I ran across this yesterday, which is the story of a man who acquired a mixed lot of 16 mm films. Included were 2 copies of Manos: The Hands of Fate, one of which was the work print. I'm a sucker for any story where a reel of a film is found where no (good) extant copy was thought to exist (or just "discovered treasure" stories in general). The interesting part is that he's a cameraman by trade and knows enough about film post-production to attempt a restoration that he's funding via Kickstarter (ends in 63 hours as of 11:30 CST on 2/1/12).
I still thought it was a bit of a joke at this point because, really, it's fucking Manos. The "worst movie of all time" that was a muddy mess visually and a kick to the brain in about every other way imaginable. But then I saw the first restoration picture, and I was immediately intrigued.
This is the best bit from that article:
A common refrain I've heard is that without Joel and the Bots, the movie is "unwatchable," but I suspect a big part of that is the bad visual presentation that the movie has always had. When you divest Manos of its grimy, unpleasant patina, you are still left with an amateurish, weirdly edited, small-town horror film. But with a clearer view of the production design (paintings, metalwork, and stone sculptures by Tom Neyman, a local artist who played The Master), the off-kilter handmade world the film presents, and the shaggy but poppy Ektachrome photography by Robert Guidry, 45 years later Manos assumes a different identity as a fascinating bit of 1966 ephemera.
After reading that I'm definitely going to watch the cleaned up copy, just to see what the creators originally intended. I don't expect to like the movie or for it even to approach competency. However, being fairly ignorant of film processing techniques I never realized how much shoddy duplication and post-production efforts can completely demolish the aesthetic impact of a film.
Here's the Kickstarter link. Now I just have to decide if I want a pin or a t-shirt...
But will you even notice changed aesthetics if you aren't "into" that sort of thing? I don't think I would.
In the case of Manos I think you couldn't help but notice (if you've seen the already-available version, that is). I'm not talking about a slight color correction on the curtains in the bedroom, or something like that. There are wholesale details that are just completely lost by how dark and muddy everything is. Check out the first picture in the article I linked to. Judging by the dark version, I didn't know there was a bookcase in the room behind her. I'm not saying it makes the scene, by any means, but if it was in the original and the director filmed it, I want to see it.
The movie is still crap regardless of picture quality. The thing about it is too that if you saw it in a theater when it was released, it still wouldn't have been some HD-quality thing.
Remastering a movie like this is silly, to be honest. Part of the appeal of this kind of thing is the griminess. Look at the Dawn of the Dead remaster...it lost a lot of its seedy charm in gaining resolution.
I'm also not particularly convinced that we need to see what the director/filmmakers intended with something like this...because what they intended was to make a couple of bucks off a distribution deal for a cheaply made drive-in picture. We're not talking Kubrick here.
I guess its kind of cool. I would never pay $50 for a copy of Manos though. You can restore it, re-master it and give it that minty fresh coat of HD paint...at the end of the day you're still watching a turd.
This is pretty amazing work here though. Check this out:
It specious to claim that Romero wanted his film to look shitty, hence all its charm; but another filmmaker was incompetent and it looks shitty for no good reason. Looking shitty comes down to "I don't care" for pretty much everyone except Stanley Kubrick in the 1970s. And now, it's been flipped by Tarantino for GRINDHOUSE--he set out to make it look shitty.
I might have participated if this thing was underfunded. I like that this is happening.