Saturday, May 12, 2007

Becket - Back From Beyond

Thank you, DVD format.

Becket, the acclaimed 1965 period piece starring the great Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton, was almost lost to history when the original negative disappeared in Europe in the 1980s, said Michael Pogorzelski, director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences film archive, for a story in the Wall Street Journal.

The film, though, was restored, beginning in 1998 "when a collector brought Mr. Pogorzelski what appeared to be the movie's original sound mix on magnetic film. It was deteriorating so badly that bits of the recording medium were flaking off and repeatedly clogged the machine that read it," according to the unbylined news item.

The budget for the restoration was $90,000, so the project was done "old school," Pogorzelski said. According to the piece, "The restorers reassembled the film from its three color-restoration masters, using existing color prints of the film as reference points."

And voila! The DVD (MPI, $24.98) will be released Tuesday.

Burton plays the title character, Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, while O'Toole is Henry II, who comes to regret his appointment of his old friend to the high religious office. The cast also includes John Gielgud, yet another Brit acting royal.

Special features on the DVD:
• Commentary by: Peter O'Toole
• Theatrical trailer
• Still gallery
• Interviews with editor Anne V. Coats and composer Laurence Rosenthal
• Archival interviews with Richard Burton
• TV spot

O'Toole and Burton both won Oscar nominations, and the film, shot on location in England, won an Oscar for best screenplay. Four years later, O'Toole reprised his role as Henry II in The Lion in Winter.

(courtesy of DVD Talk)

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