Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Fine Cause, Pilgrim

If the Scribe’s backyard were 20 miles wide and turned northward, then Pleasantville’s Jacob Burns Film Center would be right in it. Whenever we the place mentioned in national news, we feel proud to have it in the county. The Digital Bits has been a prime source of news regarding the restoration of John Wayne’s The Alamo by Robert A Harris. The nearly half-century old film got a memorable box set laserdisc release many moons ago, a complete roadshow version that was a little rough around the edges, but was the first time since its original release that anyone had seen director Wayne’s original version.

Regarded as a sort of jingoistic joke for much of the later 60s and 70s, time has been kinder to the narrative then to the actual film stock. Wayne’s first of only two directorial efforts (including the significantly more trouble-plagued The Green Berets) The Alamo has its share of hoary dialog passages and superfluous speechifyin’, but all those years spent in the company of the greatest American filmmakers like Howard Hawks and John Ford taught Wayne a lot about pacing an adventure film and handling performances. Richard Widmark is positively magnetic as Jim Bowie and Scribe favorite Laurence Harvey brilliantly plays off his own natural un-lovableness as the stiff-backed marionette, William Travis. Restoration expert Harris has performed near-miracles before, in famous cases like Vertigo and Lawrence of Arabia, and though some take issue with some of the choices made by his team, the fact that without his efforts the very negatives for these films may have simply ceased to exist cannot be forgotten.
The JBFC is now officially handling donations for the incredibly expensive restoration process.

Checks can be mailed to:

Jacob Burns Film Center
405 Manville Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570
Att: Dominick Balletta