Friday, September 17, 2010

Technical question

Does anybody know the original aspect ratio of Underworld USA? It aired last night on TCM in a full-screen (ie 4:3) print. There was no indication in the opening credits that it was made in any of the ultra-widescreen processes; besides, being a decidedly "B" picture, it probably wouldn't have had the budget ot be in that much wide screen. Still, while processes such as Cinemascope were around 7:3 (2.35:1) in aspect, at some point, regular movies switched from the old Academy aspect, which was 11:8, or just slightly more rectangular (about 3%) than the original standard 4:3 TV screen. (If you watch carefully, you'll see that it's not uncommon for a very little bit of the letters to be cut off in the credits of Academy ratio films when they get shown on TV.)

With the introduction of Cinemascope in 1953, film and TV really started to diverge. Studios tried all sorts of ultra-widescreen formats, and you've probably seen the credits for Cinemascope, Vistavision, Super Panavision and the like. However, a lot of movies in more recent times seem to have made it to a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. (I wonder how much Imax and the other ridiculously-large screen formats are going to change this.) Meanwhile, HDTV settled on a 16:9 aspect ratio, which at roughly 1.78:1 is about 4% more square than the 1.85:1 ratio. In addition to the Wikipedia article on the Academy ratio, you can find more information about wide-screens at the Home Theater Forum.

Underworld USA didn't look as badly blown-up as Cinemascope movies do when they're panned and scanned, but there were a few scenes when it did look blown up. Normally, I'd look to IMDb for information on the aspect ratio, but for Underworld USA, that information is not on IMDb. There's a Sam Fuller box set that includes Underworld USA, but I'm not going to shell out $70 just to satisfy my curiosity about a movie's aspect ratio.

Was Underworld USA indeed filmed in 1.85:1?


ohmemercylard said...

All these years later, I'm asking the same question. Didja ever get an answer?

ohmemercylard said...

P.S. I just found this in a review of the Sam fuller Collection:

"1.85 Anamorphic for The Crimson Kimono and Underworld U.S.A."

I recorded Crimson Kimono off TCM and it's shown in widescreen.