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.