Articles, Blog

The Unsung Heroes of Cinema


91 Comments

  1. Scott Nap Author

    Had I known more about restoration and preservation more when I was younger, I might have pursued that element of film more in college. It's important, even crucial, to keep these films alive.

    Reply
  2. Benish Ben Author

    Speaking of lost films, who killed captain alex is lost forever, the director deleted the whole thing because his computer don't have enough memory for new film

    Reply
  3. tHEWONDERszs Author

    I don't think any one person should get a say on how the film ends up, if there are multiple versions a person should pick which one he/she likes, end of story. If george lucas doesn't like it well too bad, it's going to happen and some people are going to like it better than the version he prefers, it's art that needs to breath, not to be confined by what is or isn't.

    Reply
  4. Asummersdaydreamer14 Author

    I always appreciate how you keep film video essays fresh with your unique video subjects. I also love that the guy dubbed it the "despecialized edition." Keep it up, the ROFS.

    Reply
  5. MightyQuinn2021 Author

    Garret Gilchrist's fan edit of "The Thief and the Cobbler" redeemed the tarnished original. it's not perfect, but it's better than what the actual studios have given audiences

    Reply
  6. Artur Tres Author

    Now Disney owns the rights to the Star Wars franchise , maybe they can release the original theatrical version without needing George Lucas' approval.

    Reply
  7. Jason Birzer Author

    The comment about Star Wars is an interesting datapoint on copyright vs public domain. One one hand, copyright is partially what makes it financially viable to restore some of these films, because of the exclusive rights. At the same time, Lucas has the right to screw with his own art, despite what the fan's view of what it should be.

    Reply
  8. Chris Carmona Author

    You had me hooked with your Lessons for the No Budget Feature (as someone who just shot their first feature) and the videos just keep getting more fascinating and thought provoking. Never ever stop!

    Reply
  9. Captain Lang's Tip of the Day Author

    As much as I prefer Despecialized Edition of Star Wars I have to side with George Lucas because the film belongs to him. This is the right any artist/creator should have over his/her own work!

    Reply
  10. Yeah I agree, Author

    2:45 That shot is always given as the perfect example of Star Wars restoration being crappy.
    But honestly the original shot was also terrible, the composition is awful for both.
    He made it even worse, but it's not like it was that great to begin with.

    Reply
  11. andrew7taylor Author

    It's a grey area IMO. Regarding the Star Wars original triology, George Lucas may think that the Special Edition is "the version" to watch, but he doesn't get to decide for everyone else. The audience shall watch whichever version they like the best, and all versions should be preserved 🙂
    BTW, great stuff, it was 7 minutes well spent!

    Reply
  12. Eric Alvaro Author

    "So who gets, or who should gets, the final say as to how the film ends up?"

    I think the fans, the people. This's not only about films but about the perception of a piece of art in general.

    And I don't think author's perception is more worthwhile than the one of the people. In many cases, I think the popular perception is more valuable than the author's one.

    For example, there are those famous greek sculptures. We found out after that many of them had colors on them (the colors fade off over time, waaaaay back). And the way we remember them, the way we see them, our perception of those sculptures is completely different from the one of the people who made them and saw them thousands of years ago.

    But for us, to restore these sculptures today would be to destroy them.

    Of course that, in movies, unlike sculptures, you can do multiple different restorations and this problem doesn't exist, but anyway.

    http://io9.gizmodo.com/5616498/ultraviolet-light-reveals-how-ancient-greek-statues-really-looked

    Reply
  13. The Dead Immortal Author

    I think there's a massive misunderstanding between fans and George Lucas. I personally am not a fan of Star Wars since I watched it when I was too old and could only see a flawed movie with some really shitty effects and acting, so I get why George did what he did.

    Fans think that Star Wars is a classic, that it should be left how it is because it's a thing from the past. But George made his movie using bleeding edge technology at the time, and his vision of the universe he created couldn't be done accurately at the time, and now that he has the technology available, he's trying to recreate his movies to the image he had in the beginning.

