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Wolfram Hannemann's 70mm Film Introductions
Widescreen Weekend 2010

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Wolfram Hannemann Date: 01.04.2010

Die Hard

Wolfram Hannemann from Stuttgart in Germany introducing 70mm films. Image by Tom March

Good Evening and welcome to this Friday night screening of DIE HARD.

Just a few days ago Duncan McGregor, Chief Projectionist of this lovely theatre, contacted me and asked whether I would be willing to do a short introduction to this action packed blockbuster from 1988. It will be my pleasure, I replied, and began with my research for this film. Suddenly I realized why Duncan wanted me to introduce DIE HARD: the real bad guy in that movie is a German (portrayed by Alan Rickman). So what would more appropriate than having a German telling you a bit about John McTiernan's crime thriller. A typical example of Duncan's sense of humor I guess...

Here it should be mentioned that in the German dubbed theatrical version of the film the German terrorists were made into „international“ terrorists by giving them English names. „Hans Gruber“ became "Jack Gruber", „Karl“ became „Charlie“, „Heinrich“ became „Henry“ etc. And to make things even worse: the German that the terrorists speak in the original version, which we are going to see, is sometimes grammatically incorrect and meaningless.

DIE HARD reunited the team that made the 1987 box office success PREDATOR starring Arnold Schwarzenegger: director John McTiernan und producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. It is based on a novel by Roderick Thorpe titled „Nothing lasts forever“. Which certainly proves right for the biggest star in the movie: the brand new 34-story Fox Plaza office tower in Los Angeles' Century City, portraying the fictional Nakatomi Building in the film. Oh yes – we have another big star in the movie: Bruce Willis. He was the key to director John McTiernan's vision of the film. Willis would repeat his role of New York police officer John McLane in all three sequels to DIE HARD.

Originally John McLane was to be played by Richard Gere. But he turned it down. The producers really took a risk by casting Bruce Willis as the action hero because at that time none of Willis‘ films did big business, like Blake Edwards‘ BLIND DATE. And yet another Blake Edwards film starring Willis, SUNSET, had yet to be seen by the public. Nevertheless Willis asked for five million dollars and Fox agreed. As post-production neared completion in the late spring and early summer of 1988, bad reaction to the film’s trailer caused anxiety for the filmmakers. The audience apparently couldn’t buy Bruce Willis as an action hero and a new advertising campaign commenced leaving the star out! To make matters worse SUNSET opened to bad reviews and zero business. The studio panicked! Suddenly the film was sold as a building in jeopardy. Well – the rest is history. DIE HARD opened July 15, 1988, and true to its word, blew audiences through the back wall of the theatre, grossing nearly 80 million dollars in the process. So the big screen had its new action hero – Bruce Willis.

Production designer Jackson DeGovia created the interior sets that would become the offices of the Nakatomi Corporation. The gigantic main floor office complex was built on Stage 15 at the Twentieth Century Fox film lot. It was three stories high and reflected the influence of the Japanese as well as Frank Lloyd Wright. Surrounding the stage was a 260 degree cyclorama of west Los Angeles, which was used in the shots in top floor offices. It was designed to be lit from behind to simulate different times of day.

Regarding special effects, John McTiernan approached visual effects producer Richard Edlund whose credits include amongst many others POLTERGEIST and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. While many of the film's pyrotechnical displays were created on set, some of the most complex sequences were achieved through the use of miniature explosions and scale models, like the scene where the top of the Nakatomi building blows off and destroys two helicopters in its wake.

Director of Photography Jan de Bont, who later would become a director himself making movies like SPEED and TWISTER, photographed DIE HARD with Panavision anamorphic lenses on 35mm film stock whereas the visual effects were done in 65mm at Boss film. Jan de Bont’s camerawork can also be seen in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER which will be screened on Monday and which is yet another blockbuster directed by John McTiernan. There is even one character which appears in both DIE HARD and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. His name is Stanley and he is a teddy bear. So look out for him!

The music score for DIE HARD was composed by Michael Kamen who had to write it under enormous pressure. In the end much of his music was reassigned to different parts of the film. So a large slice of the music is not exactly where it was supposed to be, with many scenes using repeated cues looped and tracked from all over the place. There are even cues by other composers included, like an unused track from James Horner’s ALIENS as well as a cue from John Scott’s score for MAN ON FIRE.

DIE HARD received four Academy Award nominations for Visual Effects, Sound, Film Editing and Sound Effects Editing.

