Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Apologies for last night

TCM ran a two-night series on film preservation and restoration the past two evenings in prime time, with Robert Osborne sitting down with people from the preservation departments at six of the major studios, each of whom brought one restored feature to show and talk about. Last night's first guest was from Disney, so it was the first time in a while that we got any live-action Disney on TCM. TCM had the rights to those movies for quite a while, but it's been two or three years since that contract ran out. More distressing is that I didn't realize the man from Disney was also going to present a second film: the 1932 short Flowers and Trees. This animated short is the first film in three-strip technicolor, and if you missed it, at least you can currently find it on Youtube.

The feature was the 1950 version of Treasure Island, which doesn't necessarily deserve a full-length blog post right about now. TCN, however, decided to use this occasion to run, just before Disney's Treasure Island, a pair of Traveltalks shorts on San Francisco's Treasure Island. Both of them were filmed in 1939 for the Golden Gate International Exposition which was running at the time. The first one, A Day on Treasure Island, was nothing special, being reminiscent of the Traveltalks entry on the Paris World's Fair of 1938. I wish I had known about the second one, Night Descends on Treasure Island, beforehand. The short is more or less in two parts. One goes inside one of the exhibition halls to look at the paintings on display, which I suppose was the only way most of the movie-going audience was ever going to see any of these paintings. The more interesting part, however, was a look at the exhibition grounds as they were at night. Engineers from General Electric set up a light show to liht the various buildings, presumably doubling as an advertising display of what could be done with modern lighting. But the effects are spectacular, with fountains and buildings lighted in all sorts of colors. The Traveltalks shorts generally seem not to have aged too well, in that the colors look muted. But even with that, it's obvious that the light show must have been a sight to behold in real life. And with the original color in the Technicolor prints, I have to think it would have looked stunning to the theater audiences in early 1940 when this was released. It seems to be available as an extra on a DVD release of San Francisco.

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