    The thing to understand is that George Lucas isn't a lover of film and all that vintage shit. He loves technology. He's always using the latest and greatest which is why the Star Wars prequel was the first ever movie to be shot on digital. He's not like, say Tarantino, who's adamant about only using film and considers digital to be inferior (which he's wrong about).

    And that's what people don't get about Lucas. The movie that they enjoyed their whole lives isn't actually the movie Lucas wanted at all. I'm willing to bet money that if he could, Lucas would reshoot the entire first trilogy with better CGI, dialogue and plot.

    Reply
  14. Cruz Flores Author

    Restoring The Red Shoes is not at all like the despecialized edition. Not just from a legal stand point of ownership. One is starting from the negative and trying to get back to the original and only version that has ever been seen. The other is starting from crappy fifth or sixth generation copies and trying to recreate a mythical "original" version that never existed since there were edits starting from just a few weeks after the first release. Personally, I don't think he does a very good job of even that since the color on the despecialized edition is pretty crappy from trying to match the different version together.

    Reply
  15. Tobar Author

    The point you bring up at 5:10 Young George Lucas himself said it best:
    "A copyright is held in trust by its owner until it ultimately reverts to public domain. American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history.
    People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as "when life begins" or "when it should be appropriately terminated," but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.
    These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tommorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with "fresher faces," or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor's lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new "original" negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.
    In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.

    Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself." – George Lucas before the US Congress 1988

    Reply
  16. The Bacons Author

    I am lucky enough to to have a copy of the original version of Star Wars on DVD, but it is a very low quality version. I hope that the most recent rumors about a blue ray or even 4K release are true. Harmy has done a tremendous service to hard-core fans, but the next generation of Star Wars fans deserves better than "Jedi Rocks." At the end of the day, that's going to come down to Disney

    Reply
  17. Tomy Author

    Star wars is like a religion : wait 20 years to discover it and you won't get all the hype. Which means a great deal of that hype and fandom come more from nostalgia (like Pokémon and other childhood pop culture phenomenons) than the actual quality of the work.

    Reply
  18. Eugenia Loli Author

    There was a Supreme Court ruling in the '90s that defined a legal fair use "remix" as being something that changes the meaning of the original. A new work of art that is, even if it used other copyrighted art to build on itself. That's how collage art works today.

    The problem with the Star Wars restored film is that it is not a different piece of art, it's just a restored version of the original art. So only the copyright owner should have a final say if this can be released or not. In this case, Lucas says clearly that if he could, he would have made the newer/upgraded Star Wars back then, if he had access to CGI. So that was his artistic vision. Not only that, but I usually find myself "fixing" older artworks of mine, and I wouldn't want the older, lesser ones to circulate anymore — no matter what people thought of the original ones. So I definitely understand how Lucas feels about this.

    Of course, you could argue that from a historical and cultural point of view, this movie belongs to the World, and not to Lucas/Disney "in spirit", and so it must be preserved. I would agree with you with that statement. However, there is no such law or legally defined way to separate the cultural gems from the commercial ones. The only way to change this is to either change the copyright law (e.g. bring copyright back to 25 years limit, as it was in the beginning of the law in the 1800s), or sue to prove that the artwork has surpassed personal property status.

    More realistically, it's for Lucas/Disney to eat the pill, and simply allow this version to be included along the rest of the versions on the same Blu-ray disk: just like Blade Runner has!

    Reply
  19. Troy Whitaker Author

    When I was 19 and 20 I worked in a film preservation and restoration laboratory, and I have to say that this video is a great love letter to all the people who work(ed) in the dying business of restoring film. Thanks for this wonderful reminder that the history of film is just as important as the history of any art or culture.

    Reply
  20. redrounin Author

    Fuck George Lucas.

