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zintar007 06-07-06 11:21 AM

What is the Original Aspect Ratio of This Island Earth?
 
Hello group,
As most may know, Universal will be releasing the SF classic This Island Earth in August. I checked some comments on Amazon.com, and some have mentioned the movie was shot and released in a widescreen format. I always assumed the movie was standard 1.33:1 Academy ratio, being made a bit too soon for Universal to have Cinemascope equipment, and I don't ever recall reading about the movie being shot in widescreen. Also, the DVD is listed as 1.33.

Does anyone have any info on the "OAR" of this movie? Thank you.

baracine 06-07-06 11:48 AM


Originally Posted by zintar007
Hello group,
As most may know, Universal will be releasing the SF classic This Island Earth in August. I checked some comments on Amazon.com, and some have mentioned the movie was shot and released in a widescreen format. I always assumed the movie was standard 1.33:1 Academy ratio, being made a bit too soon for Universal to have Cinemascope equipment, and I don't ever recall reading about the movie being shot in widescreen. Also, the DVD is listed as 1.33.

Does anyone have any info on the "OAR" of this movie? Thank you.

If you do a little research on the dvdsavant.com website, you will find an article of his on the subject of "aspect ratio abuse". In this article he points out that "This Island Earth" came out in 1955 at a time when viewers were expecting "scope" films and that the distributors and exhibitors indulged the mania by showing this 1.33:1 film in every imaginable ratio from 1.33:1 to 2:1, depending on the venue.

When you watch the 1.33:1 existing DVD on a widescreen TV, you have a choice of cropping to 1.66:1 (with a little vertical squeezing) or 1:77:1 (without squeezing), which actually shows an overscanned 1.85:1 image (cropped at the sides). Either way, it is remarkable how little of the action is affected by this cropping, demonstrating that the filmmakers were fully expecting the film to be cropped during exhibition. Only one scene - where a flying saucer flies up and outside the cropped frame while the sound effects continue - can be said to be "improved" by watching it in a 1.33:1 ratio.

Here is the link: http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s85transfer.html

And an excerpt:


Basic thought #2 - Aspect ratios for theaters aren't chiseled in granite.

Whereas the old Academy screens were pretty much standardized at 1:37, as soon as theaters began refitting for CinemaScope and widescreen in the 50's, all bets were off. Most houses couldn't knock down walls to make their proscenium wider, so screens were employed that used moving black fabric masks to reshape the projected area. Sometimes the 'giant 'Scope' shows ended up being far smaller than standard flat movies . When flat films changed to 1:66 and then (only officially) to 1:85, many a non-firstrun house gave up trying to keep up with the changes, and adopted a 'one-size-fits- all' policy. A lot just used the same 2:1 screen, and sloppily centered the projected image on it. Flat films were blown up larger and matted down, looking grainier and duller. Anamorphic films were allowed to spill off into the wings, cutting 2:55 and 2:35 down to 2:1 in many cases.

Look at the average drive-in screen (if there are any left around you). Everything projected on them filled the unchanging screen shape regardless of what the filmmakers had intended.

There was some industry confusion about this for a time in 1955. The Variety review for This Island Earth lists its aspect ratio as 'anywhere from 1:33 to 2:1," trying to get it booked into as many houses as possible.


obscurelabel 06-07-06 12:40 PM

Lots more discussion of this here:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/...ghlight=island

Note especially the posts of Jack Threakston, Peter Apruzzese, and Bob Furmanek, who all seem to be very knowledgable. See post #29 for Jack Threakston's links to his scans of a number of 35mm frames in 1.37, 1.85, and 2.00 ratios.

Apruzzese and Furmanek are associated with the Lafayette Theater in Suffern, NY:

http://www.bigscreenclassics.com/indexlafayette.htm

baracine 06-07-06 01:10 PM


Originally Posted by obscurelabel
Lots more discussion of this here:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/...ghlight=island

Note especially the posts of Jack Threakston, Peter Apruzzese, and Bob Furmanek, who all seem to be very knowledgable. See post #29 for Jack Threakston's links to his scans of a number of 35mm frames in 1.37, 1.85, and 2.00 ratios.

Apruzzese and Furmanek are associated with the Lafayette Theater in Suffern, NY:

http://www.bigscreenclassics.com/indexlafayette.htm

So, it's your choice:
1.33:1:
http://www.thephotoplayer.com/island/10-137.jpg

or 1.77/1.85:1:

http://www.thephotoplayer.com/island/10-185.jpg

zintar007 06-07-06 01:27 PM

Thanks for the info and the link Benoit! It's funny, yesterday I actually thought to write to Glenn about this, but as I was on the forum today I thought I would post a thread here instead.

