by Shane Hnetka
In the age of digital media it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago that movies were made on film. And if that cinematic archive is to be preserved for future generations to enjoy those works need to be properly stored and maintained. The amount of movies that have been lost over the decades is shocking. And more might be lost in the future if steps aren’t taken to protect them.
REMEMBER THE ALAMO
John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) was never the groundbreaking western that Wayne envisioned. It’s rather talky, and any historical background of why the siege of the mission by Mexican troops happened is largely missing from the film. That said, it’s one of the few 70mm movies ever shot and it’s in dire need of restoration.
The Alamo was independently produced by Wayne, who played legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett in the movie, and had an estimated budget of $12 million. While it enjoyed reasonable box office success, it didn’t pay back the cost of production. Wayne sold his rights to United Artists who re-released the film and made their money back. MGM now owns it, and the original longer roadside version of the film is about to be lost forever. MGM has let the 70mm film elements deteriorate to such a state that it can never be fully restored, says acclaimed film restorer Robert A. Harris. Harris has restored such films as Lawrence of Arabia, Vertigo, Rear Window, The Godfather Part I and II and, most recently, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He’s examined the elements and determined that even if The Alamo was restored tomorrow it would at best be 60 per cent of the original quality.
TO RESTORE OR NOT TO RESTORE
MGM is refusing to put any effort into restoring The Alamo. The studio says the cost is too high and it won’t allow anyone to independently fund the restoration because it will make them look bad. They’ve also released a statement claiming that the print is fine. According to Harris, MGM is lying. While the shorter version of the film may be fine, the original longer cut isn’t. Websites like digitalbits.com and hometheaterforum.com have started a campaign encouraging people to let MGM politely know that they would like The Alamo saved/restored. You can reach MGM Studios on Facebook or Twitter: @MGM_Studios (use #savethealamo). It may not be a great film but it doesn’t deserve to be lost forever.
Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. He also writes Dog Blog’s weekly “Sunday Matinee” column at prairiedogmag.com.