How a Near-Pristine 35mm Print of Orson Welles’ ‘Chimes at Midnight’ Was Found

How a Near-Pristine 35mm Print of Orson Welles' 'Chimes at Midnight' Was Found

Distribpix Inc.’s Steven Morowitz and filmmaker Joel Bender have uncovered an “almost pristine” 35mm print of Orson Welles’ “Falstaff, Chimes at Midnight,” starring Welles himself as the titular knight, a bawdy, boozing flaneur lifted from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” plays and “Henry V.”

Long unavailable on home video formats due to legal tussles, “Chimes at Midnight” was found tucked among tens of thousands of pounds of film elements owned by Morowitz, who evidently had been sitting on the print for 20-plus years. “One thing is for sure and that is that the world wants a gorgeous and definitive release of Falstaff,” he co-wrote on his blog with Bender. DCPs have floated around various retrospectives, and Bay Area cinephiles have caught a 16mm print of the film at the Pacific Film Archive.

The uncut print takes up seven reels, which they took to a film lab for digital processing. But no restoration has been done—yet.

“The 35mm print is in such great condition that it is begging for a full 4k scan restoration,” wrote Morowitz. “This would at least guarantee a viable digital archive and one that can stand for future generations of cinema lovers.”

“Who owns the rights? Why has there been no definitive film restoration? Who has the original negative? Why was it pulled after a few play dates in New York City. The questions go on and on.”

Take a look at a sampling of screengrabs (and a clip) below, and follow the rest of this story over at the Distribpix blog here. And if you’re a film preservation buff, Morowitz and Bender dig pretty deep into the technical nitty-gritty of this discovery.

Following digital screenings of the film at the Sedona Film Festival, Orson Welles’ daughter Beatrice Welles revealed that a “major DVD/Blu-ray label is interested in releasing and restoring ‘Chimes at Midnight.'” Let’s make this happen.

Ryan Lattanzio is a staff writer for TOH at Indiewire. Follow him on Twitter @ryanlattanzio.


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Comments

Ray Kelly

The label Ms. Welles referred to in Sedona has yet to make its announcement, but it has an exceptional track record of seeking out the best elements. They will not be using the recent DCP release, which some feel is too light in spots.

MFD

"Chimes At Midnight" is Orson Welles’ finest film, and it’s nothing less than insane that it is not available in fully-restored, pristine condition. Until then, the Spanish DVD from Suevia Films will have to serve.

Aaron Z Snyder

This sample appears to be a bit stretched horizontally.

Len Temple

Fantastic news! Now if only someone could stumble across an original cut of Magnificent Amersons.

Franchesk

This film was restored a few years ago by the Spanish Film Institute (Filmoteca Espanola). I know for it was shown there both in English and Spanish versions. AFAIK the film must be owned by the producer’s -Emiliano Piedra- heirs.

Neal Buckley

I want a Criterion Collection release!! It stands to reason that a masterpiece of this caliber should be viewed for all to see … It’s as good, if not better, than "Citizen Kane."

Vincent Pereira

According to comments by film preservationist Robert Harris,at the hometheaterforum, high-quality film elements exist for CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT so this really isn’t that big of a deal. What these guys found was a nice print but nothing revelatory. I would post a link to the discussion but this website won’t let me.

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