Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Isn't UCLA working on a restoration from John Hampton's original Show-At-Home prints?

A: Short Answer: Probably Not.

The details:

 

First a bit of background - most of the knowledge of this UCLA restoration comes from the following post from Sept 19, 2000 in alt.movies.silent.  It's from one of the top Phantom historians: Scott MacQueen.  I'm including it in it's entirety because it contains of ton of useful information:

On Tue, 19 Sep 2000 00:37:20 -0700, in alt.movies.silent "scott
macqueen" <smac...@mindspring.com> wrote:

 This issue of the versions of Chaney's PHANTOM just doesn't go away,
and there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer. Here is what we
know:

The 1925 ("Astor Theater") version:   this is what opened in NYC in
September after all the monkeying around.    It was in 10 reels.    

It only survives in 16mm Universal Show-at-Home copies that were
reduction printed in the 1930s, by which time the domestic "A"
negative was very heavily worn.   John Hampton had several copies of
this, which he cannabalized, yet still never got a full 100% print.

Hampton allowed one of these to be duped in the 1960s, which is
why there are collector prints about.   The Packard Foundation now has
Hampton's original Show-at-Homes, and have funded a restoration at
UCLA which Bob Gitt has been overseeing.  The 35mm blow-up work is
superb, and the best possible allowing for the indifferent quality of
the source material and the printed-in cinches and scratches.  

However, authentic 1925 Main Titles are still proving elusive...so
check your closets & cellars.   No word on when UCLA will consider
this done. Bob did locate a 35mm dupe negative of a 1925 version in
Italy, but the quality is said to be indifferent, though it offered
one shot that appears nowhere else. The 1925 version is a VERY full 2
reels longer than the reissue print, with a different continuity
(i.e. placement of chandelier fall).

While sound discs are known for the 1930 sound version, there is no
corresponding bona fide picture.  The surviving copy, the common
Phantom, was obtained as a 35mm acetate print in 1950 by Jim Card from
Universal.  It is  likely that it was the only negative Universal had
at that date, and clearly it was decomposing when the print was struck
(perfs break into picture, the sequence in Christine's underground
bedroom rippling and hypoing).  It was clearly stated in 1929-30 by U
that PHANTOM was "sound on disc only" . No paperwork has surfaced  re:
a foreign version, but all of the evidence is that the GEH print is a
non-dialogue Music & Effects version for Europe . It is from a "B" (or
"C") alternate camera negative, alongside and often at a different
elevation than the "A" camera.   All of the intertitles are
physically spliced into the 35mm print,  so they were printed up
seperately either from title rolls (my guess) or flash frames.  None
of the newly-shot dialogue scenes are included, but the Faust "Jewel
Song" is, at 24 fps (shot on Agfa negative, by the way!) with a new
performer.  The "old" Carlotta retained in the silent footage is now
called "Carlotta's Mother" via a changed title.  All of the
intertitles are simplied and refilmed. Those cards with live
background plates (inlcuding the Main Title) of the Phantom are newly
shot with a double for Chaney.

The Main Titles, by the way, have been truncated -- probably by Jim
Card; look at the jump cut, which removes the production credits
including cameramen...this same card carried the "Western
Electric Sound System" credit.
 In the domestic version of the talkie, as much old footage was used
as could  be dalvaged, and Joseph Buquet & the ballerinas were looped
with "synthetic  dialogue" in the manner of CHINATOWN NIGHTS.
 
Now, the Man With the Lantern .  He does NOT appear in the domestic
talking version.  He appears in the Eastman House print, in a long 24
fps take, with  the Phantom's double/shadow gliding by.  It is likely
that THIS scene alone was for foreign dialogue so the picture could be
advertised as "talking" in other countries.   Either A) the long shot
allowed for asynchronous dubbing, or, B) there were inserts created
for the major language territories and positive assembled to the
prints (this is how Universal handled the various European and Latin
emcees for THE KING OF JAZZ in 29-30).   The figure is
 wardrobed like Snitz Edwards (he is NOT Snitz) so it is possible that
he was meant to be Florine Papillion. I have another theory.

The dupes of the Show-at-Home contain the Main Titles and the Man With
Lantern, lifted from the Eastman House print. BUT!.. They also contain
a Medium Shot of the Man which is clearly from different preprint .

There is a different pattern of tram lines and wear, suggesting that
this shot was cut in to the master print being duped.  Also, in MS
this guy looks nothing like Snitz, much uglier and heavier -- and the
generic Parisian workman's clothes and cap leave one other
alternative: he is Jospeh Buquet's brother -- the SOB who is found
strangled by the Phantom later.