That article is very interesting, and it's led me to post a few thoughts and comments here:

I currently don't have a widescreen tv, but I do have a 7" portable DVD player and I usually watch all dvd's in the widescreen mode. It may sound sacreligious, but as the screen is so small I prefer to fill up the whole screen and besides in the 3X4 mode the sides of the image tend to "wiggle." In any event at least while I am away I have something to watch while I am away from home or exercising in my spare room, even if it's not the correct aspect ratio.

The part about the theaters adjusting their screen size and shapes reminds me of the Regency and Film Forum revival theaters in Manhattan. Their programs sometimes paired two movies of different widths together, and sometimes you can see the screens being mechanically adjusted by the projectionist. The Regency even had a sash cord on the side of the stage, and sometimes a staff member would come out and give it a little tug to widen the screen!

I thought his description of the first laser disc release of Ben Hur with its very narrow image was rather amusing. I'm sure many forum members are aware that a lot of people simply do not like "widescreen." My father is not a big fan of widescreen and letterboxing. When I lent him my widescreen VHS of Lawrence of Arabia he thought there was something wrong with the tape and said it's like looking through a peephole! I also remember being a little disappointed with the 1992 release of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. While I loved the improved image and enjoyed the documentary and restored (though at times redundant) scenes, I was hoping the movie was in the complete widescreen image, and instead it was in what appeared to be 1.85:1. I guess they figured most viewers would be unhappy with the narrow 2.55:1 or even 2:35 image, so they compromised. It's still watchable though.

It's amazing how some people tend to notice changes in the image of some movies, when they are cropped in different ratios, as in Glenn's description of The Searchers. Usually I can't see too much of a difference between widescreen and "flat" versions unless it's 2.35:1 or narrower. Sometimes I will notice differences in 1.85 movies shown "fullscreen." I usually won't get in much of an uproar unless it's something like Colossus: The Forbin Project, which I had never seen in widescreen and so was disappointed when it was released in "fullscreen." I was also a bit disappointed that It! The Terror From Beyond Space and The Monster That Challenged The World were released on DVD in "fullscreen", although I have to admit they seem to work nicely in full frame. Still I would have liked to have seen them the way they were meant to be shown theatrically. Well, enough babbling on this thought.

I found his passages on the James Bond movies interesting. I never saw the laser disc versions of Dr. No and From Russia With Love so I can't comment on the framing, but the DVD of Goldfinger is the same 1.66 as the 30th Anniversary Laser Disc (I believe the movie was released in 1.66:1). I did notice differences in some of the video versions of the Bond movies, especially Thunderball, which has VHS versions missing some music and a line uttered while Bond and Leiter are in the helicopter, but spoken by another character (presumably they wanted us to think it was Leiter who spoke the line). Also there are two versions of the line Bond speaks when he emerges from Largo's shark pool. The current dvd has the music replaced and the "manta ray" line removed, but it has a different version of the 007 music from the original film, and which also is in the new edition of the soundtrack CD. And I think it's the only Bond film that does not have the "James Bond will be back in..." because I think at the time the producers had not yet decided on which book to adapt next. They were intending to do On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but I read that the UA heads weren't up to the idea, believing it to be too much like Thunderball. They alledgedly referred to it as "Thunderball on skis!" I'm sure Dr. No ends with the teaser that Bond will be back in From Russia With Love, but most prints I've seen don't have it.

I know I went a bit off the topic here. Now that the issue has been a bit clarified, I will be looking forward to getting This Island Earth later this year. It would have been nice though if they had added just a few little extras, even if it's just some production stills.

zintar007 06-07-06 02:05 PM


Originally Posted by obscurelabel
Lots more discussion of this here:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/...ghlight=island

Note especially the posts of Jack Threakston, Peter Apruzzese, and Bob Furmanek, who all seem to be very knowledgable. See post #29 for Jack Threakston's links to his scans of a number of 35mm frames in 1.37, 1.85, and 2.00 ratios.

Apruzzese and Furmanek are associated with the Lafayette Theater in Suffern, NY:

http://www.bigscreenclassics.com/indexlafayette.htm


Thanks for the link! I did check those scans, it was nice of Jack to post them. To be honest I prefer the 1.37 shots. Many of the images look fine in all 3 frames, but some look too cropped, like Exeter in the Interociter and especially the "flaming spaceship", which looks most spectacular in 1.37.

