Not getting the full picture at he Big Scree

It happened so long ago, the name of the talk show I heard it on escapes me. Sir Alec Guinness was paneling with either Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas. After coming back from a commercial he apologized to the audience for the snippet of Lawrence of Arabia that screened prior to the break.

For 30 seconds the audience heard Guinness and another actor exchange dialog, but all they saw was a wine bottle.

"You see," Guinness purred, "'Lawrence' was filmed in Super Panavision 70." He went on to explain how the sides of the image -- almost 3 times as wide as the average television screen -- had to be cropped. This was before long before letterboxing became the norm. Hell, they had yet to strike a pan-and-scan version of Lawrence for the TV release. That's why all the clip had to show for itself was a center-scan bottle of vino.

This brief explanation forever altered the way I look at movies. From this moment forward, flat prints of 'Scope movies became the enemy. It's bad enough I had to suffer with TV versions. No way was I going to pay to see a pan-and-scan 16mm print.

If you think I go slug-nutty over streaming screeners, you should have been there the night I traveled 45 minutes only to find a flat print of The Tarnished Angels awaiting me at the University of Chicago's Doc Films.

The purist has mellowed. I had to laugh last week when I posted the following as the lead photo for my Midnight Cowboy story.

It looked fine on the blog, but watch what our CMS does when the photo hits the front page:

I used to tell my students, "If you're going to shoot a film in 'Scope, do your best to compose it in a manner that will render it illegible on TV."

I live by example.

More like this:


There you go again talking stuff I don't get but I do remember when I saw "How the West Was Won", at the long ago torn down State Theater on El Cajon Blvd and about 45th. First one shot with 3 cameras on the extended screen I think. Those were the days, dude.

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

SD Reader Newsletters

Join our newsletter list and enter to win a $25 gift card to The Broken Yolk Cafe!

Each subscription means another chance to win!