“Where Vertigo was first released, it was not one of it`s greatest hits. But time does things to movies & the way we see them. But along the way it was almost lost to us forever.” James C. Katz & Robert A. Harris (Restoration Producer)
Restoration team James C. Katz (left) and Robert A. Harris.
We chose Vertigo as a candidate for reservation for 2 reasons:
Number 1- It`s a great film. It`s one of the most important films ever made.
Number 2-The film elements themselves, both picture and sound, were in dire need of preservation.
The film was last released theatrically in 1984, and the audiences have not seen on the big screen for 12 years.
At first they had to do: lots of research, put all the elements together and decide whether they can do the restoration at all. (There are many films that are not possible to restore)
“When we first opened the cans on Vertigo, basically what we found was a faded negative. Virtually looked as though the negative had been dragged on the floor before it had been printed, and we had differential shrinkage between the yellow, cyan and magenta separation masters, which really led us to restore the film in a totally different manner.”
” To preserve a film is a phone call, a purchase order, a lab order. To restore a film is a year or two years of work and a major commitment.”
Robert A. Harris
Universal would commit more than a million dollars to the restoration of Vertigo. The restoration took 2 years. They were restoring more than a thousand pieces of film negative & using original technicolor prints of reference, they experiement with modern film stocks and proecessing techniques to recreate the precise visual texture Hitchcock intended for every shot.
Vertigo was photographed in a Paramount process called Vista Vision which was an extremely high quality process which was normally reduction-printed to 35-millimeter. Vista Vision went through the camera from right to left. It was horizontal and it was a double-frame 35-millimeter image then they had converting it to 70 mm /D.T.S. (large format)!
Harris: Vertigo was shot in Vistavision, a negative twice the size of 35 millimeter. It lends itself perfectly to 70 millimeter. It’s really being seen [now] in large format the way it was photographed, the size it was photographed, for the first time in 38 years. There are things you’re going to see in this film that have never been seen before. You can see details – I’ll give you one example. When Judy steps [across her apartment toward Ferguson] as Madeleine once again, you see the muscles in her cheeks twitching and her lips moving, and you could not see that in 35 millimeter.
They left a new 65-millimeter preservation negative. They left a 65-millimeter duplicating positive. Hopefully it will last at least 200 years.
In 1996, the film was given a lengthy and controversial restoration and re-released to theaters. The new print featured restored color and newly created audio, utilizing modern sound effects mixed in DTS digital surround sound. In October 1996, the restored Vertigo premiered at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, exhibited for the first time in DTS and 70 mm, a format with a similar frame size to the VistaVision system in which it was originally shot.
Audiences are going to see a film that Hitchcock never saw. They’re going to see a 70 millimeter DTS version of a 1958 classic. People who think they’ve seen the film haven’t seen the film. We hope audiences that don’t know how it ends will come and see this version. It looks as good as this picture has in 30 years.
James C. Katz
Because of the restoration, we can see a huge bruise on Kim Novak`s knee as Jimmy Stewart pulls her out of San Francisco Bay.
Awesome and brilliant, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo was recently restored, and its power is immense. Jimmy Stewart never did finer work, and Hitchcock’s masterpiece, though its meaning may be lost on many, reveals a man at his most obsessed — an apt metaphor for Hitch himself. The restored Vertigo features vibrant colors and a crystal clear soundtrack, but it’s the tale of Stewart’s heights-fearing detective who gets caught up with the woman he’s investigating that makes Vertigosuch a treat. Old San Francisco has never looked more devious, and Hitchcock has never been better.
A film review by Christopher Null – Copyright © 1996 Filmcritic.com
He kept fiendish control of the movies he made, planning shots down to the tiniest details before he arrived on the set. But when it came to caring for the film negatives and soundtrack recordings — the proof of his genius — Alfred Hitchcock was the man who didn’t know too much.
”Hitch was ill-advised,” says producer James Katz, who has made a minicareer of salvaging great movies in partnership with restoration expert Robert Harris. They’ve already snatched such vintage mega-productions as My Fair Lady and Spartacus from the ravages of neglect, and two years ago Universal Pictures commissioned them to work their makeover magic on Vertigo, Hitchcock’s 1958 masterwork of sexual fetishism starring James Stewart in a series of cold sweats and Kim Novak in a series of hot outfits. What Katz and Harris uncovered was more shocking than the plot twists: Reel after reel of film materials was kinky, shrunken, torn, faded, mottled, or decomposing to vinegar. In a few more years, what remained might have been Vertigone.
Turning 1,300 separate pieces of original camera negative into a new negative and prints goes beyond complicated, but even the least techno-centric moviegoer will recognize the spellbinding quality of the results in the big-screen, major-city venues booked for Vertigo‘s rerelease over the next two months: Have Jimmy Stewart’s eyes ever looked so blue, or San Francisco so dreamily gorgeous?
The restorers’ most impressive wizardry, though, is sonic. Because they found high-fidelity stereo tracks for Bernard Herrmann’s soaring score, they ”made the music another major star of the movie,” says Katz. And therein lay a major snag. Once remixed in thundering DTS digital stereo, the orchestrations all but drowned out the tinny sound effects in surviving prints. That meant they had to be researched and rerecorded from scratch — from the proper pitch of a Karmann Ghia engine (for the car Barbara Bel Geddes’ character drives) to the make of pistol a cop fires in the movie’s thrillingly noisy initial chase.
While mixing sound levels, Katz and Harris worked from Hitchcock’s own dubbing notes. And when that failed to settle judgment calls, they sought out a still-living master: Martin Scorsese pronounced the surf in one Golden Gate scene ”too loud.” The waters receded, but the restoration’s expanded sound field still makes Vertigo a more bracing plunge than it’s ever been.
Brush Up You Hitchcock by Steve Daly
My mother saw Vertigo in her childhood, and last week she saw the Newly Restored version. She did not feel the difference. It is unquestionable, that the restoration was a good step. We are lucky to have a masterpiece like Vertigo. My point is: the old and the new version have the same Hitchcock feeling.
Is there a significant difference between the old Vertigo and the Newly restored Vertigo?
Vertigo Newly Restored DVD / Obsessed with Vertigo