sheik actually looks better (also Blu-available). I like how part of this ad hangs by a thread … a metaphor for what’s left of our silent era? I’m told there are miles of nitrate still to be preserved, but with what funds? They can’t all be with Valentino, or Clara Bow, or faces at least a few might recognize. Funny thing ... we keep wanting more and more of this stuff, but who's got time to watch plethora of releases that do come out?

8 Comments:

Blogger Beowulf said...

In SOME ways the twenties BEN-HUR's chariot race is better than the one in the fifties remake. (Yes, horses died, but they also did in lots of westerns that we all love.) The worst version is in THE PHANTOM MENACE.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

...but who's got time to watch plethora of releases that do come out?

Thank you for reassuring me that there's still a plethora! I was watching an episode of "QI" in which one of the 20-something panelists expressed amazement that another panelist was still looking at DVDs. As though DVD was a format that has already been left behind. Does this mean that DVDs belong to a different demographic, like videotape before it, and home-movie-films before that?

To think that once upon a time, film dealers would grab whatever silent nitrates they could and make printing negatives, resulting in the availability of 16mm and 8mm copies -- which are now the reference prints for today's dealers.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

$4 million would be equal to around $57 million now. That's a lot of dough.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Rodney said...

You've convinced me long ago, as I'm a big fan of both of your books, and hope for a third.

Regarding movie releases, we're lucky that pretty much all of us reading this have what amounts to an impromptu film class in our homes at any given time. My collection is probably mid-sized, but I'm often in awe of the fact that I have so much material at my fingertips when not that far back it would be an impossibility.

Yes, I still acquire new DVDs and Blurays, maybe not as frequently as I used to, but enough that I know that I probably will never actually watch everything I own. I still can't help myself from snatching up more though. All those years of reading Maltin's film guides and wondering what it would be like to actually see so much of that stuff, I guess.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The original BEN-HUR used stallions. The remake used geldings. The horses in the original are awesome, wonderful, just incredible and all the other words I can't think of right now.

It more than deserves a Blu-ray.

I used to have it on 16mm with the original score. Love to see that as an option on a Blu-ray.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

I remember seeing the movie ads in the daily papers when I was a kid, for movies the rating system wouldn't allow me to see for a number of years - and the designs used in those ads were so well-designed that they sometimes stuck in my memory; so much so, that when I finally did see the advertised movie as an adult, I felt that the film somehow simply did not live up to my memory of the strong iconography of the ad.
You could say that in those instances, I felt that the memory of the art of the advertisement was more aesthetically fulfilling than my actual experience of the art of the movie being advertised: simply put, the ad was superior to the film.

9:21 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Apropos of nothing, Criterion is releasing a Karel Zeman package in March. It will include "Invention for Destruction" -- known here as "The Fantastic World of Jules Verne" -- as well as "The Fabulous Baron Munchausen" and "Journey to the Beginning of Time". If you saw any of them as a kid, you'll remember their strange, surreal look.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

One of the highlights of my collection is an original 1931 newspaper add for FRANKENSTEIN that I got for cheap because - while otherwise in mint condition - somewhere along the way somebody had pasted it inseparable to a piece of vintage cardboard. I keep it tucked in with my 1931 photoplay edition of the novel - which I also got cheap because a previous owner had mistreated it.

9:06 PM  

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