Blood and Sand

Recently I wrote about City Streets, shown at the National Film Theatre as part of a season of films directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Yesterday evening I saw Blood and Sand, also directed by Rouben Mamoulian. The novel by Vicente Biasco Ibáñez had previously been famously filmed in 1922 with Rudolph Valentino: Mamoulian's version was made in 1941 with the advantage of Technicolor.

Though I have seen the 1922 version it was many years ago and I don't really remember anything much about it: the 1941 version is, to be frank, overheated tosh, though the actors do everything they can to hold it together: Tyrone Power as the arrogant up-and-coming bullfighter, Linda Darnell as his long-suffering wife, and Rita Hayworth in fine smouldering form as the femme fatale who distracts him from his wife - and the bulls, with fatal consequences.

Mamoulian's direction is intelligent and presents the story in the best possible light, and he was magnificently served by the cinematographers, Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan, who won the Academy Award for best photography: the lighting and use of colour is deliberately in the style of the great Spanish painters such as Murillo and Velzquez and the result looks stunning - more so in the print shown (which I assume to be a digital restoration) than would have been possible at the time with the original dye-layer prints which tended to fuzziness.

It's worth adding a technical note: early Technicolor relied upon filming through red, green and blue filters to produce three monochrome films which were used to make the colour print using a non-photographuic dye process. Unlike more recent colour negative systems, the original negatives don't fade if kept properly: but they do tend to shrink unevenly, upsetting the registration of the three colours. Digital restoration involves scanning the three separation negatives, and then applying software to every frame to undeo the effects of the shrinkage and produce rock-steady colours. The steadiness of the image was what made me assume this was a digital restoration and not just a new print from the negatives. It would have been interesting to see it digitally projected - I've seen excerpts from Casablanca (monochrome, of course), The Adventures of Robin Hood and Gone With The Wind projected using a 'DLP' digital projector from a digital copy of the scan of the camera negative (so no film process is involved other than the very original) with quite extraordinary results.

Posted: Sun - December 21, 2008 at 08:49 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM