Forthcoming: The Cameraman

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FrauBlucher
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Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#1 Post by FrauBlucher » Tue May 07, 2019 8:01 pm

Last week the restoration screened at the SF Silent Film Festival. Did anyone go? Or has anyone read any reviews?

When Criterion releases this, it should be rich in supplements being the only Keaton in the Collection. I expect this to be announced fairly soon.

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DeprongMori
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#2 Post by DeprongMori » Wed May 08, 2019 1:52 am

At this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival I saw their opening night presentation of The Cameraman, with musical accompaniment by Timothy Brock conducting students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The restoration looked great (although IIRC there is still about 3000 feet of film missing, but nothing that affects the narrative flow.) It is a hilarious film and a real treat to see it with a large appreciative audience. It was widely announced that Criterion was responsible for the restoration.

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captveg
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#3 Post by captveg » Wed May 08, 2019 7:10 pm

In regards to supplements, I'm expecting Spite Marriage (1929) to be a bonus feature film on the release. It was Keaton's last silent film, and it was included on the WB Keaton TCM Archives release. Granted, so was his first talkie, Free and Easy (1930), but WB Archive reissued that film on its own along with its alternate Spanish version. Plus, it's a terrible movie, while Spite Marriage is fairly entertaining, if a "lesser", MGM-producer controlled Keaton silent feature.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#4 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu May 09, 2019 8:06 am

The Brownlow/Gill documentary Buster Keaton: A Hard Act To Follow would be a perfect, if lengthy, extra (the running time is nearly three hours), since the focus is on Keaton's loss of creative control upon signing with MGM (The Cameraman was his first MGM release and the last feature he had significant creative input on).

Jonathan S
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#5 Post by Jonathan S » Thu May 09, 2019 8:30 am

Roger Ryan wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 8:06 am
The Brownlow/Gill documentary Buster Keaton: A Hard Act To Follow would be a perfect, if lengthy, extra (the running time is nearly three hours), since the focus is on Keaton's loss of creative control upon signing with MGM (The Cameraman was his first MGM release and the last feature he had significant creative input on).
Photoplay also made a 40-minute documentary, So Funny It Hurt, focusing specifically on Keaton's MGM period, which was included on the Warner/TCM DVD set. Still, it would be nice to have a definitive edition of the earlier three-parter which covers his whole life, especially as the UK DVD of A Hard Act accidentally omitted all the captions identifying interviewees.
Last edited by Jonathan S on Thu May 09, 2019 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Roscoe
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#6 Post by Roscoe » Thu May 09, 2019 10:43 am

Saw the film at the Castro last week and enjoyed it thoroughly -- the new restoration is lovely, much of the terrible old footage has been replaced with stuff from other better prints. I'm very much looking forward to the Criterion disc.

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Drucker
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#7 Post by Drucker » Thu May 09, 2019 10:55 am

Very much looking forward to this. Film Forum did a retrospective on MGM silents a few years ago around the holidays, and we saw this in a packed house and great crowd. The film is easily the equal of his best silents, including The General and Our Hospitality. Not sure if the print was missing footage or whatever, but it seemed great to me.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#8 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu May 09, 2019 12:03 pm

Drucker wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 10:55 am
...Not sure if the print was missing footage or whatever, but it seemed great to me.
From my understanding, the missing footage is primarily related to a couple of additional isolated gags regarding Keaton's character filming newsworthy-events around town (one involved the cameraman being sent to a hotel to film an admiral exiting the hotel lobby and mistakenly filming the hotel's doorman instead); in other words, nothing that significantly compromises the continuity of the story.

It was actually the great success of The Cameraman that was partially responsible for derailing Keaton's tenure at MGM. The studio believed the success of the film was the result of the well-oiled studio system putting all the pieces into place and had little to do with Keaton's creative input. For Keaton's subsequent features, the studio clamped down on any deviation from studio staff-written scripts and filming protocols believing the strict adherence would guarantee big box office. The actual quality of the subsequent work, starting with Spite Marriage, drops considerably; the less input Keaton was allowed, the less committed he became. By the early 30s, he routinely began showing up to the sets drunk and was, ultimately, fired by the studio.

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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#9 Post by Jonathan S » Thu May 09, 2019 1:17 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 12:03 pm
Drucker wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 10:55 am
...Not sure if the print was missing footage or whatever, but it seemed great to me.
From my understanding, the missing footage is primarily related to a couple of additional isolated gags regarding Keaton's character filming newsworthy-events around town (one involved the cameraman being sent to a hotel to film an admiral exiting the hotel lobby and mistakenly filming the hotel's doorman instead); ...
I have the opening 20 seconds of the hotel sequence in a 1980s German TV broadcast. This fragment was omitted from TCM broadcasts and the Warner DVD so I'll be curious to see what they do with it in the restoration. It occurs about 20 minutes into the film, between the baseball stadium and screening room scenes.