With all this talk about widescreen movie, I think the old Academy ratio may be getting a bum rap nowadays. Unless people see 1.37:1 movies in an actual movie theater they can't really appreciate it. I've seen "pre-cinemascope" classic movies in revival theaters, and there's a, well, grandeur to 1.33 or 1.37 movies.

Actually after reading that forum I'm more interested to see if Universal releases the movie in its original stereo version, than in what screen ratio it is. And by the way, I also still own the 17 minute super 8mm version produced by Universal 8 in the 70's.

zintar007 06-07-06 02:21 PM


Originally Posted by baracine
So, it's your choice:
1.33:1 or 1.77/1.85:1


By the way, thank you for posting the images here!

FRwL 06-07-06 02:23 PM

Couldn't you post this in the existing TIE thread already? Chrissakes people, don't need to make a new damn thread for every question on the release which already has a topic.

baracine 06-07-06 02:45 PM


Originally Posted by zintar007
Actually after reading that forum I'm more interested to see if Universal releases the movie in its original stereo version, than in what screen ratio it is.

About Perspecta Sound...

A little-known fact about this process is that it was multi-channel but not genuine stereo. That is, the dialogue and sound effects were directional (coming from different points in the screen, accompanying the action) but the music was actually in mono (left and right). Most viewers were so impressed with the experience that they assumed the music was in stereo. Now, if any DVD transfer can go back to the original stereo recording (or "stems") of the music or make the mono music sound more "spread out" through electronic manipulation (Chace or Sonic Solutions), I say go right ahead!

A great idea would be to replace the music track with the newly recorded "Monstrous Movie Music" stereo recreation recording ( http://www.mmmrecordings.com/TIE/tie.html ), but after writing the MMM people, I learned that this is impossible because of copyright considerations.

http://www.mmmrecordings.com/1954_Cover_Art.jpg

Here is the message from MMM:


Benoit,

Thanks for the kind words. Know that they mean a lot to us. No,
Universal will not work with a company outside them. We offered to let
them use our music for free during the documentaries on their DVDs, and
they refused! Also, synch licensing rates would be HUGE to match new
recordings with a film, payable to the people who own the new
recordings, so it's just not feasible. As they say, that's life!

Best regards,

David Schecter

http://www.mmmrecordings.com
Monstrous Movie Music
P. O. Box 7088
Burbank, CA 91510-7088
U. S. A.
(818) 886-8863 or (800) 788-0892
FAX: (818) 886-8820
[email protected]

zintar007 06-07-06 03:11 PM


Originally Posted by FRwL
Couldn't you post this in the existing TIE thread already? Chrissakes people, don't need to make a new damn thread for every question on the release which already has a topic.


Obviously i would have done so if i had known there already was a This Island Earth thread.
All the same it's no reason to get totally incensed like you did.

baracine 06-07-06 05:13 PM


Originally Posted by zintar007
Obviously i would have done so if i had known there already was a This Island Earth thread.
All the same it's no reason to get totally incensed like you did.

The original thread ( http://forum.dvdtalk.com/showthread....s+island+earth ) is still in the dark as to the OAR. Also, it has a link to the cover art and specs for the new DVD which says the sound will be Dolby Mono. Oh, great!

Here is a succinct description of Perspecta Sound (so-called Perspecta Stereo) from this site: http://www.cartoonresearch.com/mgm.html


Perspecta sound was introduced in 1954 and the last films made in the process were released in 1957. Perspecta, for those unfamiliar with it, was an optical sound system that created an ersatz stereophonic effect from a monophonic soundtrack. This system was initially promoted by Paramount Pictures Corp. in conjunction with its VistaVision photographic process. Perspecta sound system was used extensively by Paramount and M-G-M, with a few Warner Bros and Universal films also mixed in the system.
For more information on Perspecta Sound, check WIDE SCREEN MUSEUM.com
It was basically a "switching" mechanism allowing to direct the sound to one, two or three speakers simultaneously. It was later used as an adjunct to multiple-channel (genuine) stereo, one sound source being able to feed up to three speakers alternatively or simultaneously.

It may sound primitive but it allowed for directional dialogue and sound effects, which not all modern "Dolby Stereo" films take advantage of in their sound mix.

FRwL 06-07-06 05:34 PM


Originally Posted by zintar007
Obviously i would have done so if i had known there already was a This Island Earth thread.
All the same it's no reason to get totally incensed like you did.

