1. July 2016 10:40
A couple of months ago, I was offered the chance to buy a ratty old 35mm IB Technicolor film of Dr. No - the whole film, not just a trailer. Described as having Vinegar Syndrome, "significant warpage", and "focus breathing" the seller made it sound as if it might soon become a stinking pile of goo in a corner somewhere, but there was no denying that it was so cheap it had to be worth a look.
Since I'm not a collector of 35mm films and I don't have a projector on which to play them nor a climate controlled vault in which to store them, I didn't really want to become the new owner of this print. Luckily, Q branch (the company that does all of our film scanning) was able to connect The 007 Dossier and the seller of the Dr. No print with a real 35mm film collector, and together we worked out a deal in which I was able to borrow the film long enough to get it scanned before it went off to it's new home. Since the film is obviously deteriorating, this allowed us to preserve it in it's current state so that even if it does become that stinking pile of goo in a few years, the collector will still be able to watch the digital copy, so it worked out well for all involved. Especially since much of the film is actually still in remarkably good condition.
Now I think that on the whole Lowry Digital Images did an excellent job of restoring Dr. No for the "Ultimate Edition DVDs" back in 2005 and I'm certainly not about to spend the next 18 months restoring this print, but I was curious to see if they made any glaring mistakes in their color choices. Lowry was able to scan the original negatives, which is why the official DVDs and Blurays are so sharp. However, the negative does not include any of the color correction or color timing (e.g. day for night shots) that was applied after principal photography wrapped, so they would have had to look at prints like this one and existing Home video versions such as the Criterion Dr. No laserdisc and the 2000 Special Edition DVD in order to see what the final shots are supposed to look like. In most cases Lowry's colorist, Marian Grau, seems to have made excellent choices. Here is a sample frame from each of the sources, just roll your mouse over the tabs to compare.
Unfortunately, we can't take the new IB Tech scan's colors as gospel - while the colors on the film will barely have faded at all in the past 50 years, we must take into account the color and brightness of the bulb used when scanning, as well as the codecs used for encoding for the web (including the slight variations when compressing still images for the web) and the variations in the monitor calibrations and video cards with which you are viewing them. Also, the scan has not been color corrected or even color balanced, so what we are looking at now is probably not the same colors you would see if the original film was being projected on a screen in a dark theater. However, take a look at this shot:
While the DVD and the Tech are quite similar, and the laserdisc is more red, the one thing all three of these sources do agree on is that the scene is definitely not supposed to be uniformly dark blue, and that the shot is much more interesting when you can see more of the sky.
More of the Tech can be seen in this video:
James Bond 007 - License to Restore