I somehow missed this, a brief Martin Scorsese tutorial about Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks (1961), when it popped ten days ago. Scorsese, who oversaw the One-Eyed Jacks restoration with Steven Spielberg, defends the “painstaking” decision to go with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio (the film could have easily and harmlessly been cropped at 1.75:1 or, better yet, 1.66:1) because that’s how it was projected at Leows’ Capitol in 1961. (Or something like that.) This despite Scorsese’s admission that he initially thought 1.66:1 would have been more appropriate. I’ve mentioned three or four times that Criterion’s OEJ Bluray will pop on 11.22 — one more time!
Universal Home Video and Martin Scorsese‘s The Film Foundation oversaw the restoration of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks, but Criterion, not Universal, will release the Bluray. The 4K digital restoration will pop on 11.22.
Extras include (a) an introduction by Scorsese, (b) excerpts from voice-recordings Brando made during the film’s production; (c) “new video essays on the film’s production history and its potent combination of the stage and screen icon Brando with the classic Hollywood western”; (d) a trailer, and (e) an essay by film critic Howard Hampton.
“Yes, that includes the aspect ratio. I’ve been arguing that the restorers, Universal Home Video and The Film Foundation, should have gone with a somewhat more liberal 1.75 or 1.78 a.r. instead of an announced cropping of 1.85. My tried-and-true “why needlessly slice off that luscious head room?” argument was posted time and again.
I’m told by a reliable source that the One-Eyed Jacks restoration, which began last fall under the aegis of Universal and Martin Scorsese‘s The Film Foundation, will be completed “sometime in April.” And yet the classic Marlon Brando western will not have its first-time-anywhere screening at the TCM Classic Film Festival (4.28 thru 5.1), which is generally regarded as a prized destination for recently restored classic films.
The source states that while Jacks “will not premiere at TCM, it should have its first theatrical viewings “in late spring and/or early summer.” The Jacks Bluray, he says, will “more than likely not be coming out until early fall after a series of screenings that are currently being planned in conjunction with TFF.”
My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that One-Eyed Jacks might have its big premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off two months hence. I’m figuring that with Scorsese expected to be in Cannes for the world premiere of Silence, which I’ve heard is a likely festival pick, it would make sense for him to also introduce and bring attention to Jacks. A Cannes debut would obviously result in a bigger, broader journalistic impression than a showing at TCM, which is basically a gray-haired film buff event that only resonates nationally.
Another suspicion is that the restored Jacks might have some kind of special screening at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival, at which Silence may possibly be shown.
About 10 days ago I spoke to a Universal source about the progress of the forthcoming One-Eyed Jacks Bluray, a joint restoration between Universal Home Video and the Film Foundation that I’m assuming will street sometime in the spring or summer. (Work began last July.) The big question is what aspect ratio will they decide upon — 1.85:1, 1.78:1 or 1.66:1? I’m presuming that my personal preference of 1.66 will be passed over in favor of 1.78, which I can live with. It breaks my heart but I can take it. As long as they don’t whack it down to the dreaded 1.85:1.
I’m told that when work began on Marlon Brando‘s sole directorial effort it was scanned at the full VistaVision aperture, or 1.5:1. Universal was waiting for input from Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, who were both in the process of reviewing the restoration (or about to review it), when I reached out.
Some weeks ago Austin Wilkin, a Brando estate representative who had been asked by Universal for an aspect-ratio preference, sought my opinion. I said it should be 1.66 if the sides aren’t sliced off. Why throw away all that beautiful VistaVision footage on the tops and bottoms of the frames?
We all know One-Eyed Jacks was primarily projected at 1.85 but that dp Jack Lang‘s compositions were made with an understanding that the full aperture would be 1.5:1, that 1.66 was very much in play at the time (the aperture plates were certainly present and being used in theatre booths all over) and that the boxy TV aspect ratio had to be considered. My guess, as noted, is that Universal and The Film Foundation are going to go for a 1.78:1 as this fits 16 x 9 high-def screens, and it at least allows for a bit more height than 1.85.
I was also told that some kind of limited theatrical exhibition will occur prior to or concurrent with with the release of the Bluray.
How many times have I written about the ongoing visual tragedy of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks? For too many years the 8-perf VistaVision splendor of this classic 1961 western, shot by Charles Lang, has been unviewable due to the film rights having lapsed into public domain, which has resulted in several atrocious-looking DVD dupes (largely sourced from a decent-looking Paramount laser disc issued in the ’90s) flooding the market. Well, this nightmare is finally at an end with Universal and Martin Scorsese‘s The Film Foundation having recently agreed to join forces on a 4K “restoration” of One Eyed Jacks.
A Universal Q2 report divulged the basics earlier this month, and this morning Film Foundation managing director Jennifer Ahn confirmed that the One-Eyed Jacks project is a definite go.
Yes, Universal and not Paramount, the original distributor. I’ve assumed all along that Paramount had retained rights but apparently not. The rights issue turned out to be “much more complicated than it seems,” Ahn says, “but ultimately we figured out that they belonged to Universal.” The Q2 report divulged that Universal and the Film Foundation have “begun film element research and scan tests” with an assessment report to follow, and then it’ll be off to the races. If all goes well (and it should) the One-Eyed Jacks Bluray will probably be released sometime next year.
I wasn’t paying attention when the celebrated One-Eyed Jacks, the only film Marlon Brando ever directed, played at the New Beverly on April 2nd and 3rd. What was I thinking? I blew a chance to see an allegedly first-rate 35mm print (provided by Quentin Tarantino), which was a rare opportunity indeed. There’s no way to see a decent version of this 1961 VistaVision-shot western as the rights fell into public domain a few years ago and the market has since been flooded with abysmal-looking DVDs. Paramount has the elements in a vault but they’ll almost certainly never pay for a restoration effort, which would probably cost between $90K and $100K all in.