Actually there is after seeing countless apathetic people not utilize the search function or read the faqs making a whole new thread on a subject that's already been discussed a lot earlier and has an ample thread still good.

rw2516 06-07-06 05:43 PM


Originally Posted by zintar007





I found his passages on the James Bond movies interesting. I never saw the laser disc versions of Dr. No and From Russia With Love so I can't comment on the framing, but the DVD of Goldfinger is the same 1.66 as the 30th Anniversary Laser Disc (I believe the movie was released in 1.66:1). I did notice differences in some of the video versions of the Bond movies, especially Thunderball, which has VHS versions missing some music and a line uttered while Bond and Leiter are in the helicopter, but spoken by another character (presumably they wanted us to think it was Leiter who spoke the line). Also there are two versions of the line Bond speaks when he emerges from Largo's shark pool. The current dvd has the music replaced and the "manta ray" line removed, but it has a different version of the 007 music from the original film, and which also is in the new edition of the soundtrack CD. And I think it's the only Bond film that does not have the "James Bond will be back in..." because I think at the time the producers had not yet decided on which book to adapt next. They were intending to do On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but I read that the UA heads weren't up to the idea, believing it to be too much like Thunderball. They alledgedly referred to it as "Thunderball on skis!" I'm sure Dr. No ends with the teaser that Bond will be back in From Russia With Love, but most prints I've seen don't have it.

When Goldfinger was originally released it did read "James Bond will be baick in On Her Majesty's Secret Service on the end credits. I've seen a screen capture from a print on some Bond site. It was changed to Thunderball for re-release prior to the release of Thunderball . When Thunderball was originally released it read "James Bond wil be back in On Her Majesty's Secret Service on the end credits. They changed their minds to making You Only Live Twice instead and cut it out of all of the prints. If you stick in the movie and watch closely you will see a jump where those frames have been edited out. As far as I know all prints are like this. That same site also had a screen capture of this as well. Dr. No has never had "James Bond will be back in From Russia With Love on it. I believe that the end of The Spy Who Loved Me still reads that "Jamres Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only although they made Moonraker next instead. And on the end of Octopussy it reads From A View To A Kill will be next but "From" was later dropped from the title.
The line where Bond emerges from Largo's shark pool: One version is "Now you can tell them about the one that got away" the other is "better luck next time". All the old CBS/FOX video versions had one version, since MGM/UA took over it has been the alternate version.

zintar007 06-08-06 10:22 AM

Thanks to all for the links and info on Perspecta and James Bond.

Now that I've been chastised :D I did do a search for Charlie Chaplin threads to find out info on the Warner releases, after reading elsewhere that they were transferred from PAL masters. I also checked the This Island Earth thread, but to be honest I found the contributions to this thread more informative.

I found the stuff on Perspecta Sound interesting. The first and only time I noticed it was on the title cards for several Toho movies, Mothra, Battle In Outer Space and The H-Man. It seemed like an interesting and rather creative alternative to true stereo. Personally I often found Dolby Stereo and these new digital surround systems simply to be synonymous with "loud." It would have been nice if Universal had tried to create a stereo track for This Island Earth, but from what I read recently about them it doesn't look like they want to put too much effort into DVD's of their classic titles.

I also found the material on the MGM cartoons interesting.

Thanks also for that image and info on the Monstrous Movie Music CD. I read about it a while ago, hopefully one day I will be able to obtain it as it looks pretty impressive.

Thanks for the notes on the various Bond end title "teasers." I do recall on one of the documentaries there's a clip of the end titles of Goldfinger showing On Her Majesty's Secret Service as the next movie. As for Thunderball, I suppose the exclusion of the OHMSS teaser at the end titles may explain why they had a sudden fadeout while the music continues playing for a few more seconds. :D I thought I once saw a clip of the end titles for Dr No that James Bond will return in From Russia With Love, but I could be mistaken. With The Spy Who Loved Me, they were obviously influenced by the success of Star Wars to make Moonraker instead of For Your Eyes Only.

Lastly, I prefer "Now you can tell about the one that got away" over "Sorry old boy, better luck next time." I suppose we will never know why they made the change, or why they changed the end title music. I kind of like the music from the earlier Fox versions as opposed to the music used for the Laser Disc and DVD, it's a bit more in keeping with the tone of the rest of the score.

Thanks again for all the contributions.

Jack Theakston 06-13-06 02:02 PM

Sorry I came to this thread late.

