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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Gather Round, You Moon Monsters


Sneaking Peeks At Reborn Doctor X

Classic era fans are spoiled like babies, with so much to watch it’s almost confusing, as if someone gave me a Tootsie Roll that keeps going and going without any end. This past year, just in the horror category, from always amazing George Feltenstein and crew at Warner Archive, we got The Curse of Frankenstein and Mystery of the Wax Museum, both larded with extras, and for thanks they get, Yeah, but where’s a fully restored Horror of Dracula, and Doctor X? Don’t know from plans for the former, but Doctor X is on Spring release boards, as in this Spring (2021), so get ready for another two-color high.

Often in midst of gimme, gimme, I forget (or ignore) real expense these projects incur. Costs obviously run high, this toward individual disc sales at $21.99, that the retail from which an Amazon or elsewhere will pluck dollars to sell it for less (present price: $16.39). I once gave several hundred for a black-and-white print of Doctor X, around 1985 as best recalled, and was thankful to get it. Known then, at least rumored, was Doctor X existence in color, but who had sat down to see that? Would I have given another hundred for just a glimpse? Maybe so, as that’s how coveted such an experience would have been at the time.

Dan Mercer and I saw a color Doctor X, in 35mm, at a 90’s Cinecon, long after sit-down to an 8mm one-reel condensation in an attic garret circa 1973, then Halloween venture to Wake Forest a same year to see Doctor X (albeit B/W) on a combo with newly-discovered Wax Museum in (faded) color. Years later Cinecon crowd was hushed by anticipation. A couple reels were run out of order, but we didn’t care. This was Doctor X in color! What twenty years ago could not approach is what UCLA has digitally achieved now. Glad I’ve lived long enough to see it, provided my own synthetic flesh holds out to Blu-Ray release date. 

I expect Wax Museum did a leap in fan estimation once they had hold of the Blu-Ray, Doctor X to be likely encore of that. Scott MacQueen reports higher hill UCLA climbed to put X right, but they did it, happy outcome a restoration equal to Wax. Detail of efforts will appear in an upcoming Classic Images interview MacQueen had with genre expert Tom Weaver. Amazing result can be got from distressed elements. What I saw in Wax looked like a first strike off nitrate negatives, but no, it was rescue from two 35mm prints in various state of distress. In X case, there was but one print, pretty banged, but no one will imagine so once they’ve had a look.

Venturing among people, it would seem they all should look as forward to Doctor X as I do, having watched Wax Museum multiple times, as I did. Alas … but if we are a mere niche, just how much of a niche? How many units of Wax do you suppose sold? How alone are we in this viewing world? I used to fret over “mainstream” concept of fandom. Well, I don’t think there is a mainstream anymore, at least not one we’d recognize. Too many forums are there for kindred spirits to notice exclusion elsewhere. Where Doctor X is a Big Noise is where I want to be, and let the rest of the world go by.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Look for DOCTOR X on Blu-ray disc and DVD – coming in Spring of 2021 from the Warner Archive Collection.
Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation


Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Wow! Thanks for the advance word on DOCTOR X. Mr. McQueen should share any specimens of what the print looked like before the restoration work, to emphasize what must have been a herculean effort. That's my big interest. Here's hoping the before-and-after will be a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray release.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Looking forward to this. The niche I (and many others) would like Warner Archive to explore is their 1950s 3D library which includes films made at MGM and RKO. There are mighty good titles there.

THE 3D FILM ARCHIVE is doing a wonderful job not only at restoring classic 3D titles but also in showing we are a niche that will gladly pony up the cash to help with the work.

I have the BFI restoration of THE HORROR OF DRACULA. For everyone with a multi-region Blu-ray player this is a must. It includes the fabled extra footage limited to Japan.

I had a 16mm color print of MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM so I know how bad it looked. WARNER ARCHIVE is doing great work.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

"Science fiction (ooh, ooh) double feature
Doctor X will build a creature"

Tonight only! Technicolor double feature: MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM and DOCTOR X.

12:38 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

When I was a kid, a two-reel silent Laurel and Hardy in 8mm ran around $15 (eventually around $20). A Disney cartoon, in color but without sound, was $14 from Sears. When the VHS market settled in movies were usually $20-$30, sometimes less, and always "bare bones".

Those have been my benchmarks in assigning value to DVDs, and even without allowing for inflation I'm in hog heaven.

2:45 PM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

Sweet macaroons! If the screen caps are any indication, this is KING OF JAZZ- level restoration work! Can't wait! (But I will.)

One question: why, for heaven's sake, would Preston Foster's character make himself look like a pinhead, then a Twilight Zone grotesque?!? I guess he really was screwy!

9:33 PM  
Blogger tmwctd said...

Re Reg and 3D: The Austrian Film Archive showed the 3D version of "Kiss Me Kate" a few years ago. Had a ball then, was almost ducking away when things were hurtled towards the camera...

5:40 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Can't wait for the BluRay! Sidebar: just finished Scott Eyeman's excellent Cary Grant biography. Looking at those striking pictures of Fay Wray in color one can clearly imagine why Grant (and, no doubt, many others) carried the torch for the lovely actress.