Let’s face it — I’m never again going to see this film in any kind of decent shape (vibrant VistaVision color, crisp focus, 1.66 or 1.85 aspect ratio) unless I attend a theatrical showing here or at MOMA or someplace like that. The chances of a handsome-looking DVD or Bluray being created are probably close to non-existent. Jacks is dead and gone unless Paramount decides to license it to a company that will to spend the money to assemble a first-rate remastering. In a pig’s eye!
The only way to bask in this landmark film right now is to beg Tarantino to offer his print for a special Hollywood Elsewhere theatre or screening-room showing. Maybe at the New Beverly or Cinefamily or Aidikoff or the Wilshire Screening Room. I’ll cough up for the rental fees. How about it, Quentin? For the sake of solemn Brando worship?
The first-anywhere unveiling of the restored version of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks happened late last night, and it looked truly wonderful in every respect. Yes, that includes the aspect ratio. I’ve been arguing that the restorers, Universal Home Video and The Film Foundation, should have gone with a somewhat more liberal 1.75 or 1.78 a.r. instead of an announced cropping of 1.85. My tried-and-true “why needlessly slice off that luscious head room?” argument was posted time and again.
Well, guess what? The Jacks a.r. didn’t look like 1.85 to me — it definitely looked more like 1.75. Speaking as an ex-projectionist and an a.r. fanatic second to none I know exactly and precisely what 1.85 vs. 1.75 are shaped like, and I’m telling you there’s an ample amount of headroom in every shot. To my enormous relief Jacks didn’t feel cut off or cramped in the slightest. And that, to me, spells 1.75.
My guess is that the film was indeed shown at 1.75. I was sitting right there in the second row, repeatedly calibrating the a.r. with my eye and my gut, tilting my head 90 degrees to the right and assessing the geometry, and I can’t accept that what I saw last night was cropped at 1.85. My guess is that the film was screened at 1.75 (the French have their own ways) but that the Bluray will pop at 1.85, or with a tiny bit less height. I’ve got an email out to Universal’s Peter Schade and The Film Foundation’s Margaret Bodde (both of whom delivered opening remarks) to suss this out.
A little more than a month ago I guessed that the newly restored version of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks (’61), a collaboration between Universal Home Video and Martin Scorsese‘s The Film Foundation, would have its world premiere showing at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Well, this morning it was announced that this digitally reborn Jacks will in fact debut next month on the Cote d’Azur…hooray!
There is unfortunately a semi-tragic aspect to the One-Eyed Jacks restoration. I was informed this morning that it’ll be screened in Cannes and presented on the Bluray within the dreaded 1.85 aspect ratio. The VistaVision negative offered an image area of 1.5:1 and they couldn’t even master it at 1.78:1, which perfectly fits 16 x 9 high-def screens? They had to slice it down even further to 1.85?
My heart is broken. Think of all that luscious top-and-bottom visual information (all of that sky, all those desert vistas, all of those waves off the Monterey coast) thrown into the dumpster!
“We understand your position,” a Universal source confides, “but we feel that 1:85 is more in line with how Paramount intended VistaVision to be shown and [that going with 1.85] requires the least amount of blow-up and loss of image.” The sides of the frames, he means. The restored Jacks will at least deliver left- and right-side visual info that hasn’t been seen in eons, if at all.
Two and a half months ago I insisted that the forthcoming One-Eyed Jacks Bluray, which is now being rendered by Universal senior vp technical operations Michael Daruty and Film Foundation vp Jennifer Ahn, has to be 1.66:1 and not the dreaded 1.85:1. Marlon Brando‘s film was shot with 8-perf VistaVision, which was more or less Paramount’s “house” process during the burgeoning widescreen days of the mid 1950s. VV delivered an in-camera aspect ratio of 1.5 but aspect ratios of 1.66:1, 1.85 and even 2:1 were allowed or recommended. Plus the Paramount laser disc of One-Eyed Jacks was cropped at 1.66 and that’s good enough for me. But these two clips (one after the jump) are cropped somewhere between 1.78:1 and 1.85:1, and to be fair and honest I must admit that they look decently framed. So I’m offering a 1.78:1 compromise, which I think is gracious on my part. I would prefer 1.66, of course, but there are still plenty of 1.85 fascist jackals insisting that adding a little extra height is somehow a bad thing, and I am only one person. So I’m willing to accept 1.78.
Koch Entertainment’s One-Eyed Jacks Bluray (out 11.8) will, of course, be some kind of high-def enhancement of a public-domain version, and all One-Eyed Jacks public domain versions are shit. There was a laser disc version that I owned in the early to mid ’90s that wasn’t too bad, so maybe Koch’s Bluray will be the equal of that. If it is I’m buying it…fool that I am.
This near-great 1961 psychological western has to be freed from public-doman jail and remastered and made into a eye-popping Bluray by its owner, Paramount Pictures. But of course Paramount Home Video has so far refused to even create a mint-condition Bluray of Shane, one of Hollywood’s all-time great westerns, so what are the odds of them doing the right thing by Marlon Brando‘s film?
It’s called bad (i.e., thoughtless, sociopathic) parenting. Shame on this and all the other corporate video divisions who care nothing…okay, very little for Hollywood history and heritage and want nothing more than to make money.
One-Eyed Jacks was the last Paramount film shot in VistaVision, a 35mm large-format system, and that’s why it’ll look close to breathtaking when and if it ever gets properly Blurayed.