“Arty Trick”

This Dick Cavett Show clip was obviously taped sometime after Peter Bogdanovich‘s The Last Picture Show opened on 10.22.71. Things were never better for Bogdanovich that at this very moment. Anyway, Bogdanovich mentions something I’d never heard before, which is that John Schlesinger wanted to make Sunday Bloody Sunday (a 1.66 Criterion Bluray is coming on 10.23) in black-and-white, but his producers and financiers said no.

Mel Brooks, whose last film at the time was The Twelve Chairs (’70), says that “black and white could be an arty trick…unless it’s truly indigenous to the local and theme and the story…if it’s proper, it’s proper.” Three years later Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, shot in 1930s-style monochrome, would open nationwide. This would only be ten months after Brooks’ Blazing Saddles preemed on 2.7.74.

Robert Altman was also a guest, but his last film at the time — McCabe and Mrs. Miller — had opened on June 24, 1971 and there was no home video release at the time so what was he doing there? Not to talk about Images, which wouldn’t come out for another year or so. Different world back then.

It’s odd to watch Bogdanovich pull out a cigarette and pop it into his mouth — how radically times have changed.

  • GeorgePrager

    SBS had an appropriate mud green seaweed sheen. No need to film it in black and white.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Every Bluray of a movie that comes out in 1.66 to 1, I cross myself, say a little prayer and then I mutter “eff you, Furmanek! That’s one for our side!”

  • berg

    Frank Capra was also on this ep … Brooks does a dead on impersonation of Bogart from Caine Mutiny

  • Pete Apruzzese

    Why would you say that, Wells? Plenty of films were composed for 1.66. The idea of research (a word you will never understand) is to determine the correct format, whatever it might be.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to Apruzzese: In my humble opinion, the idea of Furmanek (an industry force that you will always speak of favorably and obligingly) is about (a) producing research that documents attempts by 1950s studio chiefs looking to flim-flam audiences into thinking they were seeing something wider, grander and extra-special by CLEAVERING the tops and bottoms of Academy-ratio films, and then using this research in order to (b) persuade Bluray distributors to CLEAVER these same films at 1.85 instead of taking the honorable Masters of Cinema approach of presenting both versions (1.37 and 1.85 or 1.66).

    I do not welcome this & I’m very sorry that the industry has bought the Furmanek theology, hook line and sinker. Because of Furmanek the shapes of films I’ve loved all my life are gone, gone, gone with the wind, certainly as far as Bluray is concerned. There are many films I’ve seen at 1.66 (like John Frankenheimer‘s The Train) that may not emerge at that aspect ratio when and if it gets Blurayed. Case in point: Like The Train, Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate was composed and shown at 1.66 but was re-masked at 1.75 when it came out on Bluray. The “Furmanek effect” is going to lead to re-dos of this type all the more, I fear. At root, we’re simply talking about Bluray distributors wanting to have older films fit the 16 x 9 flat panels without those “annoying” windowbox bars, and the Furmanek theology gives them an excuse or rationale.

    This same idiotic industry-default mentality is what led, I believe, to the CLEAVERING of Barry Lyndon from the correct 1.66 a.r. to the indisputably absurd 1.78 a.r. (only a nose-hair away from 1.85) on the 2011 Warner Home Video Bluray. For some reason that defied fact and research, Leon Vitali urged and approved a 1.78 to 1 aspect ratio in direct contradiction to what Stanley Kubrick wanted and what documentation has proved. Absolutely insane, and yet it happened.


  • Ghost of Kazan

    What the director wants the audience to see:

    What Jeff wants the audience to see:

  • bmcintire

    Ugh. Jeff, just to let you know, a year before John Frankenheimer’s death, he confirmed that THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE’s correct aspect ratio is 1.75. The original negative is hard matted as such. Please leave this particular dead horse to rest already.

  • Cadavra

    Wells’ continued hammering of Bob Furmanek for only reporting and explaining what went down nearly 60 years ago is a textbook example of shooting the messenger. Find another word already.

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