Building on the success of its inaugural run, the Somerville (Massachusetts) Theatre’s 70mm and Widescreen Festival is currently screening films that run the gamut from acknowledged greats (2001) to acknowledged WTFs (Howard the Duck). The results: another eclectic festival of should-sees and must-sees.
The difference between the 2016 version and this year’s festival, which runs from September 20-October 1, is that the current festival goes beyond the expected classics.
As Somerville director of operations Ian Judge explains, “For this year, I’ve relied a tad less on the classics and brought in a few more recent things, hoping to retain the big audiences we got last year but also maybe drawing in younger folks who might not be into Biblical epics for example, but who would dig Top Gun or Wonder Woman. Last year was overwhelmingly successful from an attendance point of view, so this year gives us a bit of room to play around with programming.”
This year’s collection features films shot in 70mm, as well as films blown up from 35mm to 70mm.
While not in 70mm, the rarest print in the lineup is Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which is an ultra-rare IB Technicolor print. This one comes along rarely if ever, so it’s a don’t-miss chance to see the film with its proper color. North By Northwest will proceed the Vertigo screening as another IB Technicolor print, providing a great opportunity for a vintage Hitchcock afternoon on October 1.
Included in the screenings are Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the two films at the top of the 70mm Parnassus. (These films often sell out, so securing advanced tickets would be wise). Also on tap is Cleopatra, one of two known surviving prints struck off the original camera negative. The film was savaged by reviewers when it was released in 1963, but it’s an undoubtedly an entertaining (albeit a long, long) film. Find a comfortable seat.
More contemporary films include Hook, Wonder Woman, and a beguiling 80s action double feature of Top Gun and Blue Thunder. Another rare gem is Gettysburg, where the battle scenes play much better on the big screen than on the television screen for its original release.
Then there’s the legendary Howard the Duck. Yes. It’s as bad as you’ve heard—probably worse, amazingly worse. Unsurprisingly, this screening has sparked a lot of interest for the Somerville. It’s well worth a look, if only to wonder what the conversations were like after the producers screened the finished film.
Besides the lineup, what makes the Somerville festival so compelling is that projectionist perfectionist David Kornfeld is at the helm of the top-tier projection and sound equipment that the Somerville has invested in. According to Kornfeld, Howard the Duck, Hook, Blue Thunder, and Gettysburg are the only know surviving 70mm prints.
“There’s nothing like the 70mm format. There’s superior sound, superior picture,” said Kornfeld.
According to him, there are fewer than 20 existing IB Technicolor prints for Vertigo, and fewer than 50 IB Technicolor prints for North by Northwest.
“I have seen Vertigo over 500 times and the color difference (between the IB print and other prints) is stark,” says Kornfeld. MM
The Somerville Theatre’s 70mm & Widescreen Festival runs from September 20-October 1, 2016. For tickets and film times, visit its website.