So be prepared for a real nail-biting cinematic rollercoaster ride presented in 70mm and 6-track Dolby Stereo magnetic sound.
More in 70mm reading:

Meeting Abel, Baker, and Charlie: The 2010 Bradford Widescreen Weekend

Introduction to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

Cinerama Showcase

John Harvey "Mr. Cinerama" in Bradford

Speech for John Harvey

WSW 2010 program

Widescreen Weekend Home

Academy of the Wide Screen Weekend

Limited Time Offer!

The M.C.S.-70 Process

Internet link:


Good Evening, Ladies & Gentlemen and hello Widescreeners!

Welcome to this late show!

If you are not able to follow my introduction due to my perfect German accent, don’t worry. Most of it is just some useless information which helps the projection team getting some rest.

In 1964 Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke started to work on a science-fiction movie script which was inspired by „The Sentinel“, a short story written by Arthur C. Clarke. Four years later their collaboration resulted in a film regarded by many movie lovers as a milestone in science-fiction filmmaking: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Both Clarke and Kubrick shared an Academy Award nomination for „Best Screenplay“. 15 years later Arthur C. Clarke came up with a sequel to that milestone: „2010: Odyssey Two“. In 1984 Metro Goldwyn Mayer hired Peter Hyams to bring Clarke’s new novel to the big screen. With films like OUTLAND, CAPRICORN ONE, THE STAR CHAMBER and HANOVER STREET in his portfolio – all of which got 70mm releases, by the way - Hyams was not a newbie to the filmmaking business. He also served as his own screenplay writer in all these films.

On the screenplay for „2010“ Hyams worked very closely with Arthur C. Clarke, breaking new grounds by using an e-mail connection between Hyams in Hollywood and Clarke, who was located in Sri Lanka at that time, using a Kaypro portable computer and a modem. In 1984 such an e-mail connection was practically unheard of in the academic community. It certainly was the first for the film world. Their communications turned into the book „The Odyssey File - The Making of 2010“.

„2010“ also marks another breakthrough for Peter Hyams for it was the first time that he also served as his own cinematographer. According to Richard Edlund, the film’s visual effects supervisor, Hyams is a director who reaches into all of the corners and who wants to understand everything. He was in the unique position of producing, writing, directing and shooting „2010“.

Standard shooting for „2010“ was done in 35mm Panavision anamorphic, while a lot of its special visual effects were done in 65mm by Entertainment Effects Group, lead by Richard Edlund. Edlund, well known for his marvellous work on visual effects for films like POLTERGEIST, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and the original STAR WARS films, preferred the 65mm film format because it gave him a one-third larger image area to work with than the VistaVision format he used at ILM.

One of the spaceship models they had to build for miniature filming was the „Discovery“, which can be seen in Kubrick’s „2001“ already. The original model was stored together with other models and plans as well as „2001“ sets in a commercial warehouse in England. However, since the studio didn’t want to pay for storage anymore, everything was trashed. So the „Discovery“ had to be divined by Edlund and his colleagues by viewing a 70mm print of „2001“!

While 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is the acknowledged turning point in modern special effects, „2010“ could be considered as a milestone for setting a new standard for a new branch of special effects: video effects. Back in the 80s video images had already invaded daily life and in consequence of the trend they started to invade film as well. In „2010“ several important story points are made on video monitors. The monitors are more than fancy wallpaper. For a director like Peter Hyams who believed that every frame of film is as important as every other frame it made sense to take his video playback needs to a group of professionals. That is when a company called Video Image came on board of the team.

In 1985 „2010“‘s visual effects were nomintaed for an Academy Award, along with nominations for Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction and Best Sound.

The music score for the film was originally composed by Tony Banks, but was ultimately replaced by a score by David Shire, which is 90 percent electronic, with an acoustic orchestra not employed until the climax of the picture. Tony Banks later used parts of his own score for the film STARSHIP in 1985.

If you are a fan of cameo appearances you should watch out for Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. Clarke can be seen sitting on a park bench in front of the White House, feeding the pigeons, and on the cover of Time magazine as the American president. Kubrick can be seen on Time magazine cover, too, portraying the Soviet premier.

For all those computer freaks out there let me tell you that the voice of the SAL 9000 computer was actually performed by Candice Bergen, though the role is credited to "Olga Mallsnerd," a pseudonym combining the surname of Bergen's spouse (director Louis Malle) and that of Mortimer Snerd, one of her father Edgar Bergen's famous puppet characters. The futuristic computer that Roy Scheider is using on the beach planning for the mission is an Apple IIc with an LCD screen. The Apple IIc was a full-strength Apple computer with 128k of memory, two serial ports and a mouse in an 11in by 12in box small enough to fit in a briefcase. Impressive stuff at the time. And last but not least the monitor box that's on top of SAL 9000 early in the movie is shaped exactly like the Kaypro portable computer that Arthur C. Clarke used to communicate via email with Peter Hyams during the movie's production.