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DeprongMori
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#10 Post by DeprongMori » Thu May 09, 2019 2:19 pm

I don’t believe the doorman sequence is in the restoration. They noted in the introduction at SF Silent that there were still approximately 1000m of one reel missing. As I wasn’t aware of what was specifically missing, I didn’t know what to look for in the film.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#11 Post by FrauBlucher » Thu May 09, 2019 3:38 pm

Was the footage in the original release? Currently, is it missing or just omitted from the restoration?

I could see them putting the Brownlow doc on the release. I think Criterion will go through great lengths to do this up special.

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DeprongMori
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#12 Post by DeprongMori » Thu May 09, 2019 4:40 pm

They were very clear in the introduction at SF Silent that the 1000m was lost and thus not available to include in the restoration.

Given that this is the first and likely only Buster Keaton film that Criterion will be releasing, I would like to think it would be a packed release. But then I look at how scant the supplements are for Criterion’s only Frank Borzage release — Moonrise — and I become less optimistic.

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jwd5275
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#13 Post by jwd5275 » Thu May 09, 2019 5:30 pm

DeprongMori wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 4:40 pm
But then I look at how scant the supplements are for Criterion’s only Frank Borzage release — Moonrise — and I become less optimistic.
They have rights to at least one more Borzage, History is Made at Night and could easily license others. This is likely their only Keaton.

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knives
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#14 Post by knives » Thu May 09, 2019 5:38 pm

It's probably not good, but I'd be pleased for a release of The Big Fisherman.

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movielocke
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#15 Post by movielocke » Thu May 09, 2019 6:19 pm

knives wrote:It's probably not good, but I'd be pleased for a release of The Big Fisherman.
I have a feeling that’s one that Disney never restored, given that restoring 70mm films are more expensive and a three hour one especially so.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#16 Post by FrauBlucher » Thu May 09, 2019 6:38 pm

jwd5275 wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 5:30 pm
DeprongMori wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 4:40 pm
But then I look at how scant the supplements are for Criterion’s only Frank Borzage release — Moonrise — and I become less optimistic.
They have rights to at least one more Borzage, History is Made at Night and could easily license others. This is likely their only Keaton.
Not to ruffle feathers but I'm not sure this a good comparison. Besides there are plenty of releases Criterion has knocked out of the yard in terms of supplements.

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jwd5275
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#17 Post by jwd5275 » Thu May 09, 2019 7:47 pm

That was exactly my point

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#18 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri May 10, 2019 12:18 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 3:38 pm
Was the footage in the original release? Currently, is it missing or just omitted from the restoration?...
Yes, the hotel doorman scene was in the original release of The Cameraman. From what I understand, only a small portion of this scene is known to exist ("Jonathan S" notes the first 20 seconds was included in a German TV broadcast). If the only footage that exists is the set-up for the gag and not the pay-off, it makes sense to exclude that footage for the sake of continuity. Of course, an inter-title could be used to explain how the gag plays out, but since the scene is an isolated moment that has little-to-no bearing on the story, I think it would be better to include whatever footage survives as part of the supplements (to be honest, from the description, the gag seems like a fairly minor one).

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#19 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Fri May 10, 2019 1:17 pm

movielocke wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 6:19 pm
knives wrote:It's probably not good, but I'd be pleased for a release of The Big Fisherman.
I have a feeling that’s one that Disney never restored, given that restoring 70mm films are more expensive and a three hour one especially so.
Supposedly part of the issue is that the negative was recut several times (there were at least three different versions of the movie) and it would require an expensive reconstruction effort in addition to the regular cleanup and scan. TCM aired it in 2013 as part of their "Vault Disney" series and from multiple accounts it was a dreadful pan-and-scan transfer that probably dates at least as far back as the 1980s Disney Channel airings. At least it did show that Disney isn't embarrassed by the film to the point of suppressing it altogether, though I suspect its religiosity is part of the reason they haven't done more with it.

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movielocke
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#20 Post by movielocke » Wed Jul 17, 2019 2:00 am

Also confirmed in the podcast as coming, I don’t recall the precise verbiage Kline used but it was something like “the one we just released, the cameraman” or “the one we just finished, the cameraman” as part of a discussion about how film-print collectors often have elements they can use, especially trailers, and they did use things from collectors for the cameraman release.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#21 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:10 am

I don't recall him saying "we just released". I think it was "the one we just worked on", but not 100% sure either. I didn't post because it was mentioned earlier this year that it will be released by the end of the year. I see a Nov or Dec release.

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Roscoe
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#22 Post by Roscoe » Wed Jul 17, 2019 10:41 am

FrauBlucher wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 3:38 pm
I could see them putting the Brownlow doc on the release. I think Criterion will go through great lengths to do this up special.
As is so often the case with those Brownlow docs, I'm sure the rights clearances for all those clips would be prohibitive. Of course I'd be over the moon if they managed it...

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#23 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:26 pm

The pre-MGM Keatons are public domain in the U.S., and I'd hope Criterion could clear clips from the MGM titles given that they share the same licensor as the main feature. I haven't seen the series so I don't know if it has clips from any other sources like the Columbia shorts, and things like music and photographs could be an issue too.

Jonathan S
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#24 Post by Jonathan S » Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:04 am

The Restoration of The Cameraman

Quote from the above link, including useful details from the MGM script continuity (in bold) of the still missing footage we discussed upthread.
Il Cinema Ritrovato wrote: The 4K digital restoration of The Cameraman is the result of a unique partnership between Criterion Collection, Cineteca di Bologna and Warner Bros.
For this restoration, three elements were used: a 35mm MGM second-generation fine grain manufactured by MGM labs in 1957 from the 35mm original camera negative; a 16mm print from the Library of Congress, courtesy of Bruce Lawton and the Malkames Collection; and a 35mm duplicate positive from MGM’s Big Parade of Comedy. The film elements were scanned at Warner Bros Motion Picture Imaging in Burbank, and the digital restoration was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.
FIAF archives and private collections around the world were combed to find the 291 feet of missing footage, unfortunately without success.
In a lengthy 1958 interview with Keaton, George Eastman House’s influential curator George Charles Pratt tells Buster: “There’s one unfortunate gap in our print. Apparently the negative has deteriorated. It’s the part where you go out the first day and everything goes wrong. There’s just a bit of that left…” and Keaton replies: “That’s a shame because some of the biggest gags are there”. Fortunately, only 30 shots are missing from reel 3, described as follows in the original MGM script continuity:
EXT Hotel: Buster sets up his camera in front of Hotel. Doorman exits Hotel, followed by Admiral and his staff and get into car. Buster takes pictures of the doorman, Buster walks away, then realizes he should be photographing the Admiral.
MS Yacht in dry dock, people in foreground. Girl standing by bow of boat with a bottle in hand to christen boat. Buster sets up his camera to capture image. The boat slides into water Buster and camera are on a plank tied to the boat and slide into water along with the boat (fade out).
CU of cannon firing, Buster photographs (fade out).
MS: MGM News Reel office: Buster enters carrying camera, shows a can of film to girl at desk, editor greets Buster who gives him reel of film and says (intertitle) “It’s great stuff, Sir! I hope you’ll look at it”. Office door opens and hits Buster, door closes as another cameraman comes through the door, breaking glass with his tripod.
LS Projection Room: Editor is talking with girl, Buster walks to foreground and sits in front row of the screening room. Shot of Editor looking mad and girl looking disappointed. MS of men on horses in a jumping meet. Buster had cranked camera backward, so horses are jumping in reverse. MCS of Buster in screening room looking very sad
.
According to the archival records, the negative was shipped from MGM Culver City to Kodak on February 1951: upon inspection of the negative, Kodak notified George Eastman House and MGM of the missing footage from reel 3. There are no records confirming when the original camera negative was destroyed, and it is thought that it might have been in the 1965 MGM vault fire.
In 1968 Keaton films were in high demand and when MGM was unable to locate the studio fine grain it made a 35mm blow-up dupe from a 9.5mm print from Paris.MGM finally located the fine grain in 1991 – when film historian and collector David Shepard found it in Robert Youngston’s vast collection he had acquired – though it was missing footage from single reels 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A. The majority of footage removed from the fine grain was used to create the documentary MGM’s Big Parade of Comedy.
Film reconstruction carried out by Warner Bros. used Big Parade to recover as much of the cut section as possible. Film historian/collector Bruce Lawton’s 16mm print was used to replace the blow-up sections and any of the footage not found in MGM’s Big Parade of Comedy. This 16mm print was made for the George Eastman House in 1951 and was printed by the Eastman Kodak plant in Rochester.

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Roscoe
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Re: Forthcoming: The Cameraman

#25 Post by Roscoe » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:48 am

The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:26 pm
The pre-MGM Keatons are public domain in the U.S., and I'd hope Criterion could clear clips from the MGM titles given that they share the same licensor as the main feature. I haven't seen the series so I don't know if it has clips from any other sources like the Columbia shorts, and things like music and photographs could be an issue too.
The series covers Keaton's entire life, including the sound era, and television work, and Beckett/Schneider's FILM, with clips from everything. I'd be very glad if arrangements could be worked out -- Brownlow's series on Keaton is one of his best works. It's just lovely.

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