THIS ISLAND EARTH's aspect ratio is 2:1, as recommended by Universal to exhibitors and officially printed in the original Variety review. The frame grabs I took are only some examples (by the way, they're off an original, 35mm print). To experience what the film-maker intended of course, you must watch the film screened ON FILM in its original aspect ratio.

As for the Perspecta Stereo, I might also add that it was not only "panning", but gain control as well. Both THIS ISLAND EARTH and its MGM counterpart, FORBIDDEN PLANET both have excellent examples of this forgotten process. Chase and Dolby created a decoder card for Perspecta years ago, and some Criterion releases utilized it, but it was not well designed and did not do the soundtracks much justice. In my personal opinion, they would need to use an original integrator for clear, concise Perspecta sound.

I have personally heard THIS ISLAND EARTH in Perspecta utilizing an original, restored, Fairchild integrator from 1954. An original, 35mm Technicolor print on a 50 foot wide screen created an extremely effective and convincing stereo sound experience.

Why is this film presented in full frame? Because Universal is simply repackaging a DVD that they put out almost ten years ago, when things such as "original aspect ratio" were not high on anyone's list of things to follow. "Filling the screen" seems to have been top priority. Today, there is no one at Universal who retains the knowledge of the technical aspects of these films any more. It is surely ironic that the shortcomings of the home video department in the '90s have actually set back the intentions of the people who made these films.

Egon's Ghost 06-15-06 04:43 PM


Originally Posted by Jack Theakston
"Filling the screen" seems to have been top priority.

Sadly, it still is, judging by releases like Lord of War. But now, thanks to the Internet and more enthusiasts than before, people can cause a stir and get it changed. Universal's treatment of This Island Earth sure seems typical of how they treat their back catalog.

baracine 08-29-06 10:23 AM

DVD Savant has once again set the record straight on the OAR of "This Island Earth" in his review of the new DVD: http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s2097this.html

Excerpt:


The transfer is flat, which weakens This Island Earth's compositions and makes some sets, like the Metalunan interiors, look unnecessarily empty. Reframed on a widescreen television, the correct compositional tension is recovered, but the enlargement of the flat transfer weakens the image.

The argument about the correct Aspect Ratio for the Universal Science Fiction films of these years (1953-57) has been renewed by a just-announced Classic Sci Fi Ultimate Edition set to be released in September. Universal has foolishly put out a press release claiming that 1:33 is the correct AR for these films. That's simply not the case; the studio just wants to avoid the extra expense of creating multiple transfers for older library titles. I've seen most of these films under original conditions and even prepared some for projection. Let me try to outline the facts.

The years 1953 through 1955 saw an exhibition transition brought on by CinemaScope. Flat films originally shown 1:37 were matted to 1:66 and finally as wide as 1:85 and called "widescreen." The Universal handouts for It Came from Outer Space say that it is in 'widescreen', which indicates at least 1:66.

In practice, all of these films were exhibited at different ARs depending on whether or not individual theater screens had been updated. There's a wide discrepancy between: 1) The Aspect Ratio intended by the director of photography (which could be superceded by the studio), 2) The studio's records, 3) Projection instructions accompanying the prints themselves and 4) The information handed out in suspect publicity announcements. Often negating all the above, the exhibitors showed the films in whatever way they felt like showing them, anyway!

I've found that the best rule of thumb to determine a film's intended aspect ratio is to look at the credit blocks in the film's main titles. All of the Universal productions from 1954 on have relatively wide title blocks, enabling them to be screened as wide as 1:85 if desired, although most look best at 1:66 or 1:75. The underwater 3D scenes in The Creature from the Black Lagoon aren't very attractive when cropped wider than 1:66.

For a few months in 1954 and the early part of '55 Daily Variety reviews spelled out official aspect ratios for individual releases: The Atomic Kid is listed as 1:85, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: 2:55, Revenge of the Creature, This Island Earth: 2:1, Conquest of Space, It Came from Beneath the Sea, Creature with the Atom Brain: 1:85. Then the magazine breaks off its reportage, probably deciding they were adding to the confusion rather than making things clearer.

http://dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/images/2097thisR.jpg

I think that This Island Earth might be rather tight at 2:1, but the title blocks certainly support 1:85. In any case, Universal Home Video's 'official' announcement that the original AR of these films was 1:33 is hooey. Their fallback justification for the claim is probably that the image on the film prints fills out the entire 1:37 Academy frame. If a studio person actually gives that as a reason, we'll know for sure that they don't know what they're talking about. Until then, we always have the ability to enlarge and mask off flat transfers on our widescreen monitors. They just won't look as good.



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