I would like to close my introduction with an example of how visionary „2010“ really was when released in 1984. Just closely watch the scene in which Dr. Heywood Floyd (played by Roy Scheider) stands in the doorway of his sleeping son's room. On the wall to the left of his bed you can spot a poster of an Olympic runner with the text "Beijing 08" on the bottom. Bear in mind that the film was made in 1984, and the Olympic Committee did not chose Beijing for the Olympics until July 2001! It is a fun example of life imitating art.

And now have fun with this 70mm blow up presentation featuring a full blown 6-track Dolby Stereo magnetic soundtrack

Flying Clipper

Ladies and Gentlemen, hello Widescreeners!

Welcome to our Sunday afternoon presentation of FLYING CLIPPER. Since this is a German motion picture Duncan thought that it would be appropriate to rely on my heavy German accent to do the intro for this film. But you must not worry – my intro will be in English, whereas the film’s narration, however, will be in proper German without any English accent!

FLYING CLIPPER will prove once and for all that our meanwhile famous ironic saying that „If it is in colour it can’t be 70mm!“ is completely wrong! The print which you are going to see was made by FotoKem in 2009 from original 65mm materials. It was especially made for last year‘s 70mm retrospective at the Berlin Film Festival and it probably will take your breath away with regards to picture focus. Some of you may find that the print is a bit too dark, but according to one of the film’s cinematographers, Mr. Heinz Hölscher, there wasn‘t much light available anyway when they were shooting it. In my opinion this really is a minor flaw which certainly will not spoil the screening.

FLYING CLIPPER – TRAUMREISE UNTER WEISSEN SEGELN had its world premiere on December 19, 1962 in Munich and is considered as the first German production filmed in 65mm, using the then brand new MCS70 Superpanorama camera system designed by Jan Jacobsen. The plot of this travelogue, if there is any at all, resembles a lot to the 1958 Cinemiracle film WINDJAMMER, which you may have seen yesterday. Even the German narration in both films is done by the same actor, Hans Clarin, who is well known to German audiences as the voice of „Pumuckl“, an animated goblin from a children’s program. He also lend his voice to „Kookie“ in the German dubbed version of the famous American TV series „77 Sunset Strip“. Hans Clarin died in 2005 at the age of 75.

When production began on FLYING CLIPPER the film’s title still was WINDJAMMER – 2. JOURNEY. This however caused a law suit against its producers, MCS Film KG Munich and Rudolf Travnicek. It was Cinemiracle International Pictures Inc London which won a court junction to prevent the producers from producing, printing and publicly presenting their film due to their breaching of certain contractual agreements which they entered when taking over the film WINDJAMMER several years before. Luckily the law suit was settled and the film’s title was changed to FLYING CLIPPER.

Hermann Leitner and Rudolf Nussgruber share the credit for directing FLYING CLIPPER. It is most interesting to note that after this big screen adventure both of them went on directing exclusively for television. What an irony, isn’t it?

FLYING CLIPPER was released in the USA in 1964 under the title MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY and advertised as „Wonderama“ featuring narration by Burl Ives and some extra material not included in the original version.

The music for FLYING CLIPPER was composed and conducted by Italian composer Riz Ortolani and performed by the Graunke symphony orchestra.

Nowadays FLYING CLIPPER really can be regarded as of historic value, because a lot of the places visited during the film have changed their apperance completely. It also features some famous people, who are no longer with us. Among them are Grace Kelly and Graham Hill. So it was essential in more than just one way to preserve this piece of film.

Fotokem not only struck this brand new print but also provided a new digital sound mix for the film as well. In fact two versions were made: a 5.1 re-mix for later use on DVD or Blu-ray and the original discrete 6-track mix. I am sure that we have got the latter one for our presentation. Special thanks goes to the German Bundesfilmarchiv in Berlin for making this screening possible. So enjoy your journey!

Quest For Fire

LA GUERRE DU FEU, which is QUEST FOR FIRE’s original title, was not only a real big adventure movie, but it was likewise adventurous in its making. Just imagine: an expensive movie without big stars and with a language nobody will understand.

