Restoration of "Spartacus"
The 70mm Newsletter
by: Universal Pictures Press Department, 1991
Winner of four Academy Awards, applauded as "monumental," "tremendous,"
"genuinely great" by critics across the country, "Spartacus" has long been
considered one of the screen's great achievements.
Now, more than 30 years after the Kirk Douglas -Stanley Kubrick epic
premiered, Universal Pictures has restored the classic motion picture to its
original grandeur. This spring, "Spartacus" will be presented as it was meant to be seen: In 70mm and six-track Dolby Sound.
As part of the most extensive film restoration in history, five minutes of footage cut from the original release print of "Spartacus" was reinstated,
along with the original overture and intermission. A new print,
painstakingly reconstructed from decades old negative and color separation
prints, has been struck, at a cost of nearly $1 million. Starring Kirk
Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov,
John Gavin and Tony Curtis as Antoninus, "Spartacus" premiered in New York
and Los Angeles in October, 1960 and went on to win four Academy Awards--for
Best Supporting Actor, Art Direction (color), Cinematography (color) and
Costume Design (color). The $12 million production, the most expensive movie ever filmed in Hollywood (although its gigantic battle scenes were filmed in Spain), was directed by Stanley Kubrick and filmed in the wide-screen process called Super Technirama 70. "Spartacus" was produced by Edward
Lewis, with Douglas serving as executive producer for his Bryna Productions.
Some 2,500 employees at Universal Pictures put in more than 250,000
man-hours working on the sets, costumes, greenery, carts, banners and
palaces needed to accurately show Imperial Rome. Thousands of extras were
recruited for the crowd scenes. For the battle scenes, museums and costume
houses in Italy supplied 5,000 uniforms and seven tons of custom-made armor. Although the battle scenes featured thousands of soldiers from the Spanish
Army, the battle shouts heard in the film were recorded in East Lansing,
Michigan by the Michigan State rooting section. In Hollywood, the set
constructed for the School af Gladiators was based on designs 2,000 years
old. According to a story af that time, all of Hollywood's 187 stuntmen were
hired and "trained in the gladiatorial rituals of combat to the death."
"Spartacus" under the direction of then-31-year-old Kubrick, took 167 days
to film and utilized approximately 10,500 people. The film was written by
Dalton Trumbo, based an Howard Fast's best-selling novel, which, at that
time, had been translated into 45 languages and sold more than 3 million
copies. In hiring and giving screen credit to Trumbo, who had been unable to
find work in the Hollywood community for many years because of the infamous
HUAC hearings, Douglas effectively broke the practice of blacklisting.
Nearly three decades later, when a print of the film was needed for a
ceremony honouring Dauglas and Bryna Productions, it was discovered that no
print of acceptable quality could be located. The original running time of
the film was 197 minutes, including almost ten minutes of music that
consisted of the film's overture, as well as entrance and exit music. Edits
made before the film opened cut the running time to 182 minutes, excluding
the overture and other music. When "Spartacus" was reissued in 1967 the
running time was just 161 minutes.
The obvious questions were asked. "Didn't Universal Pictures have a clean
print?" "No," was the reply. "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts &
Sciences?" "Only the short, re-issue version was in their vaults." "UCLA
Stanley Kubrick's print (the 182 minute version) had been placed on deposit
with The Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was considered to be an
archive print, and therefore unavailable for loan. The only original 35mm
print to be found was in the hands of an avid collector, who had gathered
footage from various prints, including material from Europe, and
meticulously pieced it together to also form a 182 minute version - that of
the standard generic release. The collector offered to make it available.
It wasn't the fact that the print was scratched in many sections that caught
people's attention, nor that there was a more than occasional splice with
abrupt color shifts, where material had been cut together. This was all to
be expected from an old print. The unique character of the print run before
the honouree was that the majority of the footage that made up the difference
between the 1967 re-issue version of and that of the earlier 182 minute
version was all sub-titled.
in 70mm reading:
Restoration of "Lawrence of
Restoration of "My Fair
The Reconstruction and Restoration
of John Wayne's "The Alamo"
Imperial Bio Copenhagen where restored version of "Spartacus" was shown in 70mm. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
In October of 1989, Robert A. Harris, who had recently completed the reconstruction and restoration of Sir David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" was
called in to help.
