Ian Hanson’s In 70 mm, (CinemaRecord 47) prompted Eric White to review
the history of some cost- saving approaches to the 70 mm experience.
|Read more at|
The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Eric White, Melbourne, Australia||Date:
Spartacus, in the same process, began a
long season in Melbourne on
8 December. 1960.
‘Blow-ups’ became popular as a sort
of Claytons 70mm: the 70mm you have
when you are not having 70mm.
Super Technirama 70 was a 70mm
process shot on 35mm film. The 35mm
film was run through the camera
sideways, as with VistaVision, but
photographed through an anamorphic
lens with a 1.5:1 squeeze.
(CinemaScope had a 2:1 squeeze). The
frame was eight perforations wide, but
the height was exactly the same as that
of the 70mm frame. This enabled
production of a 70mm size image just
by removing the squeeze and printing
on to 70mm stock. Hey presto! A print
that was every bit as sharp as if it had
been filmed on 70mm, but much
cheaper to shoot and much, much
easier to handle at the shooting level. A
director could get his “dailies” daily,
instead of having to send the film to
Hollywood, Rome or Britain for
processing. This was a boon if filming
in Spain, where many of the big
spectacles were produced.
Super Technirama 70 was developed
by Technicolor and it was a logical
extension of their Technirama process,
whereby conventional CinemaScopestyle
prints were derived from the
35mm-sideways negative. Super
Technirama 70 was first used for
Disney’s "Sleeping Beauty" (1959), "Spartacus" (1960) and
"King of Kings"
(1961), and overall was used for about
thirty productions. Remember however,
when you see in the credits that a movie
was filmed in Super Technirama 70, it
wasn’t really. It was filmed on 35mm.
The other quasi-70mm films were
the ‘blow-ups’ from a conventional
35mm negative. For the most part they
were filmed in Panavision, though a
few were blown up from ‘spherical’ or
non-anamorphic negatives. Since the
‘blowing-up’ was done from a master
derived from the negative, the
definition and colour saturation of these
prints was excellent. One could not tell
them from Todd-AO.
|More in 70mm reading:
The lost world of 70mm
Theatres By Ian Hanson
A comment to "The lost
world of 70mm Theatres"
Cinerama At the Plaza
Camera 65 and the Metro Bourke Street
The poster says 70mm and the print was,
but Valley of the Dolls was a simple ‘blow-up’ from 35mm. Image: The
Herald 13 June 1968. State Library of Victoria.
Why were these films ‘blown-up’?
Sometimes the decision was made
during production to promote a fairly
modest property into block-buster. Such
a film was "The Cardinal" (1963), the
first to get the treatment. The first
70mm ‘blow-up’ to be screened in
Melbourne was "Valley of the Dolls"
(1967) which had a good run at the
Paris. Sometimes a major production
was filmed in 35mm and then ‘blownup’
simply for reasons of economy. "Doctor Zhivago" (1965) was in this
category. Sometimes the demands of
location shooting made it necessary to
shoot on 35mm and sometimes there
was just not enough 70mm equipment
available. Furthermore, when it was
seen just how good the 70mm ‘blowups’
could look, producers saw no
reason to film in the big format.
By 1970 'blowing-up’ had become
commonplace. There were more 70mm
prints around that ever before, but the
amount of filming in 70mm was
decreasing rapidly. By 1972 it was almost extinct. The last movies to be
filmed in 70mm for many years were "Ryan’s Daughter" (1970) and
Valley" (1971). 70mm ‘blow-ups’
continued through the 1980s, but by the
1990s interest in them had all but
disappeared. The Panavision
anamorphic format was also in decline,
though in the early 1990s Panavision
began a comeback.
Australia’s one and only 70mm
movie was "Mad Max III - Beyond
Thunderdome" (1984). It was a ‘blowup’
and ran at the Capitol, Melbourne.
Two prestigious directors attempted
to revive 70mm photography in the mid
1990s. Ron Howard’s "Far And Away"
(1992) and Kenneth Branagh’s "Hamlet"
(1996) used the medium, but at the
box-office it did nothing for either.
A recent revival of 70mm was
sparked through restoration of bigscreen
productions such as "Lawrence
Of Arabia" and "Spartacus". When talk
turns to ‘lost’ movies those in most
danger are the big-format musicals and dye-transfer printing process for
- Technicolor never developed the
technology. All 70mm prints and
negatives were Eastman colour or the
equivalent, and therefore all are prone
to fading to pink. Add to this the
problems of acetate film stock going
‘vinegary’ and you have real trouble.
Not only is the film washed out, it is
shrunken, buckled and brittle to the
point of being unrunnable. It can be
restored digitally, but the process is
extremely expensive. The results can be
A handful of 70mm block-busters
have been restored and new 70mm
prints struck. Occasionally lost
sequences have been put back.
Examples of these restorations are "It’s
A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"; "2001, A
Space Odyssey", "Lord Jim" and "Patton".
Currently someone is said to be
working on "The Big Fisherman".
Ironically, it is the popularity of DVD
that is helping the preservation of these
films, as a good copy has to be
produced for the DVD market. The
recent DVD release of "Around The
World In 80 Days" is an example of this.
It is an excellent transfer.
A problem with issuing new 70mm
prints is the soundtrack. All 70mm
prints used to have their soundtracks on
magnetic stripes. It seems that these
days there are problems with the
solvents used in applying these tracks
to the film. By modern standards they
are considered to be toxic. At the same
time, it is now possible to use the DTS
digital soundtrack system for 70mm
films, so this would seem to solve the
problem. The trouble is that while there
are still plenty of cinemas with
functional 70mm projectors, very few
of them have the 70mm DTS
equipment. So if you want to issue a
70mm print, what do you do? Use
fiendishly expensive magnetic sound
tracks so more people can run the print,
or produce a cheaper print that not
many exhibitors can use?
Just how many movies were filmed
in 70mm? The numbers might surprise
you. According to Carr and Hayes in
their Wide Screen Movies, in the US.
Britain and Western Europe, there were
only about 50! There were about 450
‘blow-ups’. It was the Soviets who
went for 70mm filming in a big way.
There were about 300 productions
filmed in this medium in the Soviet
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