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- more esoteric Savant phenomena to look for in video!

Ever seen the title sequence of a film come up, only to notice that a credit has been removed? Some kind of blurry mask might be used to cover up someone's name, whose identity becomes all the more mysterious. For example, check out Warners' Tea for Two on AMC cable: right in the middle of the cute artwork titles, a credit has been deleted with the stroke of a digital paintbrush, leaving a smeary smudge across the screen. What happened? Did they change their minds?

Likewise, take a look at the video opening of Raintree County. I always do, just to hear the title tune sung by Nat King Cole. The title cards are a series of rustic American landscapes. They have a certain deliberate rhythm and flow until near the end, when one credit card seems to have been removed. In its place is an extraneous frozen-frame of a landscape, bridged by dissolves not in keeping with the rest of the sequence.

Is this the missing Raintree credit card? Or one for Technicolor?

These patch jobs obviously were done to remove credits for 'legal purposes', that all-purpose phrase again. It makes for some odd revisionism.

In Hollywood's heyday, most movies were studio owned and created from the get-go. As the power of the studios waned in the fifties, this changed; many prestigious films were 'owned' by independent producers, or involved complicated legal partnerships. In the case of big-budget musicals, studios were no longer rich enough to snap up rights to every Broadway show. For example, Oklahoma! was a complex deal between (at the least) its Broadway originators, Todd-A0, and (initially) RKO. Now, forty years later, the film is controlled by Fox Home Video.

Look at the end shot of Oklahoma! on video. As a screenful of surries with their fringes up top skitter away toward the horizon, the camera tilts skyward to a cloud-filled vista.. 'The End' and several clusters of text fade up with the tilt. On the video copies I have seen, presumably a lot of names had to be deleted, because the screen becomes a wild patchwork of replacement text. The new credits bring with them shaky backgrounds that don't match the original cloudy skies.

Even stranger is what was done with the first few seconds of the wonderful film Bye Bye Birdie. It originally began with a really cool animated sequence. To the electric guitar chords of the opening music, a giant 'Bye Bye Birdie' logo zoomed forward out of the Torch held by Columbia's Torch Lady. It was accompanied by some text, the credit, I believe, of producer Fred Kohlmar. Something about the wording of the text must have offended, however, because in its first video incarnations, the whole title card was dropped. After a plain Columbia logo, the music played over black, and the film popped in with the newspaper headline announcing the drafing of Conrad Birdie.

About 1990, when a letterboxed laser of Bye Bye Birdie was released, a redone title sequence was substituted. Here a different, presumably acceptable, wording of the Kohlmar credit (adding George Sidney as co-producer?) appears over the Columbia logo. Then, crudely animated red hearts pop out of the torch flame and merge to form the title logo, which dissolves into the newspaper headline. This is an okay replacement, I suppose, but I miss the punch of the original (hey, I was thirteen and they showed it in Junior high school: I thought Bobby Rydell was cool).

Anyone notice credit manglings on other films? Savant wants to know!

Now that once-blacklisted screenwriters are being officially recredited on films they wrote under pseudonyms or behind 'front' writers, one wonders if videos are going to start being revised with 'corrected' credits. Savant hopes not, unless the credit is added on a card ahead or behind the film. It's hard enough preserving the original versions of movies, without finding new reasons to alter them.

Text © Copyright Glenn Erickson 1998

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