It was French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s most ambitious project at the beginning of the 1980s. Born in 1943 Annaud started his career in the film industry by becoming a quite successful director of funny commercials. Soon famous writer/producer/actor/director Claude Berri became aware of Annauds talent and wanted him to direct comedies. However, Annaud wasn’t interested in comedies. Although being a total box office disaster in France, his first feature film, BLACK AND WHITE IN COLOR, won him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1977. This opened a lot of doors for Annaud. Being independent due to the money he made with his commercials and holding an Oscar in his hands he now was in a position to choose his own projects. Claude Berri suggested a screenplay to him which was set in the Far North dealing with a man and a wolf and asked him to meet Roman Polanski’s screenwriter Gerard Brach to discuss the project. So they met and soon both felt that the story had not enough cinematic value. While he was leaving Annaud said to Brach that there was one thing he liked about the story. When asked what this might be he replied: „It is the prehistoric fear of the script’s hero.“ That was when Brach suggested LA GUERRE DU FEU, a story by J.H. Rosny Sr. which Annaud read as a kid in „Mickey Mouse“. This was the starting point for Annaud’s most spectacular movie.

Financing was another story. The project started as an American production with both Columbia Pictures and then 20th Century Fox involved, but ended up as a French-Canadian production. Even Frank Sinatra was involved at one point in the decision process of whether or not a studio should give its „Go!“ to the project. And he quite liked the idea, so the studio green lighted the movie.

Anthony Burgess, who was not only the writer of the novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE but a linguist as well, was hired to create the prehistoric language heard in the movie. There were about 400 words in the end which were based on the Indo-European language. Every actor had to learn this artificial language. It is said that during filming even the technicians on the set were communicating using this language.

Body language and gestures were created by Desmond Morris who rehearsed them with the actors for several hours a day.

The make up for the actors, which won Sarah Monzani and Michèle Burke an Academy Award, took a whole year to develop. And it was very time consuming. It needed three hours for each actor to put it on and two hours to take it off, thus limiting shooting time per day to two or maybe three hours.

At the beginning of the 1980s post-production for a movie used not to be what it is nowadays. Things like digital visual effects could only be dreamt of and so all the effects on QUEST FOR FIRE had to be done on set. The fact that it was filmed solely on location without any studio work made it even more complex to achieve. The original plans to film it in Iceland did not work out and so the on location shooting was done in Scotland, Canada and even Kenya. Four years later Sydney Pollack would shoot OUT OF AFRICA at the exact same location in Kenya, by the way.

As a filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud heavily relies on film music. It is very common for him to write lengthy instructions to the composer he is working with, which sometimes resulted in a struggle between the two artists. Gabriel Yared and James Horner were among the composers Annaud got in trouble with. QUEST FOR FIRE marks the first collaboration between Annaud and French composer Philippe Sarde, who earned an Academy Award nomination in 1981 for his score for Roman Polanski’s TESS. Sarde’s score for QUEST FOR FIRE was inspired by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and he did it the big way by not only using the London Symphony Orchestra with its 120 musicians, but adding „Les Percussions de Strasbourg“ as well which provided the impressive percussion work. Seven years after QUEST FOR FIRE Annaud hired Philippe Sarde again to score his film THE BEAR.

QUEST FOR FIRE was photographed by the late Claude Agostini in the 35mm anamorphic format using Panavision cameras.

The print which you will be seeing today has been sleeping in the museum’s vault for quite a long time now. It was not possible to show the film earlier due to its unsolved screening rights. Only recently these rights could be cleared and so we are happy to present QUEST FOR FIRE in this 70mm blow up print. It is the version which was released in the UK back in 1982. Due to censorship reasons it had to be cut by eight seconds showing a scene which made the impression that a wolf is set on fire. Animal cruelty obviousely was or still is a „No Go“. But I can assure you that we still have some other violent scenes in the movie which have not been cut. So this prehistoric adventure will not be spoiled by the missing eight seconds.

The Hunt for Red October

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER from 1990 is the closing film for this year’s Widescreen Weekend. It’s screenplay by Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart was based on Tom Clancy’s novel and the film was directed by John McTiernan, the same guy who also directed DIE HARD which we were running on Friday night. If he hadn’t had an obligation already to direct this film, Mister McTiernan would have directed DIE HARD 2 instead, which subsequentially was directed by Renny Harlin.

Looking at THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER‘s cast it definitely has to be regarded as a manly film: Gates McFadden with Louise Borras (as Jack Ryan's wife and daughter) and Denise E. James as a flight attendant have the only credited female speaking roles, and all of their dialog scenes are over before the end of the opening credits. In addition most of Gates McFadden's role as Cathy Ryan was deleted from the final print.

Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast as captain Marko Ramius, but broke his leg prior to filming. It was Brandauer who suggested his friend Sean Connery for the role, having known him since they appeared together in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. After being faxed the script, Sean Connery initially turned the role down on the basis of the plot being unrealistic for the post-Cold War era. Whoever sent the fax neglected to include the foreword explaining the movie as historical; once Connery received the foreword, he accepted the role.

The original cast did also include Kevin Costner, who was cast as Jack Ryan, who is now played by Alec Baldwin. He accepted the role of Jack Ryan because Harrison Ford turned it down. Some years later Harrison Ford starred as Jack Ryan in both PATRIOT GAMES and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER.

There is a connection between John McTiernan’s RED OCTOBER and DIE HARD, which can be regarded as kind of a „Director’s Trademark“. In RED OCTOBER Jack Ryan, played by Alec Baldwin, takes a teddy bear home with him at the end of the film. Bruce Willis in the role of McClane has one at the start of DIE HARD. It's the same teddy bear and it is named „Stanley“ and even gets a credit in RED OCTOBER’s end titles.

A good music score always was (or still is) part of director John McTiernan’s approach in film making. No wonder then that he likes to work with some of the most talented film composers, among which were Jerry Goldsmith, Bill Conti, Alan Silvestri and Michael Kamen. The score for RED OCTOBER was written by Basil Poledouris, whose music we listened to earlier this morning when we saw THE BLUE LAGOON. This August Poledouris would have celebrated his 65th birthday. However, he sadly died of cancer in 2006.

As a student Poledouris went to the University of Southern California, where he studied the arts of directing, cinematography, editing, sound and of course music. It was also at USC where he met John Milius and Randal Kleiser, both acclaimed directors with whom he would work in the future. Even though Basil had already composed music to John Milius' much talked about BIG WEDNESDAY (1978), his real breakthrough came in 1982 when he composed the score to Milius' epic fantasy movie, CONAN THE BARBARIAN. The powerful themes that Basil created for this movie opened the eyes of the movie industry, as well as the public, and it is arguably one of the best soundtracks of the 80s. I still remember the first time I listened to the soundtrack LP for CONAN. Wow! What a talent there was!

His score for THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER again makes use of a big orchestra and choir and perfectly serves the movie with a lot of Russian influences in the music.

By the way: did you know that there is a feature film which is dedicated to two late film composers who have worked for director John McTiernan? The names in question are the already mentioned Basil Poledouris and Michael Kamen, who did the score for DIE HARD. The film in question is titled CAPTAIN ABU RAED, a Jordanian movie directed by Amin Matalaga in 2007, which I highly recommend – not only for its superb music score, but also for its screenplay.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is one of the rare movies which makes use of the so-called „split surround“ channel layout in its 70mm version. Having not only one channel feeding the surround speakers located in the auditorium, but two independent channels providing real stereo in the surrounds was restricted to 70mm screenings in the pre-digital sound age. I first saw THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER during its initial run at the Empire theatre in London in 1990, where it was shown in 70mm with the added attraction of Dolby’s 7-track system. And it was amazing! Don’t worry: Pictureville is capable of reproducing it the same way. RED OCTOBER’s sound mix will really make you believe that you are underwater. A lot of work went into creating all sorts of sound effects needed to make the film sound authentic. Getting the right torpedo sound was one of the major problems. This may be due to the fact that the sound of an actual torpedo is classified information. Since the sound itself is vital to the defense of the submarine, tapes only existed in the military world! With the extensive guidance from Ron Patton, who did work for a company called „Sonalysts“ which does consultation and training for nuclear power plants as well as sophisticated military computer program design, and thus having heard the real thing, the film’s sound designers finally succeeded in creating the torpedo sound. It took them four months. The final version was a combination of a speed boat going by, a Ferrari, animal screeches and growls, bubbles, a motorscooter and a screeching screen-door spring. Well done, boys! No wonder the film’s sound effects editing was honoured with an Academy Award. The sound mix itself got only nominated, for the Oscar went to DANCES WITH WOLVES in that year.

By the way: THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER was one of the first American laserdisc releases which featured a Dolby Digital audio track. I remember when we first put it into our player and test listened to it. After a while suddenly the right back surround channel muted! It occured to be a mastering problem with the laserdisc and the whole batch had to be re-done. Bare in mind that the disc was THX certified! Sometimes you really wonder what they did get their money for!

Anyway, I am confident that Duncan and his team have carefully prepared and aligned this 70mm print. So just sit back and relax – the hunt is on!
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Updated 21-01-24