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The Week Ahead

'Hired Hand' gets another chance

October 20, 2003|Kevin Crust

In 1971, Peter Fonda was still riding high on the success of "Easy Rider" when he made his feature directing debut with an unconventional western called "The Hired Hand." Fonda co-starred alongside Verna Bloom and Warren Oates, playing a man returning to his homestead seven years after abandoning his family.

Although the film was a success in Europe, its U.S. release lasted a scant two weeks and "The Hired Hand" was largely forgotten. Fonda is ecstatic that the film is now receiving new life in a two-disc collector's edition DVD to be released Oct. 28, following a highly praised run at major film festivals in 2001.

In addition to those of its young cast, the film helped launch the careers of many of Fonda's behind-the-camera collaborators -- it was one of the first major films shot by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.

The film's editor, Frank Mazzola, who had recently restored two films he had made with director Donald Cammell, was asked by Hamish McAlpine (producer of Cammell's "Wild Side") to look into another "lost" film he had edited: "The Hired Hand."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 22, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Film restoration -- A Week Ahead item in Monday's Calendar about the restoration of the Peter Fonda film "The Hired Hand" incorrectly characterized the condition of the negative as damaged. The streaking and discoloration that required correcting were due to the characteristics of the film stock; no implication of negligence on the part of the film's distributor, Universal, was intended.

Universal, the film's original distributor, still had the necessary elements in its vault and Mazzola oversaw the restoration of the negative. He estimates that 65% of it was damaged, primarily with streaking and discoloration, but with today's technology he believes the corrections produced a better-looking film than the one that reached screens 32 years ago. Richard Portman, an 11-time Academy Award nominee (winning for "The Deer Hunter" in 1978), supervised the restoration of the movie's sound.

The American Cinematheque screens the restored version at the Egyptian Theatre, 7612 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-FILM, on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Fonda, Bloom and Mazzola will be present for a post-screening discussion.

-- Kevin Crust

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