Harris found that, like "Lawrence of Arabia", there seemed to be no
surviving print in any format...anywhere in the world. Also, like
"Lawrence", there was no readily accessible picture and dialogue continuity
which could serve as a guide to precisely what the original version had
Some reviews mentioned graphic elements of the battle scenes...arms being
lopped off--blood spurting from a stump. Film lore had discussed, but few
could remember actually seeing the scene in which Tony Curtis is the
attempted seductive of Laurence Olivier--what has become known as the "snails
and oysters" scene. Nor could people actually remember seeing the blood of
the slave Draba (played by Woody Strode) hit Crassus (Olivier) square in the
face as Draba's neck is slit by Crassus' knife.
Further research confirmed the original 197 minute running time and the 182
minute release version. The search for missing footage, then, would be for
some 5-6 minutes of material.
Harris contacted Jim Katz, whose years as head of Universal's Classic
division and background in production and publicity made him an ideal ally
for the project. He and Katz had previously worked together in 1981 on Abel
Gance's "Napoleon", which Harris owned jointly with Francis Coppola's
Harris recalls that, as a preliminary budget was being prepared, Steven Spielberg became involved, as he had on "Lawrence". Spielberg suggested that
Kubrick be notified, and when the director approved the project, Spielberg
called Tom Pollock, Chairman of Universal's Motion Picture Group. Pollock
was not only interested, but had the restoration in mind since "Lawrence"
was first announced. Harris researched the credits of Robert Lawrence, who
had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Editor for his work on "Spartacus". His credits revealed the editing of films like "55 Days at
Peking", "El Cid", the Bond film "Never Say Never Again" and "Fiddler on the
Roof." Cutting film for over forty years, he had been broken in as an
assistant under directors George Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Mann.
He quickly agreed to assist in the restoration.
After another couple of months of research, the project moved to offices on
the Universal lot, directly adjacent to Stage 12, where many of the scenes
for "Spartacus" had been shot 30 years earlier. By the time Harris, Katz
and Lawrence, along with Mike Hyatt, who had taken a leave of absence from a
film optical house to assist on the project, had moved in, Universal's
technical people had put together a file of all background material that
could be located. To this was added a complete inventory from the vaults
- hundreds of pages of computer printouts. Materials were moved from
locations around the world to Universal's vaults in Los Angeles. Each
individual roll of film is identified, tracked and held at the proper
temperature and humidity for each element.
Among the "Spartacus" - related papers was the first damage report, the news
of which was both good and bad. The records showed that although all of the
"B" negative (unused takes), trims and outs, plus all of the original
pre-mix sound elements, the effects and dialogue, had been ordered destroyed
some 15 years previous, there were still some 2,000 cans of "Spartacus"
material available. Every can was to be opened, inspected and checked.
The original camera negative arrived from underground storage facilities and
several reels were delivered to Universal's negative cutting department.
Unlike films today, which are generally photographed on either 35 or 65mm
negative and edited sequentially, "Spartacus" was found to be in one of the consummate bastard formats of its day -- Super Technirama 70. Created just after the initial productions in Todd-AO, which used 65mm camera negative
("Oklahoma!", "Around the World in 80 Days") and MGM's Camera 65 process
("Ben Hur", "Raintree Country"), Super Technirama 70 was a good idea.
Technirama was based on Paramount's system -- VistaVision. It gave access to
a larger negative area, while still using normal 35mm film. The difference
being that the film was transported horizontally through the camera at 180
feet per minute, giving a frame twice the area of the normal 35mm negative.
The quality was superb. Technirama used basically the same large, bulky
camera system a VistaVision -- but with one change. A special lens was used to
optically squeeze the image by 150%. This meant that when unsqueezed, the
resulting image would perfectly fit a 70mm frame. If the filmmakers were
desirous of having a standard 35mm release, the image would simply be
squeezed a bit more, yielding a standard Panavision 2.35:1 aspect ratio for
normal wide screen 35mm projection -but with amazing results.
One sheet re-release poster
There were two problems with the original "Spartacus" negative. First, it
appeared to have been re-cut not once, but twice, and contained none of the
material from either the preview or pre-censor versions. Second, it had a
sickening blueish/lavender cast -- sickening, not because the color itself
was objectionable, but because to a negative, this was the pallor of death.
Still, it was worth a test.
The results were less than presentable. Printed in its original Technirama
horizontal format, the image was sharp, but lacking contrast and the color...The
shadows had turned blue. There was no black reproduced whatsoever, and the
facial highlights were a bright yellow.