Makes narrative sense.

QUESTION: what the hell print did THAT shot come from?
 
Unfortunately I found no corroboration of this when I was researching
at Universal in the '80s, and since then U's PHANTOM holdings have,
uh, been "liberated", shall we say, by a "historian" armed with carte
blanche from Mr. Wasserman.  So if the answers were once at the
studio, they're gone now.

PHANTOM still lacks color inserts. In Reel 1, the shots of the
audience arriving, with the uniformed soldiers "fashion show" as it
were, was originally in Prizma  (U tested both Prizma & Technicolor).
Contemporary reviews indicate that "all views" in the auditorium were
in color, yet this is not born out by continuities -- I believe that
SOME long shots of the house curtain were color. The "Apollo's Lyre"
sequence was blue tinted (or  toned) with red Handschlegl, which I
helped Kevin Brownlow replicate for this recent version (the
intertitles here were originally all in GREEN, but Kevin elected to
keep them uniform with the scene). The second half of the
Masked Ball, from the lovers' return from the room through Florine's
fainting number, was also Tech, and again it was my privilige to
replicate  this for Photoplay's version which will be on TCM. The
tints were very interesting, and in no version are done correctly --
for example, the flashing of the chandelier prior to falling was
amber/blue/amber/blue to action, and similar color cutting was done in
the torture chamber with thewaves of heat and light.  The Phantom's
rooms "below stairs" (including the unmasking) were entirely in B&W.

The "Honeymoon in Viroflay" tag that closed Reel 10 (still in the
Show-at-Home in B&W) was also -- once -- in Technicolor.

The Technicolor masked ball sequence was rescued by David Shepard
years ago, and is from a 1930 dye transfer copy. In the latest
versions restored by both Shepard and Photoplay, an effort was made to
remove the heavy amber color, which was a by-product of the early
2-color process (perhaps varnish to keep the print from scratching).
This version has a much wider range of colors than we have seen
previously, and the color is clearly more accurate to the 2-color
primaries and what colors were actually under camera -- Mary Philbin's
gown is now salmon-pink as it should be, not gold.

For purists, who want the IB color warts and all, there is adequate
preservation of excellent quality already accomplised on a one-to-one
basis by both UCLA and Mr. Shepard.

Photoplay's version, by the way, is the best looking edition I have
seen. Sharp, steady, nicely tinted. The heavily decomposed section
prior to the unmasking was blow-up from the Hampton 16mm at UCLA,
which will give you an idea of the pictorial qualities of the two
surviving editions. Unfortunately, the Eastman House print was struck
with a block in the track position, so the far left of image is lost
forever, and the movie is now  best shown with something approaching
Movietone (1.17) aperture.

--Incredible information, right?  But all this time, and still nothing.  I have done some digging, and found some contradictory scenarios about the status of this UCLA restoration.  These are from various insiders:

Scenario One: The Hampton Show-At-Home was blown up from 16mm to 35mm, but there was some kind of tragic flaw to the process.  The resulting 35mm is less than satisfactory and unfortunately, the 16mm originals have since degraded beyond repair.

Scenario Two: The Hampton 16mm originals are preserved just fine, but due to some kind of internal politics, the restoration is on-hold indefinitely.

Scenario Three: The Hampton 16mm originals were actually not originals at all, and the quality just isn't satisfactory enough to warrant a major restoration.

Now, what do I believe?  It's hard to say.  All 3 scenarios were provided by important insiders.  

Scenario One - Could top film historians and restoration professionals really mess up this badly, not catch it, and then just let the source elements erode?  Possibly.

Scenario Two - Universal has been able to work with the Packard Foundation and UCLA to produce restorations of their films with seemingly no problem.  So could there be some issue with Phantom that is keeping these entities from working together?  Possibly, though I cannot fathom why.

Scenario Three - We have footage from a 35mm blow-up of Hampton's Show-At-Home used to patch-up a section in Photoplay Productions' presentation of the "1929" version.  This blow-up is far superior to anything seen so far from the original version of the film.  But could it be that the quality still isn't good enough to warrant a major restoration?  Possibly.

So my fellow fans, I'm sorry to say, but this is the best information I can give.  I'm not satisfied with it either, but it is what it is.  If you're an insider and would like to further illuminate the situation with the UCLA restoration, the please contact us with the form below.

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