    Of course there's a larger issue here, about private companies owning our culture due to modern copyright laws, but seriously…fuck George Lucas

    Reply
  21. Chance Ondriezek Author

    There is some good news for Star Wars though. Disney plans on re-releasing the Star Wars trilogy without those distractingly bad special edition enhancements.

    Reply
  22. JimmyDThing Author

    With the case of Star Wars, once you release something to the public to be consumed, it no longer belongs to you. Authorial intent is NOT that important.

    Reply
  23. Chucho E. Quintero Author

    There's a very simple answer to the whole George Lucas problem:

    Sure, as the filmmaker who created this movies, he has the right to do what he wants and release as many different versions as he chooses. HOWEVER, film historians SHOULD preserve the original versions (even if they're not widely released) because they're part of film history: as soon as a film gets released, it stops "belonging" to the filmmaker and belongs to audiences and the collective memory of film. Sure, the movie might change because the filmmaker decides he's not satisfied with it, but he doesn't get to choose to erase something from the face of the Earth. Many writers have been actively against publishing their work (like Kafka, who used to burn his own work, or E.M. Forster whose novel "Maurice" was released only after his death) but the people who went AGAINST their wishes and published their work are the ones saving & preserving their legacy. I'm not a huge fan of SW, I merely enjoy the films, and I don't hate George Lucas, he's kind of an annoying brat but he has the right to do as he pleases — however, I do think that film should be preserved (remember, we're talking about a sci-fi phenomenon from 1977, that's film history, plain and simple), and that shouldn't be decided by someone without an objective pov like Lucas. Not having a decent print of the original 77 version is literally losing a part of history, and that's not OK.

    Reply
  24. Doug Stewart Author

    I've seen a few good discussions on the value of authorial intent in interpretation of creative works, and to that end I would argue that Lucas does not have the final say in what the true version of what Star Wars is. Not because he keeps making them worse (which he does) but because the arbiters of truth, when it comes to creative works, are not the creators but the audience. And the audience, to me, has thoroughly decided that Lucas is wrong. Oh so very wrong.

    Reply
  25. Mattchester Author

    Lucas can make how many special versions and recuts he wants, but he should also give people access to the originals. Keeping them from public is disrespectful not only to the audience, but also to the crew and actors who worked their asses off creating the old versions.

    Reply
  26. James Author

    This video hits me hard. Thanks to Robert Harris and Martin Scorsese, I've been enjoying the restored Lawrence of Arabia (my favorite film) for years, and thanks to Harmy, I'm finally able to enjoy the original Original Star Wars Trilogy for the first time. And thank you for taking the time to make this video and extend a token of appreciation for the people that make these things possible!

    Reply
  27. Nathan Gatten Author

    "Because movies had yet to be seen as a viable art form"
    I can only wonder how many Video Games will be lost forever until critics see them as an art form.

    Reply
  28. TheStockwell Author

    Until fairly recently, films created by the studios were owned BY the studio. Unless you were producing the films you were making the way, say, Kubrick eventually did, they weren't yours. If you owned the film or even had a personal copy of it, you could take care of it. Once Chaplin owned his own films, he could store and save every one of them including outtakes and unused footage. His earlier work is in terrible condition but from 1925 on, he owned and took care of his films. So did Disney, of course.

    Before home video, revival houses, film festivals, and cable networks came along, film was a product shown for a few weeks or months. After that, it was just taking up space. Unless it was a perennial moneymaker such as "Gone with the Wind" it had served its purpose and no-one had any use for it.

    Silent films fared much worse. About 70 percent of them are lost. Sound overtook the film industry so completely, film vaults were emptied and decades of films were incinerated or buried as landfill. It wasn't thought that silent films would be of interest to anyone.

    I'm surprised how much time was spent on the "Star Wars" films and George Lucas. Popular and successful as they are, they aren't as important to cinema history as "The Red Shoes" or "Laurence of Arabia."

    Reply
  29. Slurmy Jim Author

    I love all of Andrew's videos, But this one seems as though he could have gone about it differently. It doesn't have the same creative spark as everything else.