Although some 35mm reduction elements had been produced over the years, the
ultimate materials protecting "Spartacus" were the black and white
protection separation masters ("seps"). Produced for most important
films--but not all--they were created by exposing black and white "fine
grain" stock through different filters--yellow, cyan and magenta. In this
way, all of the color information on the original negative could be
preserved on a non-fading film element (black and white stock). Three black
and white prints would be made--one through each filter. These prints could
then be recombined, when exposed through like filters to produce a hopefully
usable duplicate negative of commercial quality. At least that is the way
the system is supposed to work.
Black and white separations were originally meant to backup the negative in
case a shot or two were destroyed during printing. The reproduction of an
entire film through its black and white elements was something that most
studios would shy away from at any cost. But Universal gave the go-ahead. A
final budget was approved. The film would be restored.
Meanwhile, sound elements were being tested and prepared for dubbing in
Universal's sound department. The original mix for "Spartacus" had been done
in 6-track discreet. This means that different sound would come from each of
the five speakers behind the huge screens used in theatres in the early
'60s. This was well before the start of the age of the "plexes." The sixth
channel was for effects. The original six-track magnetic master had survived
well in Universal's vaults. The quality was superb. Unlike today's mixes,
in which most dialogue is recorded in the center channel of a stereo mix,
the dialogue in "Spartacus" moves with the character from the far left to
far right across the screen. When a shot changes angle, the sound reverses
with the picture. The master, with no sync marks or beeps to align with the
picture, was from the generic version--182 minutes. While cutting the
material together, the missing track elements had to be kept in mind. It
appeared that none of the missing track had survived and it would have to be
produced from scratch. There was music, but no effects or dialogue. Sound
editors Gib Jatte and Mark Gordon joined the project. New effects had to be
created. In some cases, such as the "snails and oysters" scene, for which
new dialogue had to be recorded, the existing tracks for fragments of the
scene in the generic version of the film would not be used, as music would
While the picture was being cut, Jim Katz began to arrange for the
completion of the "Snails and Oysters" scene. He brought Tony Curtis to Los
Angeles to record his lines, as found in Kirk Douglas' original copy of the
script. Harris contacted Anne V. Coates, editor of "Lawrence", and asked if
she would be kind enough to contact Joan Plowright, the widow of Sir
Laurence Olivier. As a courtesy, no one wanted to have another actor attempt
to reproduce her late husband's voice without her approval...and if she did
approve, was there a suggestion as to talent? Anne reported back that Joan
had suggested Anthony Hopkins, but didn't know if he would do it.
Katz located Hopkins' agent in London, who at first found the request
unusual, to say the least. Jim was told that he honestly didn't know how to
react, but that he would contact Mr. Hopkins and get back. Not long after,
he called back, amused with a likewise amused Anthony Hopkins conferenced
into the call. "What was involved?", asked Hopkins. Katz explained. "Would
he consider doing it?", queried Katz. "If it's got to be done, and Joan
suggested she'd like me to do it...an honor," replied Hopkins.
Picture tests began with the recombining of the separations in a Technirama
format test. The color looked promising, even though not yet timed out (color
corrected). Various optical houses and laboratories were checked for their
availability and capability of handling the original Technirama format. The
original lab which produced the seps was incapable of producing a negative
from them for various technical reasons. Another large lab was wary. Because
of the delicate nature af the work and the speed of their printer, it would
take almost a thousand hours to produce the negative, with shifts running
through the day and night.
Imperial Bio Copenhagen where restored version of "Spartacus" was shown in 70mm. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
Working with project production executive, Gary Bell, the staff decided to
try a small, privately owned "boutique" lab, which had been producing dupe
negatives-from seps and showed perfect examples of their work. This was to
be the first time that anyone had ever attempted to re-combine the
separations of a Technirama negative and transfer it to 65mm dupe negative
at the same time. It entailed a combination of a format change with an
optical process for which no lens was readily available.
Panavision, which had supplied lenses for the original photography,
attempted to devise options, but their creations would not work within the
parameters of the system at the optical house. There were no other lenses to
be found for this 30-year-old format. Bell called Deluxe, the lab that would
be doing the processing and printing. They had a lens, but it had been made
for their own system years before, and would not be usable with anyone
else's printer. They offered to loan it to the project for testing. The
lens gave a sharp center, which quickly fell oft to non-focus as it
approached the edges of the film. Additional optics were produced and tested
to attempt to bend the light as it came out of Deluxe's lens.
