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For Fans, Must-Haves Preserved on DVD

July 25, 2002|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Film preservation is a growth industry these days, with the UCLA Film and Television Archive far from alone in restoring and preserving fiction and nonfiction films.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Academy Film Archive collection of 15,000 titles includes films from the early days of motion pictures, documentaries and Oscar-winning and nominated films. The archive also collaborated with 20th Century Fox to restore the Oscar-winning 1933 film "Cavalcade" and is working on restoring the first best picture winner, "Wings" (1927).

In 1984, the American Film Institute established the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, which acquires film and television product for the AFI Collections at the Library of Congress and other archives. The center recently restored the earliest complete surviving copy of the 1912 adaptation of Shakespeare's "Richard III."

The movie studios are also involved in restoring their films. Sony, for example, recently restored Richard Brooks' Oscar-nominated 1967 adaptation of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and "Funny Girl" (1968), which introduced Barbra Streisand to motion pictures.

Many of these restored films are being released in digital format. Among some of the must-haves for films fans:

"Rashomon" (Criterion Collection, $40): Akira Kurosawa's 1950 Japanese classic starring Toshiro Mifune features a high-definition transfer with restored image and a video introduction by Robert Altman.

"Children of Paradise" (Criterion Collection, $40): The 1945 Jacques Prevert-Marcel Carne French epic went through a major restoration in 1991. Criterion made an additional 30,000 digital corrections to remove dirt and other problems with the negative.

"Citizen Kane" (Warner Bros., $30): The original negative of Orson Welles' 1941 drama had been destroyed in a fire, so the Warner Bros. restoration team sought out the best existing prints to construct a new print for the DVD.

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (Disney, $30): The first full-length animated feature, from 1937, has been digitally restored to its Technicolor glory for this two-disc set. Also included are commentaries, games, newsreel footage and animation concepts.

"Grand Illusion" (Criterion, $40): Jean Renoir's 1937 antiwar classic--the first foreign film to be nominated for a best film Oscar--was digitally restored from the original camera negative, which was thought destroyed in a Paris air raid in 1942. Recently, the negative was found unlabeled on a shelf at the cinematheque in Toulouse, France. The disc includes several examples of how the film was restored.

"Lawrence of Arabia" (Columbia TriStar, $40): The beautifully restored version of David Lean's multi-Oscar-winning 1962 epic about the controversial Englishman T.E. Lawrence includes a comprehensive documentary on the making of the movie that starred Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif.

"Rebecca" (Criterion, $40): This is a new digital transfer with film and sound restoration of the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock Oscar-winner starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. It features commentary from film scholar Leonard J. Leff, and screen tests of several actresses who auditioned for the lead role.

"Lost Horizon" (Columbia TriStar, $28): The UCLA Film and Television Archive meticulously restored Frank Capra's 1937 adaptation of James Hilton's fantasy. The DVD includes before and after restoration comparisons, commentary by Charles Champlin and archivist Robert Gitt, and an alternate ending with narration.

"Touch of Evil" (Universal, $30): Orson Welles' gritty film noir was cut to shreds by Universal when it was released in 1958. Forty years later, the cult flick was reedited and restored using the director's 58-page memo to the studio with detailed editing instructions. The disc includes a making-of documentary.

"Vertigo" (Universal, $30): Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz restored Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 haunting tale of obsession starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. This DVD features a new documentary and commentary from the restoration team.

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