    Reply
  30. DysnomiaFilms Author

    I really hope "The Miracle Worker" 1962 gets a good quality restoration… the only master that exists is a low quality SD TV master. It looks awful but the film is wonderful.

    Reply
  31. Sandy Connell Author

    Absolutely excellent essay! I've just recently stumbled across your channel and I'm glad to be late to party for the sake of being able to binge these very thoughtful, elegantly composed pieces. Great work, through and through.

    Reply
  32. Shanker Menon Author

    This is easily the best video-essay channel for film out there. Sounds awful to say but I kind of hope you never get big, because I've noticed there's always a correlation between how large one of these kinds of channels get, and the quality of the videos they produce. The rest of the video essay channels I know, be it Every Meme a Painting, kektainkristian, Lessons from Le Screenplay, or plenty of others, all make standard normie-appeasing content now, only discussing things that are already popular, resoundingly mediocre (as many popular things often tend to be), and also don't even provide any original insights on their chosen subject matter. They just repeat the same generic and empty buzzwords that are thrown around when the internet discusses that person. Like, kaptainkristian is now making videos about effing David Fincher, claiming him to be an absolute "master" and all this other empty, undeserved praise. It's just all bullshit. And others, like Nerdwriter, have always been absolute pseudointellectual horseshit right from their inception.

    Please don't ever change Royal Ocean, you make the best, most authentic videos that I've seen on this section of youtube, you seem to not care about trends or appeasing larger audiences, and simply follow your on heart and what you consider worth sharing. Even if I don't relate to one of your videos, I can tell that you yourself genuinely care about it, and I respect that more than anything else. Please continue this practice regardless of how large your channel grows. If you can. Thank you.

    Reply
  33. Thicc Boss 47 Author

    1:32 is that from a longer documentary? i wanna see their crusade to restore film and which ones they started, continued and finished restoring

    Reply
  34. MattShnoop Author

    My dad still has the original triology on VHS… I can't imagine they're too hard to find. Why did he have to despecialize it when he could have done that scan thing to a VHS tape?

    Reply
  35. Soberhamster11001100 Author

    This makes we wonder how many video games will be lost over time, since that industry's leaders are affecting the same kind of negligent attitude to preservation as film was shown back in the day.

    Reply
  36. Hugh-John Fleming Author

    HOOZAHS to those that are toiling away at saving all those other movies, films, whatever… that didn't "matter." They are the real heroes.

    Reply
  37. Jim Griffin Author

    "The Red Shoes" with incredible Moira Shearer is one of the best films ever. No one else could have played the part like she… and the other members of the cast all being top drawer as well… I mean Leonide Massine for goodness sake. The "Archers" never miss.

    Reply
  38. Iafiv Iv Author

    In my opinion restoration should be focused on restoring movies to be as close as possible to how they were originally.If all you're doing is adding new elements through the benefit of CGI or changing the color grading or even the actions of the characters 'Han shot first' you're pretty much making an entirely new movie that may not even represent what the original was about.Its basically historical revisionism in movieland.While the author may claim 'its the version that best represents my vision' he/she is lying its the version they want at a certain point in time not the version they were making 20-50 years previously.Also history must be preserved because it gives a better insight into an era.

    Reply
  39. aadamtx Author

    I've been following restoration efforts on and off for years, although my main interest has been projects such as the reconstruction of METROPOLIS and other films that were chopped up over the years. We're fortunately discovering "lost" footage and entire films in Latin America and Eastern Europe – and there was that incredible find of "lost" African-American films up in North Texas years ago (was it Tyler?). I would absolutely contribute $$$ if someone could locate and preserve the missing footage of Lon Chaney's THE MIRACLE MAN (1919)!

    Reply
  40. Rob F Author

    We can be glad, that films had no copy protection and that operators often kept the film instead giving it back. I guess, would operators have respected copyright, 80 % of the surviving historical films would be lost.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *