|Stanley Kubrick was famous for being obsessive about screenings, even going to theaters personally to observe the existing technology. There’s a funny story about him having the borders of a screen painted to accommodate a screening of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and the painter was painting with orange paint. Thankfully, Kubrick caught it in time. In John Baxter’s book, he writes that “A Clockwork Orange marked Kubrick’s definitive abandonment of Cinemascope. There was simply too much variance between individual cinemas in masking, screen sizes, projection, and sound systems…” |
I had spoken and convinced the Fallon clients to screen THE DREAM in fake cinemascope, that is normal 35mm with optical cropping. I had composed many shots to take advantage of this format with some subjects at the extremes of the frame. I hadn’t used anamorphic lenses, but we did make an anamorphic print and I started to be concerned.
“Where is the convention?’
“Where is the screening?”
“In the hotel theater.”
Marcus and I discuss this, and I tell him to take a print to the theater and check it out. He flies to Vail and screens the film. I get a call.
“The screening room sucks!”
“Why does the screening room suck?”
“They use a cheap flip-over lens for cinemascope. It chops off the ends of the frame so a lotta shots have missing people.”
“It gets worse. They have an imitation Dolby, a difference signal system that imitates Dolby but isn’t Dolby and if you have an ear you know it isn’t Dolby.”
“We’re screwed. How does it sound?”
“It ain’t Dolby but it’s not terrible.”
“Okay, but I think I can fix the picture. I called the lab and we can rent the proper lens for projection. I’ll call the rental house and have them ship the lens.”
“No. Just get back here and get it, then get back there and see if it works. We’ve come too far to trust anybody. Be sure you’re there for the screening.”
Marcus had busted his hump working on this project. He was a camera assistant and soundman and editor and was on his way to becoming a director and author but right now he was my slave and in love with my beautiful and vivacious assistant. I may have threatened him.
“How did the screening go?”
“Fine. Everything worked.”
I didn’t ask if they liked it, probably because I didn’t care if they liked it, because I liked it.
The agency gave Marcus his first directing job.
Marcus married my assistant and lived happily ever after.
I lost my ass on the job, but I met Ben Johnson.
Kubrick passed away almost immediately after he screened EYES WIDE SHUT for the WB execs. I hope it wasn’t because of the screen or projection.