11:27 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dear John:

"Glad I’ve lived long enough to see it, provided my own synthetic flesh holds out to Blu-Ray release date."

Yes, absolutely. We are blessed in this respect, aren't we? All kudos to all at Warners who are making this possible.

A thought: when and if the Coronavirus crisis passes, the studio should contemplate at least a small theatrical arthouse go-round for a MYSTERY/X double feature. It was wonderful seeing the restored MYSTERY at a packed MoMA screening early last year -- come to think of it, it was one of the last movies I saw in public -- and I'm sure X would prove equally impressive on the big screen.

While the rightly proud Greenbriar curator may be unaccustomed to sharing images directly from a commercial source, everything you posted looks sensational. This disc is going to be a treat in every way.

-- Griff

11:35 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer remembers the Cinecon where he finally saw DOCTOR X in color:

The Cinecon was a moveable feast in those days. It might be held in Hollywood one year or New York another, or even Saginaw, Michigan. The one where we saw a restored version of “Dr. X” was in Davenport, Iowa, another Midwestern town with a coterie of film fans willing to risk the sponsorship of a film convention. At that, we were fortunate for the custom of holding it on Labor Day weekend, as a downtown café we stopped at still had a line of discoloration along one wall, marking the high-water mark of a flood earlier in the year.

The guest of honor was Lillian Gish and there would a gala showing one evening of “Orphans of the Storm.” As special as that was, I remember at least as fondly the off-site screening at a local museum, where not only was “Dr. X” shown, but also Maximillian Schell’s documentary, “Marlene,” and a silent comedy, “Changing Husbands,” that starred Leatrice Joy and Victor Varconi, but which introduced me to that marvelous comedian, Raymond Griffith.

That particular restoration of “Dr. X” was also by UCLA and it was wonderful, for compared to the vapid print of “Mystery of the Wax Museum” I had seen years before, this was my first experience of anything even approximating two-strip Technicolor. Of course, it was much more than an approximation, and though I will be very interested in seeing this latest version of the film, I cannot think that it will have quite the effect of what I saw in that modest screening room, for the anticipation and suspense I brought to it that morning.

As for the other films, “Changing Husbands” was delightful, not least for its adult approach to love and romance, and for its daring in seizing upon the logically inevitable ending, however contrary to conventional morality it might have seemed. Along the way, it established its comedy motifs and snares, including a curious aversion of the Griffith character to cross-eyed women, which exploded into specular mirth among our gathering. For several years after that, there would have to be a Raymond Griffith film on the Cinecon schedule, even as there would be one featuring Warren William in his pre-Code cynicism.

“Marlene” took a most cunning approach to an elusive quarry, the star Marlene Dietrich, who would allow an hours long interview to be recorded regarding her career, but refused to be filmed. Evidently, she realized that the appearance of agelessness that she had maintained for so long had become untenable. Between clips from her films, Schell’s camera would probe and tease the corridors of a hotel or the partially opened door to a room, but never enter upon the precincts of the holy of holies. Thus, the illusion was preserved.

Such memories as these are happy ones, undimmed by the passage of time and the basis for all the tomorrows I still look forward to, for the wonders to be found, now as before.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Hokey smoke, this looks FANTASTIC!

8:04 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

What I would like to see are re-issues of these films not just in small art houses but in the BIG ones with proper campaigns.

Some of the people who lived with me brought me to their universities where we did presentations to help them raise money for themselves. The campus film societies would say, "You're only going to get a few people." I would say, "If you were smart you would have waited until this show is over but since you laid your cards on the table I will lay mine. We're going to pack this place."

The end result of all this is to get the market interested in our product be it a can of soup or a movie.

I deliberately chose to self fund my work which was a challenge as I come from a dirt poor background. In other words I had to learn to SELL (ugly word in too many minds) my shows.

That brought on the contempt of those who like to think they're part of an elite group. It still does.

Showmanship has always been sadly lacking in this wonderful industry. Showmanship is what it is all about.

KISS ME KATE, HOUSE OF WAX, DIAL M FOR MURDER and, yes, THE WIZARD OF OZ are available in terrific 3D Blu-rays from Warner Archive. It's a joy to see those films as they are meant to be seen. Time for Warner Archive to dust off the rest of their wonderful 3D library. They deserve it as much as this film does.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

Wha-a-a? OZ is available in 3D????

11:46 AM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

Unfortunately Beowulf and Reg, 3D TV sets are no loner being made, nor are 3D Blu-Ray players, so you'll have to hunt really hard for them (I kick myself for having problems that prevented me from getting employment so that I would have to money to buy a 3D TV set, 3D Blu-Ray player, 3D camera, and a 3D camcorder.) Good to see these movies come out on Blu-Ray; hopefully people will get up off their asses and buy them instead of waiting to come to streaming services.

3:23 AM  
Blogger RobW said...

Current blu-ray players can still play 3D blu-rays; all of the fancy processing of the signal is done by the tv.

Hell, even my two 4k players can play 3D blu-rays perfectly on my LG OLED, ( their last model to support the 3D format )

5:25 PM  

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