The Art of Restoring Classic Films: Criterion Shows You How It Refreshed Two Hitchcock Movies

Why have cinephiles, from the era of Laserdiscs through that of DVDs and now Blu-rays, so con­sis­tent­ly respect­ed The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion? Speak­ing as one such cinephile, I could point to a num­ber of fac­tors: their cura­to­r­i­al bent toward impor­tant films, their pro­duc­tion of rich sup­ple­men­tary fea­tures, their always impres­sive pieces of cov­er art. But Cri­te­ri­on has become increas­ing­ly known for the con­sid­er­able work they put in not at the end of the process, when they pack­age a clas­sic or poten­tial­ly clas­sic motion pic­ture for max­i­mum aes­thet­ic and intel­lec­tu­al appeal (and your pur­chase), but at the begin­ning, when they track down the actu­al cel­lu­loid film in the first place, often aged or dam­aged, and engage in the often painstak­ing task of return­ing it to the prime of visu­al and son­ic life.

In the short Giz­mo­do video at the top, Cri­te­ri­on direc­tor Lee Kline and his team talk about the work they did to restore Alfred Hitch­cock­’s 1940 For­eign Cor­re­spon­dent, which includ­ed acquir­ing the neg­a­tive from the Library of Con­gress, scan­ning the whole thing at high res­o­lu­tion over two days to a week, doing the research nec­es­sary to fig­ure out how the film “should have looked,” clean up scratch­es and film dam­age, and fil­ter out the clicks and pops on the sound­track. (And yes, we get some insight into its “snazzy” cov­er design as well.) The Kline-nar­rat­ed video just above offers a demon­stra­tion of Cri­te­ri­on’s restora­tion process on anoth­er piece of clas­sic Hitch­cock, the first, 1934-made ver­sion of The Man Who Knew Too Much, a pic­ture with no known neg­a­tive still in exis­tence. A for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge, but if we film geeks entrust that job to any­one, we entrust it to Cri­te­ri­on.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

21 Free Hitch­cock Movies Online

The Restora­tion of a Mas­ter­piece, as Nar­rat­ed by Mar­tin Scors­ese

Watch The Plea­sure Gar­den, Alfred Hitchcock’s Very First Fea­ture Film (1925)

Alfred Hitch­cock Presents Some of the First Words Ever Spo­ken on Film …. and They’re Saucy Ones (1929)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

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