Universal Brings History To SXSW With Restoration Panel; Talk Vertigo Restoration [SXSW 2012]

While SXSW may be best known for the festival’s film premieres, the panels are just as interesting, if not even more so in some cases.

Going into this year’s festival, one special panel truly stuck out, Universal’s special Paramount-located panel, “Restoring History.” A brief refresher:

This year is not only the studio’s 100 year anniversary, but to honor this said anniversary, Universal will be restoring a baker’s dozen worth of their most prestigious titles, with releases in theaters and on Blu-ray to span the calendar year.  All Quiet On The Western Front, Pillow Talk, Dracula (English and Spanish versions), Frankenstein, Jaws, The Birds, The Sting, Bride Of Frankenstein, Buck Privates, To Kill A Mockingbird and Schindler’s List.  Now, while the studio has been known for their oddly DNR-laden restorations and Blu-rays, this panel was both used to  dispel  some of those concerns, and also, slyly announce one of their upcoming restorations.

First, the big news.  After being asked if any more Hitchcock films were heading to Blu-ray, the panel confirmed that Vertigo  is currently being worked on, with a Blu-ray release imminent.  Now, they also revealed that the plan is to overlook a true 70 mm restoration for theaters, so not all is bright on this front, but with the studio heading back to Hitchcock’s notes for the restoration’s visual and audio aspects, this is one of the more exciting home video announcements in a while.

They also showed some footage from their upcoming The Sting  release (hitting June 5th), and it looked shockingly good.  Going far less heavy handed on the DNR, the print’s grain felt very alive, and while the film itself was an odd choice to promote here, it definitely showed off what for all intents and purposes looks like one hell of a successful restoration.  The frame felt alive once again, with the color restored and damage completely wiped clean.

Overall, it was a rather successful panel, truly getting across what seems like a heartfelt restoration process from a studio truly looking to get back in the good graces with some rather angry cinephiles.  Here are a few other highlights from the panel:

– For the Spielberg films, he has been actively involved with the restoration process, looking at as much as his schedule will allow, and approving things before they go forward

– For those filmmakers no longer with us, they reference notes to get the right stylistic aesthetic.

– There are currently no known plans to restore any Universal Douglas Sirk titles. Leads at least this writer to believe that they may be leaving these for Criterion to be the backers of.  Only logical, right?

– New negatives are being struck for each film, based upon this new restoration.

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