Months of testing, trial and error, went by, as test by test the focus
became better, the image size more accurate. There would be no sense of
wasting the time of Stanley Kubrick, a known perfectionist, with footage in
which the edges were dark and out of focus. He waited patiently in London.
While the lens tests continued, Katz went to London to oversee the recording
of Hopkins' lines for the "Snails & Oysters" sequence. Kubrick sent a fax
with instructions as to how the scene should be played. When the dialogue
arrived back in Los Angeles, it was combined with that of Tony Curtis and a
scene was reborn. Two professionals, independent of one another, had spoken
their lines on separate continents--and the scene worked. The actual dubbing
of the film took place in the third week of October, 1990. Jaffe and Gordon
had done their job. Everything fit. The new tracks had been built and mixed
and worked perfectly combined with their 30-year-old counterparts.
But no lens was yet ready and more tests were made. With everything else
completed, Harris returned to his East Coast office. The office at Universal
would keep things working, with material shipped to Harris daily. By
mid-November, the tests were getting close. The light was spread evenly
across the image, sharpness was getting very close, but still more tests
would be made. Finally, a new lens was produced and the restoration process
was completed. Through the commitment of Universal and the diligence and
work of many people, a motion picture had been saved. "Spartacus" could, for
the first time, be seen as it was meant to be by its creators.
UNIVERSAL PICTURES Presents A BRYNA PRODUCTION. KIRK DOUGLAS, LAURENCE
OLIVIER, JEAN SIMMONS, CHARLES LAUGHTON, PETER USTINOV, JOHN GAVIN and TONY
CURTIS as Antonius, "SPARTACUS", Music Composed and Conducted by ALEX NORTH,
Executive Producer KIRK DOUGLAS. Screenplay by DALTON TRUMBO. Produced by
EDWARD LEWIS. Directed by STANLEY KUBRICK. RESTORED BY ROBERT A. HARRIS AND
JAMES C. KATZ, A UNIVERSAL RELEASE.
Reconstructed and restored by Robert A. Harris.
Reconstruction and restoration produced by James C. Katz.
Editorial consultant Robert Lawrence.
65mm preservation composite negative produced by RGB Optical, Inc.
Manager of optical operations Paul Rutan, Jr.
Camera operations John Rupkalvis,
Robert Fortenberry, Jr.
Negative cutting Brian Ralph.
Production assistant Mike Hyatt.
Timer David Orr.
Sound editing by Sound Choice.
Sound effects editors Gibb Jaffe, Mark Gordon.
Supervising re-recording mixer Rick Alexander.
Re-recording mixers Joel Fein,
Foley mixer Karin Roulo.
Foley artist Diane Marshall.
Dolby consultant David Gray.
Re-recorded at Universal Studios Sound Department.
Dolby Laboratories SR Card.
70mm prints by Deluxe Laboratorles.
Special thanks to
University of Wisconsin Center
For film & Theater Research
Kirk Douglas collection.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Filmed in Super Technirama. Lenses by Panavision.
Bryna Productions, Inc.
Kirk Douglas (Spartacus),
Laurence Olivier (Crassus),
Jean Simmons (Varinia),
Charles Laughton (Gracchus),
Peter Ustinov (Batiatus),
John Gavin (Julius Caesar)
Nina Foch, Herbert Lom, John Ireland,
John Dall, Charles McGraw.
Joanna Barnes, Harold J. Stone,
Woody Strode, Peter Brocco,
Paul Lambert, Robert J. Wilke,
Nicholas Dennis, John Hoyt,
Frederic Worlock and
Tony Curtis as
Executive producer Kirk Douglas. Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo.
Based on the novel by Howard Fast.
Director of photography Russell Metty, A.C.S.
Production designer Alexander Golitzen. Art director Eric Orbom.
Set decorations Russell A. Gausman.
Main titles and design consultant Saul Bass.
Sound Waldon O. Watson,
Historical and technical advisor Vittorio Nino Novarese.
Unit production manager Norman Deming.
Additional scenes photographed by Clifford Stine, A.S.C.
Production aide Stan Margulies.
Wardrobe by Peruzzi.
Miss Simmons' costumes Bill Thomas.
Costumes by Valles. Film editor Robert Lawrence.
Assistants to the film editor Robert Schulte,
Score co-conducted by Joseph Gershenson.
Music editor Arnold Schwarzwald.
Make-up Bud Westmore.
Hair stylist Larry Germain.
Assistant director Marshall Green.
Music composed and conducted by Alex North.
|Universal Press Department
Phone: (818) 777-1293
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